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I've just published a report that can now be downloaded (see below in this post for link).

I've just published a report that can now be downloaded (see below in this post for link).

In relation to the last couple of posts I've made, the gist of the report is that the challenge of social policy in the early twenty-first century is to develop the social institutions that in turn aid the full development of our social brains. I put it this way at a recent talk: the more we learn about what's in our heads, the more we realise it's what's outside our heads that matters.

The idea is that to develop the essential skills that allow people to be responsible and autonomous, we need the forms of social interaction that enable the requisite skills to be learned and sustained. As we understand more about the brain, we realise that it is designed to develop and function with the aid of culture (i.e. social practices that are passed on). So for example, learning self-control seems to depend in large part on practising it in a supportive yet disciplining environment consisting of families, schools and the wider community. Take away or degrade that environment and it is really hard to learn the skill. So social institutions are simply the cultural means by which the norms and techniques are passed on that enable our learning of the skills we value.

As traditions broke down in the 60s and 70s (which of course in lots of ways was a brilliant thing) we lost some of the social institutions that countered the inbuilt weaknesses of our social brains whilst also developing their full potential. This meant that the cultural element at work in developing our social brains has in places withered.

This has given us two big problems. (1) There is an 'inequality of autonomy' as those people that did continue to evolve the social institutions that support and develop autonomy gained better and better life outcomes (particularly in a globalised world where autonomy is highly valued). (2) We lost or diminished some of the social institutions (flawed as they were) that allowed us to negotiate collective decisions (institutions such as firms and companies in business for the long-term, Trades Unions and political parties).

It is not right to say the consumerism of the last thirty years has been all bad. But it has done nothing to address the decline in the social institutions so important for our social brains. The challenge now is not to recreate old-fashioned traditions, but to create twenty-first century analogues of them. My pamphlet lays out the factors that should be taken into account when trying to do this. It is not a manual but a tool-kit that I hope might inspire others to think and act on this challenge.

Social Brain Report pdf

Or if you wish, use the Scribd embed below. Although unfortunately, for some technical reason, the download feature doesn't currently work on it.


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