The way a language works: the received principles which enable it to communicate meaning, colour and joy.

That, at least, is the meaning of grammar as applied to language. But Lean Logic uses it in an extended sense as one of the key implications and elements of lean thinking. Lean thinking affirms that it is those who are actually engaged in a task who are better placed to decide on responses to events and shocks, and to invent local solutions, than is a centralised authority remote from the detail; there is local freedom to think. But this requires that there should be consensus on what the task is: without that, local freedom turns into something else—simply a situation in which everyone decides what they feel like doing today: there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a way of accomplishing very much.

Grammar in this sense, then, is the set of rules in terms of which collective action takes place. It exists, for instance, in the form of the rules of a game: it is because there is a requirement to obey the rules (a lack of freedom to disobey them) that the game is possible; it is the frame of reference, the set of genes, forming the structure which enables a system or a culture to emerge. And the paradox is clear: it is because of the existence of the rules (constraining freedom) that it becomes possible to build a complex system/game/culture whose expression can mean a formidable improvement in the range of available choices and meanings: freedom is much increased because it becomes possible to do things which would not have been available to participants if the freedom-constraining grammar had not been in place.

So lean grammar is the endowment within which a system operates, providing the frame of reference for local freedom of judgment. It is the set of principles which enable community to create meaning, colour and joy.


Related entries:

Intention, Manners.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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