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Review of Lean Logic [Books
Posted on January 31, 2017 @ 10:28:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I recently acquired the book Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It (2016) by David Flemming. The publisher is Chelsea Green.

The author, David Flemming, died in 2010. He had been working on this book for 30 years without officially publishing it. That task was taken on by his protégé Sean Chamberlin and he has done a superb job producing a high quality book from his writings.

I have a strong bias to read books beginning-to-end but a dictionary format does not promote that sort of reading. There are about 15 pages of orientation material at the beginning that you should read. In these pages David offers 3 ways to navigate the book:

  1. He has a 2 page Guide to Lean Logic organized by 14 main questions it addresses and under those 14 questions he lists all the relevant entries.
  2. He has a 6 page introductory essay outlining some of the main themes of his work with links to entries you can go to in order to dive deeper.
  3. He has a large list of Ways to Cheat in an Argument. Many of these "cheats" are discussed in more detail as entries in the book. The word "Logic" is used in the book title so this method of indexing might interest those wanting to hone critical thinking skills.

I would hazard the guess that many people will just dive into the book reading entries that look most interesting to them. An entry often suggests other related entries you can look at. He uses the device of an asterisk * next to terms with a corresponding dictionary entry. I found myself navigating the book by checking out related entries much like hyperlink clicking (see quote below for an example of the use of asterisks). The book makes for a good coffee table book, a good book to take to a coffee shop, or a bathroom reader.

Before the book was published it was called Lean Economy for a long time. David eventually changed the title to Lean Logic. The book dedicates many entries to understanding aspects of the lean economy concept. One gets the impression that a very well read and deep thinker is addressing each topic. David was a Schumacher College professor that studied economics and history among other many other topics.

I particularly enjoy the caliber of writing and thinking skill on display in David's writing. Here is an example of his writing/thinking skill in an entry on Local Currency in a sub-section called "time banking".

Time banks are an asset in places with a comparatively high rate of unemployment and only a modest inventory of skills, and which are not well enough connected to provide a natural source of information about their needs, *skills, and availabilities. This is the kind of local knowledge which was formerly supplied by the hubs of *social capital, such as a church, chapel, pubs, working men's clubs, local shots, schools, *festivals and events. In a sense, the laborious brokerage of time banking which requires time to be recorded and credited can be seen as the scaffolding of a heroic attempt to rebuild community with information flows and a *culture of reciprocal obligation. It brings in people who would otherwise be socially excluded. Communities whose inheritance of social capital remains intact do not need that scaffolding; the informational links of awareness and obligation are already in place. But where that rare ideal is not present, time banks meet a need. ~ p. 298-299

A final reason I would advise you to read this book is if you want to learn more about "lean" ideas and techniques. David not only address "logic" issues in this book by discussing logical "cheats", he also usefully extends the scope of "lean" ideas into discussions of the economy, food systems, health, materials, transport and many other topics. The lean economy is made up of subsystems that each have be run in a lean manner in order to have a lean economy. I suspect that the book will help to advance lean thinking into new areas and make us think about what it means to be "lean" in these new domains of lean thinking. David's concept of a "lean economy" is provocative and will, I predict, eventually enter into mainstream debate as an alternative view of how economies might operate either by choice or by necessity.

This review is still quite superficial in its treatment of David's ideas. I hope in some future blogs to delve more deeply into his lean economics ideas. I've read enough to know, however, that this is a book worth recommending (and I'm not alone).

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