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  • When pictures of economy went into motion


    Georg Hans Neuweg

    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

    As anyone who has studied at an economics faculty knows: students of economics hardly learn to model reality. They learn to operate within models by mani­pu­la­ting symbols instead. And where there is not enough teaching and learning for seeing beyond the symbols and what they mean, there is a risk of confusing cal­cu­la­ti­on with thinking. This is not solely a problem of higher education didactics, it is also a problem of demo­cra­tic politics. For in an enligh­te­ned democracy, the shaping of the economy concerns everyone. The urge to mathe­ma­tise means that eco­no­mists not only fail to teach their own junior staff, but also fail in teaching the citizens of the economy.

    A recently published book reminds us of an edu­ca­tio­nal film “Unem­ploy­ment and Money” by Michael Polanyi from 1940 that suggests that there is another way (Biro, 2020). It is the first film ever to look at economics through the lens of economic theory. It offers “Keynes to go” for everyone, is cou­ra­ge­ous in its didactic reduction and demons­tra­tes the pedago­gi­cal power of the moving image in economic didactics.

    I owe knowing the existence of this film to Jörg Mar­ko­witsch, it touched me because I spent years working through the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal works of its creator (Neuweg, 2020). The fact that this film is also about my core business, business education, is a strange coincidence.

    Michael Polanyi was ori­gi­nal­ly a chemist, later an epis­te­mo­lo­gist and briefly an economist in between — as was his equally famous brother Karl. To this day, he is best known as the phi­lo­so­pher who examined human cognition starting from the fact that “we know more than we can tell”. But only super­fi­cial­ly does his interest in tacit knowledge have little to do with his rather forgotten economic works. In fact, Polanyi’s thinking always revolves around the indis­pensable power of the subject and its personal freedom — around a “personal knowledge” (Polanyi, 1958) that cannot be entirely objec­ti­fia­ble and for­ma­li­sed, as well as around an economic system that cannot be centrally planned and is dependent on personal freedom.

    And so, Polanyi wants to enlighten us with the then modern means of film about a third way between laissez-faire capi­ta­lism and planned economy. As an unrelen­ting reminder that signs only become knowledge when they are given meaning, he demons­tra­tes how images in motion can support under­stan­ding. Even if, as he once wrote to his sister Mausi, only a competent and enthu­si­astic teacher can make sensible use of the film (Scott & Moleski, 2005, p. 179).

    Georg Hans Neuweg is Professor of Business and Voca­tio­nal Education and Training at the Johann Kepler Uni­ver­si­ty in Linz and expert on Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge.

    Refe­ren­ces
    Bíró, G. (2020). The Economic Thought of Michael Polanyi. Milton Park, Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
    Neuweg, G. H. (2020). Kön­ner­schaft und impli­zi­tes Wissen. Zur lehr-lern­theo­re­ti­schen Bedeutung der Erkennt­nis- und Wis­sens­theo­rie Michael Polanyis (4., aktualis. Aufl.). Münster, New York: Waxmann.
    Polanyi, M. (1940). Economics on the Screen. Docu­men­ta­ry News Letter (August, 1940): 2.
    Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal Knowledge. Towards a Post-Critical Phi­lo­so­phy. Chicago: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago Press.
    Scott, W. T. & Moleski, M. X. (2005). Michael Polanyi. Scientist and Phi­lo­so­pher. Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi; the YouTube image erroneously shows a portrait of his brother Karl Polanyi; VIDEO STARTS AT SEC 23! 

    Michael Polanyi and the French Philosopher Raymond Aron (right) at the Congress on Cultural Freedom, Milan, 1956

    Michael Polanyi with his son John who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1931

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi, Filmstill

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi, Filmstill

    Tags

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    Georg Hans Neuweg

    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

    As anyone who has studied at an economics faculty knows: students of economics hardly learn to model reality. They learn to operate within models by mani­pu­la­ting symbols instead. And where there is not enough teaching and learning for seeing beyond the symbols and what they mean, there is a risk of confusing cal­cu­la­ti­on with thinking. This is not solely a problem of higher education didactics, it is also a problem of demo­cra­tic politics. For in an enligh­te­ned democracy, the shaping of the economy concerns everyone. The urge to mathe­ma­tise means that eco­no­mists not only fail to teach their own junior staff, but also fail in teaching the citizens of the economy.

    A recently published book reminds us of an edu­ca­tio­nal film “Unem­ploy­ment and Money” by Michael Polanyi from 1940 that suggests that there is another way (Biro, 2020). It is the first film ever to look at economics through the lens of economic theory. It offers “Keynes to go” for everyone, is cou­ra­ge­ous in its didactic reduction and demons­tra­tes the pedago­gi­cal power of the moving image in economic didactics.

    I owe knowing the existence of this film to Jörg Mar­ko­witsch, it touched me because I spent years working through the epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal works of its creator (Neuweg, 2020). The fact that this film is also about my core business, business education, is a strange coincidence.

    Michael Polanyi was ori­gi­nal­ly a chemist, later an epis­te­mo­lo­gist and briefly an economist in between — as was his equally famous brother Karl. To this day, he is best known as the phi­lo­so­pher who examined human cognition starting from the fact that “we know more than we can tell”. But only super­fi­cial­ly does his interest in tacit knowledge have little to do with his rather forgotten economic works. In fact, Polanyi’s thinking always revolves around the indis­pensable power of the subject and its personal freedom — around a “personal knowledge” (Polanyi, 1958) that cannot be entirely objec­ti­fia­ble and for­ma­li­sed, as well as around an economic system that cannot be centrally planned and is dependent on personal freedom.

    And so, Polanyi wants to enlighten us with the then modern means of film about a third way between laissez-faire capi­ta­lism and planned economy. As an unrelen­ting reminder that signs only become knowledge when they are given meaning, he demons­tra­tes how images in motion can support under­stan­ding. Even if, as he once wrote to his sister Mausi, only a competent and enthu­si­astic teacher can make sensible use of the film (Scott & Moleski, 2005, p. 179).

    Georg Hans Neuweg is Professor of Business and Voca­tio­nal Education and Training at the Johann Kepler Uni­ver­si­ty in Linz and expert on Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge.

    Refe­ren­ces
    Bíró, G. (2020). The Economic Thought of Michael Polanyi. Milton Park, Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
    Neuweg, G. H. (2020). Kön­ner­schaft und impli­zi­tes Wissen. Zur lehr-lern­theo­re­ti­schen Bedeutung der Erkennt­nis- und Wis­sens­theo­rie Michael Polanyis (4., aktualis. Aufl.). Münster, New York: Waxmann.
    Polanyi, M. (1940). Economics on the Screen. Docu­men­ta­ry News Letter (August, 1940): 2.
    Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal Knowledge. Towards a Post-Critical Phi­lo­so­phy. Chicago: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago Press.
    Scott, W. T. & Moleski, M. X. (2005). Michael Polanyi. Scientist and Phi­lo­so­pher. Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi; the YouTube image erroneously shows a portrait of his brother Karl Polanyi; VIDEO STARTS AT SEC 23!

    Michael Polanyi and the French Philosopher Raymond Aron (right) at the Congress on Cultural Freedom, Milan, 1956

    Michael Polanyi with his son John who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1931

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi, Filmstill

    „Unemployment and Money“ (1940), Michael Polanyi, Filmstill

    Tags


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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.