This is the website of Clem Henricson – writer, philosopher, policy analyst and campaigner. It encompasses her books and articles, latest thinking and memoirs. The themes span both the professional and private sphere and the site is intended as an eclectic description of her work and thread of ideas. As well as points of reference to her publications and professional life, there are polemical essays, discussions and reflections.
“Henricson eschews the simplistic polarisations that so often characterise the discussion of morality in the public sphere. Her engaging book combines a subtle and balanced analysis with a convincing case that policy makers can and should do morality better.”
Matthew Taylor, CEO,Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts,
Manufactures and Commerce, UK
“An original analysis of the connections between moral sphere and public policy. Henricson has produced a book of major significance to our understanding of how governments should do morality.”
Professor Kimmo Jokinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
"A brilliant analysis of 'family policies' under New Labour, and of how they could and should be developed in the future."
Professor Alan Deacon, University of Leeds
“Reading the book would benefit everyone from the first year undergraduate through to senior academics and researchers who are unlikely to have the breadth of knowledge that Henricson possesses.”
Journal of Social Policy
"In this insightful and important contribution, Clem Henricson comprehensively maps the development of family policy in the UK and the successes, failures, hopes and disappointments under New Labour and the Coalition."
Professor Ilan Katz, University of New South Wales, Australia
Clem Henricson was born in 1950 in the small North Swedish garrison town of Sollefteå. Her father was an officer in the Swedish army, while her mother spread the word of Anglicised culture across post war Europe on behalf of the British Council. They met, married and lived in this remote Chekhovian spot with dark long winters and brief brilliant summers. The marriage was short lived with much toing and froing between Sweden and England in a tussle of emotions. For the daughter it was the start of an itinerant life across the choppy, exhilarating, sea sick laden waves of the North Sea - straddling families, hostilities and ways of living; the North Sea became one of the major influences of her life. Divorce and the mother’s swift remarriage followed, and at the age of eight the daughter began life in a rural haven with a lake and boat on a Herefordshire country estate – with long summer visits to another world of wooden huts by the Swedish sea. She travelled blissfully alone and free between the ports of Tilbury and Gothenburg on the old creaky Swedish Lloyd ships. Life was idyllic with a melancholic thread. Her schooling from eight to 18 was at Monmouth School for Girls - a structured establishment, and yet in her case tolerant of contrariness and radicalism.
At eighteen she left Herefordshire for London University to read history where the lights and hitherto denied access to men dazzled. She married a fellow student Bill Bell, an academic and advocate of children's rights, and they had twin sons Olaf and Torsten, one of whom works with the Foreign Office and the other with an economics charity. She has half siblings in Sweden and the UK – a complicated domestic scene with parental passions enacted in high drama.
See under ‘Ideas and Reflections’:
A North Sea Memoir - living in the afterbirth of the Second World War.
Professional History and Ideas
After studying history at University College London, Clem Henricson trained as a lawyer, undertook legal research and engaged in radical politics and the promotion of human rights. She headed a police committee to counter human rights’ violations and enhance accountability, establishing a range of innovative mechanisms including spot checks by lay visitors to police stations, mediations services and police community consultative bodies.
Clem Henricson turned to social policy in an era of Conservative government when the strongest received argument for preserving welfare provision was its function in preventing crime. She pursued preventative policies advising think tanks, government departments, local authorities and the Labour government in waiting. She subsequently developed strategic planning with New Labour between 2000 and 2010 as Director of Research and Policy at its brain child the National Family and Parenting Institute.Undertaking studies across government departments, she led a multidisciplinary academic team of developmental and social psychologists, and cultural and social policy analysts, producing a model for the future of public policy as it affects families.
Clem Henricson has served on international government and academic advisory committees, including most recently the European Union Advisory Group on Family Research and Policy – the Family Platform and the Council of Europe Committee on Family Policy as an expert adviser. She has worked jointly with the Treasury, the Department of Health, the Home Office , Department for Education, the Social Care Institute of Excellence, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Esmee Fairbairn, Gulbenkian and Joseph Rowntree foundations and the universities of Cambridge, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, ‘Open’, Oxford and Stirling. She is a member of the Oxford Centre on Parenting and Children, Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. As a social policy analyst she has published and broadcast widely on the relationship between the individual and the state.
Human rights both civil and social have formed a common thread throughout Clem Henricson’s work. The theme can be seen in the early stages of her career in campaigning for prison reform and in confrontations with the Metropolitan police as redress was sought for rights’ violations. This was a period when she worked closely with communities within the criminal justice system, including parliament, national and local government, through to dedicated inner city clergy. She was left with admiration for those who took risks and time to safeguard that precious and precarious aspect of society - civil rights.
Her concern with human rights developed significantly during her academic analysis of societal relations. She concluded that human rights constitute the current leading formulation of moral philosophical thought in the practical day-to-day operation of human relations. They comprise individual entitlements across multiple levels of interaction, principally vis a vis the curtailment of oppressive power and domination. Rights are a critical backstop to redress the consequences of unfettered power and impulse. Expressed as accruing to the individual as potential ‘victim’, they have major implications for the behaviour of individuals operating solo and as part of group operations. They provide a counterbalance to the danger of the relativity of a culturally determined accommodation of impulses within different moralities. Clearly, as with any instrument of social regulation, human rights are the product of culture. However, despite being subject to influence in this way, they constitute the most significant moral bridge available within a multicultural society with human rights tenets broadly accepted across the globe.
Clem Henricson also found a substantial case for a social rights approach relating to its capacity to inhibit distorted investment in favour of particular targets and interest groups. Social rights flush individual and collective entitlements out into the open and create a balance of interests that cannot disappear so readily as under a discretionary model of government investment. Rights offer a regulatory barometer and safety net in service provision. Furthermore, they have the potential to safeguard people who are unable to make themselves heard, either through the exertion of consumer choice or through the ballot box, because of their incapacity or disenfranchised or minority status.
See under ‘Books’:
Morality and Public Policy.
A Revolution in Family Policy.
The Contractual Culture and Family Services.
Families and the State: two way support and responsibilities.
The Child and Family Policy Divide.
Government and Parenting: Is there a case for a policy review and a parents’ code.
Moral Philosophy and the Human Condition
With a substantial part of her life engaged with analysis of the philosophical principles behind public policy, Clem Henricson has developed a system of ideas associated with enhanced understanding of human behaviour. She has created a framework for a reappraisal of the human condition and its relation to disparate, changing moral philosophies. The model encompasses multiple aspects of life including neuroscience, psychology, religion, philosophical discourse and literature. Henricson has reflected on the potential impact of a fuller recognition of human reality on social wellbeing and policy making. She has considered the interplay of different moral philosophies and how the state’s response to varied and fluctuating codes might be enhanced. She has challenged misplaced concepts of ‘moral progress’ and the Darwinian thesis of the supremacy of empathy, and puts forward the management of the full span of human impulses - such as the drivers associated with material and psychological gain, status, power, fear, self preservation, aggression, sex and sadism - as the function of morality. The contention is that morality acts as an accommodator of this conflictual breadth of impulse, a daunting prospect encompassing as it does far more than the social instincts of caring. It has major public policy implications.
See under ‘Books’:
Morality and Public Policy.