Kathleen Jamie (and Louis MacNiece) on homo economicus

I am reading Kathleen Jamie’s book of Scottish nature writing, “Findings” (2005). At first I found it a bit richly written but after a while I came into tune with it. I recommend (and will not reveal the story of) the chapter called “The Braan Salmon”. It has a poem’s lack of resolution. Earlier in the book I came across this passage:

It pleases me to know that on September 12, at Braco, were gathered 119 mistle thrushes, or that a crossbill was present in the Black Wood of Rannoch. It’s what Louise MacNeice speaks of – the world being ‘incorrigibly plural’.

I looked up the poem on the internet.

Louis MacNeice – Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

I put “homo economicus” in the heading because for me this idea of incorrigible plurality bears on the question of how, as policy makers, we can think about what we want to “maximise” or “optimise”.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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