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Friday, November 21, 2014

Politics & Machiavelli: the real lessons

When Machiavelli completed The Prince in 1514, he was not to know that it would become one of the most infamous books for the next five centuries. Indeed the worst things anyone could do in gaining or retaining power came to be known by that deplorable adjective, ‘Machiavellian’.

Anyone who has actually studied the works of Machiavelli, especially his Discourses, an essential companion to The Prince, would know that Machiavelli was far from being a friend of deceptive and arbitrary rule. After all he was the one who insisted that “when it is necessary for [a ruler] to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause.”

But before we look further at why the common misunderstanding should be corrected, we should consider a current trend that projects an even more perverse interpretation of Machiavelli. Take the BBC programme, ‘Who’s Afraid of Machiavelli?’, aired just last year. Instead of challenging the view that Machiavelli was seeking to guide people with power to use it immorally, the makers of the programme and all who were invited to speak on it not only reinforced that view, but also claimed that it was to be celebrated. Their take on Machiavelli essentially came down to this: if you’re running a government or a large business, you have to be ruthless; you have to make others fear you; and you have to go with your judgement alone on what should be done, and get it done by whatever means necessary.

For these political insiders and business gurus, Machiavelli should not be denounced for advocating nasty power play, but praised for validating it as essential in getting the business of a ruler or top executive done.

But while some people may revel in imagining that even the most ruthless behaviour (of their own or the leaders they advised) would be endorsed by a world famous thinker, there are three crucial points they should have noted. First, when Machiavelli advised that the ends would justify the means, he was very specific about what those ends were, namely the establishment and development of a free republic – i.e., an association of citizens who collectively have a say through public deliberations over how they are to be governed. The people are, he insisted, “more prudent, more stable, and of better judgment than a prince.” So unless the leader in question is genuinely striving to create and secure a form of governance which spreads power more evenly to all people, nothing is justified; least of all, any action to simply make oneself more powerful and feared.

Secondly, the authoritarian model is only recommended where the option of a free republic is not immediately attainable. Machiavelli’s advice was not that a leader should be authoritarian, but that if one were living in a state where power was concentrated exclusively at the top and rival forces would resort to vicious means to seize the throne (not to mention stopping anyone from democratising power to the citizenry), then one would have to be ruthless in countering those threats and firm in securing one’s own power. But if one were in a free republic, or had managed to transform an absolute monarchy into one, then there would be no excuse for using repressive measures.

Thirdly, for Machiavelli, even when a ruler is steering a course from the prevailing authoritarian conditions to a free republic, it does not mean that anything is permissible. One has to ask if one’s actions are helping or hindering the all important process of bringing about a form of governance whereby people can speak feely about contested issues and jointly secure their safety and prosperity without being dependent on the whims of one individual (or an elite).

Indeed Machiavelli was consistently critical of rulers who put their own desires above the good of the people. In relation to the ruthless tyrant, Commodus, he wrote, “Commodus, to whom it should have been very easy to hold the empire, for, being the son of Marcus, he had inherited it, and he had only to follow in the footsteps of his father to please his people and soldiers; but, being by nature cruel and brutal, he gave himself up to amusing the soldiers and corrupting them, so that he might indulge his rapacity upon the people; on the other hand, not maintaining his dignity, often descending to the theatre to compete with gladiators, and doing other vile things, little worthy of the imperial majesty, he fell into contempt with the soldiers, and being hated by one party and despised by the other, he was conspired against and was killed.” The Marcus referred to here, incidentally, is Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the stoic, philosophical, compassionate ruler of Rome.

If political and business leaders want to learn the real lessons from Machiavelli, they should stop focusing on expanding their personal power as an end in itself, and start devoting themselves to empowering others to share in decision-making so that it is never the elite few but always the people who together determine the common good.
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For an extended discussion of Machiavelli’s political ideas with reference to historical leaders, see this interview with Henry Tam, made by the Documentary Film-Makers Cooperative: http://youtu.be/bJqnqdFC2VU

News Release: A Novel Exposé of Government

What lies behind government rhetoric? How much are big corporations actually pulling all the strings? Will it be long before democracy collapses altogether?

In his new novel, Whitehall through the Looking Glass, Henry Tam, a political analyst and former senior civil servant, presents us with a disturbing vision of what’s in store for us.

The story is set in the near future, when the Consortium, working in cahoots with multi-billionaire monarch, George VIII, dictates terms to those in charge of governing both Britain and the US. It tells how the Consortium expands its power until there is no one left who can stand in its way. Or so it appears, until a defiant civil servant and a secret resistance movement threaten to bring its reign to an end.

The novel combines a fast-moving plotline, satire and futuristic invention to bring home the nightmare awaiting any society that allows its government to be taken over by the corporate elite. As one reviewer observed, it is “funny and scary in equal measure.”

Leading figures in politics and government have been forthright with their praise:

“Henry Tam knows how government works, and how fragile democracy is. With his insider knowledge and surreal imagination, he has given us an extraordinary dystopian tale about corporate greed and political collusion.” (Baroness Kay Andrews, former Government Minister)

“Forget ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘The Thick of It’; if you want a sharp satirical look at life inside the corridors of power, read Whitehall through the Looking Glass … Tam’s novel also has a serious message about the dire consequences when corporations take over the running of a government.” (Sonny Leong, Chief Executive, Civil Service College)

“This is a timely reminder of the dangers of the rapidly-accelerating corporatisation of our political and economic life. ... As the general election approaches, Tam’s book is an important reminder of the risks of crude neoliberal ideology.” (Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC – Trades Union Congress)

“Half asleep, the UK is becoming an ever more elitist society, that has left fairness and common-sense behind; ... What we need is Henry Tam's absurdist vision of Whitehall to help wake us all up.” (Dr. Simon Duffy, Director, Centre for Welfare Reform)

"The narrative is all the more compelling because Tam's world is often as familiar as it is fantastical. This is not so much a lesson from history as a warning from the here and now. It's a cautionary tale and a call to action, but also a gripping read." (Peter Bradley, ex-MP and Director, Speakers’ Corner Trust)

“Beautifully, deftly written, Whitehall through the Looking Glass is dark and compelling reading. A deeply sobering wake up call to us all against the political complacency of our times.” (Dame Jane Roberts, Chair, NLGN – the New Local Government Network)

Whitehall through the Looking Glass is the second novel by Henry Tam. His first novel, Kuan’s Wonderland, is a widely acclaimed political fable, which has been recommended by educational institutions such as the Equality Trust, WEA and the Cooperative College. His non-fiction books include the seminal Communitarianism: a new agenda for politics and citizenship, nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order; Progressive Politics in the Global Age; and Against Power Inequalities.

He has previously worked as the Head of Civil Renewal in the Home Office, and Deputy Director in the Department for Communities & Local Government. He is currently an academic at the University of Cambridge and blogs on ‘Question the Powerful’.

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The E-book version is available from: Amazon UK or Amazon US.
The Paperback version is available from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace.

To see in full what have been written about Whitehall through the Looking Glass, see: http://hbtam.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/public-commentators-on-whitehall.html

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Art of Making Science Work

Between any scientific discovery relevant to a problem facing society, and the delivery of an effective policy solution, lies the no-man’s land of implementation uncertainty.

On 28th July 2014, I gave a talk at the University of Cambridge to a group of educational psychologists gathered at the ‘Implementing Implementation Science’ conference. The challenge, I explained, was about navigating through three sets of tricky issues:
* Being Scientific about Science
* Being Sensible about Public Policy
* Being Effective about Implementation

Here are my notes for the talk, addressing each of these key issues:

Being Scientific about Science
Rethinking our epistemological assumptions:

What do we really know about science? Does it give us a picture of reality or a succession of hypotheses?
o Science as a system of standard procedures & indisputable proof
o Science as continuous with intuition & spiritual understanding
o Science as common sense, but whose common sense?
o Science as a revisable probabilistic & empirically checkable set of tools

• Degrees of predictability in different spheres of investigation. What is expected in anticipating the movement of planets or particles may not be an appropriate model for anticipating the changing behaviour or attitudes of people.
o Policy makers and the naïve model of scientific certainty
o Acceptable variations of predictability v. Unacceptable fluctuations of reliability
o Cause & effect of behavioural changes

What are the criteria for replicability? The conditions for technological replication need to be adapted to the setting in question.
o Replicability in impact of physical clearance of harmful substance
o Replicability in impact of prescription of medication
o Replicability in impact of caring support

Being Sensible about Public Policy
Preparing for delivery obstacles:

The challenge of managing political expectations: how implementation failures can simply be a case of ‘over-hyping’ or ‘under-selling’.
o The twin nightmare of setting criteria for evaluation forms AND agreeing what to put into the press release.
• Over-hyping what may be achieved is a recipe for disaster.
• Under-selling the actual value of a policy is self-defeating (for it will lead to under-investment).

• The problem of guiding delivery: there is no such thing as ‘pressing a button’ in initiating a social policy solution.
o Even the paradigm of rolling out an inoculation programme has proven to be problematic.
o Recipients of treatment/initiatives are not mindless subjects.
o And people who ‘deliver’ the solutions are not mere mechanisms – e.g., of sending out disempowered staff to tell the public about a public body’s commitment to empowerment.

The need for patience and active learning: how lack of curiosity kills the policy mouse.
o Science’s key strength is its empirically-based revisability: e.g., when there are many variables, you have to learn from what actually happens – alley gate example and community safety.
o Community health projects: the need for relationships to build up in neighbourhoods.
o The financial regime stamps out cautious and responsible management of public funds (spend it or lose it syndrome – support for asset transfer).

Being Effective about Implementation
Promoting cooperative problem-solving in schools:

Research commissioned by the Carnegie UK Trust (& ALT) into the impact of student participation in schools and colleges found that :
o students were happier and felt more in control of their learning; while disruptive behaviour in class was reduced.
o it had the twin effect of teachers’ practice improving and students gaining in awareness of the learning process;
o enhanced skills of communication and competence as a learner;

Communication is an integral part of policy delivery: if you’re too vague, delivery is lost in translation – E.g., more participation -> formal school council with no major decision, and no wider engagement with most pupils

Training: People are partners, not tablets: you can’t just hand them out – E.g., restorative justice in schools: some heads claim they do it because they sit perpetrators and victims down to talk about it (BUT HOW is the key)

Evolving Procedures (Observation changes quantum outcome, interaction generates social impact): E.g., implementing solution development rather than delivering solutions in participatory budgeting. You need wider engagement, proper sampling & explaining, effective facilitating, before the exercise can deliver priorities young people take ownership in.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

‘Dystopia of the Powerful’ Novels

Introduction
Dystopian fiction provides a dramatic means to draw attention to what life may be like if power continues to be concentrated in an unaccountable few. The two widely acclaimed novels, Whitehall through the Looking Glass and Kuan’s Wonderland, hold up a mirror to the dark arts of societal manipulation, political intrigues, and the dangers of becoming disempowered.

You can find out more about both novels (including the reviews from general readers as well as those involved in political education) as follows:
• For the satirical Whitehall through the Looking Glass, set in a technologically futuristic but otherwise realistic Whitehall (as only a long time insider can depict), where the government itself has been taken over by the Consortium, click on: Guide to Whitehall
• For the allegorical Kuan’s Wonderland, set in the mysterious world of Shiyan where a young boy has been forcibly transported to, and no one he encounters is what they appear to be, click on: Guide to Kuan

(The two novels can be read independently of each other, though they have plot and character connections)

What are the key issues to reflect on
• Do we know who are accumulating power at our expense?
• What are the tricks used to get people to back those who will only exploit them?
• Why the longer we leave politics to the powerful, the worse things will get for us?
• What does it take to unmask and challenge those who want us to be completely powerless against them?
• Do we understand how people can be motivated by different ideals and concerns to unite around a common cause of ensuring none is too powerful to oppress others?

How to get hold of these novels
For Whitehall through the Looking Glass, you can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

For Kuan’s Wonderland, you can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

Options for further engagement
You can:
• Contact the author with your questions
• Share the novel(s) with others through a reading group
• Set up a discussion group to explore the key themes and ideas directly with the author
• Use the novel(s) as the basis for a class on promoting political reflections through dystopian fiction

The Equality Trust, for example, has chosen Kuan’s Wonderland as a key text for engaging young people in exploring the problem of inequality. See their Young Person’s Guide to Inequality (Stories Page), and the teaching aid to promote class discussion, which can be downloaded for free (but beware of spoilers) by clicking on: ‘A Novel Exploration of Inequality’

The WEA has used Kuan’s Wonderland as a basis to engage learners about the problem of inequality. See the WEA page.

Supplementary Texts
In addition to Whitehall through the Looking Glass and Kuan’s Wonderland, and the two probably best known dystopian novels – Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World – the following are also worth reading for their respective vision of how society could turn out if a powerful elite were allowed to accumulate wealth, government positions, and control over the media and the use of force:
• Atwood, M., The Handmaid’s Tale
• Bachman, R. (aka Stephen King), The Running Man
• Bradbury, R., Fahrenheit 451
• Lewis, S., It Can’t Happen Here
• London, J., The Iron Heel
• Moore, A., V for Vendetta
• Wyndham, J., The Chrysalids

Communitarians: an introduction

Who are the 'Communitarian' thinkers? How have their ideas developed over time? And what are the core elements of the cooperative gestalt they advocate as vital to the development of inclusive communities?.

The term ‘communitarian’ first came into usage in the 1840s to describe the approach to community building through cooperative education and organisation that was promoted by Robert Owen and his followers in Britain and America [Note 1].

Owenites maintained that people’s lives could be substantially improved if they interacted with one another in mutually supportive communities, rather than carrying on with exploitative arrangements, which benefited a powerful few at the expense of the majority. They pressed for experimental alternatives to be developed to test out how social arrangements could be reformed irrespective of what traditional beliefs might be invoked to defend the status quo. And they believed education held the key to giving people the skills, confidence and will to bring about new socio-economic structures and power relations.

By late 19th/early 20th century, Owenite communitarian ideas of egalitarian cooperation and democratic solidarity were emerging as key elements in the converging political visions of the New Liberals in Britain, progressives like Dewey and Croly in America, Durkheim in France, and social democrats in Germany and Scandinavia.

This communitarian ethos infused the New Deal, the founding of the NHS, and the political consensus for safeguarding the common good in the post-War years. But it was to come under severe attack from market individualists in the 1980s. The rise of the ‘New Right’ ideology of Thatcher and Reagan privileged the elite who were able to manipulate the market to help them accumulate ever-greater wealth and power at the expense of other people’s security and wellbeing.

Against this corrosive trend, in the 1990s a group of social and political theorists in Britain and America adopted ‘communitarian’ as the name for their shared philosophical outlook. In their writings [Note 2], both the relativist notion of supposing individuals should be left alone to act as they wish, and the authoritarian demand to impose the rigid order of hierarchical communities, are equally rejected. Instead arguments are put forward for enabling ordinary citizens and those in leadership positions to find ways to build and sustain a more inclusive form of community life, with the help of shared learning, deliberative dialogues and participatory forms of collective decision-making.

Reviving the cooperative-communitarian tradition, these writers exposed the threats of relentless marketisation and plutocratic politics, which were turning people into disempowered beings unable to overcome marginalisation and oppression. Their yardstick for assessing reform is whether it will help people relate to each other in mutually supportive and democratically cooperative ways in shaping their political governance, the enterprise in which they work, their living conditions and environment, and any organisation that may impact on their lives. The development of the cooperative gestalt they promoted is to be guided by three principles:

The three key communitarian principles

First, the principle of cooperative enquiry requires anyone making an assertion to be judged with reference to the extent to which informed participants deliberating under conditions of thoughtful and uncoerced exchanges would concur. Any provisional consensus reached by one group of individuals must in turn be open to possible revisions. The ultimate strength of any truth claim rests with the likelihood of that claim surviving the critical deliberations of ever expanding communities of enquirers.

Secondly, the principle of mutual responsibility requires all members of any community to take responsibility for enabling each other to pursue those values that stand up to the test of reciprocity. What an individual may value cannot expect to command the respect from others if its pursuit is incompatible with the realisation of goals valued by others. The range of mutual responsibilities may cover the provision of protection and support for all who would otherwise be vulnerable.

Thirdly, the principle of citizen participation requires that all those affected by any given power structure are able to participate as equal citizens in determining how the power in question is to be exercised. All those subject to potentially binding commands should be entitled to learn about, review, and determine how to reform decision-making processes. This applies to not only government institutions, but also businesses, schools and community organisations.

The communitarian reform agenda

The form of community life favoured by communitarians is that which progressively evolves in the direction recommended by these principles. It follows that modern corporations as much as traditional communities must change to enable people to interact in far more cooperative and mutually respectful ways. It means that social cohesion is not to be secured from rigid homogeneity, but from the cultivation of common values that thrive on moral sensitivity and cultural diversity. It will challenge those who seek to construct a distorted sense of identity out of the ‘superiority’ they imagine they possess over those who are traditionally discriminated against. And far from focusing on just one’s own nation, or one’s neighbourhood community, it supports the authentic quest for a richer sense of belonging to a multiplicity of communities, and to the building of mutual support and cooperative relations across borders when that is essential in the age of globalisation.

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Note 1:
Although some writers have combined praise for their idealised form of ‘community’ with reactionary defence of outmoded traditions and hierarchies, none of them has used the term ‘communitarian’ to describe themselves, for the understandable reason that the term is actually associated with the progressive philosophy espoused by a long line of thinkers. The term has been regarded in some quarters as having ‘anti-liberal’ connotation solely because in the 1980s, it was used by academic commentators as a generic label for an otherwise diverse group of thinkers (Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel, and Michael Walzer) who had one thing in common: they all penned criticisms of John Rawls’ liberal philosophy because it treated people as unencumbered selves without reference to their relationships to their communities. All these writers rejected the categorisation of them as ‘communitarians’, and apart from MacIntyre, their wider writings showed that they were not against liberal ideas in general, only particular formulations of them.

Note 2:
Bellah, R., et al. (1991). The Good Society. Vintage Books.
Bellah, R. (1996). ‘Community Properly Understood’, in Responsive Community, Vol.6, issue 1, Winter 1995/96, pp.49-54.
Bellah, R. & Sullivan, W. (2001), ‘Cultural Resources for a Progressive Alternative’ in Tam (2001).
Boswell, J. (1990). Community and the Economy: the Theory of Public Co-operation. Routledge, London. 

Cladis, M.S. (1992). A Communitarian Defense of Liberalism: Emile Durkheim and contemporary social theory. Stanford University Press, Stanford. 

Etzioni, A. (Ed.), (1998). The Essential Communitarian Reader. Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield. 

Selznick, P. (1992). The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

Selznick, P. (2002). The Communitarian Persuasion. Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington. 

Tam, H. (1998). Communitarianism: a new agenda for politics and citizenship. Macmillan, Basingstoke. 

Tam, H. (Ed.) (2001). Progressive Politics in the Global Age. Polity Press, Cambridge.
Tam, H. (2011). ‘Rejuvenating Democracy: lessons from a communitarian experiment’, in Forum for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education, Volume 53, Number 3, 2011.
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For more information, see the guide to Henry Tam’s Communitarianism.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Climate Change: a philosophical debate

Climate Change: should science guide politics – or politics guide science?

A Day Conference and Colloquium arranged by the Philosophical Society of England (www.philsoc.co.uk)
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London EC1V OHB.
Saturday, 11th October 2014, 10.30a.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Anthropogenic climate change has been described as one of the most serious problems facing the 21st century, yet public debate of the issue is plagued by uncertainty. What are the likely consequences and what costs would be involved in attempting to mitigate them? Science and mathematics are needed to test the empirical claims and to consider the questions they raise about risk assessment and probability. But, alongside the natural sciences, ethics, philosophy and the social sciences also have a crucial role to play.

PROGRAMME
10.30 a.m. Arrival and registration.

11.00 a.m. 'Cosmopolitan Ethics in the Anthropocene'
Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh
Chair: Dr. Henry Tam

1 p.m. Lunch.

2 p.m. ‘Technology introductions in the context of decarbonisation: lessons from recent history’
Michael J Kelly, Professor of Technology, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge .
Chair: Professor Brenda Almond

3.45 p.m. Tea and opportunity for informal discussion

4.30 p.m. END OF CONFERENCE

Registration charge, including lunch and morning and afternoon tea or coffee, is £15.

Payment is required by October 1st 2014 but places can be reserved by sending a deposit of £5 to the Hon. Sec. at the address below. For conference enquiries please contact the Chair of the Society, Michael Bavidge: m.c.bavidge@newcastle.ac.uk. Cheques should be made out to ‘The Philosophical Society of England’ and sent to the Honorary Secretary of the Society Alan Brown, 9 Olney Court, Oxford OX14LZ.

Registered Charity No. 1140044.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Communitarianism: democracy & cooperation

Introduction
No political theory is uncontested. The ‘Question the Powerful’ project adopts as its premise the progressive position advocated by communitarians, civic republicans, and deliberative democrats – namely, that collective power should be exercised in accordance with the informed deliberations of all who are affected by that power to cultivate shared values and secure their common wellbeing. This position and its policy implications for education, business & employment, citizen protection, community development, and the role of government are set out in Henry Tam’s Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics & Citizenship, which was nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, and widely praised by reviewers:

• “The book is an excellent statement of the communitarian approach to politics and citizenship.” - Desmond King, Professor of Politics, University of Oxford (Times Higher Education Supplement).
• “Philosophically and social-scientifically literate, Tam's mind is a galaxy of bright ideas, at once general and pragmatically specific.” - Tony Skillen, University of Kent (Radical Philosophy).
• “Tam … writes with clarity and conviction. A 'must' for all who care not only about communitarianism, but about community and indeed a good society.” - Amitai Etzioni, Professor of Sociology, George Washington University (Responsive Community).
• “The great strength of Tam's book is that he not only offers a clear conceptual framework for communitarianism … but also a practical agenda for how theory can be translated into action in schools, workplaces and the voluntary sector.” - Iain Byrne, University of Essex (Citizen).

What are the key issues to reflect on
• Why democracy cannot function without the deliberative engagement of citizens?
• What common values can be cultivated despite the differences in beliefs and customs?
• What are the key principles for guiding policy development to build more inclusive communities?
• How can the conflicting demands in society be constructively reconciled without making any unjust concession?
• In response to criticisms that communitarian democracy is either too idealistic/demanding or complacent/ineffectual, what are the counter-arguments?

How to get hold of the resources
You can order Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics & Citizenship (paperback or hardback) from most high street or online bookstores. There are often cheap second hand copies available from: Amazon UK or Amazon US

Macmillan Palgrave is currently considering bringing out an e-version of the book.

Options for further engagement
• Contact the author with your questions
• Share Communitarianism with others through a political forum or a reading group
• Set up a discussion group to explore the key themes and ideas directly with the author
• Use the book as the basis for a series of lessons on policy ideas that ought to be reflected in political priorities

Supplementary Texts
You can find out more about the communitarian approach by reading:
• 'Communitarians: an introduction' (2014): a guide to communitarian writers and their ideas.
• 'The Radical Communitarian Synthesis' (2014): a short historical account of the evolution of communitarian thought.
• ‘Cooperative & Communitarian: a common heritage’ (2012): a short piece on the common social and intellectual roots of the cooperative movement and communitarian critique of society.

Other works by key communitarian advocates for democracy:
• Bellah, R., et al. (1991). The Good Society. Vintage Books.
• Bellah, R. (1996). ‘Community Properly Understood’, in Responsive Community, Vol.6, issue 1, Winter 1995/96, pp.49-54.
• Bellah, R. & Sullivan, W. (2001), ‘Cultural Resources for a Progressive Alternative’ in Tam (2001, see below).
• Boswell, J. (1990). Community and the Economy: the Theory of Public Co-operation. Routledge, London. 

• Cladis, M.S. (1992). A Communitarian Defense of Liberalism: Emile Durkheim and contemporary social theory. Stanford University Press, Stanford. 

• Dewey, J. (1927). The Public and its Problems. Henry Holt & Co. (For an excellent exposition of Dewey’s ideas, see Campbell, J., (1995). Understanding John Dewey. Open Court; and Ryan, A., (1955). John Dewey and the high tide of American Liberalism. WW Norton & Co.)
• Etzioni, A. (Ed.), (1998). The Essential Communitarian Reader. Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield. 

• Selznick, P. (1992). The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 

• Selznick, P. (2002). The Communitarian Persuasion. Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington. 


Many leading communitarian thinkers such as Bellah and Selznick contributed to Tam, H. (ed.) (2001). Progressive Politics in the Global Age. Polity Press, Cambridge.
It is available (hardback/paperback) in bookshops and online bookstores.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Radical Communitarian Synthesis

For a long time people were presented with an apparent dilemma. In small, primitive communities, human beings cooperated broadly as equals – learning through their pooled experience, sharing out fairly what they hunted and gathered, and expecting no one to treat others as their unquestioning subordinates. By contrast, in large, advanced communities, an esoteric elite (based on their priestly or financial engineering expertise) will tell others how society must be run; a minority will prosper while the majority will labour hard for much less; and those with vast concentrations of resources will dictate terms to others.

The choice was supposed to be limited to reverting to primitive equality and a life of basics, or accepting complex hierarchies, which are inseparable from wider provisions and social polarisation. With the exception of the Athenians in Greece and the Mohists in China, both of whom challenged exploitative power structures in the 5th/4th centuries BC, the history of social development encountered no new thinking on how to steer clear of both unenviable options for another two thousand years until the 17th century.

Three strands of thought emerged in the 16th/17th centuries that pointed to a new form of progressive social organisation that had inclusive cooperation at its heart. One key strand came from Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose ideas revolutionised the conception of knowledge. For Bacon, knowledge was not something that only a few could access through some unfathomable means. In fact, if someone claimed to have discovered any truth but no one else could possibly cross-check its reliability, that was best taken as a sign that foolishness or trickery was at play. Instead, the advancement of knowledge was a cooperative enterprise in which enquirers should be able to obtain and examine empirical evidence through open exchanges, and the believability of any claim would rest on how it coped with scrutiny and experimentation. No doctrine, no text, no individual was to be immune from critical questioning and the demands for evidence. Bacon’s followers founded the Royal Society, which became a model institution for demonstrating of how knowledge claims were to be tested, refined or where appropriate, refuted. This approach was to spread to the development of natural and social sciences.

Then there were the moralists from Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648) to Quakers such as George Fox (1624-1691) and William Penn (1644-1791), who developed ethical ideas that echoed the vision set out by Thomas More (1478-1535) in his book, Utopia: an alternative to the divisive and unequal society that had become the norm. They applied the core injunction of loving thy neighbour as thyself, to the modern, commercial society. Unlike the Diggers who sought to revert to a primitive form of agricultural existence, the Quakers injected the ethics of equal respect for all into business management. Penn himself took this approach forward in organising the territories he inherited in America that later came to be known as Pennsylvania – where uniquely in those colonial days Native Americans were treated as equals.

Last but not least, the 17th century also witnessed James Harrington’s (1611-1677) Oceana and the Levellers’ advocacy for a large-scale redistribution of power. While earlier thinkers sympathetic to civic republicanism have tended to look nostalgically back at small city-states as where power could realistically be shared amongst all citizens, Harrington and the Levellers proposed remaking the whole of England into a democracy – Harrington recognised the need to distribute land to underpin the equalisation of power, and the Levellers rejected wealth as a barrier to having an equal vote. In the context of the English Revolution, these ideas heralded a movement for radical democratisation that continued despite the later restoration of the monarchy.

Although these three strands of thought each initiated a new push against the barriers to a more cooperative form of life, they remained largely separate currents until the 19th century. By the mid-1800s, for example, Owenite supporters not only advocated the development of cooperative work communities where productivity was not held back but enhanced by the equal respect accorded to all members, they were also amongst the backers of Edwin Chadwick and other public health champions who applied empirical evidence to drive forward sanitation reforms, and many were involved with the Chartist and emerging trades union movements to press for an extensive redistribution of power in society. The three currents were beginning to show signs of merging into one set of demands for epistemological, socio-economic, and political transformation.

In the 20th century these three strands finally came to be synthesised into a unified philosophy. Initially during the early 1900s the communitarian ideas of thinkers such as Dewey, Hobhouse, Durkheim, and Croly, set out an alternative vision for how society should be continuously improved by collaborative empirical research, incorporation of social objectives in all organisational development, and the empowerment of citizens through a democratic state. Then in late 20th/early 21st century communitarian advocates such as Selznick, Boswell, Bellah, and Tam argued for extensive educational, socio-economic, and political reforms to bring about the conditions necessary to support human cooperation in all domains. These reforms require the embedding of cooperative enquiry, mutual responsibility, and citizen participation in every organisational structure and culture. They call for the systematic inculcation of the cooperative gestalt through lifelong learning; the development of robust institutions where mutual security and prosperity can be inclusively advanced; and the radical redistribution of power to close the widening gap between the powerful and the rest.

What the radical communitarian synthesis has produced is an integrated set of prescriptions to revive mutuality in human interactions in a way that will, far from retreating from modernity, secure greater progress in innovation, diversity and our common wellbeing. With their help, private, public and voluntary organisations will be continuously reminded as to what changes they need to make to become more attuned to cooperative working, at the local, national and global levels.

[For more on radical communitarian ideas, see ‘Communitarianism’, and 'Communitarians: an introduction'. See also ‘Cooperation Denial’, for an outline of the radical communitarian critique of the opposition to cooperative interactions.]

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Henry Tam (biographical & bibliographical note)

Henry Tam leads the Question the Powerful political education project, which promotes awareness and application of the ideas set out in his publications, policy advice and public talks, to counter the dystopian threats of power inequalities.

His academic books and novels are concerned with exposing the dangers of allowing an elite to acquire too much power, and showing how cooperative communities can revive democracy. His widely acclaimed writings include: Communitarianism (a political treatise nominated by New York University Press for the for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order); Kuan’s Wonderland (a political fabe described by the president of the Independent Publishers Guild as “an unmissable page-turner”); Whitehall through the Looking Glass (“an extraordinary dystopian tale about corporate greed and political collusion” - Baroness Kay Andrews, former Government Minister); and Against Power Inequalities (a global history praised by the Secretary-General of Cooperative UK as the work of “a master storyteller”). His essays appear regularly on ‘Question the Powerful’.

He is currently the Director of the University of Cambridge’s Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy. He is also Visiting Professor, Social Policy & Education, at Birkbeck, University of London; Fellow of the Globus Institute for Globalization and Sustainable Development, University of Tilburg (the Netherlands); and Chair of the Communitarian Forum, UK (1995-2000). He has been a guest speaker at many institutions, including: the University of Oxford; the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation (Harvard, USA); the Warsaw Institute of Sociology; the National School of Government; the London Business School; the BBC; Metropolitan Police Authority; Church Action on Poverty; and the South Place Ethical Society.

Between 2003 and 2010, he was the UK Government’s Head of Civil Renewal & Deputy Director for Community Empowerment, with lead responsibility on national policies for the involvement of citizens in shaping public decisions. The cross-government ‘Together We Can’ programme he developed was showcased at the 2008 international meeting of the Global Network of Government Innovators (USA). During 2010-2011 he was the UK’s Head of Race Equality. He has also been the Home Office’s Director for Community Safety & Regeneration (East of England); and Head of the Correctional Services Standards Unit. Prior to joining the senior civil service, he was the Deputy Chief Executive at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, where his work on democratic engagement won a Best Practice Award from the Prime Minister in 1999. In recognition of his success in introducing more effective engagement and communication approaches in the public sector, he was elected Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing in 1993.

He read Philosophy, Politics & Economics at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford; and obtained his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Hong Kong.

List of Key Publications

Against Power Inequalities: a history of the progressive struggle, (new edition) QTP: 2015.
• 'Communitarianism, sociology of', in International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences (Elsevier, 2015).
‘Let’s Talk About Democracy’ in nED (the network for Education & Democracy): (August 2014).
• ‘What would Whitehall be like in fifty years’ time?’ in Despatches, the Civil Service College newsletter (Vol.2 July 2014, p.2).
‘Whitehall through the Looking Glass: a novel exposé of corporate government’, published interview in Shout Out UK, 8 May, 2014).
Whitehall through the Looking Glass (a novel). QTP: 2014.
• 'Communitarianism', in the Encyclopedia of Action Research (Sage Publications, 2014).
• 'Progressive Lifelong Learning: pros and cons', NIACE Journal, 'Adult Learning', winter, 2013.
• 'Cooperative Problem-Solving & Education’, Forum journal, Volume 55 Number 2 2013.
• 'The Curious Case of Chinese Politics in Britain’, The Orient (2013).
• 'When Plato met Potter’, Book Brunch (published 18 June 2013).
• 'Cooperative Problem-Solving: what it means in theory and practice', FYPD, University of Cambridge, 2013 (download article here). Polish version, 'Demokracja: lekcje kooperatywnego rozwiazywania problemow’, published in edukacja obywatelska w dziataniu, ed. by Kordasiewicz, A. & Sadura, P., (Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warsaw, 2013).
Kuan's Wonderland (a novel). QTP: 2012.
• ‘Citizen Engagement and the Quest for Solidarity’, in After the Third Way: The Future of Social Democracy in Europe>, ed. by Olaf Cramme and Patrick Diamond (London, I.B. Tauris, 2012).
• ‘Democratic Participation and Learning Leadership’, published in Polish as ‘Szkola liderow’ in Partycypacja: przewodnik krytyki politycznej, ed. by Sadura, P. & Erbel, J. (Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, Warsaw, 2012).
• ‘Rejuvenating Democracy: lessons from a communitarian experiment’, Forum, Volume 53, Number 3, 2011.
Komunitaryzm, (Polish translation of Communitarianism, by J Grygienc & A Szahaj), Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Mikolaja Kopernika, Torun 2011.
• ‘Through Thick & Thin: what does it really take for us to live together’, in Ethnicities, ed. by Dina Kiwan, Volume 11 Issue 3 September 2011.
• ‘The Big Con: reframing the state-society debate’, PPR Journal, Volume 18, Issue 1, March-May 2011.
Against Power Inequalities: reflections on the struggle for inclusive communities, (original edition) Birkbeck, London University, 2010.
• ‘The Importance of Being a Citizen’, in Active Learning for Active Citizenship, ed. by John Annette & Marjorie Mayo, (NIACE, 2010).
• ‘Bringing up Citizens’ – review of Patrick Keeney’s Liberalism, Communitarianism & Education, in PROSPERO (Autumn issue, 2009).
Review of White, S. and Leighton, D. (ed.) Building a Citizen Society: the emerging politics of republican democracy (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2008) in RENEWAL (Vol. 17 No.2, Summer 2009).
• ‘Citizens’ Access to Power’, in County Beacon (the County Councils Network magazine) April 2008.
• ‘Power to the Citizen’, in VINE (the Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East newsletter) Summer 2008.
• ‘Civil Renewal: the agenda for empowering citizens’, in Re-energizing Citizenship: Strategies for Civil Renewal, ed. by Gerry Stoker, Tessa Brannan, and Peter John, (Macmillan Palgrave, 2007).
• ‘The Hidden Barriers to Collaboration’ in The Collaborative State, ed. by Simon Parker and Niamh Gallagher, (London: Demos, 2007).
• ‘The Case for Progressive Solidarity’, in Identity, Ethnic Diversity & Community Cohesion, ed. by M. Wetherell, M. Lafleche & R. Berkeley, (London: Sage, 2007).
• ‘Communities in Control’, New Start (Volume 8, No. 345, 23 June 2006).
• ‘Civil Renewal & Diversity’, in Social Capital, Civil Renewal & Ethnic Diversity (Proceedings of a Runnymede Conference), 2005.
• ‘Live and Let Eat’, a review of Steven Lukes’ Liberals & Cannibals: The Implications of Diversity, in The Responsive Community, Spring/Summer 2004.
Progressive Politics in the Global Age (ed.) (Cambridge: Polity, 2001).
• ‘What is the Third Way’, review of The Third Way and The Third Way and its Critics (by Anthony Giddens), for The Responsive Community. (Summer 2001).
• ‘The Community Roots of Citizenship’, in Citizens: Towards a Citizenship Culture, ed. by B. Crick (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001).
• Review of Schools and Community: The Communitarian Agenda in Education (by James Arthur with Richard Bailey), for the Cambridge Journal of Education. (May 2000).
• 'Rediscovering British Communitarianism', The Responsive Community, (reprinted in the Co-op Commonweal) Spring, 1999.
• 'Time to take a stand: Communitarian Ideas and Third Way Politics', International Scope Review Vol 1, Issue 1, 1999.
• ‘Communitarian Ideas and Third Way Politics', Local Government Voice, July 1999.
Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics & Citizenship (Macmillan, 1998).
Putting Citizens First, with John Stewart (Municipal Journal/SOLACE, 1997).
Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development (ed.) (Aldershot: Avebury Press, 1996).
• 'Communitarianism and Citizens Empowerment', Local Government Policy Making, January 1996.
• 'Communitarianism and Humanism: The Need for a Citizens' Movement', The Ethical Record, February, 1996.
• 'Education and the Communitarian Movement', Journal for Pastoral Care in Education, September 1996.
The Citizens Agenda (The White Horse Press 1995).
• 'Crime & Responsibility' in B. Almond (ed.) Introducing Applied Ethics (Blackwell's 1995).
• 'Enabling Structures' in D. Atkinson (ed.) Cities of Pride (Cassell 1995).
• 'Recognise Your Responsibilities', The Professional Manager, March 1995.
• 'The Real Communitarian Challenge', County News, May 1995.
• 'Towards a Communitarian Philosophy', Philosophy Today, May 1995.
• 'Communitarianism & the Co-operative Movement', The Co-op Commonweal, Issue 2 1995.
• 'Community Movement', Local Government Management, Autumn 1995.
• 'Take the Community Route to People Power', Local Government Chronicle (24/11/95).
Marketing, Competition & the Public Sector (ed.) (Harlow: Longman, 1994).
• 'Empowerment: Too Big a Task?' The Professional Manager, March 1994.
Citizenship Development: Towards an Organisational Model (LGMB 1994).
Serving the Public: Customer Management in Local Government (Harlow: Longman 1993).
• 'Power to the People' Local Government Management Summer 1993.
• 'How Should We Live?' The Philosopher, October 1993.
Responsibility & Personal Interactions: A Philosophical Study of the Criteria for Responsibility Ascriptions (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Find out more about: Communitarianism

Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics & Citizenship explains why and how we should pursue the development of inclusive communities. It sets out the three key communitarian principles of cooperative enquiry, mutual responsibility, and citizen participation, and applies them to policies in support of the education, employment and protection of citizens. It also examines the implications these will have for the state, business, and third sectors.

Nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, Communitarianism has been widely praised by academics and policy commentators:

“Communitarianism is a topic that has achieved the rare status of stimulating both important contributions from academic political theorists and ideas for politicians. ... Henry Tam draws on both strands of work to produce a scholarly overview of the subject combined with an agenda for political practice and reform. ... The book is an excellent statement of the communitarian approach to politics and citizenship.”
- Desmond King, Professor of Politics, University of Oxford, Times Higher Education Supplement, 26 February 1999.

“Philosophically and social-scientifically literate, Tam's mind is a galaxy of bright ideas, at once general and pragmatically specific. He writes as one attuned to the pitfalls of communitarian thinking as much as to the disasters of capitalist-statist ideologies and practices. ... Those studying contemporary political philosophy will be aware of the gap between academic abstraction and such political reality as may be connected with it. What Tam's book does is supply a grasped context for such thinking to get some life and purchase. Moreover, such is Tam's erudition, that in any area the reader is put onto a reference network of progressive and creative thought.”
- Tony Skillen, University of Kent, Radical Philosophy, Issue 97, Sept-Oct 1999.

“Henry Tam brings a refreshing new perspective to the well-worn debate between communitarianism and individualism, derived from practical experience as well as moral commitment. He writes with passionate urgency, without sacrificing intellectual rigour. The result is a clarion call for a tolerant, democratic and pluralistic vision of community, as far removed from the moral authoritarianism that sometimes flies under the communitarian banner as from the hyper-individualism of free-market fundamentalism. This book should be compulsory reading for the Blair Cabinet.
- Professor David Marquand, Joint-Editor, Political Quarterly, 1998.

“Tam, an elegant and thoughtful writer, states that his aim is to bring together different strands of communitarian ideas that have been developing in Europe and America … [He] points eloquently to market-individualism’s ‘cancerous effects’ on community life … [and] argues that a sense of community has to be created.”
- Bernard Crick, Tribune, Friday, 11th September 1998.

“Henry Tam’s book is to be welcomed on several counts … He provides a readable, thoughtful and exhaustive exposition of what communitarianism actually is. … The value of this book is in putting forward genuinely innovative ideas and contributing generously to the debate on different ways of doing things in politics and administration.”
- Chris Sladen, Teaching Public Administration, (volume XVIII, No.2) Autumn 1998.

“Tam explains that an active participatory state is necessary to bring communitarianism into reality. Privatization of state functions reduces citizens to the status of consumers. He argues that a ‘sweatshop economy’ interferes with the autonomy and dignity of workers, while team approaches to workplace and firm organization support these values. … [H]e claims, civil society must grow new, more inclusive community groups, instead of merely addressing the decline of traditional community groups, which often justify subordination of certain social groups to others. … This book should help dispel important misconceptions that the Left has had of communitarianism.”
- Jan Flora, Iowa State University, Politics, Social Movements, and the State, 1999.

“Tam’s work demonstrates that communitarians can be concerned about values while recognizing the importance of equitable distribution of power … [Few communitarian writers] that I have read have been so adamant in their condemnation of market forces and their effects on communities as Tam. … [His] book also adds to the existing literature on deliberative democracy by demonstrating how the principles associated with deliberative democracy should be applied not only to intra- and inter-community deliberations, but also to relations between governmental, business, and voluntary organizations and their stakeholders. … Tam’s book is an admirable treatment of communitarian ideas and how those ideas can be implemented to address issues of common concern.”
- Professor Steven Jones, University of Charleston in West Virginia, The Responsive Community, Volume 10, Issue 2, Spring 2000.

“Tam combines, in a remarkably successful manner, a first-rate command of the philosophical issues with the experience of a communitarian practitioner. He writes with clarity and conviction. A 'must' for all who care not only about communitarianism, but about community and indeed a good society.”
- Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community, 1998.

“Though often associated with sociologist Amitai Etzioni's assessment of contemporary market society, Tam shows that communitarianism is rooted in an older, larger set of problems in political theory: finding a means of organizing authority in liberal-democratic societies without relying on either rights-based doctrines that leave the individual alone and insecure or authoritarian methods that submerge liberty to the 'needs' of the larger polity. The text is ambitious in scope, fair-minded, and well-written.”
- Choice, January 1999.

“Henry Tam's book is a timely reminder that much of the thinking that has kept conference organisers employed recently is rooted in communitarianism. ... The great strength of Tam's book is that he not only offers a clear conceptual framework for communitarianism - grounded in the three principles of co-operative enquiry, mutual responsibility and equal participation by empowered citizens - but also a practical agenda for how theory can be translated into action in schools, workplaces and the voluntary sector. … [H]is enthusiasm for a co-operative and caring society which still guarantees diversity and personal autonomy is highly seductive. Recommended reading for those looking for something more substantial than a new Labour soundbite.”
- Iain Byrne, Citizen, Autumn 1998.

“Henry Tam has produced a stimulating and quietly sharp-edged synthesis and analysis of communitarianism. Publication at this juncture is particularly fortuitous, given a Government prepared to face up to the galloping complexity and insecurity of society.”
- Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Chairman, The Citizenship Foundation, 1998.

“Henry Tam is an outstanding exponent of communitarian ideas, grounding his work both in a deep understanding of political theory and experience in local government. His approach to communitarianism emphasizes citizen participation, co-operative enquiry and mutual responsibility, mounting an effective challenge to market individualism.”
- Professor John Stewart, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, 1998.

“Admirably succinct and cogent. I am sure it will enjoy wide success.”
- Professor S.A.M. Adshead, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1998.

“This concept [communitarianism] is explained thoroughly and thoughtfully in this book by Henry Tam. Fully referenced and tightly argued, … it goes beyond political principles to describe their application to the worlds of education, work, crime, the state, business and the ‘third sector’.”
- Adrian Barker, Local Government Management, (Issue 25) Summer 1998.

CONTENTS:
. What is Communitarianism
. Re-mapping the Ideological Battleground
. Education for Citizens
. Work for Citizens
. Protection for Citizens
. The State Sector
. The Business Sector
. The Third Sector
. Criticisms of Communitarian Ideas
. The Challenge to Build Inclusive Communities

Order from: www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk

Further Reading:

'Communitarians: an introduction' (2014): a guide to communitarian writers and their ideas.

'The Radical Communitarian Synthesis' (2014): a short historical account of the evolution of communitarian thought.

Communitarianism Revisited’ (2013): jointly written with Jonathan Boswell to restate our shared views on what communitarianism should mean under prevailing political conditions.

Cooperative & Communitarian: a common heritage’ (2012): a short piece on the common social and intellectual roots of the cooperative movement and communitarian critique of society.

Progressive Politics in the Global Age (Tam, H. ed.) (Cambridge: Polity, 2001): this book brings together European and American academics and policy experts to discuss the role of progressive communitarianism in guiding political development.
Reviews:
• "This symposium comes nearer to anything I have yet read to stating a coherent and convincing case for a progressive politics that is neither market liberal nor socialist. There is not a dud or tired contribution on board." Bernard Crick, Emeritus Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, London University (2001).
• "Henry Tam has put together a stimulating collection of articles that seek to create a form of progressive politics skeptical of both free market utopias and all–powerful states" Derek Wall, Democratization (2003).

Monday, May 5, 2014

Public Commentators on: 'Whitehall through the Looking Glass'

Since its publication, Whitehall through the Looking Glass has attracted the interest of many public figures, and drawn positive reviews and comments from them. Here is a selection of what they have written about Henry Tam's second novel:

“Henry Tam knows how government works, and how fragile democracy is. With his insider knowledge and surreal imagination, he has given us an extraordinary dystopian tale about corporate greed and political collusion. It kept me hooked to the very end.”
- Baroness Kay Andrews, former Government Minister

“Half asleep, the UK is becoming an ever more elitist society, that has left fairness and common-sense behind; and this is all beginning to feel entirely normal. What we need is Henry Tam's absurdist vision of Whitehall to help wake us all up.”
- Dr. Simon Duffy, Director, Centre for Welfare Reform

“Forget ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘The Thick of It’; if you want a sharp satirical look at life inside the corridors of power, read Whitehall through the Looking Glass, written by a true insider. Apart from the humour and a storyline full of remarkable twists, Tam’s novel also has a serious message about the dire consequences when corporations take over the running of a government. It should be read by anyone interested in the state of our democracy.”
- Sonny Leong, Chief Executive, Civil Service College

“This is a timely reminder of the dangers of the rapidly-accelerating corporatisation of our political and economic life. With private firms increasingly running our NHS and administering welfare, so many of the services we cherish are at risk from the profit motive. From utilities to railways, we’ve already seen how the interests of shareholders and bosses trump those of workers, service users and taxpayers. As the general election approaches, Tam’s book is an important reminder of the risks of crude neoliberal ideology”.
- Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC (Trades Union Congress)

“Beautifully, deftly written, Whitehall through the Looking Glass is dark and compelling reading. A deeply sobering wake up call to us all against the political complacency of our times.”
- Dame Jane Roberts, Chair, NLGN (New Local Government Network)

"Tam strips back the veil on a world dominated and decimated by a ruthless consortium. But, chillingly, its relentless pursuit of profit and power is legitimised by a hollowed-out democracy in which citizens, manipulated by the technologies of surveillance and suggestion, submit meekly to their thralldom. The narrative is all the more compelling because Tam's world is often as familiar as it is fantastical. This is not so much a lesson from history as a warning from the here and now. It's a cautionary tale and a call to action, but also a gripping read."
- Peter Bradley, Director, Speakers’ Corner Trust

“Although set in the future, the civil service lampooned in Whitehall through the Looking Glass is instantly recognisable to anyone who's been part of it. Tam’s novel paints a superb picture of how people can be governed, or rather manipulated, by unscrupulous politicians. Funny, alarming, and poignant, it’s quite an achievement.”
- Ellie Roy, former Crime Reduction Director, Home Office (Chief Executive, Youth Justice Board, 2004-2008)

“The bleak, but believable, picture of corporatism gone crazy combines with a witty and insightful portrayal of the civil service to make for a novel that is both funny and scary in equal measure.”
- Toby Blume, Founder, the Archer Academy

****
Details for how to purchase the e-book or paperback version of Whitehall through the Looking Glass can be found at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whitehall-through-Looking-Glass-Novel-ebook/dp/B00J3VRGEU/

Friday, April 11, 2014

Politics for Outsiders

Dr. Henry Benedict Tam's ‘Question the Powerful’ collection brings together his works for anyone interested in learning/teaching why and how we should promote more inclusive political participation (see also the learning guide):

Against Power Inequalities: learn from history why power inequality must not be left unchallenged.
This short history narrates critical moments in opposing exploitation and oppression, and explains their inter-connections across time and nations. “An intellectual tour de force, an erudite romp through the history of civilization that highlights the origins of power and the never-ending effort to democratize hierarchical systems” (Professor Charles Derber, US); “history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation [by] a master storyteller” (Secretary General, Co-operatives UK). (For more reviews & option to download the book for free, go to Info on Against Power Inequalities)

Communitarianism: learn about a political philosophy that explains how we should live inclusively.
This book sets out the core ideas of a communitarian vision for society, and their key political implications. It has been praised by scholars and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, and was nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. (For more information, including reviews and other related writings, go to Info on Communitarianism)

Kuan’s Wonderland: learn through this allegorical dystopian novel an alternative way to question prevailing power structures.
This novel weaves plot twists and striking characters with political allusions to create a memorable indictment of power inequalities. Variously praised as “an unmissable page-turner” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild); “original and very engaging” (Fantasy Book Review); and “powerfully imaginative” (Director of Education, WEA); it has been selected by the Equality Trust as a key resource in its Young Person’s Guide to Inequality. (For more information, go to Info on Kuan’s Wonderland)

Together We Can: learn from this set of resources developed to promote cooperative problem-solving.
These resources grew out of Together We Can, the cross-government programme Henry Tam devised and implemented when he led the Home Office (and later the newly established Department for Communities & Local Government) work on civil renewal and community empowerment 2003-2010. Subsequently, the evidence and advice pulled together in support of furthering cooperative problem-solving have continued to be reviewed and promoted by the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy, Cambridge University. (For a guide to the available resources, go to Info on Together We Can)

Responsibility & Personal Interactions: learn about the conditions under which people must be held responsible for their behaviour.
This in-depth study puts forward specific criteria for when members of society should or should not be held responsible for their behaviour, and tests them against legal judgment in seminal cases. The challenging issues involved in dealing with crime and responsibility are further addressed in Tam’s book, Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, which brought a team of experts together to examine what policies ought to be adopted in practice. (For more information, go to Info on Responsibility)

Henry Tam posts short political essays twice a month on Question the Powerful. You can follow him on Twitter via @HenryBTam; and if you would like to discuss the ideas in the above publications or explore how they can be used more widely in support of progressive lifelong learning and democratic activism, contact Dr. Henry Tam via hbt21@cam.ac.uk.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Find out more about: ‘Against Power Inequalities’

Against Power Inequalities is a short history of the struggle for inclusive communities, recounting critical moments in opposing exploitation and oppression, and explains their inter-connections across time and nations.

It provides an accessible guide to the barriers to greater inclusion, how some of them have been overcome, and why significant challenges still remain.

Here are what some of the leading thinkers and practitioners have said about it:

“Henry Tam has written a book that is breathtaking in its panoramic overview of the genealogy of power inequalities and the struggles against them. ... In its forensic, but always optimistic, analysis of how citizens have worked in the past, and continue to work, towards a fairer, more just society, we have an inspirational example of a text that speaks truth to power.”
D. Reay, Professor of Education, University of Cambridge

“Henry Tam is a master storyteller. This is history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation in the name of fairness and in the pursuit of an ever wider circle of respect and equality. The idea of community has deep roots in human behaviour and, as this book shows, in human history.”
E Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK

“Tam’s book is an intellectual tour de force, an erudite romp through the history of civilization that highlights the origins of power and the never-ending effort to democratize hierarchical systems through mobilized participatory communities. It bears reading and re-reading, because the issues of power and community are so fundamental, and the history so rich and evocative. One might call it, if Howard Zinn would permit, A People’s History of the World.”
C Derber, author of Greed to Green; Morality Wars; &
Corporation Nation; Professor of Sociology, Boston College (USA)

“In this thought-provoking book Henry Tam demonstrates that in times in which populist movements try to pit the people against the bearers of democratic institutions, we need to reconsider the relation between democratic decision-making and community life. ... Alongside social democrats and liberal reformers, Christian Democrats who are interested both in the history and in the future of their ideals, will derive inspiration from this work of a truly independent scholar.”
E M H Hirsch Ballin, Minister for Justice (The Netherlands)

“In recent times we have seen corporate greed stripped bare, and its ugliness and fraudulence displayed for all to see. … [W]ill we be able to fashion new forms of social organisation, based on reciprocity and human solidarity? Henry Tam takes us on an epic journey spanning more than two millennia of human ideas and endeavour, and reminds us that there is nothing inevitable about inequality of power and its attendant misery, and that alternatives based on enlightened enquiry, distributed power, and constant vigilance, are always to be found.”
S Wyler, Director, Development Trusts Association (UK)

“In Against Power Inequalities, Henry Tam tells the inspiring, global story of democratic struggles against concentrated power and offers guidance for progressives today. It is a broad, bold, and thoughtful manifesto for popular democratic reform.”
P Levine, Research Director, Jonathan Tisch College
of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University (USA)

"The author boldly claims that his book provides a historical guide to the progressive struggle for power redistribution, and draws out the underlying obstacles to the development of more inclusive communities. This is a mightily ambitious claim. ... Having read the new edition of Against Power Inequalities, I now recognise the power of his keyboard, and believe his claim for the book to be justified."
J Tizard, the Huffington Post (UK)

“Tam takes on a breathtaking sweep of philosophy, history, and world culture. Throughout this book, he tugs with a potent blend of indignation and optimism at a single thread: What happens when people do not have a fair share of power, and how we can counter it by creating a more inclusive society.”
D D Kallick, Senior Fellow, the Fiscal Policy Institute (USA)

“Henry Tam is pivotally involved in the promotion of active citizenship in the UK and has written extensively on the subject. His latest publication, Against Power Inequalities, is a tour de force, providing an authoritative and widely researched account of the development of inclusive communities worldwide.”
R Bolsin, General Secretary, Workers' Educational Association (UK)

"This book makes a thorough and compelling case for persevering with the struggle for more inclusive communities. For anyone concerned with activism and political change, it provides an invaluable touchstone to help understand the mechanics of autonomy and control."
D Tyler, Chief Executive, Community Matters (UK)

Contents:
1. Reciprocity, Power & Inclusive Communities
2. The Origins of Power Concentration
3. Learning to Challenge the Powerful
4. Enlightenment Ethos & its Enemies
5. Freedom from the Abuse of Power
6. Collective Action for the Common Good
7. Progressive Triumphs and Setbacks
8. The Struggle in the Global Age

To purchase the e-book or paperback version, click on: Against Power Inequalities
The text of the original edition is available as a free pdf (1.7 MB) download from the Equality Trust.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Politics for Outsiders: Learning Guide

There are broadly five challenges facing anyone concerned with teaching the theory and practice of inclusive politics. They may not always follow the same order, but many people, young or old, who are excluded from having any real influence over political decisions in their society, often believe in one or more of these propositions:

• There has always been, and will always be, wide gaps between those with power and the rest. There is nothing anyone can do about it, and we should just live with it.
• People will continue to disagree about what kind of community we should all strive for. There is no prospect of any political vision coming to be recognised as preferable to others, so we should forget about trying to rally people behind a common political goal.
• Activists tend to exaggerate the problems we face, and partisan advocates are obviously biased. It follows that attempts to raise concern against the dangers of exclusionary and oppressive politics will never get very far with a sceptical public.
• We may agree theoretically that reciprocity and mutuality are admirable, but in practice, it is just too difficult if not outright impossible to get people to cooperate on equal terms and achieve better results than if it were just left to a few experts or leaders to make the decisions.
• People cannot help how they behave. No one can be meaningfully held responsible for what they do, or the consequences that may lead to for others. Instead of bemoaning the irresponsibility of others, each should just be concerned with one’s own life.

In the light of the groups you are trying to teach, share ideas with, or engage through outreach, you may need to address some or all of these dispositions which can hold back political participation. The ‘Politics for Outsiders’ collection brings together materials that have been developed through the consistent application of inclusive political ideas in an inter-related set of academic and practical activities, so that together they present a package to make a comprehensive case for inclusive political participation.

One way of using the learning resources that make up ‘Politics for Outsiders’ would be to organise class discussions or reading circles to consider what they put forward with the help of a series of prompt questions. For example:

Against Power Inequalities:
→ what happened in history when power inequalities were allowed to widen without constraint?
→ how were power inequalities successfully challenged?
→ what were the risks in not sustaining limits to power inequalities after reforms were achieved?
More information: Info on Against Power Inequalities

Communitarianism:
→ what is the case for developing more inclusive communities?
→ what are the three communitarian principles and the implications they have for public policies?
→ what are the objections and responses to communitarian social and political development?
More information: Info on Communitarianism

Kuan’s Wonderland:
→ what is wrong with the society depicted in the novel?
→ what are the parallels with our own world?
→ what are the lessons from the struggle against those who relentlessly seek to take advantage of others?
More information: Info on Kuan’s Wonderland

Together We Can:
→ what are the core features of ‘cooperative problem-solving’?
→ what do we know about the evidence showing that its correct application can produce better and more sustainable results than other approaches?
→ what are the common mistakes and misunderstanding in trying to implement cooperative problem-solving?
More information: Info on Together We Can

Responsibility & Personal Interactions:
→ why do some people think no one can be held responsible for what they do?
→ what are the conditions under which people must be held responsible for their behaviour?
→ what would be legitimate reasons for accepting that someone is not responsible rather than irresponsible?
More information: Info on Responsibility

Have you been to ‘Kuan’s Wonderland’?

Kuan’s Wonderland is an allegorical novel set in a surreal dystopian world. It tells the story of young Kuan who is taken by force to a realm called Shiyan, where nothing is as it appears. He tries to find a way to escape and reunite with his father, not suspecting that both father and son could be the target of a nefarious conspiracy. It has been:

• Widely acclaimed as a gripping tale about power, deceit and defiance in the struggle against oppression.
• Highly rated by readers for its plot-twists and layers of meaning.
• Recommended reading to facilitate group discussions on social injustice in youth and adult education.

E-book version: £0.99
Paperback: £7.99

What’s been written about Kuan’s Wonderland?

• “Kuan’s Wonderland is an unmissable page-turner. Tam has created a fantasy universe unlike any that has come before.” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild)
• “It is fast-paced while containing beautifully written and memorable passages. And the ending is tense, unexpected and powerful.” (Economics Editor, The Independent newspaper)
• “Simply a tour de force. It is powerfully imaginative … [and] full of plot surprises and layers of deeper meaning.” (Director for Education, WEA)
• “[A] fast-moving adventure in a new world, which sparkles with visually captivating creatures and imaginative technology … [The ending is] astonishing.” (Fantasy Book Review)

What do readers like about it?

Here are a few excerpts from the customer feedback posted at amazon.co.uk:

• “I can't remember the last time I was so gripped by a book. It kept me up late three nights in a row while I finished it. Indeed I contemplated abandoning work for a day just so I could find out what happened next. It's a very seductive read.” (A. J. Marks)
• “There are so many layers of meaning, … that a reader will be able to return again and again, and see fresh details each time. As soon as I'd finished Tam's novel, I had a huge urge to go back to the beginning and start all over again.” (Helen M.)
• “Tam has created an extraordinary world and a story line which makes the book a delight to read. The plot is full of action and constant surprise. But more than that, there is a depth to the book and a clear moral and political challenge for each of us to consider.” (Anton)
• “Imagine the bastard lovechild of Pan's Labyrinth and 1984 - if you can - and you might get a flavour of what's waiting for you with Kuan's Wonderland. … The twist at the end is inspired - it will be playing on your mind for days after you finish reading.” (YakinaMac)

Who’s recommending it for reading circles?

• “A great book to open debate and enquiry with young people on society and politics.” (Gary Buxton, Chief Executive, Young Advisors)
• “Kuan's Wonderland is a mesmerizing novel. … Readers young and old will be intrigued by the story and both teachers and students are going to have much to talk about and around it.” (Nicolette Burford, Director, Documentary Film-Makers Cooperative)
• “It is vital that young people understand the problems of power inequality if we are to bring about change and Kuan's Wonderland offers a unique, imaginative, way of introducing them to the issue. We highly recommend it!” (Julie Thorpe, Head of School & Youth Programmes, the Co-operative College).
• “Kuan’s Wonderland and the resource guide which accompanies it … [provide] an innovative and valuable way of engaging young people to explore issues surrounding equality and democracy in a way which speaks to them.” 
(Rachel Roberts, Director, Phoenix Education Trust)

Would you be interested in the teaching resource for the novel?

A learning resource for teachers and students interested in discussing the novel has been developed with the Equality Trust. The resource can be downloaded for free via the Equality Trust link for ‘Kuan’s Wonderland: A Novel Exploration of Inequality’. This will enable you to:
• Use the novel to facilitate discussions of equality and democracy in class.
• Share your views with other schools.
• Devise action plans to promote equality and cooperation in school and the wider community.

According to Kate Pickett (Director, Equality Trust, & co-author of The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better):

Kuan’s Wonderland is a didactic novel that doesn’t hesitate to entertain the reader. It shows that political theorists can engage a wider public with an imaginative medium such as popular fiction without losing intellectual force. The Equality Trust welcomes this opportunity to work with Henry Tam with the publication of the learning resource for his novel as part of our Young Person’s Guide to Inequality.”

Teachers can request a free pdf version of the novel for use at their school. Or readers can download their own e-copy for 99p to their Kindle, iPad, or any computer device with a free Kindle app from amazon.co.uk


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Find our more about: ‘Responsibility’

Central to progressive politics and the development of inclusive communities is an understanding of the conditions under which people must be held responsible for their behaviour, and how that affects others in society.

This issue is critically examined in two books by Henry Tam:

Responsibility & Personal Interactions: A Philosophical Study of the Criteria for Responsibility Ascriptions, Tam, H. (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990).
Available from Amazon.

This book explores the interpersonal basis of the practice of responsibility ascriptions; formulates a clear and precise set of criteria for responsibility ascriptions; and demonstrates how the proposed criteria help to solve the key problems connected with responsibility in moral and legal philosophy.

Sir P.F. Strawson, the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy (University of Oxford), wrote that he read it “with great interest and pleasure. I find myself fully in agreement with the main thrust of it … I particularly applaud (and share) [Tam’s] conception of the proper task of the philosopher.”

Chapters in the book:
• Personal Attitudes, Personal Interactions, and the Practice of Responsibility Ascriptions
• Is It Irrational to Hold People Responsible for Their Behavior?
• Forced to Behave in Spite of Oneself
• Culpable and Non-Culpable Ignorance
• Mental Abnormality and Responsibility
• Responsibility for Foreseeable Side-Effects & Intentional Omissions
• Determinism & Responsibility

Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, Tam, H., ed., (Aldershot: Avebury Press, 1996)

This book brings together philosophers, psychiatrists and criminologists to explore how best to deal with irresponsible behaviour in society.

Contents:
Part 1 Punishment:
Punishment, citizenship and responsibility
Restitution without punishment - is it enough to make criminals pay?
Mental disorder, multiple diagnosis and secure provision

Part 2 Excuses: responsibility, mental illness and psychiatric experts
"Not guilty, by reason of genetic determinism"
The limits of criminality - Kant on the plank

Part 3 Moral development: criminals and moral development - towards a cognitive theory of moral change
"Community", communities and the education of citizens
Individual versus social change
Educating responsible citizens.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dr. Henry Benedict Tam: writings & learning resources

Dr. Henry Tam is a writer, academic and activist whose ideas have influenced educators, campaigners, community organisations, and government institutions. The materials listed below may be of use to anyone interested in learning/teaching progressive ideas & practices [For an updated version of this archived post, see 'Politics for Outsiders'.]

Against Power Inequalities: a history of the struggle for inclusive communities
This short history narrates critical moments in opposing exploitation and oppression, and explains their inter-connections across time and nations. “An intellectual tour de force, an erudite romp through the history of civilization that highlights the origins of power and the never-ending effort to democratize hierarchical systems” (Professor Charles Derber, US); “history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation [by] a master storyteller” (Secretary General, Co-operatives UK). (For more reviews & option to download the book for free, go to Info on Against Power Inequalities)

Communitarianism: a political philosophy of how we should live inclusively
This book sets out the core ideas of a communitarian vision for society, and their key political implications. It has been praised by scholars and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, and was nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. (For more information, including reviews and other related writings, go to Info on Communitarianism)

Kuan’s Wonderland: a political fable/sci-fi fantasy novel set in a dystopian world
This novel weaves plot twists and striking characters with political allusions to create a memorable indictment of power inequalities. Variously praised as “an unmissable page-turner” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild); “original and very engaging” (Fantasy Book Review); and “powerfully imaginative” (Director of Education, WEA); it has been selected by the Equality Trust as a key resource in its Young Person’s Guide to Inequality. (For more information, go to Info on Kuan’s Wonderland)

Together We Can: a set of resources developed to promote cooperative problem-solving
These resources grew out of Together We Can, the cross-government programme Henry Tam devised and implemented when he led the Home Office (and later the newly established Department for Communities & Local Government) work on civil renewal and community empowerment 2003-2010. Subsequently, the evidence and advice pulled together in support of furthering cooperative problem-solving have continued to be reviewed and promoted by the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy, Cambridge University. (For a guide to the available resources, go to Info on Together We Can)

Question the Powerful: a blog on political iniquities and the danger of power imbalance
These essays (posted twice-a-month) highlight the problem of power relations in public policy issues ranging from education, democracy, and welfare, to plutocratic economics, criminal justice and international relations. They serve as a regular prompt to rethink the underlying causes of social and economic difficulties in terms of the widening power gap we face. (For a selection of the most viewed posts, go to Info on QTP)

Responsibility & Personal Interactions: a critical study of the basis of moral responsibility
This in-depth study puts forward specific criteria for when members of society should or should not be held responsible for their behaviour, and tests them against legal judgment in seminal cases. The challenging issues involved in dealing with crime and responsibility are further addressed in Tam’s book, Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, which brought a team of experts together to examine what policies ought to be adopted in practice. (For more information, go to Info on Responsibility)

If you would like to discuss the ideas in the above publications or explore how they can be used more widely to promote interest and understanding in support of progressive lifelong learning and democratic activism, contact Dr. Henry Tam (hbt21@cam.ac.uk)

For more background information, click on: ‘Henry Tam (biographical & bibliographical note)