Post-bureaucratic age, the #BigSociety and Ace Ventura

There’s a moment in the first Ace Ventura (Pet Detective) film when Jim Carey’s character realises that the male sports star he’s been searching for is actually the same person as the female police chief he’s been battling with.

With disbelief, he cries to himself:

Ray Finkle is Lois Einhorn. Lois Einhorn is Ray Finkle. Oh my God.

The realisation makes him sick.

I’ve just had a similar experience.

For reading Ian Birrell’s account of his role on David Cameron’s speechwriting team, he asserts

So what is the big society? First of all, I must confess that I am no fan of the slightly fuzzy title… But it is better than its predecessor, the clunky “post-bureaucratic age”.

That is, the Big Society is the post-bureaucratic age. The post-bureaucratic age is the Big Society.

But such things are totally different in conception.

One is a (seeming) positive. The other is a negative – it defines itself by what it isn’t.

One relates to community and how everyone should take a role in it, irrespective of the state. The other starts with the premise of a state and the officials it contains, and moves away from it.

One is expansive in its scope and looks to what the future will be. The other narrows and limits in its scope and ties itself irrevocably to a past.

If – and it’s a big if – the Big Society is the post-bureaucratic age, then Cameron’s in more trouble with the idea than I thought. Because previously, I’d assumed the vision was sound and the details were lacking. This makes me think that the idea may be a bit lacking as well.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

2 thoughts on “Post-bureaucratic age, the #BigSociety and Ace Ventura”

  1. Good spot, though to be fair to David Cameron and his team, I think the two ideas were running in tandem before Big Society became the chosen label. I got a tip before the March 31 launch, so did a bit a documenting of the background here

  2. David – thanks as always for your comment. The links at the end of your post are a goldmine of information on the development of the idea of Big Society, so thanks for sharing.

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