Pluralist Manifesto

It could be argued that the social/economic stalling of so many of the older economies is reflective of a parallel political stalling.  For over 1600 years, from the end of the Roman Republic until the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 in England political/social/economic progress was very slow.  Autocratic Kings and their courts across Europe and much of the world pursued a policy of self interest, largely at the expense of their populations.

After a long build up (including Magna Carta and the English Civil War) in 1688 the English Parliament overthrew King James II and appointed King William and Queen Mary in his place under a constitution, which made it clear that unlike previous monarchs they were not appointed by God and that they were responsible to Parliament.

The 1688 devolution of power from an individual to the beginnings of a representative Parliament was enough of a shift to pluralism to create fertile conditions for innovation and the Industrial Revolution followed within 50 years.  The pluralism and inclusiveness of the British system of government has generally increased – perhaps up to the 1980’s and the end of grammar schools.

Since then there appears to have been a trend towards ever more powerful elites and away from pluralism.  Disempowering the widest part of the social/economic pyramid, even by a little, massively reduces the overall economic and social contribution of the population.  Currently most developed economies are empowering their elites at the expense of the widest part of the pyramid, leading to stagnating economies.


Autocracy is largely innovation phobic, in autocratic systems there is an intrinsic centre of gravity around maintaining the status quo – ie maintaining the autocrat and their ruling elite.  Autocratic systems can be very good at playing catch-up and innovating in narrow, usually military, ways that support their rule, but fear, and therefore limit, the kind of social liberty that fosters social, technical and commercial innovation.

Much of the economic /social development we see happening in less pluralistic societies like China and in the Middle East is “catch-up” not breakthrough innovation.

What is true for societies is also true for business. Autocratic and hierarchical business cultures inhibit innovation, while inclusive and pluralistic cultures will foster it.

The way to get our economies going again is to back away from elitism and return to progressive pluralism.  We need more people taking more responsibility for our collective future – not less.  We need more entrepreneurs, we need more people going into sciences, engineering and even politics.

To achieve this we need a state education system that churns out leaders willing to take responsibility for some aspect of our society and we need adults in our society willing to invest in them.  Families and schools are necessarily (to some extent) autocratic environments, however we need to teach our young adults that autocracy, and the submission to it, is a phase they need to grow out of in order to become fully responsible adults.

Pluralistic innovation is essential to our future, because it is not centralised government innovation or elites that will save us from climate change, it is distributed innovation coming from businesses and other inventors.  We urgently need to train, empower and invest in a new generation of leaders and at the same time we need to reverse our slide towards elitism and return to pluralism.  We also need to make use of technology to return our democracy to the path of pluralism that it was on for 300 years.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts



About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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2 Responses to Pluralist Manifesto

  1. Steve Prior says:

    Hello Neil

    I do completely agree with most of your thoughts and sentiments. The only problem I have is the bit about state education.

    As a father with youngish children, my wife and I try to empower them and to take responsibility for their actions. So we will for example ask them to tell us how long they want to be out playing and what time we expect to see them. So far we have not had any requests outside what either of us accept as reasonable ( suspect this may change as they become full blown teenagers, we shall see)!.

    State education is very heavily mandated centrally which includes a very tight curriculum and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

    No matter how good the teachers are, they and we are all trapped in a system which tends to teach children what to think.

    I have seen old documentaries going back to the 1960’s and the talk them was about raising standards. The talk now is about raising standards and therein lies one of the big challenges.

    If anything I think standards have been lowered with a race to the bottom.

    Our schools and education is like being in an old fashioned factory which is churning out clones of the factory system.

    Recently we have been told that the Council will charge parents £60 per day per child for unauthorised absence. The school has in turn told us that they will no longer sanction any time out for children irrespective of how reasonable it is.

    What I find ironic is that it’s okay for Schools to offer students time out from lessons. My son has recently been to Berlin with the school and spent a fun time out and about. I would never begrudge him the learning he may have got from this activity. My frustration is that I’m not allowed to do the same thing.

    It’s also okay for Schools to close for Polling days, teacher training days etc.

    I was a school Governor for a short while but got completely frustrated with an institution which does what institutions do best. Protect themselves at all costs, tick the boxes and do as they are told by central government.

    My son is now sitting his SAT’s which must surely be one of the worst thing ever invented.

    Funny how Finland has tended to do so well and without all the testing we seem to think is so vital.



  2. The pluralism and inclusiveness of the British system of government has generally increased – perhaps up to the 1980′s and the end of grammar schools.”

    Pardon, Neil? You see it as a step back that we moved away from a system that marked 75% of children as failures at the age of 11 to one based on all children being able to fulfil their potential?

    The proportion of young people achieving 5 O Levels or GCSEs has risen from 23% in 1976 to 81% in 2008. The proportion in education at the age of 17 has risen from 31% in 1977 to 76% in 2011. The number achieving a degree has gone from 68,000 in 1981 to 331,000 in 2010, a rise of 385%. And this is a step backwards?

    Even in terms of the elite: More state school students than ever before go to Oxbridge. From 43% in the grammar school days of the early 70s to 55% at Oxford and 66% at Cambridge last year.

    Would you really prefer the grammar school days of the 50s when 45% of the children of higher professionals went to university but only 2% of those of the semi-skilled or unskilled? (Gurney-Dixon Report, 1954). More inclusive? I don’t think so.

    Yes, not all comprehensives are perfect and our education system needs to improve further to match countries like Finland (consistently the best in Europe for education and where selection was abolished in 1970). But if you have any doubts, take a look at this Financial Times research on areas that still have grammar schools and how they fail the less well-off:

    You write some great blogs, Neil, but here you’ve got it wrong.

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