what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Monday, April 19, 2021

My scribbling from 1975-1990

HEALTH WARNING – this is a very self-indulgent post which simply records (essentially for my own use) the pieces which are still accessible from my writing during the years when we still used typewriters

I’ll add the post 1990 material in a future post…. 



What sort of Overgovernment?” chapter in the famous “Red Paper on Scotland” (1975) edited by Gordon Brown.

My chapter looked at the then popular argument that Scotland, having just reorganised its local government system, entered the EU and facing the prospect of a new national Assembly, could become “overgoverned” – a sentiment which neoliberals were just beginning to express with their references to the “overloading” of government. I would like to think that the chapter anticipated this – although it certainly questioned certain aspect of democracy in municipal authorities….

Community Development – its political and administrative challenge

Social Work Today

Feb 1977

Western civilization blinked in 1968..its leaders panicking as the demos stirred and turning to 3 Wise Men who duly produced in 1975 the Trilateral Commission Report on The Future of Democracy (all 227 pages) which talked about the “overloading” of government and the loss of public trust…...I had been in the streets in May 1968 but, no longer a student, engaging in community politics - working with community activists as they organized themselves

This is a long and prescient 1977 paper drafted as a result of a study of community development which lasted several years -which critically assesses the claims of pluralist democratic theory and finds them wanting.Five functions of political parties are identified and tested – with the conclusion that they were losing their basic functions. ...Three different schools of community development and their relationship to political parties are are identified and explored.

The Search for Democracy – a guide to and polemic about Scottish local government

1977 book of which I retain a sole copy in my mountain house

A short book written around some 40 questions community activists and students were putting to me about the new system of Scottish local government which had arrived in 1975. I was in a fairly unique position to deal with this since I had, for some 3 years, been occupying one of the leading positions in the country’s largest local authority – Strathclyde Region. I’m not able at the moment to give excerpts……

Local government, learning and social change” Linkage newsletter 3 of Institute of Operational Research (IOR) 1978

Article in a Tavistock Institute newsletter (Linkeage) about the need for political learning. Reflects the work of such systems analysts as Geoffrey Vickers and Stafford Beer.

A Little Local InequalityChapter in “Scotland- the Real Divide” ed by Gordon Brown and Robin Cook 1983

The piece started with a piece of purple prose describing the contrast between the glorious location of one of the areas in my regional seat overlooking the river Clyde and the grim realities of the lives of the people there. The article then describes how a new Social Strategy of the Regional Council was giving local people more hope

“Scottish Local Government – what future?” Chapter in The Scottish Government Yearbook 1984

A critical assessment of the system – a mere ten years after a major reorganization

My more academic side on display

Various papers on Social Strategy for the 80s


The Council’s strategy was unique in the UK and I made it my business to make sure that people in the country were aware of it. See also Criticism and public rationality – professional rigidity and the search for caring government; Harry Smart (1991)

Case Study in Organisational Learning and Political Amnesia

The definitive paper on the Strathclyde Region’s Social Strategy experience – written a few years after I left the Region. Be warned – it’s 50 pages long!! 


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