Narrative Reset

One meta reflection on the Piketty, Saez, Zucman and Auten & Splinter debate is the following. It suggests there is an attempt to reset, control or cast doubt on a narrative.

On one side you have academics at a top US University, on the other hand, you have academic economists associated with the public sector. Another example is likely the “deaths of despair” narrative, but there are other narratives that may matter as well.

I am curious what will be “next”. I referred before to “operation cleanup” that is underway. You very much see the “stories” are being produced to give an impression of a cleanup. The other bit may be a “great narrative reset”.

In the UK political class a “centrist” consensus view that “austerity had to be done”, but the problem was the “how” is emerging. I actually am not in disagreement here.

Regarding the narrative reset are at least three factors to be considered.

1) data – informational dimension

there may be a perception that public sector or central bankers lean on an informational or data advantage that gives authority to the assertions stemming from them. This highlights all the debates on information governance that I know are going on at the highest levels across governments and across countries.

2) expertise

lets face it, many academics do not have the depth of subject matter experience or knowledge in certain areas. This is not to say that expertise or academics do not matter, we are very often a source and driver of innovation and innovative thinking that leaves its mark on what public sector then implements.

3) trust

the public sector serves to the benefit of the society broadly, not any one specific group. But it implements and acts to implement laws and enforce regulation on behalf of the sovereign which, in Western societies, this is Parliament. That is at least the broad principle. The overt politicisation of the civil service at some level is the core that undermines trust in the public sector. But politics depriving the public sector of funding or the informational resources to work effectively.

Highly concentrated and politicised media ecosystem, poorly trained journalists and heterogenous populations are a challenge here. How you communicate with different folks depends on their absorptive capacity.

How people process information is very different. My coauthor Chris Roth is doing some nice work here highlighting this challenge — the pervasiveness of stories rather than statistics. But, while we may appreciate stories, we like decision makers to focus on hard numbers, not narratives.

Narratives can become a constraint or, selectively a tool. There may be naked interests that drive and shape narratives. There may just be opportunism.

The changes in the media ecosystem due to technology, the increase of media filtering of information and the empowerment of individuals to become content creators is a blessing and a curse.

As I commented in my keynote in June 2023 at with the EMM team at the EU’s Joint Research Centre, (social) media complements individuals with narcissistic personality traits. Just like politics.

I m hoping I will find the time or the conviction that it is worth to put this stuff in more organized writing. Its all scattered everywhere. But it is time to connect the dots of the strands in my research.