After Sandhurst and six years in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, Michael Thompson studied anthropology (University College London and Oxford) while also following a career as a Himalayan mountaineer (Annapurna South Face 1970, Everest Southwest Face 1975).
His early research on how something second-hand becomes an antique, or a rat-infested slum part of Our Glorious Heritage (“Rubbish Theory”, Oxford University Press 1979) diverted him into teaching at the Slade School of Fine Art, London and at Portsmouth University’s School of Architecture, and from there to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis: a global change think-tank in Austria. There, and subsequently in Bergen University’s Department of Comparative Politics and in Oxford University’s Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, he has worked on energy futures, on risk perception, on environment and development in the Himalayan Region, on cities and technological change and on financial risk. The key unifying concept in all that is “plural rationality”: people doing very different things and yet still behaving rationally, given their different sets of convictions as to how the world is and people are.
He is has authored several books: “Cultural Theory”, with Richard Ellis and Aaron Wildavsky, West View 1990; “Divided We Stand”, with Michiel Schwarz, University of Pennsylvania Press 1990; “Organising and Disorganising”, Triarchy Press 2008, “Clumsy Solutions for a Complex World”, edited with Marco Verweij, Palgrave-Macmillan 2011; “Aid, Technology and Development: The Lessons From Nepal”, edited with Dipak Gyawali and Marco Verweij, Earthscan-Routledge 2016.