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The complex worlds of Baltimore
on 19 October 2016
When I want to explain complex systems to social science students, or prepare them for a life in organizations, I tell them to watch a boxset of "The Wire". Whether in the city's police force, the drugs gang, the stevedores' union, city government, schools or the press, front line workers and middle management intertwine to undermine (usually unintentionally) each other's attempts to reform the system. Forget what's in your textbook, your manifesto or your MBA Organizations class, this is what it's like to live in the modern US city, or as near to it as anyone has ever captured in a drama.
Along the way we meet a wealth of memorable characters with stories to tell. (Personal favourite? The Ziggy tragedy in series 2). It takes time to get into it, as the stories build slowly. (I needed the subtitles switched on for many episodes.) But like Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky it gives voice to some of the lowest people in their society, and finds that wise words can come from their mouths too.