The real Owen

Today’s Guardian newspaper has an article about Robert Owen, after whom I was named:

the Scottish parliament spent part of yesterday debating whether Robert Owen’s face should appear on Scottish banknotes. The explanation, as those who know the history of the school reform and co-operative movements will realise, is that Owen’s enlightened management principles at his mill at New Lanark on the Clyde made it both a milestone in British social reform and an enduring embodiment of how workplaces and businesses could still, even today, be more progressively organised.

Robert Owen’s principles underpin the principles of the cooperative movement which continues today.

Incidentally, one of Robert Owen’s remarks, of which I am particularly fond, was this:

All religions are based on the same absurd imagination, that make man a weak, imbecile animal; a furious bigot and fanatic; or a miserable hypocrite.

(though sadly, he became a bit of a whacko spiritualist himself later in life).

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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2 Comments

  1. We could use a refresher course on Owen’s principles of economic organization. Not so sure about the last statement. I am just as likely to run into idiots and imbeciles outside a church as in and some of the greats of social change were certainly imbued with enough of that absurd imagination to lay thier lives on the line for the ideal they believed should exist (MLK, Gandhi, etc..).

  2. Can we really absolve all responsibility for our fury and fanaticism and blame religion? Or is religion, for some, for many even, a path to peace and reconciliation. For evey case you give me for the the former, I think I could reply with an example of the latter.

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