Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The `Enabling State` is being rolled out across the UK

There was an interesting post from Mike Robinson on Facebook (Monday 26 2015).

He was commenting on the Cabinet Office proposal to alter the relationship between the individual and the state, as part of constitutional reform.

One of the ways the reformed relationship may be expressed is through the idea of continuously improving public services by experimentation. "Test, try small, fail fast and learn."

Mike Robinson quotes Bertrand Russell to indicate where some of the ideas about psychologically experimenting on the citizen may have originated.

"In The Impact of Science on Society, written in 1952, Russell had this to say: “I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology ... Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called 'education.' Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema, and the radio play an increasing part ..."

"It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment. “The subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship ... The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity."

"But I anticipate it is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark gray. “Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.” "

Recall that Noam Chomsky has talked about education as the indoctrination of youth in the Corporate Assault on Education. It has a long history and is speeding up as more young people in the US are channelled into private technical colleges and begin their working lives burdened with debt. Only the elite have access to the best educational establishments.

In Scotland the altered relationship between the individual and the state is being acted out through public service provision and is set out in a number of documents about the Enabling State. Sir John Elvidge who previously worked in the Cabinet Office and the Scottish Office is acknowledged as masterminding the policy in league with the Carnegie UK Trust.

One of the ideas of the Enabling State is that there needs to be constant tweaks and iterations to systems in order to improve services. It is the same model as "Test, try small, fail fast and learn."

Since outcomes are based on human behaviour, this methodology is really about experimenting on human populations.

It can be seen to be working in Curriculum for Excellence where teachers are now expected to engage with each other to design the curriculum themselves, but within very tight constraints, thus bypassing local authorities. The idea is that the curriculum must be constantly updated and regulated by centralised control. New standardised testing is being brought in to monitor outcomes.

Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist, bequeathed a most beautiful park to the `toiling masses` in Dunfermline, Scotland.  A kind gesture, perhaps, but there is a message that the role of the masses is to toil for others. This attitude is being slid into place in Curriculum for Excellence where workforce training begins in the nursery and NEETs (not in employment, education or training) are tracked when they leave school. Education in Scotland has become more vocational and no gap year for some sections of the community is allowed. 

Of course, it is recent technological advances that allow statistical methods, integrated services and e-governance to be implemented. The reformed relationship between the individual and the state is also being brought in through the Named Person scheme but this is only one small part of a much wider agenda of control.

The Enabling State was discussed earlier in the year by UK Column and is worth another view given recent developments. The discussion begins at about 17.46 minutes.


  1. Just wanted to thank you and not just for this post. Wish I had the time to comment more often.