I have argued once and again in this blog that we need new ideas to deal with the increasing complexity of the world we have created and the one we ambition (even if we are not able to imagine it!), to deal with the dissonance of new technologies that amplify our capabilities while we keep our old ways of organizing and governing. And I have shown my concern about old ideas that keep us tied to old ways of doing and unaware of the monsters that lurk in our anticipated future. What we have lived through this year 2020 (and we will live in the coming months and years) we should make us all more aware of this need.
Here is a more dramatic explanation… which maybe it is what we need. Ten years ago, Moises Naím, a Venezuelan journalist and writer, used the term “ideological necrophilia” (the term is probably older).
“Necrophilia is a sexual attraction to cadavers. Ideological necrophilia is the blind fixation with dead ideas. It turns out this pathology is more common in its political rather than sexual form.
An expanded version of the original article was published here in 2016. Naím mentions as examples Maoism and the Great Leap Forward, recurring Peronism in Argentina, Hugo Chavez’s populism, and he ended with the then incoming old ideas of Mr. Trump. In the last four years we have seen the horrendous spectacle of ideological necrophilia metastasizing across the (developed?) world. (An ideal hotbed for bold viruses, by the way).
Old ideas are particularly dangerous in politics, but my experience with old (bad) ideas comes from my professional experience in the business world, where everybody likes to talk about innovation (other big pillar of this blog) but where the vast majority lives and dies (and are paid) to keep old ideas up and running (even like zombies). Fortunately in the economy, in sectors where there is a relatively free market and competition, old ideas eventually die. They are killed and eaten by new competitors.
“Old ideas” and “ideological necrophilia” are still marginal ideas. However there is hope. Here is a brief note making the same connection: how the refusal of new ideas, evolution or change may be considered to be a form of “ideological” necrophilia, an atypical fixation for dead ideas.
For those who suffer from ideological necrophilia, it is always easy to find reasons to ridicule, criticize, or reject when something is new and revolutionary. Ideological necrophilia is a devastating condition that can affect people, organizations, companies and nations. It can manifest symptoms of blindness by success, need to eliminate any prophet, fear of change, and rationalization in order to love, refurbish, and justify the application of dead ideas, dogmas and theories.Yovani E. Chavez R. “Ideological Necrophilia”
In the note we read about The Maginot Line, Galileo, Steve Jobs, Kodak, Xerox, Blackberry, British military and Carl von Clausewitz.
I can only see two possible scenarios. One in which we begin to bury old ideas. Another in which we will be buried by complexity (with a little help from viruses and populists).
Featured Image: Necrophilia Romance