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  • Print publication year: 1988
  • Online publication date: July 2010

11 - Towards a new model of social planning


In this chapter, as in chapter 4, we explore a paradox. This is that coordination is both problematic and necessary. It is problematic because, in practice, it turns out to be extremely difficult to achieve as we have seen in the preceding chapters. It is necessary because it is an essential for managing the ever-increasing complexity of society. From this flows the manic-depressive cycle of the policy debate about coordination with fits of enthusiasm yielding to bursts of disillusion. When we launched out on this study, the cycle was in its depressive stage: coordination was out of fashion. However, as noted in the preface, by the time we had completed it, the cycle was once again in its manic phase: Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government had embraced the rhetoric of coordination.

If enthusiasm is not once again to give way to disillusion, it is essential to be clear about why the reality of coordination always appears to fall short of expectations and why achievement always seems to lag behind rhetoric. If coordination is indeed necessary (and all governments, sooner or later, seem to find it so), how can rhetoric and achievement be brought into line?

To answer this question, we examine our findings in the light of the two competing models of social planning which tend to shape all discussions of coordination, explicitly so in the case of the academic literature and implicitly so in the case of the men and women engaged in the day-to-day business of policy design and delivery.