Today involved some good reading, four more iced shots of espresso, two important meetings, and a long and social walk with Margaret. In the manner of debt collectors everywhere, I have learned that you can get a long way with people who are not being responsive to emails by simply showing up at their doorstep. In half an hour, you can get further than two weeks worth of messages would ever take you.
I have decided, for my paper on ‘failed states,’ to argue that the term is more trouble than it is worth. It conflates a number of different circumstances in which states might find themselves in ways that make it a hopeless muddle, both from a theoretical and an empirical point of view. This should make the paper much more interesting to write; there is great pleasure to be taken in choosing an argument and defending it. The only trouble, it seems, is that the more education you go through, the less thoroughly you can believe that anything you are saying is really true.
That is one reason for which it is so satisfying to write about gay marriage or Guantanamo Bay. These are circumstances where I can stand four-square behind a moral position.
PS. One piece of truly essential thesis reading did get fished today: the copy of The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists that Josiah lent me last night. Gideon Defoe has made a valuable contribution to the study of pirate-scientist dynamics. One particularly useful fact for someone leaving academia: Charles Darwin was working as an unpaid naturalist on the Beagle. It seems that it really is possible to learn a great deal from such work.