Appendix to the editorial of the Summer 2017 edition of e-O&P

Not so much an article …

A compilation by Chris Rodgers

The following records an email exchange between Bob MacKenzie, Anna Fairtlough, and Chris Rodgers, triggered by the reference to Brexit in the initial invitation to contribute to the current edition of e-O&P (Summer 2017).

Extract from the Bob MacKenzie’s original request for contributions to the journal…

The Summer 2017 edition of e-O&P will take reciprocity in organisational life as its theme…

To help prime your thinking, some issues you might consider include:

How relevant is the notion of reciprocity to organisational life today and tomorrow?

How might Brexit, and the seeming epidemic of populisms, nationalisms, terrorisms, inter-state aggressions and voluntary and involuntary migrations, affect our resources, abilities and willingness to reciprocate?

Under what conditions might reciprocity best flourish?

How can we as private citizens and practitioners help to nurture reciprocity within our social networks and communities of practice, on behalf of our clients, or for the benefit of society at large?

What can we do when reciprocal relationships become ruptured or seem inappropriate, or to address the shadow side of reciprocity?


Initial response from Chris Rodgers to Bob…

I’m curious as to whether the anti-Brexit reference (“populist epidemic”) reflects the official ‘policy position’ of AMED or if it’s simply a taken-for-granted assumption that members share that viewpoint. Perhaps the list of -isms that relate to the current state of affairs could equally have included, for example, elitism, intellectualism, and cronyism.

In the context of the e-O&P theme, one might argue that the attempt to institutionalise intra-European reciprocity, in the form of the EU, actually undermines the motivation and capacity for reciprocity to thrive in its ‘natural’, human-relationship form. Some might say that, instead of encouraging and enabling reciprocity to become a natural behavioural response between people of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, job roles, and so on, the centralised EU ‘model’ rejects this in favour of a centrally determined and identikit version of what it means to be European, ruled on by a privileged and bureaucratic elite. It is a version in which the stated goal is one of

progressively eliminating the rich diversity and differences within and between the people of Europe in pursuit of “ever closer union”. Differences that provide the very rationale for reciprocity and, dare I say, informal coalition building around mutually beneficial themes.

It seems to me, then, that it is perfectly possible to be fervently pro-European and an advocate of reciprocal relationships between people whilst, at the same time, being unapologetically anti-EU and its one-size-fits-all, we-know-best approach to relations between the citizens and nations of Europe.

Just a thought!


Bob’s response to Chris …

Great thought(s)!  Thank you.

Is there the germ here of a short piece from you along these lines for the journal, perhaps?


Chris’s holding reply to Bob …

I’ll have to think whether or not to offer a piece for e-O&P on the topic. My email was simply a reaction to the implication that Brexit was (a) obviously bad – as signalled by the pejorative use of the term “populism”; and (b) on par with terrorism!


Anna’s reaction to Bob and Chris …

I would be more than happy to consider a piece along these lines. Good to have a challenge to any assumptions. Perhaps it relates to the theme around the ‘shadow’ side to reciprocity.


Chris’s belated reply to Anna …

Our previous email exchange, via Bob, has certainly led to my thinking further about the notion of reciprocity and the various ways in which it might be exercised. At the same time, I don’t think that I’ll be able to produce anything worthwhile for e-O&P based on my earlier response to Bob’s initial email.

My comments were more of a gut reaction to the anti-Brexit theme in the invitation and its bracketing with, amongst other things, acts of terrorism!

It seems to me that, amongst those who might think of themselves as well educated, deep thinking, and socially progressive, there is a taken-for-granted-ness about the anti-Brexit stance of others of the same ilk. Incorporating the term “populism” in commentaries on the current state of affairs across the globe seems to have become the essential code for signalling one’s affiliation with this particular in-group.

Somewhat ironically, this tends to stoke, rather than quell, the politics of inclusion-exclusion that those of such a position would ordinarily claim to eschew: In this case, the intellectually superior, politically correct, rational, and socially elite insiders, who inhabit the moral high ground, versus the ill-educated, prejudiced, irrational, and socially challenged rest, who are easily swayed by ‘populist’ rhetoric.

One consequence of this is that it polarises the debate; preventing genuine progress and rapprochement. Another is that it makes open challenge to this position less likely by others who would similarly see themselves as well-educated, deep-thinking, and socially progressive!

– – – – – – – – – – –

and some afterthoughts …

I just wanted to clarify that my ‘ranting on’ about the response to Brexit related to the general level of commentary on this and other challenges to the established order, which has built up over some time. It was not directed specifically at your e-O&P invitation!

Apologies if it read that way.  But thanks also for providing an outlet for my frustrations, which are not so much about the substantive issue (Brexit, in this case) but rather about the underlying, political (with a little ‘p’) dynamics.


Anna’s conclusion …

I didn’t take offence. I thought you made some important points about not taking certain perspectives for granted. So hard in these deeply divided times to find a way to listen to each other/ practice reciprocal attention. I heard about a project between Boston Lincs (75% leave) and Brixton (majority remain) to visit each other and understand each other’s perspectives. Sounded a good thing.


And Chris’s …

I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of the Boston-Brixton initiative. Sounds spot-on. Spontaneous and emergent (i.e. non-institutionalised) reciprocity in action, perhaps?

Share this article