Short works

Books : reviews

Geoffrey Vickers.
The Art of Judgment: a study of policy making.
Sage. 1965

To anyone familiar with the work of Sir Geoffrey Vickers (1894-1982), this centenary edition of The Art of Judgment will mark a welcome reappearance of a book that was far ahead of its time when originally published thirty years ago. For those new to Vickers’ thought, it will be refreshing to discover a body of thought so keenly applicable to understanding and dealing with the complex issues of public affairs at the dawn of a new century. This centenary edition contains a new introduction by Guy B. Adams, Scott D. N. Cook, and Bayard L. Catron; a biographical essay on Sir Geoffrey Vickers by Margaret Blunden; and the entire original text of The Art of Judgment. This study provides a fresh foundation for the exercise of judgment in policy and management, particularly for those interested in an interpretive and critical approach to the study of organizations.

Geoffrey Vickers.
Human Systems are Different.
Harper & Row. 1983

This book, the author’s last, rests on the belief that human systems have become very difficult for human beings to maintain, and explores the minimal changes necessary to achieve a stable political and social order.

The threats which the world faces today, are, the author argues, all threats to the maintenance of systemic relations; the minimal changes necessary to avoid crisis in the natural and social environment, must derive from a greater understanding of the systemic nature of human history and the cultural roots of human standards.

The conditions for survival are cultural rather than technological; they require from societies, groups and individuals the ability to reset their appreciative systems, their standards of what to expect, what to attempt, and what to put up with, to an extent which people have not previously achieved or needed.

Part 1: The Rise of Human Systems:
The history of systemic thinking; The characteristics of open systems – regulation, organic and technological; The emergence of ecological systems; The emergence of human systems; The peculiarities of human systems; Appreciation and action; The bonding of human systems; Four dimensions of instability in human systems.

Part 2: Western systems since the Enlightenment: Regulating political systems; Three decaying hopes; The emergence of the autonomous individual; Autonomy, alienation and authenticity; The declining force of membership.

Part 3: The Threat to Human Systems: Seven escalating instabilities; Unstable relations with the natural milieu; Unstable relations in the human milieu; War, development, inflation, unemployment; The changing role of the technologist; Analysts, modellers and governors; Understanding, deciding and policy-making; How different are human systems?