‘What experience and history teach is this—that people and governments never have learnt anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.’ This quotation, from the nineteenth century German philosopher Hegel, is one of the cliches of historical writing. But the statement that people never seem to learn from history is very different from saying that there is nothing to be learnt. The justification for studying history is not only the light it can shed on the roots of present events but its value as data for comparative analyses, taking advantage of some of the theoretical tools provided by other social sciences and their power to explain and to predict. It may be true that one can never cross the same river twice but a knowledge of winds, rocks and currents is still likely to lead to a safer passage.
This final chapter, then, is located in that ill-defined space where sociology, economics and the other social sciences of the present merge into history, the social science of the past. It looks at events in nursing since the Briggs Committee was set up in 1970 as part of a long process of occupational development. It uses the analysis constructed in the course of the preceding pages to explore structural and cultural changes as diverse as the Griffiths reorganization, Project 2000 and the spread of the nursing process. In particular, it examines the continuing struggle between managerial and professional versions of the occupation, contrasting the utilitarian emphasis on service provision with the attempts to ‘gentrify’ the property. It concludes with an evaluation of the prospects for nursing in the light of the fundamental economic and social constraints which have been identified.
We observed at the end of Chapter 6 (p. 113) that the Briggs