The Phasing-Out Of Venice In The Social Studies Curriculum: No More Lessons To Be Learnt?, pp. 3 of 16

Fellow Austrian school economist of the Mises sub-camp in the USA, Murray Rothbard conceded that Zhuangzi of the Chinese Daoist philosophy to be the first to work out the idea of “spontaneous order” (Rothbard, 1990). Although eastern philosophies have often been labeled as ‘mystical’, there have been efforts, linked to developments in naturalism, to ground the latter in ontological and methodological (metaphysical) approaches (Kirby 2008, p. 115; Ryder, 2003, p. 64).[iii] From a certain perspective, the “natural laws and forces that operate the structure and behavior of the world” can be seen as the transcendental forces that govern the behavior of free markets, democracies, and living systems in environment. At a more ‘radical’ end, James March, Jack Steel Parker Professor of international management at Stanford business school, endorses the approach of Don Quixote, a knight (hidalgo) who embarked on a hopeful but unplanned journey against the background of a decadent and moral-less Spain and lending himself to help those who had been injustice; except his ‘victories’ were always achieved through a measure of “good luck and fortune” (Mooney 2014). Elsewhere, connecting with the Black Swan theory, which K. Mahbubani evokes in his book Can Singapore survive as a reason that can impact unfavorably on the Singapore’s survival, this author thinks that: 1) Black swan events are the “deviations” which Hayek talks about that the planners might have ignored in trying to come up with a “perfect” plan; 2)  the “deviations” or “events that are outside the bell curve” can be considered in context of the theories of “spontaneous order” and naturalism as either signals indicative of the forces “distorting” the system or lash backs which manifest when the system attempts to readjust itself back to equilibrium (Mahbubani, 2015, p. 13).

Coming up with a more definitive set of tenets or refining the theories of “spontaneous order” or naturalism does not mean that a scholar or central planner will have a complete view of the market, polity, or system because “he will never have enough information.” Also, clarifying the features of the naturalist approach does not fully resolve the rationalist-empiricist or subject-object debate; it does put naturalism in line with the rhetoric of more mainstream philosophers and promotes more (hopefully creative) perspectives of an observed phenomenon.[iv] This is where the “pragmatist” camp of Singapore leaders has certain advantage, Mahbubani (2015) describes this as being willing to invite and incorporate critic’s ideas in a “Big tent” approach. 

What do ideas in “spontaneous order” and “naturalism” have anything to do with Annales history? Founded by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in 1929, the school pioneered an approach to a study of long-term historical structures (longue durée), which later also included geography, material culture, and psychology of the epoch (mentalités), over events and political transformations. Fernand Braudel became the leader of the second generation of Annalists after 1945. Braudel's book, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II was not only his most influential work but also the most panoramic and representative of the Annales-school approach. The Mediterranean conceives time transpiration at three levels: the first level is geographical time, and is the time transition of the environment, with its slow, almost imperceptible change, and its repetition and cycles. The second level involves long-term social, economic, and cultural history, where particular patterns in the Mediterranean economy, social groupings, empires and civilisations over two or three centuries are discussed. The third level of time is that of events as well as the history of individuals. Clearly, when time is stretched long enough, the history of human societies is subsumed under the history of the geography and the environment (Braudel, 1996).

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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