The Fanfare of Progress: Foreign Occupation and the Viability of the 2030 Agenda

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Five years ago, the UN passed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This resulted in the establishment of seventeen different goals, more commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), accompanied by 169 targets and indicators to achieve this agenda by 2030. Building upon the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and what both supporters and critics might acknowledge was at best, haphazard success, the SDGs are distinct in major ways.

First, the very process of collaboration over the 2030 Agenda was far more inclusive than with the MDGs, with a wide range of NGO and civil society actors participating in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit. The SDGs consist of seventeen goals, rather than eight. The goals and objectives of the SDGs are also unprecedented both in scope and ambition. Inequality is presented as a global issue, not tied to country indicators, but rampant within, between, and across national boundaries. The environmental sustainability of our planet cuts across numerous goals, framing our economic and political systems as interdependent and requiring greater cooperation and collaboration. The SDGs apply to all countries, unlike the MDGs, which were directed towards “developing” countries only. Major issues such as hunger, poverty, armed conflict, etc. are to be eliminated, reaching their statistical zero, rather than halved or portrayed as social ills countries must work toward reducing by some generous proportion.

These are not insignificant differences. The 2030 Agenda and SDGs demonstrate an increasingly globalized development community — one that acknowledges the need for greater collaboration and cooperation, and actually directly acknowledges the connections between a range of issues, their symptoms, and the political and economic systems that govern human societies. In turn, the SDGs actually explicitly address issues of conflict, justice, and political institutions. Goal sixteen is perhaps both the most overtly and vaguely political in this regard. The targets for this goal include reducing violence “everywhere” (16.1), promoting rule of law and ensuring equal access to justice (16.3), developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions (16.6), and strengthening national institutions to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime (16.A). In short, this goal is reaching for world peace, or at the bare minimum, some formal establishment of a globalized system of justice and accountability.

But what does this really mean in practice? The UN, affiliated institutions, and the Member States fail to deliver here. It is already a monumental task to maintain the integrity of such institutions on national scales, but should this objective not also acknowledge the need for fostering such accountability not only within, but between states and coalitions of states? The same year UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda, many of these same states — also members of NATO — participated in the launch of the US-led Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS). OFS is a scaled back continuation of the thirteen year Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), marking a major shift in how the US and NATO allies framed their occupation of Afghanistan. Instead of embarking on the major military operations that defined OEF, the international coalition would transition to a primarily training and assistance role. Their ambition is great — to develop self-sufficient Afghan forces capable of maintaining security without an international presence. This objective in many ways reflected a quiet acknowledgement among US government, military, and aid workers, actively concealed from the public throughout the occupation of Afghanistan: that the war failed and required an exit strategy.

Development and aid were used as strategies to expedite military outcomes in Afghanistan. Particularly between 2009 and 2012, aid was flooded into the country to build schools, bridges, canals, and other civil-works projects as a tactic to centralize institutions and improve security, acknowledged by aid workers as a “colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive (Whitlock 2019).” It begs the question why the magnitude of international failure in Afghanistan was not a more explicit factor in the establishment of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, particularly with regards to issues of peace and poverty. How can these goals be achieved when addressing the economic and political relationships that facilitate the symptoms of global systemic inequality and injustice are not explicit objectives?

As the US and NATO allies tire of a two-decade war, negotiation with the Taliban has been widely accepted as the only path towards withdrawal and potential peace. That said, talks have been on and off. The Taliban’s stance on human rights, in particular the rights of women and freedom of expression, among issues pertaining to disarmament, complicate the absolute viability of the SDGs. The 2030 Agenda promised to, “provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future (SDGs 2020).” In considering the SDGs and the future of global agendas, we cannot ignore the contradictions that exist between agendas and relationships. As the signatories of this agenda continue to occupy a military presence in Afghanistan, it is fair to ask, how does the broader development community reconcile the heritage of waves of international invasion instigated by their own states within societies which resist and distrust national systems? It is a complex question, one that remains unresolved and resides deeply within the vision of the 2030 Agenda. Acknowledging the mistakes of the donor community, particularly with regard to violent conflict, displacement and poverty, must be an integral part of any meaningful global effort toward sustainable development. If the failures of the international community in Afghanistan continue to be neglected amid the fanfare of cooperation surrounding the 2030 Agenda, efforts to sustainably develop our world will only perpetuate the very systems of inequality and injustice they seek to move beyond.

 

Avideh Mayville, Ph.D, is a program manager, researcher, and leader with over a decade of experience across non-profits, think tanks, and higher education institutions. Her areas of specialty include globalization and development policy, development in conflict environments, the security-development nexus, and human rights-based approaches to development. She writes about these issues in her personal blog: Aid, Olive Branches, and Machine Guns

The Transformation of Capacity in International Development (Anthem Press, November 2019) is her first book. 9781785271557-2813_x_4500px_1

The Art of Startups: do you really need an MBA to launch your company?

Should startup founders get an MBA?

If you are planning to work in consulting, or dream of a corporate job, there are many advantages to studying for an MBA. For one thing, it will definitely help you to get your foot in the door.

It is also true many co-founders meet each other during their MBA. The opportunity to network is an important draw for those considering MBA programs. However, it is less clear that an MBA will equip founders with the basic tools and skill sets they need to thrive as entrepreneurs, in the challenging world of startups.

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My Story

When I started my MBA, I’d already launched my first two startup companies. Studying and working on projects in teams was interesting, but I felt straight away that most of the strategies I was being taught were mainly geared towards working for large, already well-established organizations, such as multinational companies or corporations. As such, they didn’t really apply to startup founders of (at least initially) new or small businesses.

I remember spending long hours studying competitors rather than studying potential users.  Likewise, the focus of our projects was analyzing, planning, and forecasting, rather than executing, launching, and learning. In the classroom we would look at case studies and debate mergers and acquisitions, international expansions, and vertical integrations… These are all important strategies for market leaders, but in the context it is very unrealistic, if not useless, to speak of such strategies.

Launching and running a small startup requires a different approach, and a different skill set.

Small Startups: the Brutal Statistics

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 89.6 percent of companies are not large corporations, but small businesses (classified as employing fewer than 20 people): that is, most companies in the US are, or once have been, small startup companies. What’s more, they account for more than half of the country’s total workforce.

But crucially, while over 627,000 new companies – startups – open their doors each year, more than 50 percent do not reach past the five-year mark. Yes: more than one out of two of all startup companies will fail within five years.

Looking at that steep failure rate indicates that as far as new ventures are concerned, there is a clear gap in educating founders on specific strategies designed for startup companies.

Obviously, starting a new venture will always entail a high systematic risk. However, trying to apply strategies designed for large or established companies to startups is a sure recipe for a loss of focus, if not a death sentence in business terms.

I believe the startups default ratio could decrease if founders could have a specific road map of strategies that takes into account the size, stage and market of their company..

The Art of Startups

When I coach startup companies, the two most common mistakes I see are almost invariably that:

  1. Founders spread their initiatives and resources too wide, and therefore too thinly (e.g. money, time, manpower, geography, products/service, target users). In an ideal world, with no competition, it would of course make sense for startups to keep their spectrum broad, and to try to serve as large a market as possible. But in the real world concentrating all your resources on one spot is the only way to beat the odds for startups.

  2. Founders corner themselves to the role of followers by copying the strategies of already successful companies. Instead, they should innovate: this allows startups to avoid direct competition from the incumbent companies. Also, it’s the only way for startups to find untapped user niches. It’s virtually impossible for startups to offer something better to their users if they keep shadowing leaders.

But these points are just the beginning.

In my new book, The Art of Startups (April 2020, Anthem Press), I have drawn on my experience as a serial entrepreneur and startup coach to create a startup-focused guide for unlocking innovation and building new businesses against the odds.

No, it’s not another fast track MBA; we already have plenty of those online courses. Rather, I aim to address the real problem: the failure rate of startup companies, arising from applying the wrong strategy and innovating ineffectively.

Through an innovative graphic novel format including real case studies and groundbreaking evidence, The Art of Startups, which has already garnered attention from the Financial Times and McKinsey & Co., will guide entrepreneurs how to eschew the common pitfalls and challenges associated with the early days of running a startup.

The engaging visuals are designed to be memorable and accessible, recreating in the graphic-novel form common situations almost every startup faces in an immersive way.

If you want to turn around the fate of your startup, it’s time to focus, and to learn The Art of Startups.

 

Edoardo Maggini is a serial entrepreneur and inventor who has co-founded three successful startup companies within the last decade alone, including Fenix Technologies, where he currently works. He holds an MBA from Pace University as well as an executive degree in business strategy from Harvard Business School.

The Art of Startups is his first book. It has already been nominated for the Financial Times / McKinsey & Co Bracken Bower Award – Best Business Book of the Year. Joe Gebbia, Co-Founder of AirBnB, has written the Foreword.

The Fuzzy Edges of Contemporary Theater

 

Theater has always been mercurial if not chimeric, a hybrid of art forms. It is unstable and pliable by definition, since its realization relies on a multiplicity of collaborators under unstable, often tenuous conditions. The result is invariably a composite beast, reconfigured in each iteration.  Unsurprisingly, then, theater today has fuzzy edges – indeed, if it has edges at all, for edges suggest territory, a demesne, a pale, that is, limits, and the art of contemporary performance cuts across, runs through, is entangled with, bleeds into not only many another contemporary art form but intersects with and overlaps popular entertainments and everyday activities, religious and secular, so that the limits, distinctions, boundaries, even generic separations are often indistinguishable among performative activities. Much of such contemporary theater practice develops in defiance of realistic or illusionary threads of performative art with their emphases on architectural and material validity and focus on family constellations.

In his seminal textbook, Performance Studies:An Introduction, Richard Schechner details what he calls “Performing in Everyday Life” with a string of examples of contemporary performative activities: “Family and Social Roles—Job Roles–Spectator Sports and Other Popular Entertainments—Performing Arts—Secular and Sacred Rituals—Trance” (Schechner 172-3).  Such a list is, of course, partial, but its implications are that we are all and always performers, in one way or another, “Performing on stage, performing in special social situations (public ceremonies, for example), and performing in everyday life are a continuum.  These various kinds of performing occur in widely divergent circumstances, from solo shows before the mirror to large-scale public events and rituals, from shaman healing rituals to identity changing trances, from theater and dance to great and small roles of everyday life” (Schnechner, 170).

Pursuit: The Uncensored Memoirs of John Calder

The phenomenon of everyday performance is punctuated by the growing trend of being constantly on view, on camera, under perpetual surveillance in much of contemporary urban life. We are thus part of the surveillance society, a society of control, an automatic society with real-time web cams. Some theater groups, like New York’s Surveillance Camera Players, perform against such intrusions into our private spheres, while the rest of us just mug or make obscene gestures to elevator surveillance cameras and the like in our feeble attempts at resistance and defiance, but even such gestures have a tradition.  Early in the Modernist era, Dadaists and Surrealists hated the conventions of theater but loved spectacle and public performance, and so provocations left theatrical space and took the shape of street actions, or “Happenings” in the next generation, a term coined by Allan Kaprow, a student of John Cage at Black Mountain College, in the early 1950s to describe spontaneous, non-linear provocations deemed art.

For Peter Brook, “Happenings” were a part of “The Holy Theatre”:

“A Happening is a powerful invention.  It destroys at one blow many deadly forms, like the dreariness of theatre buildings, and the charmless trappings of curtain, usherette, cloakroom, programme, bar. A Happening can be anywhere, any time, of any duration:  nothing is required, nothing is taboo.  A Happening may be spontaneous, it may be formal, it may be anarchistic, it can generate intoxicating energy.  Behind the Happening is the shout, “Wake up!”

(Brook, 1968, p. 50)

Amid his calls for “a primitive spontaneity,” Eugenio Barba has suggested that “Theatres are still antiquated buildings where classical and contemporary texts are recited in a routine and conventional style.  There is no creative act on stage—only the sterile repetition of worn out formulas and hybrid styles which try to look “Modern” by exploiting the discoveries of other art forms” (Barba 153).  “Happenings” were attempts to break through such conventionality, and in 1963 British publisher John Calder followed up his provocative 1962 Edinburgh Writers’ Festival with what was deemed the notorious 1963 Drama Conference to end that year’s Edinburgh Festival with a series of “Happenings”. As he recalls in his memoirs, Pursuit, the last day of the Festival was dedicated to the topic of what forms the theater might take in the future, during which a young model named Anna Kesselaar would appear in Ken Dewey’s “Happening”:

“….at the end of the organ gallery that ran behind the platform where the conferences sat. She was hanging on to a BBC lighting trolley and was wheeled around the gallery by a BBC technician, naked, but within the law, as she was not moving, but being moved.”

(Calder, p. 260)

Kaprow would follow Dewey’s “Happening” with one of his own – one which impeded the audience members’ exit from the building by having used tires piled in the doorways over which those exiting had to climb.  These events would, in turn, lead to Calder’s famous performances called “Ledlanet Nights” in Kinrosshire, Scotland. These were music, opera and theatrical events at his Baronial ancestral home.  Calder would subsequently use an image from the London Sunday Mirror’s coverage of the uncovered Kesselaar performance on the cover of his autobiography.

 
S.E. Gontarski is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, where he specializes in twentieth-century Irish Studies, performance theory, and British and European modernism. He is also a writer and director, and General Editor of the Anthem Studies in Drama and Performance series.

 

A Fibrous Weave of Literary Scholarship

This is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Robinson. wordsworthAuthor of Poetic Innovation in Wordsworth 1825–1833: Fibres of These Thoughts, out on Anthem Press this month. 

In the 1980s I first gained sympathy for the poetry of the “late” Wordsworth while helping to edit the “Last Poems” volume of the Cornell variorum. In between long spring and autumn walks, winter evenings trying to keep warm huddled by a small fire and comforted by wee drams of whisky and shortbread, I spent day after day in the Wordsworth Library (Grasmere) poring over manuscript pages. These pages brought me closer to poetry then more or less unread. Critics in those years valued what Wordsworth wrote before 1807 much higher than what he wrote after, all the way to his death in 1850. This iron-clad view was indeed firmly set during his lifetime and still exists today (although scholars over the past 30 years have begun to revise it). Wordsworth himself said of his work in the 1820s, “my vein I fear has run out.”

Valued as one of the premier poets in the history of English-language poetry, Wordsworth called the poems in Lyrical Ballads (1798, 1800, 1802, 1805) an “experiment” in the language and content of verse designed to acknowledge the social and spiritual lives of the lower and lower-middle classes. The older successful poet of the late 1820s and early 1830s was—according to many readers from his own time to the present—no experimentalist. Only when absorbed in the manuscripts of the “late” Wordsworth’s poetry at the Wordsworth Library, Grasmere, did I intuit that the view of his work which reviewers and critics have characterized as politically conservative and religiously orthodox, and formally complacent, might not be completely true. Surely the poet of Lyrical Ballads capable of articulating and practicing a paradigm shift in what we can expect of poetry would not altogether lose that early intellectual energy, vision, poetic skill, and most of all a sense of exploration, over time.

Reading these manuscripts again and again particularly in the past seven years, turning the pages in his notebooks over and over, picking up a characteristic atmosphere of varying pen pressures, a range of penmanships, strike-overs, obsessions with certain words, phrases, and rhythms drew me into an intimacy with a writing and thinking process revelatory (or so I have imagined) of Wordsworth’s direction of thought and practice. I saw vitality there indicative of the experimental spirit applied to the making of his best poems. This book is a history of this experimental spirit working at full throttle even during a time which his best biographer (Stephen Gill) called “fallow.”

We do not typically associate the act and presentation of scholarly criticism with intimacy, yet that is what I have cultivated and sought to broadcast in this book. I have learned from the French theory of manuscript study called Critique genetique, in which a poet’s manuscripts afford not only the data of the “early draft” as information containing the “final,” publishable draft in embryo, but also the avant-texte, manuscript as an event in itself, with its data a swirl of composition and processual thinking. To make contact with the page as motion, or motions, requires—at least for me—an intimacy with its goings on. The motions are discrete, hidden, yet they register, as Wordsworth said, “the life of things” and “the dimpling stir of life”—a life of poetic consciousness, a different kind of data for the critic.

In that relationship between reader and text, I have noted that, while the physical page puts a fence around its contents, provides a limit, the page also projects itself outward to other domains of living that I have chosen to follow scrupulously: landscapes walked by Wordsworth, rooms in which he lived and wrote, family who copied out his drafts and participated in his thinking and writing, histories of poetic movements. The expansion of focus further includes my own walking and observing and my own original poems “found” in Wordsworth’s manuscripts and poems, and then, finally and crucially, other poems that he drafted during the same years.

In other words, as I worked on these materials, I found myself increasingly committed to an ever-expanding space that became a phenomenon of poetic activity. I have tried to represent this phenomenon on the pages of my book, with multiple coordinates for reading and viewing: notes not at the bottom of the page but along the side, colour images both of manuscript highlights and points in the landscape, paratexts from other writers, and colour displays of my own poems. All of this I interweave with a steady expository text stream. The subtitle of the book, “Fibres of These Thoughts” taken from a late-Wordsworth poem, vividly imagines thought and poetry and writing (in a manuscript) as texture of brain, muscle, and paper, no part extractable from the whole. I recast the phrase as characteristic of my book; what I hope will be a web-like recovery of a crucial period not usually acknowledged in the career of this great poet and his work.

Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction

This is a guest post by Michael Peter Bolus, Ph.D. Author of Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction, out on Anthem Press this month. 

acnThe welcome and entertaining distraction that defines most movie-going experiences has become the default expectation for general audiences. The commercial cinema, as a pop-cultural phenomenon, is rooted in an Escapist tradition that requires nothing from its audiences, other than a desire and willingness to be temporarily transported into another realm; to be fleetingly hypnotized by a viscerally enveloping, emotionally satisfying encounter. But cinema can also operate as a complex and demanding art form — one which requires a certain degree and type of effort on the part of its spectators. This effort issues from a given film’s adherence to a set of aesthetic strategies which might not be in alignment with a viewer’s prefabricated assumptions regarding commonly-held notions of what comprises a rewarding cinematic experience. Just as 17th-century Chinese lute music operates under a different set of aesthetic templates than 21st-century Hip-Hop, so too do different films and cinematic traditions employ various structural, stylistic, and thematic designs that might differ from one another in jarring ways.

An audience’s lack of familiarity with a specific film’s aesthetic foundations might result in a casual dismissal, a more resentful rejection, or even worse. As the 20th-century philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset observed in his seminal essay, The Dehumanization of Art, if someone doesn’t like a work of art, but understands it, he feels superior to it. If he doesn’t like a work of art, and doesn’t understand it, he becomes hostile to it.

This, of course, implies that a comprehensive and accurate appreciation of certain artworks requires a brand of knowledge and understanding — an aesthetic sensitivity that, presumably, is denied to most people. This “organ of comprehension” (to use Ortega y Gasset’s own idiomatic phrasing) must be acquired and cultivated, lest our own organic, instinctual responses to art prevent us from apprehending the complexities of its ambitions. These “high-brow” assumptions smack of elitism in the pejorative sense; the problematic notion that great art is reserved for a rarefied realm that denies access to the uninformed mass.

But while our knee-jerk response to such apparently exclusionary attitudes is often abject dismissal, one must concede that many art objects do, in fact, demand a significant degree of familiarity — if not intimacy — with the uncommon aesthetic grammars which inform them.

Despite its profound and widespread appeal, the cinema is no exception.

Unfortunately, most film analyses which examine aesthetics as a philosophical discipline and/or artistic system tend to investigate and explicate the aesthetics of film rather than aesthetics and film. In other words, they work inductively to tease out and elucidate those filmic elements which are unique to the cinema, or, at least, are idiosyncratic components of cinema as a stand-alone art form. But how does cinema fit into the more over-arching evolution of the arts as both a creative and intellectual endeavor?

Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction attempts to place cinema in a much wider historical and aesthetic context that is too often overlooked by both filmmakers and audiences alike. By examining an array of traditional and diverse aesthetic traditions and stratagems — and, in some cases, the socio-political cultural contexts in which they are cultivated — the book makes connections between Aesthetics as a practical discipline and filmmaking as a creative process, while simultaneously providing interpretive strategies for the spectator who might be unfamiliar with the artistic heritages from which idiosyncratic strains of cinema emerge.

Spring is in Full Swing at Anthem Press: New Titles

It has been a busy season here at Anthem Press and we want to share some information about our exciting new titles and authors.

Sustainability Is the New Advantage: Leadership, Change, and the Future of Business by Peter McAteer

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Peter McAteer’s excellent new title, Sustainability Is the New Advantage, expertly answers the question: “How can leaders accelerate business transformation in the face of climate change and other environmental issues?” Transformation is a difficult process for any company and Sustainability provides a straightforward approach for incorporating sustainable business practices while ensuring profitability.

Peter McAteer is managing director of SustainLearning and member of the board of directors for KPPM Global. Peter’s prior work includes service as CEO of Corporate University Research and CEO of the Corporate University Xchange.

 

Private Equity: A Casebook by Paul Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard Ruback

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Private Equity: A Casebook is an advanced applied corporate finance book dedicated to educating investors and students on practices delivering sustained future profitability. This title features a collection of cases written from private equity investors’ perspectives, detailing actual investments and outcomes.

Paul A. Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard S. Ruback are distinguished Professors of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

 

 

 

The Plight of Potential: Embracing Solitude in Millennial Life and Modern Work by Emerson Csorba

plightThe Plight of Potential is a field guide for the millennial worker searching for career satisfaction without sacrificing personal enrichment. In the modern world, millennials experience constant pressure to grow professionally without advancing emotionally. Csorba uses scholarly research, his first-hand experience with intergenerational engagement and case studies of millennials from networks like the Global Shapers Community to show how hitting the pause button for inward meditation will benefit the individual.

Emerson Csorba is president of Csorba & Company Ltd., where he leads projects involving social network analysis, intergenerational engagement and political campaign management.

 

Iron Men: How One London Factory Powered the Industrial Revolution and Shaped the Modern World by David Waller, Foreword by Norman Foster

ironIron Men centers around Henry Maudslay and his followers, whose factory on Westminster Bridge Road in London, England attracted the country’s top engineering talent during the early nineteenth century. Their contributions to precision engineering and machine tools helped Great Britain become the workshop of the world.

David Waller is an author, business consultant and former Financial Times journalist specialising in business and the nineteenth century.

 

 

 

 

For full catalogue, please visit www.anthempress.com.