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Notes from Devolve!/ Network Project Meeting
held in the Department of Sociology London School of
Economics (LSE) on 25th November 2006.
was a joint meeting between The Network Project and
Devolve! The intention was to explore the possibility
of sharing ideas between groups involved in considering
alternatives to orthodox economics and politics. The
discussion group consisted of Ian Brown, Catharine Perry,
Woody, Gian Andreone, Chris Rogers, Maureen Boustred,
Mary Fee and Peter Haslegrave.
a Narrative of Stewardship?
Brown explained that The Network Project was originally
concerned with the alternatives to Neoliberalism. The
Network Project, however, had now collected enough ideas
to begin to put forward a cohesive set of alternative
ideas, recognising particularly the link between local
and global ideas and movements on the one hand, and
the centrality of the idea of human responsibility (Stewardship)
on the other. The Network Project is now concerned with
working out the theoretical basis of an alternative
Narrative of Stewardship, whilst recognising the practical
nature of politics, economics and culture at both the
local and global levels.
The Three pillars of Neoliberal Theory
moving on to the alternatives to Neoliberalism, Ian briefly sketched the
content of Neoliberal theory. The three pillars of Neoliberal theory are:
1. Competition Theory: this is
the theory that competition, free markets and the intentional
maximisation of individual selfish good facilitates
the emergence of the best and most efficient of all
possible economic systems.
2. Legal Democracy: this theory
states that the role of government is to create a framework
within which the competition for selfish good can operate.
3. Democratic Exclusion (Public
Choice Theory): this theory justifies the exclusion
of all associations and institutions from interfering
with competition, free markets and the maximisation
of selfish good.
Stewardship: an Emerging Alternative
then moved on to the alternative of a Narrative of Stewardship,
which contrasts with the Neoliberal Narrative of Competition.
Network Project thinking, the alternatives come down
to the choice between a Framework of Competition or
a Network of Responsibility (Stewardship Theory). Stewardship
Theory suggests that human beings are quite capable
of creating Relationships of Responsibility, built on:
1. Balancing interests and responsibilities
through conflict resolution systems such as Fair and
2. The facilitation of emergent
associations and institutions of interest to negotiate
in conflict resolution systems.
3. The facilitation of emergent
associations and institutions to represent and focus
Scientific, Moral and Theistic Credibility of Stewardship Theory
Theory claims scientific, moral and theistic credibility,
and is therefore available to both spiritual and scientific
Theory is by no means a new idea. The moral and scientific
position has been made (amongst others) by Sydney Webb:
"[The Labour Party] abhors and
repudiates the unscientific and immoral doctrine that
the competitive struggle for the means of life is, in
human society, either inevitable or requisite for the
survival of the fittest".
point was made that the Labour Party no longer abhors
and repudiates the competitive doctrine, nor does the
Fabian Society or indeed, the LSE.
Theistic credibility of Stewardship Theory is indicated
by a quote from the Koran:
to those who stint the measure: in the balance ye should
not transgress. Weigh therefore with fairness and scant
not the balance".
Heaven has conferred is called the Path of Duty. When
one cultivates the principles of his nature and exercises
them on the principle of reciprocity he is not far from
the path. What you do not want to be done to you do
not do to others."
Theory is also justified by new scientific work on human
development, natural conflict resolution, social neuroscience,
and in continuing theoretical development of systems
and complexity theory. These all confirm that human
beings are naturally social and naturally seek to create:
1. The associations and institutions
that facilitate Stewardship.
2. The associations and institutions
that facilitate conflict resolution.
3. The associations and institutions
that facilitate fair and sustainable economics.
4. The associations and institutions
that facilitate local and global governance and economics.
Fair and Sustainable Trade; the Balance of Opposing Forces
slightly deeper indication was then considered in the
relation of opposing interests.
interests are a fact of nature. However, Stewardship
Theory suggests that there is a tendency for these to
become balanced through the institution of conflict
resolution systems. This is because there is almost
always a zone of overlap in which both sides can compromise
to the benefit of each. This
can be expressed in a model, such as:
ZONE of OVERLAP
ZONE of OVERLAP
ZONE of OVERLAP
balance of opposing forces leads, through the associations
and institutions of conflict management, to collective
agreements, mutuality, and ultimately to Stewardship:
the conscious and deliberate protection of the social
and natural environment.
Other Areas of Stewardship Theory
ideas noted above, while constituting what the Network
Project sees as central ideas for alternative human
relationships, are not the whole picture. Ian mentioned
some of the ideas that the Network Project also sees
as crucial areas of alternative thought. These are (note
· Another World is Possible (basic
· The World as One Economy
· One World containing Many
· Systems/ Global Thinking
· Local and Global
· Local Economics and
· Enfolding of Politics, Civil
Society and Economics
· Associations and
· Association of Associations
= Global Humanity
· New Economics, Morality,
· New Philosophy and
Conclusion: The New Paradigm
concluding, Ian pointed out that these ideas were by
no means exhaustive, and that, in working them out,
more tended to come to light. Nevertheless, the centrality
of Stewardship in modern alternatives to orthodoxy represented
a new paradigm that went beyond Marx and Adam Smith.
The concluding remark was that Balance equals Global
Questions and Comments
Gian noted that the list did not include Monetary Reform.
This is significant area of alternative theory, which
directly deals with the competitive aspect of Neoliberal
orthodoxy. As Global Capitalism stands, there is competition
for money; money reform is therefore basic to change
(accepted by group without reserve).
• Woody doubted the link between
reason and science (accepted; all ideologies present themselves as reasoned
science and even as morality).
• Chris noted that there was
increasing competition over technology, and that this was a significant driver
in capitalist progress (accepted).
• Peter mentioned the importance
of semantics (accepted).
• Mary considered that orthodox
economics is about power, and that there was a contradiction between
responsibility and power (accepted). Also confirmed Network Project idea of
bringing groups together to consider common ideas and aims.
led to a discussion of the relationship between responsibility
and power, the need for a non-violent set of ideas,
to which Catharine added the importance of values to
Devolve!: Devolution or Centralisation?
led the afternoon discussion by introducing the focus
of Devolve! thinking. Devolve! was originally concerned
with the problem of regional devolution for England,
with the potential for a development of an English identity
as opposed to a British identity, and with the prospects
for practical devolution of power to regions or indeed,
sub-regions. Woody noted that areas such as Cornwall
had sufficient identity to be considered a region in
its own right.
significant element in devolution is the ability and
potential of people to become empowered. Devolve! thinking
suggests that the equation for Empowerment is:
= Confidence + Responsibility & Structure + Resources.
problem to be overcome in order to create a healthy,
empowered devolved system of governance is the problem
of the centralisation of power; and Devolve! see the
British “Westminster Model” as being fundamentally
centralised and historically flawed.
"Westminster Model" owes its form to the fact
of the Norman conquest, in which power was centralised
in order to facilitate the Norman elite in their conquest
and domination of the Anglo-Saxon culture.
result of this centralisation and domination was a major
loss of English identity and a development of an Imperialist
British identity (although Wales, Ireland and Scotland
retained some national identity, and areas such as Cornwall
retained some regional identity). The Westminster Model
led to cultural oppression through the centralisation
of economic, legal and political power in the hands
of a ruling elite.
Westminster model is of more than historical significance,
because it is the developmental precursor of the present
Neoliberal Anglo-American Model of government.
Devolve! see it, this centralisation needs to be countered
by passing responsibility back to the people through
a process of Territorial Devolution, with attention
paid to functional sub-regions.
Woody explained, the concern of Devolve! is with an
awakening of responsibility at various levels of governance,
and with the associated development of a re-established
Civil Society, in which culture, economics and democracy
work together through empowered human beings to reflect
our common responsibilities.
took over from Woody to describe some elements of Devolve!
thinking on culture.
with the historical Devolve! focus on Englishness, Catharine
posed the question of the English identity and culture;
what is it, and has it gone forever? Identification with a culture reflects
a choice. The Imperial culture of Britishness reflects
a problematic identity, which no longer seems to be
good identity to choose. What is a good English identity and a good English culture?
What have we got, and what do we want?
suggested that top-down culture change is questionable,
and that effective culture is generated from the bottom
up, at community level. Culture is developed meaningfully to support
the community we want.
is good to have communities; culture is a part of the
development of community, community and culture linked
in self-generating and maintaining identity - and as
such there are many sources of identity as there are
many influences and parts of community and many routes
of community development.
this point, Peter questioned Englishness as such as
a basis of identity. Cultural identity can act as an
isolating device, and can create a prejudicial attitude
to other identities. There are other identities rather
than Englishness in England.
noted the problem of identification if we work and sleep
other than where our identities lie, for example he
works and sleeps outside London, but he is still a Londoner
was acknowledged that there was indeed a tension in
Devolve! between Englishness as such and general devolution
concepts. Nevertheless, the need for general devolution
suggests that such problems need to be addressed in
the actual development of cultures and the relationships
between and amongst them.
is for this reason that Devolve!'s thinking is turning
towards the idea of "Englander" to denote
a cultural affinity with a cross-cultural identity based
on community responsibility rather than with Englishness
problems of cultural relationships exist, but devolution
is seen as a way of facilitating the cohesive and interconnecting
development of diverse cultures in England, as of course
Devolve!, culture is an important aspect of devolution.
The development of local theory is just as important.
At this point, Woody took over from Catharine to discuss
Devolve! ideas on Very Local Democracy.
Very Local Democracy
significant element in Devolve! thinking is the importance
of structures which interlink to form a cohesive system
of levels in which responsibility is, on the one hand,
passed down from the governmental level, and on the
other hand, taken up from the
most local level.
Local Democracy is concerned with the expression of
this local responsibility. In Very Local Democracy,
the primary groups involved in expressing local responsibility
are the elements that form local associations in local
civil society: Residents‚ Associations, Tenants‚
Associations, Faith Groups, Traders‚ Associations
etc. Clearly these will vary from place to place.
it happens, Tony Blair is committed to the idea of devolution
and local government has been instructed to pass power
to local residents etc., through devolution to area
committees. There is therefore some elements of political
will to allow for devolution to take place. This can
be treated cynically; the area committees have to go
back to the Council for funding; and there is some evidence
in Leicester that some political players are not too
happy at sharing power with local groups.
Devolve! is working to organise primary groups to create
an organisation that will be able to meet devolved political
structures from the bottom up, to coincide with the
devolved powers coming from the top down. Ward-based
community alliances are being formed, which influence
Woody notes, these Very Local Democracy structures are
different from voting democracy in that they are accountable
to the community through the structures of the primary
groups that make them up.
afternoon session ended with a discussion as to whether
the model of presentation had worked, and it was felt
that it had. The
aims of the meeting had been to discuss alternative
ideas to Neoliberalism (from the Network Project position)
and to the Westminster Model (from the Devolve! position),
and to explore the possibilities of co-development and
sharing of ideas between two such groups. This was felt
to have been a success, and a commitment to work together
was indicated from both groups.
afterwards in The Shakespeare's Head . . . .