From the Telegraph.
The report’s title – The Fiction of Development: Literary Representation as a Source of Authoritative Knowledge – may give a hint about its authors’ political leanings.
But co-author Dr David Lewis, an international development specialist at LSE, defended their argument.
He said: “Storytelling is one of humanity’s oldest methods of possessing information and representing reality. The stories, poems and plays we categorise as literary fiction were once accepted in much the same way that scientific discourse is received as authoritative today.”
Professor Michael Woolcock, director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, said they were “not arguing that poets should replace finance ministers.”
He said: “Fiction is important because it is often concerned with the basic subject matter of development. This includes things like the promises and perils of encounters between different peoples; the tragic mix of courage, desperation, humour, and deprivation characterising the lives of the down-trodden.”
Tom Clougherty, policy director of the Adam Smith Institute, said fiction was “a useful tool in aiding people’s understanding, sparking their interest, and humanising issues”.
But he warned: “There’s a problem. Fiction works by appealing to people’s emotions, not their intellect or rationality.”
He said issues like poverty and international development were “emotionally charged” and consequently solutions often failed to take into account hard, unpalatable facts.
“Years of aid won’t sort out fundamental problems,” he said, concluding: “Fiction absolutely can’t replace factual, evidence-based analysis.”
What caught my eye was the quote from Clougherty. The entire argument seems flawed to me, but to say that novels can’t appeal to the intellect makes me wonder what novels Clougherty’s been reading, if any. Sounds to me like the problem might be in his selection and depth of reading.