Professor Jean-Paul Faguet’s annual letter to students:
Welcome to the LSE. I don’t care what you think.
Or maybe, to be a bit more accurate, the fact that you think something is not itself very convincing. I am interested – indeed very interested – in what you think, because in some respect it is bound to be wrong. I’m here to teach and you’re here to learn. Identifying those mistaken assumptions, informational gaps, and incorrect mental models is one of our most pressing priorities. Along the way we will also identify the many correct assumptions, informational assets, and insightful mental models that you also have.
But it is important that we both understand this from the start: your opinions do not have some irreducible merit because they are yours. Nor do mine, nor do any of my colleagues’. What does have merit is the product of our intellectual work, founded on solid theory and well-chosen evidence, leading to insights about how the world works that are both non-obvious and true. We’re pretty sure we have some of these at the LSE – otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But we’re equally sure that there’s a great deal that we, and the rest of the world, do not yet understand. The main point of academia – especially at the postgraduate level – is to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to improve the tools we have for pushing back the darkness. In the latter especially, your help is crucial, precisely because you are not invested in the tools and models that we currently have, and so are more likely to come up with creative new ones.
Welcome to the LSE. It’s going to be intense and frustrating at first. And then it’s going to be exhilarating. We’re delighted that you came.
All the best,
Professor Jean-Paul Faguet is Professor of the Political Economy of Development and Programme Co-Director, Development Management. He works at the frontier between economics and politics, using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the institutions and organizational forms that underpin development. Specific fields include political economy, comparative politics, institutional economics, and development economics.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the International Development LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.