James Robertson (UK)

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Biographical Information

James Robertson "studied classics, history and philosophy at Oxford. He worked in Whitehall and accompanied Harold Macmillan on his prime-ministerial “Wind of Change” tour of Africa in 1960. After directing the Inter-Bank Research Organisation and contributing to enquiries on government, civil service, parliament and London’s future as a financial centre, he became an independent writer and lecturer. Since 1975 he and his wife Alison Pritchard (a Schumacher Society Council member), have issued the twice-yearly Turning Point (latterly Turning Point 2000) newsletter. They helped to set up The Other Economic Summit (TOES) and the New Economics Foundation in 1984/5." [1]

"I have had attachments to the Green College (Oxford) Centre for Environmental Policy and Understanding and the Oxford Centre for Environment, Ethics and Society, and I served for a time as a trustee of the New Economics Foundation." [2]

He studied Greats at Balliol College, Oxford from 1946 to 1950. Robertson joined the Advisory Board of International Simultaneous Policy Organization which seeks to end the usual deadlock in tackling global issues through an international simultaneous policy. Robertson's latest book is the Future Money: Breakdown or Breakthrough? (Green Books, 2012).

"His best-known book is probably The Sane Alternative: A Choice of Futures (1978, 1983). Other books include Future Work: Jobs, Self-Employment and Leisure after the Industrial Age (1985), Future Wealth: A New Economics for the 21st Century (1990), Transforming Economic Life: A Millennial Challenge (1998), A New Economics of Sustainable Development (a Briefing for the European Commission) (2000), and Creating New Money: A Monetary Reform for the Information Age (co-authored with Joseph Huber) (2000). His latest book, Monetary Reform — Making it Happen! (coauthored with ISPO Founder and Director, John Bunzl) (2004) has been praised as "a brilliant treatment of a question which has never been so urgent" by Guardian columnist and author, George Monbiot...In October 2003, at the XXIX annual conference of the Pio Manzu Research Centre, Rimini, Italy (closely associated with the UN), he was awarded a gold medal for his "remarkable contribution to the promotion of a new economics grounded in social and spiritual values" over the past 25 years." [3]


Background Bio

"I was brought up in Yorkshire and Scotland. My parents lived and worked in Sudan. So I went to boarding school - first near Edinburgh and then at Sedbergh, where (among other things) I won the annual Wilson Run (ten miles cross-country) in 1946.

"At Balliol, Oxford from 1946 to 1950 I read "Mods and Greats", and learned to think in terms of history, philosophy and the classics - in between cricket and rugby football for the college, and one term's cross-country running for the University. I completed my education with national service in the artillery in Germany followed by what would now be called a gap year based in Khartoum.

"In the 1950s and 1960s I worked as a policy-making civil servant in Whitehall.

"First, in the years leading up to decolonisation, my work included development plans for Mauritius and Seychelles, visits with government ministers to those and other remaining territories in the British Empire, and especially with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on what became known as his "Wind of Change" tour of Africa in 1960. (I was the person who put forward the 'wind of change' theme for his speeches. I have been told this can be verified from records in the Public Record Office at Kew.) It was a very exciting time for a young man.

"Then came three years in the Cabinet Office, working directly as 'private secretary' to the Secretary of the Cabinet (who was also the head of the Civil Service), participating in the central processes of government and getting a privileged bird's-eye, worm's-eye view of how they worked.

"My last two years in Whitehall were in the Ministry of Defence. I had been posted there to help in the merger of the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry in a single mega-ministry for the Navy, Army and Air Force. That was my first experience of a big government department, very educative and very frustrating.

"It left me convinced that big organisations encourage unhealthy 'groupthink' - often making it difficult for the people in them to act in morally responsible ways, and also concentrating too much power in too few hands.

"This led me to see - as I tried to show in my first book, Reform of British Central Government - that the time had come for radical changes that would develop institutions and habits and skills of self-government. It did not lead me to support the later Thatcherite philosophy that the power of big government and trade unions should be replaced by the power of big business and big finance!

"This was in the 1960s, the optimistic years of hippies and flower people on one side and management scientists on the other - with diametrically opposed utopian approaches to the future. I had become interested in what the management scientists had to offer.

"So I left the Civil Service for management consultancy and systems analysis, and that led to my setting up and directing the Inter-Bank Research Organisation for the British banks (1968-1973). During that period I was also asked to take part in various enquiries into government, Civil Service, Parliament, and London's future as a world financial centre.

"After leaving the banks, my next excursion was to stand for Parliament in 1974 against Tony Benn in Bristol South East, in support of Dick Taverne's Campaign for Social Democracy. Another learning experience. Soon afterwards I realised I wasn't really a political supporter of the managerial and professional 'new class' described by Milovan Djilas.

"My two short books Profit or People and Power, Money and Sex, published by Marion Boyars in her Ideas in Progress series, reflected a political philosophy shifting towards a mixture of decentralist liberal and green and feminist values." [http://www.jamesrobertson.com/about-james-robertson.htm

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Schumacher Society Briefing 1: Transforming Economic Life, organizational web page, accessed February 29, 2012.
  2. James Robertson About James, organizational web page, accessed February 29, 2012.
  3. Honorary Advisory Board, International Simultaneous Policy Organisation, accessed March 3, 2009.
  4. Positive Money Advisory Board, organizational web page, accessed April 17, 2014.
  5. Environmental Law Foundation Patrons & Advisory Council, organizational web page, accessed January 1, 2013.