Monday, October 15, 2012

What to write in your acknowledgements or preface?

In the last few days I've read several articles by Oded Stark who does very interesting work on (among others) migration. Some of his most interesting articles were written in a time when not only the research's identification strategy was important, but also the idea (these days the balance seems to shift sometimes too much to the first). And interesting research was very much put forward in the 80s and 90s by some of my favorite authors: Oded Stark (economics), Mark Rosenzweig (economics), James Scott (polisci and anthropology), and the like. A bit like some of my current day favorite authors: Herbert Gintis, Samual Bowles, and the like.

In the acknowledgements of his 1985 paper "Motivations to Remit: Evidence from Botswana" with Robert Lucas in the Journal of Political Economy, Oded Stark writes:
“Since this is a joint product, the authors would like to blame each other for all remaining errors.”

And yesterday I started (re-)reading James Scott's 1976 "The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia". A must-read (together with all his other books) for those working in the developing world. In the preface he writes:
"At this point in the standard preface it is customary for the author to claim total responsibility for error and wrongheadedness and to absolve others of blame. I am not so sure I want to do that. While I am happy to stand or fall with what I have written, it is also clear that I have learned so much from so many scholars that a great many of us are implicated in this enterprise. If it should turn out that I am on the wrong track, I suspect that many of them are on the same errant train with me!  
I wish also to report that my wife and children, who have their own scholarly and other concerns, had virtually nothing to do with this volume. They were not particularly understanding or helpful when it came to research and writing but called me away as often as possible to the many pleasures of life in common. May it always remain so."

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