Leadership without ‘the led’: A case study of the South Wales Valleys

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In this essay I will develop a theory of insouciance towards public service leadership amongst those who are, at least in theory, the beneficiaries of that leadership, the electorate/citizenry/service users. Using a case study of working-class communities in the Eastern Valleys of South Wales. I develop a thesis that these communities (lived domains) and public sector services (worked domains) occupy separate although inter-connected spheres. I will borrow the Welsh word gwerin, or kin/community, as a label for what I will argue are neo-communitarian, self-governing, leaderless, lived domains of the home and the community. The neo-communitarian philosophy governing the gwerin contrasts greatly with the (neo/left/right) liberalism of managers and leaders. The gwerin understands the public sector to be a provider of services and not a space of governance. It regards it as alien, distrusts it, and understands it to be incapable and incompetent. Infringement upon the gwerin is regarded as interference with the smooth and efficient functioning of work, life and society. ‘Leadership’ belongs in that other, alien sphere and lacks meaning in the lived domain.
This thesis was stimulated by the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the UK in 2016, the myths that have grown up about the electorate in the aftermath of that vote, and my own agonised struggles to understand why a large percentage of the electorate are adamant Brexiters, another large proportion are equally adamant remainers, with many citizens feeling utterly confused and wishing the whole thing were resolved. Opinions have become frozen, and discussing politics has become so fraught that it is something to be carried out in whispers, behind people’s backs. I will argue that the fault-line between pro- and anti-Brexit positions can be understood, in part, between liberal and neo-communitarian political philosophies .
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2019
EventDecentering local leadership workshop : Centre for British Studies, University of California, Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, USA United States
Duration: 13 Sept 201914 Sept 2019


ConferenceDecentering local leadership workshop
Country/TerritoryUSA United States
CitySan Francisco


  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • organizations


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