Welcome! The articles below caught my attention this week. Relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********). Article titles preceded by [SR] require a subscription.
8 x 52 = 416. What is now The Invisible Forces Weekly View began on 27 April 2011 as The Invisible Forces. This 416th edition completes eight years of TIF/TIF Weekly. (A one-year sabbatical was taken at the completion of the sixth year.) This is also the last edition of The Invisible Forces Weekly. I would like to thank you for allowing me to share and comment upon the many things that have caught my attention since April 2011.
So, why stop now? I feel no more articulate about this retirement than my retirement from UNC Asheville on 30 June 2015 after 32 years. Let me just say that it seems like the right time to end this chapter of life and start writing a new one.
(2 April 2020) “In the Informal Economy, There’s No Shelter From the Virus” Bloomberg.com
——–“From Southeast Asia to South American, the world’s 2 billion informal workers are suffering some of the earliest and most devastating effects of the coronavirus and social distancing. Yet public aid packages have so far been largely directed at formal businesses and employees. If governments like India’s want to manage Covid-19 and its economic fallout, they’ll need to act quickly to secure the health and safety of their informal workforces.” In fact, “Roughly 60% of the world’s working population is employed in informal enterprises. . . . The world’s most vulnerable workers are easy to overlook in the best of times. In the midst of a global pandemic, they need to be seen and heard more than ever.”
********The above is the opinion of Bloomberg columnist Adam Minter. It is also true that “There is No Shelter From Climate Change.” The article “Climate and Pandemic Models Speak Louder Than Words” Bloomberg.com provides some perspective for comparing and contrasting models of climate and pandemics. Perhaps we are now at the cusp of integrating the two.
(3 April 2020) “The things we make that make us who we are” Science
********This is a review of The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, by Ainisa Ramirez. As the reviewer notes, “The book’s central thesis is that we make materials and materials make us.” This is developed in eight chapters with suggestive titles: Interact, Connect, Convey, Capture, See, Share, Discover, and Think. Along the way,
Ramirez is particularly keen to debunk the idea that materials arise from flashes of insight experienced by extraordinary individuals, instead painting a picture of a diverse range of people from all walks of life drive by love, passion, and intellect. The culture of innovation, she maintains, does not belong only to privileged elites, it can be found in all those who care enough to reinvent the material world and, as a result, themselves.
You can learn more about Ainissa Ramirez, who has Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Stanford University, here.
Notes on The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen. I’m not sure how I first learn about Anu Partanen’s book, but it was probably through a review by Michael Moynihan, [SR] “Stockholm Syndrome” The Wall Street Journal. As I look through the review now, it doesn’t look all that positive, but I did buy the book in December and was looking for a next read after finishing The Overstory, by Richard Powers. And this is the book I chose.
Anu Partanen is from Finland, having moved to the U.S. after she fell in love with a writer from New York City; she was fluent in English, he was not fluent in Finnish. A journalist, she reflected frequently upon the differences between her home country and its Nordic neighbors, and the United States. The result is her book. Although I am only about one-fifth of the way through The Nordic Theory, it has certainly caused me to think more about the U.S. and its social programs, especially at the federal level.
The big idea that appears early in the book, and which seems to be the foundation for the rest of it, is what she calls “the Nordic theory of love.” It is discussed in chapter two, which begins with a discussion of the Pippi Longstocking books of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren and makes its way quickly through the work of Lars Trägårdh, a Swedish scholar and historian, and Henrik Berggren, an historian and journalist. The core idea of the Berggren-Trägårdh theory of love is that “authentic love and friendship are possible only between individuals who are independent and equal.” And this is what Partanen refers to as the Nordic theory of love. Partanen writes:
What Lars Trägårdh came to understand during his years in the United States was that the overarching ambition of Nordic societies during the course of the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, has not been to socialize the economy at all, as is often mistakenly assumed. Rather the goal has been to free the individual from all forms of dependency withing the family and in civil society: the poor from charity, wives from husbands, adult children from parents, and elderly parents from other children. The express purpose of this freedom is to allow all those human relationships is to be unencumbered by ulterior motives and needs, and thus to be entirely free, completely authentic, and driven purely by love.
When viewed from this perspective, what federal governments do and do not do are very different. Partanen provides much to think about in this election year.