Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quote of the Week: Machiavelli on the Enemies of Reform, Including the 'Incredulity of Mankind'

I found this choice quote in: Paquet, G. (1998). Evolutionary cognitive economics. Information Economics and Policy, 10(3): 343–357.  Emphasis added.
"For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favour; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it." -- Machiavelli, 1537
Full citation: Machiavelli, N., 1952 (orig. 1537) The Prince, New York: Mentor Book, p 49-50.
As a died-in-the-wool reformer, change agent, and pioneer, I'm very familiar with this cultural dynamic.   It's very easy and very socially acceptable for people to react with incredulity to a new paradigm, especially in the formative stages.  This incredulity can take many forms, for example:
  • "Where's the evidence that it will work?"
  • "Sounds very academic and conceptual.  What we need is something that will work in the real world."
  • "tl;dr  (abbreviation of 'too long, didn't read')"
  • [add your favorites here]
This is just the way the world and humanity works.  Anyone who wants to be a reformer or pioneer needs to be prepared to be a social outcast for a long, long time.  Instead of seeking social validation in the present time, reformers and pioneers need to keep their focus on the change process and the long view.

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