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In recent years there have been significant changes in the management processes of local government, but no equivalent developments in its democratic processes. The need for innovation in democratic practice is, however, as great, as local government strives to retain its position as a major planner and provider of public services locally. This article considers a range of innovative democratic practices from Britain, the USA and the rest of Europe in order to point to ways forward for British local government.

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This chapter views Scottish devolution in its historical context. It pays attention to the policy record in the areas of education and health, which are the two main areas of devolved social welfare powers. It points out that Scotland historically had a degree of autonomy in specific welfare fields, and it was primarily these fields that were handed over to the Parliament of Edinburgh. The chapter also studies the wider field of ‘policy divergence’ and introduces the concept of ‘social democratic communitarianism’.

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This chapter examines Titmuss’s political activism in the 1930s, a difficult decade for British society, and into the early part of the Second World War. Throughout the 1930s fear of another war was ever-present, and the Depression after the 1929 crash further exacerbated socioeconomic disruption in the ‘traditional’ industrial areas. A sense of foreboding was compounded by psychological ideas which stressed the irrational, unconscious, dimensions of human behaviour. For instance, the psychiatrist John Bowlby and the Labour politician Evan Durbin co-authored a book entitled Personal Aggressiveness and War which discussed, among other things, what they described as ‘irrational acquisitiveness’. Titmuss and Bowlby were already acquainted by this point, and their paths were to cross on various occasions over the coming years. Both were to be signatories, for example, to a letter to the Prime Minister in 1965 on the extent of child poverty. Titmuss, too, was concerned with ‘acquisitiveness’, and saw psychological factors as contributing to international conflict. Gloom and doom, though, was not the whole story. Compared to continental Europe, Britain was politically stable, with the National Government, dominated by the Conservatives, elected in 1931, and returned to power in 1935. Some parts of the country, including London, saw the development of new industries, and new ways of living characterised by improved living standards leading to higher levels of home ownership, and the acquisition of new consumer goods. Yet this, in turn, highlights significant regional differences, and, overall, there was a highly charged political and cultural atmosphere.

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The last chapter examined Titmuss’s political activities in the 1930s and early 1940s. Demanding as these undoubtedly were, Titmuss also found time for other forms of social and political engagement. Among his early research interests were population, and population health. He was convinced, as were many others at this time, that Britain’s population was in decline, and that this promised problems for the future. Nonetheless, as Pat Thane puts it, Titmuss was ‘the most persistent, prolific, and one of the most immoderate demographic pessimists’ of the 1930s and beyond. We shall encounter this pessimism in this, and later, chapters. Titmuss was, further, concerned about population health, arguing that proper analysis of the rates of morbidity and mortality revealed significant class and regional disparities in health experience and outcomes. Such concerns led to membership of the Eugenics Society, his first major publication, and conclusions with serious implications, at least in his view, for Britain’s preparedness for what was, by the late 1930s, inevitable war. The Eugenics Society (originally the Eugenics Education Society) was founded in 1907. It was a small but influential body campaigning for greater attention to be paid to issues of heredity and population quality. Among its members in the 1930s and 1940s were William Beveridge, and his successor as LSE director from 1937, the social scientist Alexander Carr-Saunders. Titmuss was introduced to the society in 1937 by the LSE demographer and refugee from Nazi Germany Robert René Kuczynski, remaining a member until shortly before his death. Kuczynski, who had published alarming predictions about population decline in Western Europe, had favourably noted Titmuss’s statistical skills.

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Previous chapters outlined a broad political, and social, historical sketch of British society as the 1930s moved towards war. But the points Stefan Collini makes about the era’s cultural atmosphere should also be acknowledged. As he puts it, the inter-war period was notable for increasing concerns centred around the notion of cultural decline, alongside anxieties about the morally destructive effects of ‘modernity’. One component of such critiques was ‘a challenge to the category of “the economic”’. On one level, this was part of a longstanding rejection, on the part of English radicalism, of traditional political economy, and of related ideas such as the ‘cash nexus’. But what was new was a ‘more sustained questioning of the place of economic activity in human life’, alongside ‘a more wide-ranging exploration of the alleged cultural significance of its accepted centrality in “modern” society’. For this Chapter, what is especially important is that Collini sees R.H. Tawney, an intellectual mentor to Titmuss, as one of the principal exponents of such an analysis. Tom Rogan, in a study which deals in detail with Tawney, likewise suggests that, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, critics of capitalism focused especially on its ‘moral or spiritual desolation’. This was, therefore, an important constituent of the contemporary intellectual environment. Titmuss was determined to get his views across to as wide an audience as possible, and so sought to broadcast these in both scholarly and popular outlets. His co-authored ‘Penguin Special’, discussed in the last chapter, was an example of a publication aimed at both markets, as well as targeting those of like mind, namely ‘progressive opinion’.

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From late 1941, Titmuss was engaged in researching and writing Problems of Social Policy, published in 1950. This was part of the ‘History of the Second World War: United Kingdom Civil Series’. Intriguingly, ‘Problems of Social Policy’ was the title of a passage in a 1932 work by Tawney. It was originally planned that Titmuss write two volumes on the wartime social services. In January 1951, he told a government official that the second was due later that year, and he would send him a draft when revisions had been made. But by this point Titmuss was fully occupied at the LSE. In a letter to the School’s director in late 1951, Titmuss complained about his workload. Consequently, he had had ‘to shelve indefinitely editorial work on the second volume’. By the summer of 1952, Titmuss had thrown in the towel, telling another government official that Margaret Gowing was taking over. He had been ‘reluctantly forced to give it up owing to extreme pressures of work here. I am finding that there are limits to human endurance!’ The book which ultimately appeared had an introductory chapter by Gowing, but the principal authors were Sheila Ferguson and Hilde Fitzgerald. In a generous preface, Hancock noted that it had initially been envisaged that these two would work alongside Titmuss. But ill health, and the ‘pressure of University duties’, had led the latter to resign as principal author. Nonetheless, he had ‘continued to give assistance to his two colleagues, and the book they have now completed conforms closely to his original plan’. The volume itself made frequent references to Titmuss’s earlier work. As his correspondence suggests, Titmuss was not averse to letting others know how much he had to do, a habit maintained for the rest of his career. While Titmuss’s volume was not published until 1950, it is appropriate to deal with it here as it dominated his life for most of the 1940s.

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In the course of the 1940s, Titmuss continued to play an active part in the Eugenics Society which, as we saw in Chapter 4, he had joined in the late 1930s. This was prompted by his interest in population and population health. But it likewise afforded him the opportunity to network with well-connected individuals who were to become important figures in promoting his career, such as Carr-Saunders and Hubback. This chapter examines Titmuss’s work for the Society during the Second World War, especially from early 1942. He was editor of Eugenics Review for the first two editions of that year, standing in for Maurice Newfield while he was unwell. From the outbreak to the end of the war he also contributed six articles and a number of book reviews to the journal, as well as taking to task, in the correspondence columns and in debate, critics of his own approach to population issues. He participated in Society meetings, during the early part of the war was on its Emergency Committee, and by the end he was on its council, the latter an elected position. Titmuss published his third book, Birth, Poverty and Wealth: A Study of Infant Mortality, with Eugenics Society support. He was also co-opted, in 1943, onto the Population Investigation Committee (PIC), set up by the Eugenics Society in the mid-1930s. With the outbreak of war one immediate consequence for the Eugenics Society was that C.P. Blacker was called up to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), so depriving the organisation of one of its most active members and administrators. An emergency meeting of the council was called shortly afterwards. It was agreed to set up an Emergency Committee, chaired by Lord Horder, of ‘nine members able to attend regularly, with power to co-opt’, which would ‘act on behalf of Council for the duration of the war’.

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We saw in Chapter 3 that, in the 1930s, Titmuss had employed a literary agent. This relationship does not appear to have survived the outbreak of war, with Titmuss now often contacting editors and journals directly. And such was Titmuss’s growing reputation, at least in the first half of the 1940s primarily regarding population, that he began to be approached by publishers themselves, as well as by various organisations. He was also politically active down to the early 1940s, and although his employment as a civil servant curtailed his public activities, he continued to be in demand, especially as plans for post-war social reconstruction gathered momentum. This reinforces the previously noted idea of Titmuss seeking to spread his ideas to as wide and diverse an audience as possible, so promoting his ‘progressive’ views. The 1940s were important, too, in providing the further platform of radio broadcasts. As always, it is difficult not to be impressed by Titmuss’s work-rate. Such outputs, and again this was to feature throughout his career, often provided a handsome financial supplement to his salary. It would be impossible, and not especially enlightening, to list all of Titmuss’s contributions to various media during the period under consideration. So here we look at some of his more significant, or interesting, interventions. The aim is less to discuss their content in detail. Rather, it is to give a sense of the range of Titmuss’s engagement. Illustrating a number of these points, in November 1943 the publisher Victor Gollancz, founder of the Left Book Club which operated as a ‘sort of reading “Popular Front”’, asked Titmuss for a contribution on population and poverty to the journal Left News.

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This chapter starts with a discussion of Titmuss’s only publication jointly authored with Kay, Parents Revolt, published in 1942. Titmuss later claimed that it had been ‘partly written in an air raid shelter in Pimlico’, the area of London where he and Kay lived. This work once again engages with Titmuss’s major preoccupations of the 1930s and 1940s, his concerns about population, population health, and the moral implications of materialism, and was clearly intended to reach a wider audience than simply those interested in eugenics or demography. In this respect, Parents Revolt links more closely with the material discussed in Chapters 5 and 8. Further examples of Titmuss’s interventions in these fields are then briefly discussed, before turning to the logical outcome of his interests in population health. This was the engagement by Titmuss, and Jerry Morris, with the emerging discipline of social medicine, and the subsequent creation of the Social Medicine Research Unit. It is shown that Titmuss and Morris were among the pioneers of social medicine in Britain, especially through the publication of what were to become foundational articles for the field. The subtitle of Titmuss and Kay’s volume, A Study in the Declining Birth-Rate in Acquisitive Societies, was revealing for, as we have seen, Titmuss was much taken with Tawney’s notion of the ‘acquisitive society’. The book included a preface by the veteran Fabian socialist Beatrice Webb, who claimed that it raised, ‘in a series of brilliantly graphic chapters’, the ‘crucial question of the fall of the birth-rate, threatening the survival of the white race’.

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By the time of his LSE appointment, Titmuss’s reputation as a social scientist, historian, commentator on social affairs, and advisor to official bodies was well established. His work on population continued to resonate and led, for example, to an invitation to lecture on the subject at the University of Nottingham in late 1949. This suggests, too, that his findings were favourably viewed in at least some academic circles, a point further borne out by his ability to gain research grants, and to undertake work for bodies such as the MRC. Problems of Social Policy had finally been published in March 1950, and was well received. A further review, in The Times, was likewise upbeat. The anonymous reviewer (conceivably François Lafitte, employed at the paper since 1943, and its social policy expert) praised Titmuss’s ‘lucid account’ of the development of government policy suggesting, in a sentiment of which the author would have approved, that the ‘war was, in fact, the forcing house of the contemporary welfare State’. Such positive notices in the run-up to his appointment can only have helped Titmuss’s cause. Titmuss also had a strong media presence, in both published and broadcast formats. He was by this point an experienced public speaker to a range of audiences. And, importantly, Titmuss was now extremely well connected. He knew, and had the backing of, the LSE director, Carr-Saunders, as well as the influential support of colleagues such as Keith Hancock. In the very small world of British social science, this counted for a lot. In a curious incident which nonetheless flags up some of Titmuss’s key concerns, in spring 1948 he wrote to David Weitzman, barrister and Labour MP, who had been imprisoned for illegally supplying cosmetics, the production of which had been scaled down in wartime.

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