Watch Out for the Vision…

The point about Visions of the Anointed is that, whether they are co-produced or not, they will always be problematical. They will always create winners and losers. They will always consume vast amounts of time, energy, cash and other resources. And they will always be, at best, contemporary. They never successfully anticipate, and therefore can never be built well for the future.

They provide a damaging diversion, a displacement activity, that allows individuals to continue to blame the planners, the builders and their fellow citizens instead of doing the long hard work of climbing their own personal mountains and seeing how they can help fellow climbers along the way.

Co-production in the Vision of the Anointed is perhaps an impoverished and futile version of ‘active citizenship’?

By ‘engaging’ us in polishing their visions they disengage us from our own.

Communities are the product of citizens leading active and engaged lives in pursuit of progress. Not by getting the spatial infrastructure right.  By shaping plans that we then expect others to deliver.

And if ‘citizens’ can start to set the parameters for Placemaking then we are just replacing one group of the anointed (a professional elite) with another (the proletariat). Sowells’ point in Vision of the Anointed, IF I have understood it properly, is that it does not matter how we choose the anointed, the product of their deliberations WILL be flawed.

I think Drucker was also onto this in his work on meta-economics where he argued that planners can NEVER keep up with the process of enterprise and entrepreneurship as a force for driving social change.

So let’s be careful in our collusion with the anointed in trying to build the perfect cathedral. Let’s take ourselves instead into the bazaar and work on more personal, small scale pursuit of progress.

Anyone for ‘enterprise’ (rightly understood)?


  1. Mike, you lost me a bit with the para beginning “And if ‘citizens’ can …”. Could you run that para again? It’s probably me but I’d welcome a bit of explanation.

    • Norman, the point here is that it does not really matter who the anointed are. Whether left or right, rich or poor, lay person or professional, progressive or conservative the vision will create winners and losers. Social policy flowing from it will inevitably be flawed.

      We must recognise that whenever we have an ‘anointed’ developing plans for others to implement we are unlikely to get the progress we desire.

      You may find the man himself useful too?

  2. I can see what you are getting at with this, Mike, but I am a bit worried that it could be a recipe for inaction. You are probably right that grass-roots self-determined actions are what really create change, but, unless the people who might drive this change are also engaging with the power structures, and seeking to influence them. they risk being steam-rollered by thoughtless actions of the powerful. And, yes, I understand that this might happen any way, and that lots of “engagement”, “consultation” and “involvement” is merely window dressing to legitimise pre-determined actions, but, if you don’t engage, you will guarantee having no influence over the outcomes.

    • I think inaction is precisely what this sort of activity often spawns. Cynicism, jadedness and consistently low ‘turn out’ whether at elections or endless consultations. I would argue that the action we need to be facilitating is much more personal and relevant.

      I am not arguing against engaging and influencing policy. I am arguing against the assumption that engaging and influencing policy is either sufficient or necessary if improvements are to be made.

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