14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A convincing argument,
This review is from: The Big Society (Paperback)The Big Society is about our institutions and how to benefit from a better understanding of what makes us tick as human beings.
Over the last fifty years or so, big government and the rights of the individual have reduced the influence of institutions like family, clubs, societies, charities and professional and trade associations. It has become widely accepted that it is government's job to intervene and incentivise us in the pursuit of a set of social goals and we have developed a dependency on the state. Responsibility and authority have become more centralized and government has attempted to use the tools of traditional economics to measure and manipulate us.
Unfortunately these tools are based on a deeply flawed view of human behaviour which can be summarized as if "we are perfectly rational utility-maximizers operating under perfect information". Recent history and research show we are not like that. We are social creatures that still retain the animal spirits that Keynes made famous. We are soft wired for compassion and imitation and at the same time our "lizard brain" can drive us to fear and greed.
Our motivation is complex and ever-changing. In society, we can promote happiness and self fulfilment by providing the right conditions for people to be able to strive for self-expression through the development and utilisation of their "capabilities".
To a great extent, our loyalty, affection, regard and sense of belonging to our institutions define us as human beings. The big idea behind the Big Society is that by reinvigorating our institutions we can release the huge latent energy in our society for the benefit of everyone, giver and recipient alike. "Politically what emerges is both new and distinctive". It is neither intrinsically right nor left wing however the author does align the Big Society with compassionate conservatism.
This book gives us a firm intellectual basis for the Big Society. It is true that, with the benefit of hindsight, some of the criticism of previous governments is harsh and party political. However that does not impinge on the quality of the thinking and can be ignored. The book draws on many sources for its inspiration including human behaviour studies, economics, philosophy and politics. I hope you enjoy seeing how the strands come together to make, what is for me, a convincing argument.