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Dream of dreams or Dreams, (non)science and ideology (by Tomáš Sedláček)

The topic of dreaming seems to be far away from economic, political or any "serious" debate. But this  in itself is "just the way things appear " to us. (We see that  dreaming and "the appearance" are with us as a theme before we know it: something 'appears' to us and some thing does not, and the difference between the two creates many questions.). If one listens carefully, the theme and structure of dreaming is present in self-serious debates much more than we are admitting.

First of all, we have a category of personal and national dreams by which our private and collective lives are often governed. After all, the aim of politics and economics (and other fields) is to get closer to that collective dream. Many even think that a man does nothing but try to make his dreams come true (more or less successfully). In this category we have the American (and European?) dreams, which we often view as subordinate to the functioning of political policy and the economy.  Martin Luther King had his 'dream' of a non-segregated society, and his speech " I Have a Dream " became a driving force, a sort of legend, not only in terms of history and politics " from below" (the personal belief which individuals shared) but also as a collective national rhetoric. His dream has in many ways been met, and man is judged by skin color by just a few idiotic members of society  (a label which, unfortunately, applies to many Czech gypsy haters).

Dreams are of interest even to economists: the first macroeconomic forecast of the future in the written  history of our civilization happened in a dream. Pharaoh had a dream about seven years of abundant growth (grain, or as we would say today, GDP ) and seven years of misery – a dream which predicted the economic future. Today, it is no longer our dreams that  play this role of predicting the future, but something else: our (economic, political social)  models. Again, at first glance, far away from the field of discussion: dreams are generally considered to be subjective, vague, visual, and non-exact, while models are generally taken as an objective, clear, numerical and exact. However, on a closer inspection, (which is quite relatively on the rise in these fields) we find that it is not such a "chalk and cheese"comparison. Even models are just an autobiography of the author or the age— "all theory is autobiography", as respected economist and mathematician Roy Weintraub noted some time ago.  Conversely, the archetypes of our personal dreams are much more collective and "objective" than we thought, as Carl Gustav Jung has also shown . And the exactness of the models is only apparent; models look exact, because everything soft and vague is excluded as its 'surroundings' or  context - in the case of economics, to the predictions. The result is an exact but false image not only of the future, but especially of our present (why does a given statistic have something to say about our age?)

Dreaming is also important for science. It was precisely in the dream, where the philosopher Rene Descartes "discovered " the method of modern science, or better said— the modern worldview and way of learning and knowledge. In his meditations on first philosophy (which, as Zdeněk Neubauer wittily noted, are actually real meditations), Descartes installs the context of the dream as the environment in which a method of questioning is invented. We can say that modern science was created in a dream.

And after all, our abstract models comes from a similarly immaterial world as the world of dreams. In the real world our models, theories or explanations do not exist-- they are present only in our heads.


Dream of Dreams

But in fact, real dreams (those which happen to us at night) are not so dreamy. If we say that a person wants to “fulfill his dreams”, this certainly does not mean that all of their dreams should or do come true. Most dreams are deluded, vague, illogical, often without causality, "speaking" figuratively, in the shady mists. Many dreams are actually pretty uninteresting and dull. Who would want to bring them to life? Moreover - and here the irony reaches its peak: we have never dreamed our "life dreams" (in the sense of the goal or direction of our lives) in real dreams. Our life dreams are a kind of branded, plastic dream that we created while awake—and those dreams are usually filled to the brim with ideology.

So what do we mean when we say that we wish to fulfill our dream? It seems that we are emphasizing content, the scenes revealed in our dreams, but still, the context of the dream is our focus. We are not after dream content, but the form in which dreams come, after dreaminess as such.

Dreams are echoes of a time long before science, before Christianity, before ethics, even before rationality, causality, before realizing the passage of time– hence, (in today's point of view) they are so confusing and difficult to understand. These very moments can bring us to the earliest times of the dawn of our consciousness, apart from all of the constructs through which we see the world and ourselves in it. These fabricated dreams (to have a Hawaiian holidays or certain car) are full of ideology; those real dreams (at night) let us see how the world without any ideology looks. And somewhere in between we live rationally irrational, objectively subjective lives.

Translated of an article published in Hospodářské noviny, Czech Republic


About the Author: Tomáš Sedláček (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at ČSOB. He served as a non-political expert advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic, with special responsibility over fiscal consolidation and the reform of the tax, pension, and healthcare systems. He also served as an economic advisor then-president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. (www.tomassedlacek.cz)