Criticism and corporate rationality : Strathclyde Regional Council's deprivation policy 1975-1980
The thesis proposes a theoretical perspective for the analysis of public institutions. The key element is the incorporation into such institutions of conflicting and conflict-generating epistemological positions. The presence of certain epistemologies, particularly empiricism and critical theory, is taken to account for failures within the institution to conduct rational, critical debate on certain policy proposals. Empirically, the thesis considers examples of the failure of Strathclyde Regional Council to conduct effectively its policy of 'setting its own house in order', i.e. improving its own service delivery, this being intended as the main component of its policy for tackling urban deprivation. The background to this policy is established in chapters reviewing national policy initiatives on deprivation; the rise of corporate planning in British local government; the documents which influenced Strathclydes' own management structures; and the development of policy on deprivation in the first years of the authority's existence. Philosophically, the thesis examines critical rationalism (Karl Popper), critical theory (the Frankfurt School) and empiricism, in so far as these positions each suggest different answers to the question 'how should criticism of society proceed in society?'. It concludes that both critical theory and empiricism tend in practice to produce a dogmatism which aborts open debate. Against this background policy documents from Strathclyde are re-examined alongside texts of interviews conducted with senior officers and members. Philosophical positions are identified in the texts which are substantially in agreement with those examined philosophically. Exposition focuses in particular on the vocabulary of the texts, using the philosophical texts' own identification of key elements of vocabulary (e.g. 'all the facts', for empiricism, 'reality' for critical theory, 'learning from mistakes' for critical rationalism).