More about failure
Text and links added September 7, 2011
Earlier in the year, this blog noted the launch of The Failure Files, a collection of essays about the uses of failure. A website called The 99% has now put together a fascinating list of stories on the same theme (nothing to do with the book) which can be found here. (Image courtesy of The 99%)
I also discovered that there is a website by a colleague, collating material on the theme and the book on a regular basis, which lives here. And in a comment below, a reader has pointed out an interesting artistic project called the Institute of Failure.
Since The Failure Files was published this spring, I found old files that show I have been following this thread for much longer than realised. For example, this article in Prospect back in June 1999 said that the public expectation of perfection can invite permanent disappointment. Why try to define an ethical foreign policy, when there might be inconsistencies? Why trust any profession, when some practitioners have erred? The Winnicottian concept of the ‘good-enough mother’ says that to develop, the infant must learn the mother is not infinitely controllable and the early, blissful illusion of perfect mother and baby cannot be sustained. ‘Societies that are rigid in finding perfection, like the former Soviet Union, get into trouble because mistakes go uncorrected. But so do those which rigidly find awfulness in everything. That way leads to paralysis, a refusal to make any diagnosis and take any action.’ We should argue whether a policy is right, but we should not expect it to be perfect.
I would add now, in response to a growing mood of paranoia, that rigidity also feeds the growth of conspiracy thinking, in which the messiness of life is not enough; everything must have a reason – the old choice between the conspiracy theory and the fuck-up theory.