Transformation from below

01 December 1993
Introduction Many possibilities and openings were glimpsed in 1968. Many different themes can be read back into this moment when the institutions of the Cold War were rejected by those who were supposed, gratefully, to inherit and eventually lead them. But it also was a moment when the shapes of alternatives were not in focus. The importance of some of the themes influential in this revolt has only become clear in subsequent years. New ideas and practices in the production, organization and character of knowledge is one of these. Some of the movements that developed after 1968 have questioned existing forms of knowledge more self-consciously: in particular, the women's movement, the ecology movement and the networks of radical technologists and shop-floor activists who have had an influence in West Eutopean trade union movements. A questioning of the kinds of knowledge that underpinned the hierarchies and routines of university life and its relation to the state, industry and the military, was a powerful theme in the student revolt. Their demands for a significant say for students in the devising of coutses, for instance, challenged the implicit presumptions about whose knowledge mattered in public decision making; their attempts to include in their courses topics of immediate political utgency raised questions about what kinds of knowledge could be counted as valid. Their innovatory forms of organization and expression teach-ins, workshops, the dissolving of the platform speaker into meetings in the round, co-operative working instead of hierachies - all now quite commonplace, were the first public challenge to the values and methods implicit in the dominant organization of knowledge. [1] Angelo Quattrochi captures the experience of increasingly standardized education from which this questioning arose, in his description of the 'Mouvement du 22 Mars', a prime mover in the 'events' in the classrooms and then the factories of Paris. The Mouvement was the creation, he says, of 'Students with frail hands and troubled minds. Students. . . in the universityfactory where they give answers bUt don't ask questions'.
Their minds are policed by discipline, patrolled by examinations. Their hearts frozen by authority. Their state within the state mimes the society from which they are insulated. And yet, they do not own and they do not belong. . . . Their university mimes society, mimes the factory. They threaten its functioning, using gaily and daringly rhe shreds of learning handed down to them. They reconstruct patiently in the silence of their rooms the pieces of the puzzle which needs them obedient and well behaved, respectful to their grave and grievous masters and mindless to the outside world. And yet the tools they are handed, however blunted by their majestic keepers, spell irreverence and reveal traps, false doors, distorting mirrors, barriers, closed gates. At the very end of the long dusty roads: injustice.[2]
The history of social movement politics from 1968, the differences and disjunctures as well as the continuities, has yet to be written - it is probably too heterogeneous to be encompassed in one work.3 For my purposes, I will simply trace what I percieve as a recurring critical theme: the questioning and overturning of the character and organization of what counted as valid knowledge and hence as the exclusive legitimate source of authority. Out of critique grew innovation and the practical assertion of alternatives: in particular the assertion, in whatever initially ad hoc ways, of the validity of experiential knowledge, not simply as a source of empirical instances, or falsifications, of a general law; but as clues, signposts and stimuli to deeper understanding and theoretical innovation. Combined with this was an attempt to demystify theoretical knowledge and to advocate a pluralistic approach to its development. These themes run through the activity, ideas and forms of organization of the student and worker rebellions of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the women's liberation movement and sexual emancipation movements that emerged in the mid 1970s, the radical workers' organizations that persisted in many countries, albeit in minority positions, through to the 1980s, the socially conscious ecology movement that developed in the late 1970s, and the peace movement of the early 1980s. Their distinctive approaches to the character and social organization of knowledge was part of what made these movements 'new'. Their eclectic, egalitarian and, above all, social approach to knowledge lay behind a sceptical approach both towards the state, including the promise of a socialist state, and to the party as the prime or exclusive agencies of change. Their confidence in the possibility that valid sources of knowledge could come from experiences of the inside of oppression and eXploitation led many in these movements to believe strongly, sometimes blindly, in their own personal and collective power to change the world. Their newness lay in part in the fact that, unlike many movements since the winning of the universal franchise, they did not see their role primarily as a means of putting pressure on parliament. Indeed, in the majority of West European countries their distinct historical identity is as movements created by the first generation to have grown to adulthood after a sustained experience of majority governments led by parties claiming to represent working-class people. All the new democratic movements and the radicalized trade union movement wanted changes that could not be achieved simply through pressing for more of what these governments had, at their best, provided.[4] Characteristics The movements that exploded across Western Europe, amongst workers as well as amongst students, were unusual in that they were not about bread or even immediate material conditions. The student rebellion was a lot more than a protest against student overcrowding and disaffection from mass teaching. The factory-like features of the campuses of the late 1960s were symbolic of a wider predicament. Neither can the revolts be understood simply as an explosion of the ftustrated expectations of the first generation who never knew the hardship of war and had all the benefits of a welfare state and a booming economy. This and the apparent lack of economic uncertainty about their future undoubtedly help to explain the self-confidence with which the student movement aspired to change the world. It does not, however, fully characterize the extensive involvement of young workers, nor the indirect reverberations that 1968 had amongst other, less privileged social groups, throughout the seventies and early eighties. A clue to the special significance of the rebellions that began in the late sixties is that wherever they emerged they were a challenge to arbitrary and unaccountable forms of authority: to managements imposing the discipline of the assembly line; to the deans, principals and university administrators who stood by tules that had lost all practical function beyond protecting the position of those already in power; to trade union bureaucracies that had lost any sensitivity to the demands of their members; to parts of the welfare state that many of its users came to experience more as forms of control than providers of care; to the stifling conventions of polite culture as well as the incorrigible claims of scientistic technocracy. A common feature of these authorities was their appropriation of knowledge: their claim to know what was good for the students; to determine the place of the worker in the production process; to lay down the best interests of women; to presume the power to control material life - the economy, technology and nature. The movements that challenged these authorities contributed to a complex process that from diverse economic, cultural and political angles shook the methods of governing, public and private, associated with the post-war institutions. The institutions of the post-war consensus Many analysts seeking to understand the conditions for capitalist stability in post-war years, (notably 1945-73) and to gain clues about its breakdown, theorized the predominant features of the economic and political institutions and their interrelationships as 'Fordist'. There is widespread agreement on the characteristics of influential tendencies in the organization of production, consumption and the state that originated with F. W. Taylor and Henry Ford in the 1920s, and spread in part through Ford's business success. But the influence of these tendencies was historically and geographically extremely uneven. There is considerable disagreement about how widely applicable the theorization of Fordism is. On the side of production, Fordism involved a dramatic move away from the craft-based patterns of industrial development of the late nineteenth century. With Henry Ford came standardization. Under the system he established first at the River Rouge car factory in Detroit, products were standardized; this in turn required that the parts and tasks of production were also standardized: for a mass-produced tun of cars, the same headlight could be fitted to the same car body in an identical manner. With standardized tasks came the possibility of mechanization with special purpose machines for mass production. The tasks involved in working the machines were subjected to Frederick Winslow Taylor's 'scientific management'. Any skill that was absolutely necessary to a particular task was codified by management, and each task broken into component parts so that unskilled manual workers could be insttucted in exactly what to do. This made possible a highly productive assembly line system in which the product flowed past the worker who did his or her task according to the insttuctions. Such a production system involved high initial or fixed costs, though running or variable costs were low. There was therefore a constant drive for volume. For such a production system to be profitable there had to be mass consumption of standardized goods. The pressure to achieve these conditions in turn influenced the development of an infrastructure favourable to large scale private consumption, most notably in the US in the 1920s and 1930s: a predominance of road transport over public, collectivized transport. The need for mass consumption further generated a massive expansion of advertising as Fordism reached its peak across the consumer durable industries in the late forties and fifties. In the US Roosevelt's New Deal, and in Western Europe Keynesian demand management and the welfare state, helped to sustain the conditions for mass consumption and production. These are understood therefore as central features of the Fordist settlement. A further dimension of this settlement concerned labour: the costs of fixed capital and the assembly line conditions for high productivity put a premium on management control over production. Whenever and wherever Fordism was introduced, there followed strikes and more individualist but, for the discipline of the assembly line, equally disruptive forms of labour resistence. After a time, a more or less explicit bargain was struck: high wages in exchange for management control. Put schematically, the theory has an overly neat, almost functionalist feel to it. But it identifies one powerful tendency in a period of stability that was the product of contradictory and lagged historical processes. It is not a substitute for detailed historical study. Moreover, it has few predictive powers concerning the character of the order, orders or absence of order that will follow Fordism.[5] A full-scale engagement with the debates on this attempt to understand the underlying social order of post-war capitalist nations is beyond the scope of this book. There is one corollary, however, which is important for the argument of this book: the distinctive assumptions concerning knowledge built into the Tayloristic methods of management that have been so vital to the economic success of Ford and Fordism.[6] Fordism, Taylorism and the knowledge of centralized management Commentators on Fordism have focused on its technological conditions (assembly line, standardized production) and the macro-economic and political requirements - mass consumption and the publicly funded provision of a healthy, literate labour force. Underlying these features of production and consumption is a methodology and an understanding of knowledge, laid out most systematically by F. W. Taylor in the 1890s and 1900s, but elaborated in practice in private and public organizations for the following half century. At the centre of this methodology is the thesis that the practical knowledge developed by workers in the course of their labour is such that there is no insurmountable obstacle to its codification and hence centralization: 'Every single act of the workman can be reduced to a science', Taylor asserts in The Principles of Scientific Management[.7] In fact he defines scientific knowledge in the sphere of management in such a way that: 'the development of a science. . . involves the establishment of many rules, laws and formulae which replace the judgement of the individual workman'. Moreover, he believes not only that all practical knowledge of any economic relevance can be centralized, but that it is vastly more efficient so ro do; so much so that he can boast of his system that 'the workman is told minutely just what he is to do and how he is to do it; any improvement which he makes upon the orders given him is fatal to success'[8] The basis on which Taylor believes management is able to give the worker these instructions is that management has assumed the burden of 'gathering together all the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by the workman and then classifying, tabulating and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws and formulae'.[9] These rules justify a precise division of tasks so that the effective execution of each task does not depend on any particular characteristics of the individual worker. These rules also provide a 'scientific' and therefore supposedly neutral technical basis for rigid hierarchies of power and authority: 'Thus all the planning done [in the past} by the workman must be done by the management in accordance with the laws of science. It is also clear that in most cases, one type of man is needed to plan ahead and an entirely different type to execute.'l0 On this basis production targets could be met, it was presumed, with mechanistic certainty and reliability. Taylor himself did not invent the assembly-line whose success in the auto industry was to give his methods their global and historical influence. But his ideas inspired Henry Ford to give mechanized reality to the precise division of labour and machine-like workmanship that his science inspired. This partnership was not surprising, for the aim of his science and his definition of efficiency were totally at one with the Fordist drive for quantity: 'The greatest prosperity,' he argued, 'exists only when that individual has reached his highest state of efficiency, that is when rurning out his largest daily output'.[11] The economic success of Taylorism, reflected in the spectacular output of the US auto industry throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, laid the bases for its influence in the management of public institutions as well as private; state socialist societies as well as capitalist ones.[12] The principles adopted by Henry Ford to centralize the knowledge of the factory worker were seized upon by Vladimir Lenin to centralize the knowledge of economic actors in whole industrial sectors. Lenin praised Taylorism as a set of neutral principles of productive and administrative efficiency; they became inscribed in the methodology of Soviet administration in every social sphere.[13] In Britain, Fabian notions of planning and Morrison's model of the public corporation both drew heavily on Taylor in their measures of efficiency and their centralizing methods of administration. And in the development of social services, the idea of the standard product was put to social democratic purpose, in building a welfare state to provide a universal service to meet basic needs. The underlying priorities of the time, on both sides of the Cold War, were particularly open to turning management and public administration into a science. The first decades of the post-war period were a time when output and basic provision came before self-development, creative skill and special needs, and when the idea of democracy, West as well as East, had no trace of a developmental character. It had become a passive, periodic choice between political elites. Moreover, the decades of Taylorism's greatest influence coincided with the period when confidence in the conquering powers of science over the forces of nature and society was at its height. The confidence that science/knowledge would show the way reached its political apotheosis in the West in the early to mid 1960s, with the technocratic confidence surrounding both the Wilson government in Britain and the Kennedy regime in the United States. The French Fifth Republic, with its dirigiste form of government and powerful monopolies, and in spite of some archaic aspects (not entirely absent in Harold Wilson's Britain), had become a less glamourous but much emulated model of modern technocratic capitalism. In the East a related faith, focused on the command economy, reached its zenith in the mobilization of Soviet resources to defeat the Nazis in 1944 and complete the country's industrialization. With good reason, the memory of this achievement has been a powerful influence. Significantly, history dealt blows to the confidence of the ruling elites on both sides of the Iron Curtain in quick succession. In the East, the sources were Krushchev's revelations of the crimes of Stalin, followed by the repressed uprisings of Hungary, Poland and then, 12 years later, Czechoslovakia; in the West it was Vietnam, and the defeat by a peasant army and campus revolts of the technologically mightiest army in the world. The information generation The students and workers of 1968 were the products of Taylorism at the height of its extension to the universities: the final enclaves of a more pluralistic sphere of society which had in prewar years enjoyed a certain autonomy from the imperatives and models of production. With the massive expansion of higher education and an increasing routinization of what had been an elite education, students were experiencing for the first time the rigours of Taylorian methods just as these methods were beginning to break down in the wider world - whether the world of the shop floor, where absenteeism was rampant and unofficial strikes mounting in intensity, or the world of international relations, where a 'scientifically' managed army was being defeated by a peasant guerrilla army (albeit a guerrilla army using the arms of Taylorist planned factories in the USSR).[14] The students were the first generation of mass university education: the first generation not destined to become the cadre of a tuling elite; and the first generation most of whom were not themselves the sons and daughters of this elite. Many of them in effect were being trained as information workers to handle the codified knowledge that was becoming central to the tunning of production and the economy, and to the administration of an expanding public sector. The destiny of the majority of them was to participate in the production process and the daily organization of public institutions as people who could handle information, manipulate knowledge and deploy language, like previous generations handled coal, manipulated metal, deployed a machine tool. The generation trained for this society would be the first generation to use computers with the habitual familiarity with which previous generations came to use cars. [15] Social and economic organization has always implicitly involved the use of information. But by the late sixties as production, even within a single company, depended increasingly on the efficient flows of a system of units and inputs, Western state administration too became increasingly a matter of systems of co-ordination. The result of both these developments was that the organization of information, the utilization of knowledge and the development of skill became central economic issues in themselves. People had to be trained in the use of information, or trained to apply their other skills in a context where flows of explicit information were becoming increasingly important. The increase in student numbers was one sign of a change in their social destiny. The numbers of students going through French higher education, for instance, had expanded from 170,000 in 1960 to 600,000 by 1968, too many by far to find even petty ruling status. Other signs lay in the increasingly technocratic character of education. As knowledge, its gathering, processing, classification, distribution and utilization, became a driving force of the economy, or at least a necessary mediating link in the process by which all other economic factors realized their economic value, the content of courses became increasingly instrumental. New divisions were imposed between disciplines; students were required to specialize before their own studies and development led them to choose; external careers had to be specified before students had any inner sense of finding themselves; exams, with their absurdly narrow measures of success, became overwhelmingly important. Liberal aspirations to rounded education appeared subversive by comparison. The demand to be 'whole', to exercise the imagination 'all power to the imagination' as the graffiti proclaimed - was politically explosive. At the same time these students were gaining an inside view of this emerging industrial and political culture. As they were trained in its working they lost any awe that the wider public had of the technology that it valued. A distinctive feature of the student movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was the active involvement of scientists using their inside experience to expose the inhuman ways in which technological advances were being used: in chemical warfare in Vietnam, in psychological torture of prisoners in Northern Ireland.16 Their work through international networks shook the scientistic culture of neutrality and forced political debate not only about the uses of technological innovation (a debate with a long tradition), but also on the direction of innovation and the content of technology. As this work developed, it was not anti-science - after all, it was led by scientists who continued to make social use of their researches. But it rejected the dominant claims that were made for the progressive and infallible character of the Western tradition of scienceY It helped to tear away the veil of scientific certainty and technological invincibility surrounding both sides of the Cold War. Reverberations The spontaneous demands and tactics of the student movement had reflected its opposite: to the instrumental, codified knowledge of the authorities the students counterposed imagination, values, wholeness and experience. Against hierarchical administration, the students pitched their own forms of direct democracy. However, these forms, invented to suit the needs of the moment, were often generalized in a way which supposed that society was simple and homogeneous. The student challenge to orthodox definitions of knowledge and authority affected a whole generation, and significant minorities in generations that followed. In the process, through trial and many errors, the search for and experimentation with new forms of organization produced more complex notions of democracy and pitched wider sources of knowledge against the monopoly of the state expert or corporate manager. The student movement's challenge to the claims of neutral, scientific expertise by those with ~conomic, cultural and social authority, helped to stimulate - for the most part, unintentionally - the founding of the women's liberation movement, with its own definitions of knowledge and need. In questioning the incorrigible basis of scientific advance, and stressing the values and political choices involved in technological change, the radical students prepared the way for the eco-socialist criticisms of Keynesian theories of growth and public investment. The challenge of the late sixties generation to the legitimacy of those in power is closely associated with their immense confidence in themselves as the subjects rather than objects of historical change. The extraordinary political energy of these years demonstrated in a concentrated way the power that people potentially have to dissolve constraining structures which in 'normal life' they passively reproduce. It encouraged a reliance on self-organization and direct action, and with this a pooling of their own knowledge, extension of it by direct contact with potential allies with different vantage points, rather than acceptance of an acknowledged authority. It produced a dialectic (if that is not too pretentious a word for a somewhat chaotic spiral) between action and knowledge: collective action revealing things not previously known, that in turn help to focus further action. This sense that anything is possible has been tempered by defeat, but the experience contributed to the development of traditions of direct action which have continued through the dramatic actions of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany, the factory occupations throughout Scotland and the North of England in the early 1970s, through numerous local symbolic actions like the tree hugging of the green movement in Sweden, to the internationally famous camp of the women at Greenham. It has also inspired a more gradualist and more sustained form of direct action: a stress on acting immediately to bring about some change, however limited, against oppressive circumstances; change which orthodox political strategies would postpone until the achievement of a socialist government. This radical gradualism has produced many new institutions and ways of living, though their sustainability has depended, ironically, on social democracy - the very political strategy they were often initiated against. These institutions (women's centres of various kinds, innovations in health care, extensions of adult education, radical cultural centres and more) depend, in good part, on the availability of public resources, even if they radically transform how these resources are managed. As social democratic governments have been weakened from the right, and by changed international economic relations, these institutions have had to devise new strategies for survival. Social movements have both multiplied and diverged in many different ways since 1968. But I want to argue that many of their activities have in common is an implicit political methodology opposed to the social engineering methodology that more or less dominated the political institurions of the Cold War. This revolt has not led in a single direction, even in practice. There are broadly two, not entirely separate, directions. One still involves a vision of social transformation, a different kind of society; the other is more particularistic, more limited in scope, asserting a particular identity, bringing about transformations for one group, like a radical extension of trade unionism to the interests of particular oppressed groups. The two directions are not totally separate bur they are distinct. My focus will tend to be on the former. In this chapter and the next, I will sketch how in their practical rebellion against dominant forms of aurhority and the appropriation of knowledge the new movements have developed the tools for a democratization of knowledge. In Part III I will explore how these tools are being applied in practice by analysing exemplary initiatives in public management, economic resistence and political organization. Democratizing knowledge; democratizing the state At their most coherent the ideas and practice of recent democratic social movements could be described as holding out a practice and emerging theory of 'differentiated democracy', combining participative democratic practice in the everyday workings of social and economic life with formal representative democracy to set objectives and frameworks. I will point to the way that this implicit vision of democracy arises in practice out of challenges by social movement activists in Western Europe to the positivistic principles of administration - expressed most clearly by F. W. Taylor - of the post-war state and corporate institutions. Rarely did the activists of 1968 systematically express their rebellion in terms of an explicit theory of knowledge and method of social understanding. Their methodology was implicit. Moreover their radicalization against exist ing state and corporate institutions had brought them up against forms of scientific and hence political reasoning shared by the dominant socialist traditions, both Leninist and social democratic. Pragmatically, the new movements created their own ways of organizing based on their own experiences of sources of knowledge and skill ignored by existing managerial methods, and on previously subordinate anti-postivistic traditions. In some countries these traditions were articulated in a highly self-consciousness, theoretical manner. This was the case, for instance, in Germany with the Frankfurt School.18 In Britain such traditions took a more applied form, drawing on unorthodox understandings of knowledge and science in the writing of history, in cultural criticism and in the practice of adult education. The work of E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams has been most influential in this arena. Although their concerns and histories are in many ways very different, it is significant that they share an enthusiasm for adult education: an area of activity in England, Scotland and Wales were a distinct cultural approach has thrived, subversive of positivistic orthodoxies. Edward Thompson gives a sensitive description of its strengths and its pitfalls in a lecture published as a pamphlet entitled Education and Experience. [19] It is a profoundly egalitarian tradition. It goes beyond what Thompson calls 'the political claims of egalite' and challenges cultural subordination too. In adult education, this implied a recognition of the importance of the experience that the adult student brings to the course: 'This experience modifies, sometimes subtly and sometimes more radically, the entire educational process: it influences teaching methods, the selection and maturation of tutors, the syllabus: it may even disclose weak places in received academic disciplines and lead on to the elaboration of new areas of study.'[20] In politics, this cultural revolution meant an end to paternalism, a goal of the Painite tradition associated with the French revolution, bur marginalized as the leadership of the labour movement sought to gain status and position on the terms of the existing deferential culture. It seems that reformers from the upper and middle classes have always found it more easy to advocate political and economic programmes of equality suffrage than they have to shed the cultural attitudes of superiority. Yet so long as the political claims of egalite are not followed up by the development of popular self-confidence, then the impulse to self-government withers. Essential to such an egalitarian culture, and hence a thoroughgoing democracy, is a mutuality of intellect and experience. A problem within the working-class movement, in England at least, has been a counter-position of the two, often in reaction to the class-ridden character of educated culture. The obvious common response to this has often been anti-intellectualism, whether in the form of a reckless militancy or a complacent sentimentalism. Thompson and Williams tried instead, both by practical personal example and in their writing, to illustrate and explore a creative dialectic between experience and theory, intellect and feeling. The focus of Thompson's 1968 lecture, which is exemplary of this dialectic, was education. Thompson concludes the lecture (addressed mainly to other educationalists) by arguing that 'the universities need the abrasion of different worlds of experience in which ideas are brought to the test of life'. The movements which emerged after 1968 began to bring this dialectic into the practice of politics. They were not free of debilitating counterpositions, at times producing extreme forms of both anti humanist theoreticism and populist anti-intellectualism. But in many of their lasting initiatives, as I will show in subsequent chapters, they faced state and party institutions with the same abrasion that Thompson advocated for the universities. And in doing so, in Britain at least, they have been influenced directly and indirectly by practical traditions of cultural, political and economic democracy, sustained by writer-agitators like Thompson and Williams.[21] Knowledge and the foundations of the women's movement The early women's movement was perhaps more explicit and practical than any other in its challenge to conventional approaches to knowledge. In the first phase of the women's movement, in the absence of any relevant core of scientific knowledge of the conventional kind - based on laws that summarized empirical regularities or generalizations - women started by sharing and reflecting on their own experiences in ways which would enable us to see where and how to take action. We called this 'consciousness-raising', Historically, the reality and impact of consciousness-raising was uneven. The implications of experience were not self-evident. And where consciousness-raising sanctified experience in an exclusive manner, counterposing it to theory, rather than valuing it as a complementary source of understanding, rhen consciousness-raising groups could stifle dissent and produce a false homogeneity, often followed by painful fragmentation. Looking back, however, with the benefit oflessons learnt, I think it is possible to identify several distinctive approaches to knowledge which came out of this process. They represent elements of an alternative to the positivistic conceptions of knowledge that underpin the state institutions on which women depend but with which they are daily in sttuggle. At the same time they provide a basis, against Hayek, for collective, transformative action of a knowing but not all-knowing kind.[22] Firstly, out of the consciousness-raising process developed a recognition of knowledge which is implicit in previously unrecognized or under-valued skills. From this arose, for example, an extended analysis of housework and child rearing as skilled and socially valuable work which needs to be treated as part of the public sphere. A recognition of tacit knowledge was also the basis of a major criticism of the health and maternity services - and eventually the whole range of public services - for treating its patients as ignorant and passive.23 This generated initiatives for greater responsiveness to women's own knowledge, cutiosity and desire to have some control over their bodies; that is, for a notion of expertise involving greater interaction between professionals and 'lay' patients, users and clients. A second challenge to conventional notions of expertise is the insistence by many feminists that emotion can be productively combined with reason in the extension of knowledge. Women came to consciousness-raising with ambiguous feelings, about each other, about motherhood, about their sexuality, about waged work, about the left, about men. Far from emotion being in practice opposed to reason, a hindrance to the discovery of publically useful knowledge, it was a stimulus to cutiousity, a driving force to search into one's feelings, or someone else's, in order to understand something previously unknown, or only partly known, and to investigate further. A third result of much consciousness-raising was a recognition of the fallibility of knowledge as an effect of unconscious motives or unknown conditions, which are only revealed through breaking out of old patterns of behaviour or being willing to confront uncomfortable facts. A fourth feature of the approach to knowledge common to many women's liberation groups was an attempt to understand underlying social processes; a dissatisfaction with the conventional explanatory methods of subsuming the problem to be explained under a generalization. Feminists writing about the aims of consciousness raising, describe the intention of discovering 'what is really going on' behind the surface of daily experience; of 'getting to the roots of women's oppression', They refer to a sense of the interconnectedness of apparently discreet experiences: to a need to understand 'the whole gamut of women's situation', Conventional explanatory methods seemed too superficial for this task; generalizations based on empirical regularities seemed simply to redescribe the problem, rather than get to its entangled roots, The limitations of legislative measures, such as equal pay and equal opportunity legislation, are indicative of the inadequacy of these analytic tools. A final, distinct feature of the early women's movements' approach to knowledge was that at the same time as 'getting to the roots' of their oppression (to reality out there, as it were), they self-consciously explored their own collusion in this oppression. They were constantly alert to the connections between transformation of self and transformation of social structures. This had two kinds of consequences for their activity. Firstly it led feminists to treat culture seriously as a complex of structures with material consequences. For instance, feminists placed much emphasis on the values taught and practised in nurseries and child care centres. Public provision in itself did not mean that their children would be cared for in a democratic, cooperative and egalitarian culture. The struggle over who controlled the character of the provision became as important as the provision itself. Feminists have also placed a high political priority on creating the infrastructure of a lasting alternative culture: feminist publishers, magazines, theatre groups, bands, cafes, centres and so on. Our self-consciousness as women, abour the way that we in part reproduced the structures of our own oppression (and not as mere dupes or 'carriers', but as active agents who had certain, however limited, capacities to transform these structures), produced a stress on activism. We were impatient of resolurionary politics of parliamentary parties, even if we were sceptical of much of what claimed to be revolutionary politics. Our understanding of structures and of how they were reproduced and could be transformed meant we tended towards, or perhaps invented, a radical gradualism - radical in the sense that we were highly critical of the existing state and placed little reliance on its ability to meet our demands; gradualist in the sense that we mobilized whatever resources we could, to achieve in the present whatever changes we could in the direction of our long-term goals. An illustration of this approach comes from the experiences of the GLC Women's Committee. Throughour the 1970s, in the absence of adequate child care, women in London as in many other West European towns had created an impressive range of projects for their own and other children, of an egalitarian and democratic kind; so much so that when the GLC Women's Committee moved to provide a major childcare programme, there was already the basis for it in the communities of London. In one year the Women's Committee spent £3.5 million on over 400 childcare projects. This is in some ways an idealized summary. No one women's group would necessarily arrive at these conclusions and strategies. But it summarizes those features of the women's liberation movement's approach to knowledge which are innovative and which illustrate the ways in which the social movements have a richer understanding of non-codified forms of knowledge and its potential to be shared and made public; an understanding which provided a starting-point for their particular kinds of challenge to the social engineering state. Much of the practice of all the new movements and the trade union organizations which they influenced reflects the same implicit challenge to a positivistic mentality of science as the women's movement, stressing to different degrees the importance of tacit knowledge, of the developmental and fallible character of knowledge, of feelings and emotion as a stimulus to knowledge rather than an entirely contrary human attribute, of the search through a pluralistic approach to theory for underlying structures. At the same time they share a sense of the self as agent of transformation. The movements' challenge As I hope I have shown, the political legacy of positivism was transmitted most influentially via Taylorism. The best way of highlighting the distinctive challenge posed to this legacy by movement practice is to identify those aspects of the predominant methods of state and private corporate institutions that bear the mark of Taylorism and positivism more generally, and then to contrast these with principles drawn from movement practice. For the present, I will make broad assertions, deepening my arguments in later chapters. Taylorian principles of management are based on a restrictive conception of knowledge in which the only valid knowledge is scientific; all else is an incomplete version of science or is pure speculation/superstition. The implication of course is that those with scientific knowledge know best and the ordinary person is ignorant. This had many practical effects, for example, in the running of the welfare state, and the treatment of the users of services as passive clients/victims with nothing to contribute to the process of diagnosis or service improvement; similarly, front-line workers were expected merely to implement the orders of experts from above. Against this, rather along the lines of the consciousness-raising of the women's movement, the workers' movement in their campaigns on health and safety, and the green movement in their early warnings of environmental damage, asserted the importance of forms of knowledge that are generally unacknowledged in public policy making. These forms include everyday knowledge embedded in feelings and skills that should be taken account of along with the professional medical and educational knowledge, for example; or historical knowledge gleaned from personal memory or biographical evidence which could, say, contain insights for the development of a locality unavailable to the professional town planner. These radical movements have concerned themselves with the social conditions that favour the development and transformation of this knowledge, in a way that previously dominant social democratic and Leninist traditions did not. At their best these movements, or projects arising from the movements, have tried to organize their own policy making processes in a way which explicitly takes account of the everyday knowledge and skills of their base. Thus their organizations are based on an autonomy and diversity of initiative and debate that is common to projects influenced by any of the movements: workshop style discussion, rotation of leaderships positions, the creation of horizontal networks, reflect this concern to tap forms of knowledge outside the orthodox notion of science. Where they aim for unity, their notion is, in practice, a complex and differentiated kind of unity. Such co-ordination is rare, except for where groups have united around a particular cause: trade unionists, feminsists and other left-wing activists uniting against anti-choice legislation on abortion; just about every radical campaigning group uniting with the miners in Britain in 1984-5; the united action against Cruise Missiles across Europe. There has been little experience of anything beyond informal interconnections; the movements have proved better at autonomous initiatives than any sustained form of unity. In chapter 7 I analyse how in some countries they have had an influence on new left parties which gives them a somewhat unstable political expression. Consider also the dominant approach to the development of science. It is an approach which stresses the cumulative, linear character of scientific knowledge, and which tends to mask theoretical innovation and exaggerate consensus. It resists plutalism and lateral experiment; produces a cautiousness and conservativism in policy research, and little encourages alternative soutces or research.[24] All this was apparent not only in most state administrations but also to varying degrees in Social Democratic, Labout and Communist Parties which, in the 1950s and 1960s, were reinforcing structures based on hierarchies and responding rigidly and paranoically to challenges from outside the circulating political elite. It was also a feature of the larger, most established private corporations, particularly in Britain and the US, until recession caused shakeups and internal competition. Against this, the social movements posed, in their practice, an experimental pluralism. On the rare occasions when the social movements have had political influence they have voiced critical views of technology and science: the Science Shops in Holland, Technology Networks in London and Sheffield, the campaign in Italy for 150 paid hours off work for education. Within the movements this heterodox understanding of forms of knowledge has encouraged a plurality of centres (not necessarily to their political advantage) and publication of research, debate and theoretical work. A further feature of the engineering state is its insttumental form of reasoning. Such reasoning has two politically significant features. (1) It posits a purely external relationship between ends and means. Ends are given by politicians and means prescribed by technocrats. One implication of this is that there is no conception of self-activity by those who will benefit from the change. (2) A further implication is that the policy making and implementing institurions of the state are presented as neutral, as if the means chosen do not favour one group over another. Insttumental reason has an exclusive focus on the external, billiard-balllike relations between social variables, as if one social variable will have a simple causal effect on another (for example: the idea that public subsidy for private companies produces industrial expansion; or that redistributive taxation and welfare provision eliminates poverty). Such an approach ignores the internally sttuctured and differentiated nature of every social 'variable'. Depending on the power relations within private companies, for instance, public subsidies have been wasted; and inequalities of gender within working-class families has meant that blanket redistriburive policies have not significantly improved the economic position of women. Inherent in insttumental reason is a belief in the overwhelming power of a rationality based on empirical evidence. Against this form of empirical rationalism the social movements, in much of their practice, have shown a sober assessment of the limits of human reason. Feminists have pointed to the power of unconscious motives, which rational argument cannot easily reveal or acts of will transform; radical shop stewards highlighted the tacit practical knowledge of skilled workers, reflected in what they do and make bur not easily put into words; Greens insist on the damage to the environment that is the likely unintended consequence of many of our daily habits of consumption; the peace movement warns of unknown and unknowable conditions which could trigger off a nuclear war. Against the conventional separation of end and means, the post 1968 social movements tried to exemplify in the process of change the values underlying their political goals; to prefigure the ends in the process of achieving them. At times this has led to a disastrous oblivion to the constraints of untransformed structures. At its most effective, however, it illustrates a novel political recognition of both the way in which we ourselves reproduce, and therefore could potentially transform, social structures; and of how many of these structures endure independently of us and require complex and sustained alliances to transform. Post 1968 movements have also demonstrated in their practice a common resistence to the practical consequences of the social democratic state's focus on external or quantitative aspects of social institutions, and its purely instrumental treatment of their internal relations. The early movements' confrontations, with the administrators of state provisions were almost entirely precipitated by issues of quality and democratization. When financial cuts hit these services, from the 1973 oil crisis onwards, such movements had a difficult and sometimes impossible path to tread: defending public resources but demanding a transformation in the way that they are managed. On the unusual and brief occasions that the left social movements has had a taste of power, most notably in the Greater London Council and Sheffield City Council, it has tried, with only limited success, to break down the state's internal hierarchies; to establish direct and responsive relations with service users; and to introduce democratic ways of measuring and controlling the standards of services that focus on quality, range and access as much as quantity. The political lag These social movements were not the first to challenge positivistic understandings of knowledge. For some time positivism in social science had been seriously under question in Western philosophical circles, in the work of Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, and Thomas Kuhn for instance.25 In the relatively stable, not to say frozen circumstances of the Cold War, however, there was a long lag before such questioning could uproot the foundations that positivism had given to public policy institutions. Its notions of science as cumulative rather than characterized by periodic breaks and revolutions; of knowledge only as general laws describing constant regularities; of a sharp distinction between fact and values and therefore between ends and means; and an exclusive focus on external relations between 'variables', as if less visible internal differentiation did not exist: these were entrenched in powerful public and private institutions. The weight of the military - centrally planned and controlled, West as well as East - further reinforced the lag between revolutions taking place in the philosophy of social science and the methodology and practice of public policy.26 It was the students of 1968 who explosively exposed the disparity. They were unable themselves, though, to overcome it. Ironically, these movements unintentionally stimulated forms of capitalist modernization that, in the absence of a coherent new left, were exploited by the neo-liberal right in its dismantling of the welfare state, and by a new generation of productivity-oriented management in its use of information technology to reorganize the process of consumption. Modern corporate management is sometimes credited with initiating the move away from Fordism, and is understood by many to be the originator of concepts of 'flexibility', 'decentralization', 'networking' and other terms which are now familiar buzz-words of up-to-date forms of organization.[27] In fact the 'post-Fordist' forms of organization in industry - for example in the Fiat factories of Northern Italy and the auto industry round Paris - arose in significant part from a managerial rethink forced by workers breaking the bond of the Fordist bargain (more wages for more effort) and refusing to submit themselves to the boredom and stress of constant repetition of minutely fragmented tasks.[28] Similiarly the shakeup of the public administration of education - including in some countries attempts at its marketization - has been an attempt to train an intellectUal workforce in spite of student tejection of the educational assembly line. As the term 'post-Fordism' implies, the alternative to Fordism is an open question. It is being answered by those with the power to shape organizations to suit their purposes. It includes the adaptation of Fordism to the new international markets. In industry corporate management have been highly successful in combining flexibility in production with centralized control over finance. 'Post-Fordism' is consequently identified with those who have had the power to determine what came after Ford. The early rebellions from below, including many of their less convenient insights for those in power, are forgotten. Moreover, parts of the left sometimes end up defending Fordist political forms simply because their rejection has become associated with the right.[29] More than stories One problem behind this weakness of the new left is that the social movements' alternative to the predominant rationalities of state and corporation tend only to be found in stories. Stories do not always travel well across cultures or historical periods. There are limits of stamina in the number of times wandering exiles can tell the story of the Gle's economic policy, the Foreigners Committee of the Red-Green coalition in Frankfurt, the technology policies of the metal workers' union in Germany. And there are limits to the tolerance amongst listeners. Theorization of such experiences would enable lessons to be shared: so long, that is, as it is a theorization which does not subsume the particular but is attentive to its complexity, allowing new questions to enter the debate as the theorization spreads. But here we come up against a stange paradox. The new left, with their origins in intellectual contestation, produced an unprecedented amount of theoretical work for a generation in revolt. Yet the theorization of their own emerging practice is significantly underdeveloped compared to their theoretical critique of capitalist and actually existing socialist societies. Why is this? What does it indicate about the theoretical legacies on which they drew? And what are the lessons for belated but urgent attempts to theorize before politically induced amnesia sets in? Notes 1) I am not the first writer who has analysed the 1968 student movement and the movements stirred up by its wake in terms of their approaches to knowledge. Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison have written an excellent analysis, primarily of the environmental movement, which sees the 'cognitive praxis' of a social movement as decisive in its ability to transform society. They focus on the post 1968 movements of which they see the contemporary environmental as an integral part. But they also apply their conceptual framework convincingly to the nineteenth-century social movements - the Owenites in England, for instance; the followers of Proudhon and Cabet in France - showing how their innovative practices popularized and elaborated new scientific, experimental approaches to society. See Social Movements: A Cogntivive Approach (Oxford, 1991). 2) From Angelo Quattrocchi and Tom Nairn, The Beginning of the End, (London, 1968). 3) There is an extensive literature on 1968 itself, including semi-autobiographical accounts like that of Tariq Ali, 1968 and After, Inside the Revolution (London, 1978); a study through oral history: Ronnie Fraser et al., 1968, A Student Generation in Revolt (London, 1988); a study in contemporary history such as David CaUte's The Year of the Barricades (London, 1968); analytic studies such as G. Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New/Left: A Global Analysis of 1968 (Boston, 1987); Gianni Statera, Death of a UtoPia; The Development and Decline of Student Movements in Europe (New York, 1975). 4) This bears some similarity to R. Inglehart's characterization of these movements as 'post-materialist', because of their concern more with improving the quality of life than material security. See R. Inglehart, The Silent Revolution (1977). But it is misleading to imply that the concerns of these movements are not in certain respects as materialist as pre-war movements: that the womens movement's demands for child care, its initiatives to set up battered women's centre, for instance, are not as material as the unemployed workers' movement. Moreover, the kind of economic prosperity and security in West European economies which gave the post-materialist argument a certain validity has not been sustained. Extreme poverty and insecurity co-exist in the West with considerable affluence. Many of the activities of recent movements are concerned with the causes and consequences of such inequality (the spread of feminists organizing with low-paid women workers - see chapter 3; the anti-racist movements across Europe). The differences with many older progressive movements which flows from my analysis is that they do not look to government alone or even primarily to resolve their problem, to engineer, as it were, a solution. Moreover, even where they look to government or demand material resources, they are concerned with the democratic quality of social relations in the administration of these material resources. If it is necessary to characterize these movements as 'post' anything, 'post-social-engineering' would be the term which would flow, rather clumsily, from my analysis. Other writers who have identified distinctive features of recent movements include Claus Offe, who stresses the way that they have extended and redefined the boundaries of institutional politics; (See C. Offe, 'Challenging the Boundaries of Institutional Politics: Social Movements since the Sixties', in ed. C. S. Maier Changing Boundaries of the Political (Cambridge, 1987) and 'New Social Movements: Changing Boundaries of the Political', in Social Research 52); Alberto Melucci, who stresses the radicalism of the movements in transforming the organization of everyday lives and creating in effect an often hidden but nevertheless subversive counter-culture (see A. Melucci, 'Ten Hypotheses for the Analysis of New Movements', in ed. D. Pinto, Contemporary Italian Sociology (Cambridge, 1981) and 'the Symbolic Challenge of Contemporary Movements', Social Research 1985); and Jean Cohen, who analyses the new movements as creating new political identities pressing non-negotiable demands