Paradoxes of Human Nature and Public Management Reform

Paradoxes of Human Nature and Public Management Reform – Talbot 2005

This is a book chapter based on a key note speech I gave at the launch conference of the Network of Asia-Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance (NAPSIPAG) in Kuala Lumpur in December 2004.

It tries to draw a link between evolved human social nature and the contradictory tides of public management reform

It was published in this book which is sadly no longer available (although I have a PDF of the entire book if anyone wants it).

The model of human social instincts I use here, which was also used in my book “The Paradoxical Primate“, has since changed as I explain elsewhere on this blog .



A Very Short, Easy and Free Guide: How to Plan a Dissertation

[I wrote this short note for UG and PG dissertations students I supervise. If it’s of any use to anyone else, please feel free….with acknowledgement of course. Wouldn’t want you falling foul of TurnItIn.]

Having an outline – a road map – that tells you and your supervisor what you expecting to cover in your UG or PG dissertation is an invaluable aid to thinking, researching and writing. Continue reading

Trump: neither demonize nor normalize but analyze…and then act?

161107120239-01-trump-parry-super-169The Trump election has been as shocking and disorienting to mainstream opinion as the Brexit vote in the UK last year. Indeed, it is tempting to think there is no “mainstream” any more as the public appears divided into rightwing and leftwing populists and radicals.

One reaction to Trump, and especially his “alt-right” hangers-on like Bannon, has been to demonize them by screaming “fascist” at their populist, authoritarian, white nationalism. The “Muslim ban”, attacks on the media, on the institutions of government, especially the Courts but also parts of the executive branch like the intelligence agencies, all speak to an authoritarian agenda.

Alternatively some seek to normalize Trump and suggest what he’s doing is just a slightly exaggerated version of “normal” politics  – all politicians lie, make outrageous claims, denounce their opponents, moan about the media misrepresenting them, etc. The realities of office will soon bring him down to earth and it’ll be more or less business as usual. Continue reading

Full steam ahead for Brexit – A personal elegy for a cosmopolitanism that perhaps never was


Now it is almost official, after 461 to 89 MPs backed the government’s Article 50 Bill yesterday: Brexit will happen probably sooner than many expected, and more authoritarian and undemocratic than ever thought possible by those who believe in due democratic process.

Photo: Stefan Boness, Photo: Stefan Boness,

Brexit will in essence be negotiated by a Prime Minister not even elected by ‘the people’ in a real sense, ‘the people’ we hear so much about these days, and whose will the PM now proclaims to carry out. One can have different views on what democracy is, and how democratic a referendum, fought on a single issue and based on false facts (or ‘post-truth’), as later frankly admitted by those who propagated them, really is – and I am among those critical of such versions of democracy.

A remain-politician, before the first vote on Article 50 in parliament, explained why he would vote…

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EU & Academia: funding matters too – Prof Dame Athene Donald

Another leading physicist, Professor Dame Athene Donald of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge has added her voice and a slightly difimage_normalferent perspective
to the discussion about Universities, academics and Brexit. She told me:
“As a member of the European Research Council Scientific Council I am very aware both of the
success of academics in the UK in obtaining ERC funding and also the
value people place on the ‘portability’ of grants awarded under these

Continue reading

The ACBs: the Administrative Consequences of Brexit?

by Colin Talbot and Carole Talbot

Most of the debate around Brexit focuses of the big policy issues.

What tends to get ignored is the impact it will have on the UKs “machinery of government”.

Some of these impacts are fairly obvious, some much less so. Some are purely regulatory, others administrative and some a combination of both. But taken together they amount to a seismic shift in the machinery of British Government. Continue reading

Brexit and EU27 academics in the UK – breaking up is hard to do

border-eu-citizens-facebook_social_mediaYou “should now make arrangements to leave” (Home Office)

The UK’s University sector is one of our most valuable national assets” Professor Brian Cox, the University of Manchester academic and TV presenter, told me last week. Brian said that UK higher education “is a genuinely global industry generating billions of pounds in export earnings, one of the necessary foundations of our innovation-led economy and perhaps our strongest soft power asset; political and industrial leaders from all over the world were educated here in the UK.

Which makes it all the more strange why the Government should be, accidentally or deliberately, undermining our Universities. Most of the commentary on Brexit will have on UK Universities has concentrated on issues of funding, research cooperation and students. Much less attention has been paid to what keeps Universities running – academic staff – and what Brexit will mean for the thirty-thousand plus EU academics in the UK. Here are some of their personal experiences and what it means for our Universities.

How this all started for me…. Continue reading