Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dr. Henry Benedict Tam: writings & learning resources

Dr. Henry Tam is a writer, academic and activist whose ideas have influenced educators, campaigners, community organisations, and government institutions. The materials listed below may be of use to anyone interested in learning/teaching progressive ideas & practices [For an updated version of this archived post, see 'Politics for Outsiders'.]

Against Power Inequalities: a history of the struggle for inclusive communities
This short history narrates critical moments in opposing exploitation and oppression, and explains their inter-connections across time and nations. “An intellectual tour de force, an erudite romp through the history of civilization that highlights the origins of power and the never-ending effort to democratize hierarchical systems” (Professor Charles Derber, US); “history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation [by] a master storyteller” (Secretary General, Co-operatives UK). (For more reviews & option to download the book for free, go to Info on Against Power Inequalities)

Communitarianism: a political philosophy of how we should live inclusively
This book sets out the core ideas of a communitarian vision for society, and their key political implications. It has been praised by scholars and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, and was nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. (For more information, including reviews and other related writings, go to Info on Communitarianism)

Kuan’s Wonderland: a political fable/sci-fi fantasy novel set in a dystopian world
This novel weaves plot twists and striking characters with political allusions to create a memorable indictment of power inequalities. Variously praised as “an unmissable page-turner” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild); “original and very engaging” (Fantasy Book Review); and “powerfully imaginative” (Director of Education, WEA); it has been selected by the Equality Trust as a key resource in its Young Person’s Guide to Inequality. (For more information, go to Info on Kuan’s Wonderland)

Together We Can: a set of resources developed to promote cooperative problem-solving
These resources grew out of Together We Can, the cross-government programme Henry Tam devised and implemented when he led the Home Office (and later the newly established Department for Communities & Local Government) work on civil renewal and community empowerment 2003-2010. Subsequently, the evidence and advice pulled together in support of furthering cooperative problem-solving have continued to be reviewed and promoted by the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy, Cambridge University. (For a guide to the available resources, go to Info on Together We Can)

Question the Powerful: a blog on political iniquities and the danger of power imbalance
These essays (posted twice-a-month) highlight the problem of power relations in public policy issues ranging from education, democracy, and welfare, to plutocratic economics, criminal justice and international relations. They serve as a regular prompt to rethink the underlying causes of social and economic difficulties in terms of the widening power gap we face. (For a selection of the most viewed posts, go to Info on QTP)

Responsibility & Personal Interactions: a critical study of the basis of moral responsibility
This in-depth study puts forward specific criteria for when members of society should or should not be held responsible for their behaviour, and tests them against legal judgment in seminal cases. The challenging issues involved in dealing with crime and responsibility are further addressed in Tam’s book, Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, which brought a team of experts together to examine what policies ought to be adopted in practice. (For more information, go to Info on Responsibility)

If you would like to discuss the ideas in the above publications or explore how they can be used more widely to promote interest and understanding in support of progressive lifelong learning and democratic activism, contact Dr. Henry Tam (

For more background information, click on: ‘Henry Tam (biographical & bibliographical note)