Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier’s urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural “modernization” in the Tropics—the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?

In this wide-ranging and original book, James C. Scott analyzes failed cases of large-scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields. Centrally managed social plans misfire, Scott argues, when they impose schematic visions that do violence to complex interdependencies that are not—and cannot—be fully understood. Further, the success of designs for social organization depends upon the recognition that local, practical knowledge is as important as formal, epistemic knowledge. The author builds a persuasive case against “development theory” and imperialistic state planning that disregards the values, desires, and objections of its subjects. He identifies and discusses four conditions common to all planning disasters: administrative ordering of nature and society by the state; a “high-modernist ideology” that places confidence in the ability of science to improve every aspect of human life; a willingness to use authoritarian state power to effect large- scale interventions; and a prostrate civil society that cannot effectively resist such plans.

Fact vs. fake – why don’t we trust science any more? | DW Documentary

Asbestos, climate change, 5G, coronavirus – the public is caught in a battle for the truth. Science is being manipulated and undermined to sway opinion and create doubt. What are the mechanisms behind it all?

Never has scientific knowledge seemed so vast, detailed and widely shared. And yet it appears to be increasingly challenged.

It’s no longer surprising to see private corporations put strategies in place to confuse public debate and paralyze political decision-making. Why did it take decades to classify tobacco as harmful? Why do people still deny human involvement in climate change? Overwhelmed by an excess of information, how can we, as citizens, sort out fact from fiction?

One by one, this film dismantles the machinations that aim to turn science against itself. With the help of declassified archives and testimonies from experts, lobbyists and politicians, this investigation plunges us into the science of doubt. Along with a team of experts, including philosophers, economists, cognitive scientists, politicians, and scholars, we explore concrete examples of how doubt can be sown, and try to understand the process.

The Tyranny of Words

The pioneering and still essential text on semantics, urging readers to improve human communication and understanding with precise, concrete language.

In 1938, Stuart Chase revolutionized the study of semantics with his classic text, The Tyranny of Words. Decades later, this eminently useful analysis of the way we use words continues to resonate. A contemporary of the economist Thorstein Veblen and the author Upton Sinclair, Chase was a social theorist and writer who despised the imprecision of contemporary communication. Wide-ranging and erudite, this iconic volume was one of the first to condemn the overuse of abstract words and to exhort language users to employ words that make their ideas accurate, complete, and readily understood.

Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics

Selections from Science and Sanity represents Alfred Korzybski’s authorized abridgement of his magnum opus, Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. This second edition, published in response to the recent Korzybski revival, adds new introductory material and a revised index, providing an accessible introduction to Korzybski’s arguments concerning the need for a non-Aristotelian approach to knowledge, thought, perception, and language, to coincide with our non-Newtonian physics and non-Euclidean geometries, to Korzybski’s practical philosophy, applied psychology, pragmatics of human communication, and educational program. Selections from Science and Sanity serves as an excellent introduction to general semantics as a system intended to aid the individual’s adjustment to reality, enhance intellectual and creative activities, and alleviate the many social ills that have plagued humanity throughout our history.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions.

Casting a wide net through history and culture, Sagan examines and authoritatively debunks such celebrated fallacies of the past as witchcraft, faith healing, demons, and UFOs. And yet, disturbingly, in today’s so-called information age, pseudoscience is burgeoning with stories of alien abduction, channeling past lives, and communal hallucinations commanding growing attention and respect. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.