When we started the research on which this book reports, we thought that we were about to carry out a post-mortem. At the beginning of the eighties, when the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) gave us a grant for this work, the landscape was littered with ideas and institutions which had dominated the two previous decades but had seemingly not survived the cold climate of economic retrenchment and ideological change. Gone were the days when Keynesian economic management could be relied upon to make unemployment simply a bad memory. Gone were the days when the Welfare State thrived on the dividends of economic growth. Gone were the days of consensual policy making and corporate institutions. Gone, too, were the days of belief in the pursuit of greater rationality in policy making through the coordination of different policy instruments and agencies.
It was this last casualty of the transformation of the economic, social and intellectual climate which was the subject of our inquiry. The sixties and seventies had spawned a large family of initiatives designed to bring about greater rationality in policy making through coordination. Indeed both central and local government, the health services and the personal services had undergone major reorganisations largely, if not exclusively, designed to make it easier to attack social problems by bringing different strands of policy making to bear on them. And symbolic of this endeavour was the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) in Whitehall, designed to cut through the tangle of departmental interests and to bring a rational, synoptic view to the analysis of policy.