Self-negating admissions

And call me naive, but I also think that Mugabe would not have pursued
his policies for this long if he had a better grasp of debt dynamics. 

That’s Dani Rodrik

You all can debate Mugabe if you want, I’m interested in the notion of a self-negating admission.  By writing "…call me naive" Rodrik is showing a level of self-awareness which seems to be signaling he is not naive.  A more direct example of such a construct would be "Call me unwilling to accept outside labels, but…" — the mere act of writing the statement is showing a willingness to accept at least one outside label (namely: unwilling to accept outside labels), which in turn means the writer cannot be unwilling to accept all such labels.

Call me unwilling to use self-negating admissions, but I wonder why writing "Call me naive…" should be more effective than simply writing "I am not naive."  Or for that matter writing "I am naive."  (What is the influence-maximizing claim to make about one’s own naivete?)

Don’t forget Dani Rodrik has a new book coming out: One Economics, Many Recipes.  I don’t agree with all of it, but it is a valuable correction to the hubris of many other writers.


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