Geertz on irony

Geertz: (From his essay “Thinking as a Moral Act”):

“Irony rests, of course, on a perception of the way in which reality derides merely human views of it, reduces grand attitudes and large hopes to self-mockery. The common forms of it are familiar enough. In dramatic irony, deflation results from the contrast between what the character perceives the situation to be and what the audience knows it to be; in historical irony, from the inconsistency between the intentions of sovereign personages and the natural outcomes of actions proceeding from those intentions. Literary irony rests on a momentary conspiracy of author and reader against the stupidities and self-deceptions of the everyday world; Socratic, or pedagogical, irony rests on intellectual dissembling in order to parody intellectual pretension.”

It seems to me that systems thinking — at least thinking about systems in which the thinker is a participant — might require a certain degree of irony. Our experience of being caught up in a system is one thing, but what is required to adjust or change the system is another — and the connection is rarely obvious. That experience is an intrinsic part of the workings of many systems, particularly management systems.

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