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Born in 1946 and, thanks to the 1944 Education Act, first in my family to stay in school beyond 15 or go into further or higher education. Older generations were farm-estate labourers, miners, worsted mill-workers, shop workers, harness makers, trawlermen, very hard-working housewives taking in lodgers; a cobbler and clog-mender, a bus driver, a toolmaker. In the mid-60s I did a BSc in **chemical engineering**, and in the early 70s, an MSc and DPhil in **history and social studies of science**.
Before Marxism became the main frame, and with my industrial/corporate background, I was influenced by *Design of jobs* (a 'systems' manifesto, Penguin Modern Management series: Louis E Davis, ed ) and C West Churchman’s *Design of inquiring systems*. Since the beginning of the 70s my work and politics (usually inseparable - and that’s a particular kind of problem) have been about **producing, facilitating and mobilising knowledges** (always plural, of all kinds, formal and informal, technical and social); and relationships between **working-class and professional-managerial class practices** within the capitalist mode of production and in socialist organising: - in corporate organisations (private and public) - in rank-and-file shop-floor activism - in community organising and economic development - in the 'knowledge-intensive services' and certified education economy - in workers’ self-management.
My politics for almost 50 years has been coloured by Ivan Illich’s deep, anti-professional, advocacy of vernacular knowledge and learning - in *Tools for conviviality*, *De-schooling society*, *Professional nemesis*, *The right to useful unemployment*. Coloured also by a sense that, when Daniel Cohn-Bendit in the 70s characterised the life of my (higher-educated) radical generation as *‘a long march through the institutions’* of the capitalist mode of production, this included the **emotional institutions** of consumerist capitalism, working life and aspiration, 'community' and left politics.
In the 70s I began to develop a historical, materialist framework for theory and practice in ‘radical science’ - Grounded in Marxian **labour-process** understandings (with a dash of Frankfurt School and the merest pinch of Althusser) - Hybridised with the rich ‘culture and society’ analysis of Raymond Williams (because ‘science’ and 'technology' are forms of **cultural production**) and - Practised in contexts of ‘action research’ à la the Tavistock Institute. I regard the framework as a variety of **cultural materialism**. In the 90s - when the framework further hybridised with approaches from ethnography and ethnomethodology, under the influence of radical **anthropologists** in the research labs of Silicon Valley corporations (yes!) - I sometimes called it **work-practice research and development**. Throughout, there’s been a thread of attention to the powerful force of *emotions* - in everyday living and wanting, corporate affiliation, class deference and celeb-worship, consumerism, committed rank-and-file activist-organising.
Historical materialist traditions haven’t contributed a lot to this and - despite feminists’ attention to ‘the personal’ - by far the best approach that I know, to this vital, pivotal stuff, is not any kind of psychoanalytic approach, but the **dhamma tradition** of Buddhist ‘psychology’. There’s a hundred generations of practice and theory here . . . on the relationship of the analytical-theoretical mind and the (in-the-body) heart-mind, and on the circumstantial arising of activist intention and what Marxism called ‘false consciousness’. This stuff is absolutely materialist, deeply (evolutionarily) historical, practice-centred and actionable.
In the 70s I researched the pre-WWII **Left scientists’ movement** in Britain, the post-war emergence of management science and the tacit politics of ‘the systems approach’. Later in the 70s I became a trade-union activist in the chemical industry, forming the ICI **joint shop stewards’ committee research coop** and later, writing *Living thinkwork - Where do labour processes come from?* I co-founded the **Radical Science Journal** editorial collective and was commissioned to write a popular review of positions in ‘radical science’ - *Science or society - The politics of the work of scientists* - to accompany a short-lived Channel-4 TV series, *Crucible*.
In the 80s I was a ‘technologist-economist’ in the **Industry and employment group** of ‘the Livingstone GLC’. As computers found their way into workplaces and homes in the 80s, I increasingly affiliated with the Scandinavian movement for hands-on **participatory design** of workplace IT infrastructures, and did work on women’s jobs, gender perspectives and IT. I also taught ‘science and society’ courses for the Workers’ Education Association.
Finally, career-wise, in the 90s I was a senior research fellow in the policy field of national systems of innovation (researching **knowledge-intensive business services** and **the material form of innovation services**) and a work-practice researcher/developer, in the global supply chain, in telecoms manufacturing.
’Retired from work’ - as we absurdly say - I’ve increasingly become involved in **baby-boomer legacy** - initially in the radical science and radical technology communities. I rapidly found myself addressing our experience of fragmentation in the libertarian Left before the 70s were through, and concerned that present-day activism - in a more complex and pressurised world - should be a whole lot better at avoiding that. Thus, having struggled (with partial success) to patch-together a life of activism, family and wage-work existence in corporate settings, it matters very much to me today, to promote deepening of activists’ capacity - to weave across **diverse institutional settings** - to address, respect and weave together quite radical **differences of emotional orientation** within our movements, and - to hold in view the whole difficult business of living **a skilful life**, as distinct from just having a political commitment, being workaholic or putting food in the fridge.