James Robertson: ‘a reasonable revolutionary’

Only last week, a Handsworth reader emailed asking for news of James; he had just reread ‘The Sane Alternative’ and been impressed anew by it.

I replied that James still lives with Alison in Cholsey and has just retired, but that all the website resources, including articles, papers, newsletters and the pdfs of his books, will continue to be available here: http://www.jamesrobertson.com. Use this link to go directly to the newsletters.

I added that I recently discovered his  book ‘Future Wealth’ and put a chapter online: The local economies of cities, towns, rural districts and villages, ending “I think you will warm to it”.

Seeing that world society was in an early stage of a ‘great transformation’ and that, as has happened from time to time in history – for example, at the Renaissance – this would affect every aspect of human life, James explored three possible responses:

Business As Usual;

HyperExpansion (HE), boosting the drives of the industrial age – centralising, scientific, technical, economic; and

Sane, Humane, Ecological (SHE), inspired by a new, genuinely post-industrial direction for human society’s next stage of development. Based on principles of Enable and Conserve, SHE would give priority to the needs of people and the earth.

He explains: “I recognised that the actual future would be shaped by a mixture of all these and other responses, or visions, or scenarios. But I have focused since then on what the third one – the sane alternative – would mean in practice”.


Writing an account of James Robertson’s life and work would be a formidable task for the most experienced biographer. Here only two awards will be mentioned – the outline of his life may be read by following the link above.


The Citation for the Award ‘To the Creator of the Sane Alternative’

The most high profile recognition of his work was the award of the Gold Medal of the Pio Manzu Centre by its International Scientific Committee. This took place at the Pio Manzù International Research Centre, a non-governmental organization of the United Nations and the UN’s Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) an institute for the in-depth study of the main economic and scientific aspects of the relationship between man and his environment. UNIDO promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability.



After working as an aide to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on his “Wind of Change” African tour in 1960, and as a director of interbank research, James Robertson came to see that “decolonising” today’s overpowerful institutions must be part of the transition to a democratic, environmentally benign post-modern world.

Taking a clear-cut stance on issues involving moral choice, his books as an independent writer and lecturer – including “The Sane Alternative”, a landmark study for the “new economics” movement – have supported practicable measures to promote economic justice, such as monetary reform and a shift of taxation on to the use of land and other resources. He was a prominent founder of The Other Economic Summit (TOES) and the New Economics Foundation in the mid-1980s.  

The Pio Manzu Centre pays homage to this ‘reasonable revolutionary’ and singles him out as an outstanding example of a modern thinker at the service of society.  


Mikhail Gorbachev, President

Rimini, 19 October 2003


James and Adrian Cadbury gave the inaugural addresses of the Attwood Group in 2002 -see James’ tour de force here.

The presentation of the more low key Attwood Award took place at Barnes Close on Saturday October 15th 2011 during the annual – and final – gathering of the Bromsgrove Group, attended by his wife, Alison and many friends and colleagues who had long known James and appreciated his work.  Some readers will remember him speaking at the first meeting of the Bromsgrove Group in 1997 – and attending most of the following meetings.

John Johansen-Berg gave a short introduction and Angela Shaw (Attwood family) spoke about Thomas Attwood, political and economic reformer and Birmingham’s first MP. The Attwood Award for long service to the cause of monetary reform was presented to him by seven year old Thomas Southwell – also a member of the Attwood family.


An outstanding example of a modern thinker at the service of society” indeed and a highly valued colleague.






Posted on February 13, 2018, in James Robertson and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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