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A Tavistock  Anthology



The Tavistock  Institute of Human Relations, a novel, interdisciplinary, action-oriented  research organization, was founded in London in I946 with the aid of a  grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. It was set up for the specific  purpose of actively relating the psychological and social sciences to the  needs and concerns of society. In sustaining this endeavor for more than  forty years, it has won international recognition.

The  circumstances of World War II brought together an unusually talented group  of psychiatrists, clinical and social psychologists and anthropologists in  the setting of the British Army, where they developed a number of radical  innovations in social psychiatry and applied social science. They became  known as the 'Tavistock Group' because the core members had been at the  pre-war Tavistock Clinic. Though only some of them continued their  involvement with the post-war Tavistock organization, those who did built  on the war-time achievements to introduce a number of far-reaching  developments in several fields. This style of research related theory and  practice in a new mode. In these volumes this style is called 'The Social  Engagement of Social Science.'

The word 'engagement' (which echoes  French Existentialist usage) has been chosen as the best single word to  represent the process by which social scientists endeavor actively to  relate themselves in relevant and meaningful ways to society. This overall  orientation is reflected in what the editors have called 'perspectives,'  of which there are three: the socio-psychological, the socio-technical and  the socio-ecological. These perspectives are explained in the Series  Introduction on the Foundation and Development of the Institute. They have  evolved from each other in relation to societal change. They are  interdependent, yet each has its own focus and is represented in a  separate volume.

The Institute's theories and projects have  resulted in a considerable number of books, many of which are regarded as  classics. A large collection of articles of continuing interest are  dispersed through various journals. There is a further collection of  little known manuscripts containing some outstanding contributions. These  have been available only in document series maintained by the Institute  and two or three closely related centers. This body of work by many hands  has never been gathered together. The present volumes offer a  comprehensive selection of these writings - a Tavistock  anthology.

There are now very few people left who were at the  Institute at the beginning of this saga. As a founder member and sometime  Chairman I felt I should undertake the required compilation. Having been  in the United States for more than twenty years, however, I needed a  co-editor still on the scene in London. Accordingly, I invited one of my  oldest colleagues, Dr. Hugh Murray, to join me.

All the  contributions contain innovations in social psychiatry and the social  sciences, either in concept or in the nature of the projects undertaken;  these have led in many cases to widespread developments in their fields  and in some cases to the foundation of entirely new fields. They look  backward to show the origin, in the period following World War II, of much  in current theory and practice whose historic depth is not widely known or  appreciated. They look forward to show the continuing relevance of the  material presented to tasks that lie ahead in many areas of the social  sciences and, more widely, to the post-industrial social order that is  beginning to emerge from the 'turbulence' of the present.

In order  to allow the inclusion of as many contributions as possible, the Volume  and Theme introductions have been kept short. The papers - many of them  recent -are primarily by members of the founding generation and their  successors over the following two decades, whether they are still at the  Institute or have moved elsewhere, as most of them have. Some of the  papers are by authors from related centers that developed later. This wide  dispersal of people has enabled the original tradition to be enriched by  developments in different settings in institutes and university  departments in Commonwealth and European countries and in the United  States. In this way, new insights have been added to those of the founding  body. From its beginnings as slmply an organization in London, the  Tavistock has become an international network.

More than half the  contributions have been remodeled or specially written for these volumes.  Many have one or more co-authors, as befits an enterprise characterized by  a group orientation. Co-authors have not necessarily been members of the  Institute.

The three volumes comprising The Social Engagement of  Social Science are dedicated to Dr. A.T. Macbeth Wilson, affectionately  known to us all as 'Tommy..'   He was the one senior psychiatrist involved at  the beginning who chose to stay with the separately incorporated Institute  when the Clinic entered the National Health Service in I948. He was  endowed with what C.Wright Mills called 'the sociological imagination.'   His seminal contributions date from the pre-war period and continued  uninterrupted thereafter. Throughout his years as Chairman (I948-58) he  carried the main burden when the Institute was struggling to find an  independent identity.

Gainesville, Florida
February  I989
Eric Trist