Ernest Gellner: Selected Philosophical Themes - Vol. 2

By Ernest Gellner | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Behind the barricades at LSE

Legal authority still rested with the governors, and might need to be exercised by them in an emergency, but they came more and more to lack the intimate knowledge of the school necessary to enable them to decide wisely, and they lacked legitimacy in the sense…[of being] recognized by those over whom it is exercised.

…The governors…and this was true even of the Standing Committee…were left with less and less to do, uncertain of their role and uncomfortable; cold-shouldered collectively by the academics, and pushed out of touch with the life of the school, yet still…possessed of the final authority, especially in a crisis (italics mine).

This devastating comment on the internal government of the London School of Economics comes not from some bolshie-minded academic, but from page 6 of Mr Harry Kidd's book The Trouble at L.S.E. (O.U.P.). Harry Kidd was, under the director, the senior administrator of the LSE at the time of the first wave of troubles. He was manifestly an efficient, humane and devoted university civil servant. Almost by accident, the role of prosecutor was thrust upon him.

Subsequently, his position became such that he chose to resign from the school. Self-deprecatingly, he called himself 'expendable'. In fact, his life and career suffered at least as violent an upheaval as did the recently dismissed lecturers, and after a far longer period of dedication to the LSE. It is remarkable that the book shows no trace of bitterness.

Nevertheless, one may suppose that the wound was deep, and that the book had to be written so that, as the saying goes, he could get it out of his system. He does it, as one might expect from an administrator, with quiet decorum and attention to fact and orderly presentation, rather than with panache. (A sense of theatre might have been a greater asset during the crises, but none of our administrators, so far, has displayed this flair.)

-69-

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