The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

Attached is an electronic copy of "The New State," first published in 1918.

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The New State was the first Follett work that I read. It was required reading for a fellowship at the 1997 Asilomar Conversation on the Comprehensive Design of Social Systems. The organizer of our particular research group, the late Bela H. Banathy, required that we read this work along with several others on the subject of democracy and civil society. Seeing that the work had not been re-issued in decades, I approached political scholar Benjamin Barber (then at Rutgers) about writing a new preface or forward for the work to help draw the interest of a publisher. At first he said it was an interesting work but that he didn't have the time and/or interest to write an intro. Shortly thereafter, however, he changed his mind and brought along his colleague Kevin Mattson, who, Barber discovered, had previously written about the historical context in which Follett was writing. The two of them agreed to write introductory pieces and it was their idea to approach Penn State Press.

At that time - 1997 or so - we had an e-mail exchange going between myself, Albie Davis, and some others interested in Follett. The group's discussions were sometimes very interesting, and sometimes suffered from some of the difficulties of electronic communication among people who'd never really formed a "community". In any event, one of the interesting discussions was about who should write introductory passages for the new New State. It was noticed that several men (including myself, who'd been asked to write a short introduction explaining the genesis of the new edition) were writing about Follett, but no women had been asked to write about this woman. I remember facing the interesting question: "Does the fact that Follett was a woman mean that there is a female perspective pervading the work?" In The New State, Follett makes no reference to her gender nor does she appear to speak to what today might be recognized as a feminist perspective. However, I concluded that when a person writes a book, they write it from their whole self, no matter what explicitly comes through in the text, and gender is a part of one's self and experience. So I agreed to suggest to Penn State that they find a female writer to add another introductory piece. That person would be Harvard's Jane Mansbridge, who'd never heard of Follett but loved the book after she read it.

Penn State Press, once they decided to reissue the work, asked for an original early edition of the book to "sacrifice" in the creation of the new edition. The copy that I had read for my research fellowship was a 1918 edition in the Idaho State Library. It had apparently never been read before me, because I literally had to cut the edges of the paper apart with a knife (sometimes, apparently, the way they bound books in those days led to this being a necessity). And it would be this same copy that was destroyed in the creation of the new edition, for the Idaho State Library agreed to let it be sacrificed in exchange for a new edition. I don't think many books have that kind of life story.

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