Secret of Productivity

housearrest.jpgEvery since reading Ainslie‘s “Breakdown of Will” I’ve be thinking and reading a lot about what might be called self management. I’m currenly reading “Ethics, Law and the Exercise of Self-Command.” There is a delightful quote in this essay:

Social controls play a role; the Times Literary Supplement for January 22, 1982, contained a splendid example, a review article by George Steiner on the life and work of the Hungarian radical Georg Lukacs. “When I first called on him, in the winter of 1957-8, in a house still pockmarked with shellbursts and grenade spliters, I stood speechless before the armada of his printed works, as it crowded the bookshelves. Lukacs seized on my puerile wonder and blazed out of his chair in a motion at once vulnerable and amused: ‘You want to know how one gets work done? It’s easy. House arrest, Steiner, house arrest!'”

That example is splendid, but exceptional and extreme. The student of this stuff should, I think, pay more attention to more pedestrian social controls; e.g. voluntary membership in groups who’s habits we admire and aspire to. The rough edges of voluntary are far more interesting than the strong arm example of house arrest.

housearrest2.jpgThe essay appears in “Choice and Consequence” by Schelling. The topic of this essay is the ethical puzzle of what society can and can not do to help individuals keep their promises to themselves. This is an extended discussion of the curious fact that you can’t make contracts with your self and then go to the court to have them enforced. Schelling’s other essay in this arena “The Intimate Contest for Self-Command” also appears in this book.

Schelling also reached the conclusion I got from reading Ainslie; that the individual is a group of interests who’s governance has so much in common with the governance of other groups that it becomes useful to treat the individual as just like any other hard to manage group.

Meanwhile there is little concensus on what the secret of productivity is.

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