..toTavistock's Anthology |
THE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT OF
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.