Thursday, April 6, 2017
Rereading Some of My Earlier Books
I have no idea if this will be of wider interest, but I am recording what I have just experienced.
I have been thinking about What next? in my work. Usually, I do not reread my books once they come out, unless for another edition or some such reason. In any case, I just reread four of my books, from 1982, 1989, 2000, and 2011. (I had a much clearer sense of the contents of the 1992, 1996 (2), 2003, and 2013 books.) Each chapter of each book is a distinct essay or a study of a particular example, linked together by the Introduction and other materials.
1. I realized that most of the themes that have concerned me over the years were there, developed in some detail and elaboration, even though I did not now recall what I wrote then. Much of what I might have written about in future work was already worked out in these earlier books. (In general, to be effective in scholarship, you have to say the same thing, in different ways or with further elaborations, several times. So, what was said earlier might still be reimagined and expanded.)
2. Moreover, I was struck by my analytic descriptions of various phenomena in planning, public policy, and design. There is a consistency in my approach (or you might call it a lack of inventiveness) to thinking about the world. Moreover, those analytic descriptions are not abstractions, per se. Rather they have particular examples and situations in mind, and I am trying to find out what is essential in those examples and situations and in related examples and situations. Analogy characterizes how I think about the world, and I even write about that mode of thinking (presumably using analogy). My descriptions are generic descriptions, using a mildly technical vocabulary, of the particular cases, in light of other cases (the analogy) and their description.
3. I tried again and again to write without polemic or taking advantage of positions with which I did not concur. For me, it was a matter of providing an adequate description, borrowing from whichever theoretical or ideological perspective that would serve my description.
4. I had forgotten how much I had been influenced by my reading of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, and books about Husserl, and how useful those authors' works were for me. When I use the term "useful," I am saying that my concern was not to faithfully present their thought, so much as to find in their thinking and writing what I needed to do my descriptions.
Right now, I have little idea how I came to think in terms of analogy and analytic description, not even sure who are my models for such work.