First published in 1987, Meaning and Action’s central theme is the difficulty of matching an understanding of social problems to effective strategies, in a time of endemic fiscal constraints and profound changes in economic structure. Peter Marris explores the relationship between the way we conceive problems and the possibilities of action by examining two British policies – the National Community Development Project and the redevelopment of London’s dockland. Drawing on both American and British experiences and policies, Marris shows how, as community planners and organizers became disillusioned with the assumptions underlying existing policies, they searched for a more comprehensive understanding of urban social structure. At the same time, this understanding became almost impossible to translate into practicable strategies of action. The book sets this analysis into a broader framework, showing how the pressures of inflation, rising taxes and unemployment undermined a liberal conception of urban policy and the supportive context it had provided for more radical improvements. It illuminates the ideological dilemma underlying the emergence of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations and the disarray of leftwing political parties. The final chapters discuss the alternative, new conceptions of social theory that are emerging and examines how the metaphors we use to represent social reality, such as structure or reproduction, can help or hinder our ability to re-integrate meaning and action.