HELLER tools for 'cutting, hammering, and filing' 

2023: Please note this website is not used much these days but still provides accurate information. I am doing research for a book and filing my research reading at Substack.  

My substack is called SOCIAL SCIENCE FILESSubscribers receive each post by email.

It keeps me busy and will be my only online activity for a while. Over the past year I have built up a quite large community of well-known scholars who seem to be happy to subscribe to SOCIAL SCIENCE FILES. 

This unsolicited endorsement of the quality of Social Science Files was received by Substack and passed on to me in Jan 2023. Stephen P. Turner is one of the world’s most important and prolific sociologists. He has been a reader of my Social Science Files since April 2022, opening almost every email. His page.

My biography follows below:


DPhil (University of Sussex 1986-1990).

Socio-Economic Implications of Technological Change. Economic and Social Research Council ESRC; Science Policy Research Unit SPRU;  The School of Law, Politics, and Sociology.

Thesis: Telecommunications Policy in Mexico.

MPhil (University of Sussex 1984-1986). 

Development Studies. UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS). Funded by an ESRC scholarship.

CNAA Degree First Class (University of Portsmouth 1980-1984). Latin American Studies [the world's first undergraduate Latin American Studies degree, founded in 1970, and I was the first student to be awarded a 'First'].


Bio at 65 years...

I was born in London and have lived in Chile, Argentina, United States (California), Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, and Australia. 

I have British and Australian citizenship as mmother is Australian. Her brother Edward St John was an Australian politician with strong liberal-conservative convictions. On my mother's side I can trace my genealogy through an ancient English aristocratic lineage (Debrett’s Peerage) connecting with two parliamentarians now of relevance to my work on early modern institutional reforms, Oliver St John and Henry St John Bolingbroke

I am also related to the scholar and intimate friend of John Henry Newman, Ambrose St John (my great++ uncle). And I am a descendant of cabinet maker, civil engineer, and inventor of the hydraulic press, the flushing toilet, and the most famously unpickable lock, Joseph Bramah (my great++ grandfather). 

My father, Frank, was a social scientist at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald published obituaries in 2007. One of his books was wonderfully titled The Use and Abuse of Social Science (1986). He was from a non-practising Jewish family in Vienna, and completed his schooling in England. 

His father, Maximilian, was an inventor and businessman who lost his furniture factory when fleeing Austria in 1938. After the war and internment my grandfather established a furniture manufacturing business in London. His most successful inventions were Cintique chair spring systems. He invented the first artificial ski slope (1939). I stayed with him often in the 1970s after he retired to St Helier.

My godparents were Theresa 'Tess' Hayward (Order of Australia), Rosemary Gordon (the analytical psychologist), and Peter Montagnon intelligence officer and the producer of TV series on the history of Western civilisation and life in communist China

As a child I lived for six years in Buenos Aires and Santiago where my father was with the United Nations. He then became a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, during the memorably eventful years of student uprisings 1967-1969. I attended eight schools in four countries, including a German school in Chile. 

I was expelled from the venerable old Highgate School at age fifteen because of my “persistent misdemeanor”. I rebelled against discipline and often truanted by climbing the wall into then derelict West section of Highgate Cemetery. I finished 'school' at Kingsway College with 1970s luminaries like Johnny Rotten. 1970s London life was rather exciting.

While studying English Literature, US History, and Film Studies at Kingsway, and after finishing, I had a succession of jobs. The most 'educative' were as a porter at the India High Commission, a door-to-door potatoes salesman on tough council estates in East London, a BASI-qualified dry ski slope instructor at Alexandra Palace, and warehouseman for a global trader of exotic animal skins. I enjoy work but, having mastered it, am eager to move on anew.

Before university I worked as antique furniture restorer in London for four years. I completed a traditional apprenticeship at A.J. Brett, and then set up my own business, renting space with some very fine craftsmen (metal and wood) at the newly-restored Clerkenwell Workshops. Then, in 1980, I undertook an academic course in The Study of Decorative Arts at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and realised I had a scholarly vocation.

For 20 years I worked at universities in Britain, Latin America, and Australia teaching social theory, comparative politics, political economy, and development studies with an emphasis on Latin America and Southeast Asia, and — within Latin America, when I held a teaching post in Argentina — as a freelance consultant on East Asian government-business relations. I taught part-time during my PhD, and my first full time academic post was for 5 years in the Politics Department of the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, as a Lecturer in Government & Politics of Southeast Asia. 

At SOAS I undertook 12-months field research in South East Asia (based in Indonesia, traveling widely), some fruits of which were published while working at the now defunct Institute for International StudiesUniversity of Technology Sydney (1998-2006). 

After SOAS and before UTS I sought out new adventures in Argentina and Peru, including political consultancy for the runner-up in Argentina's 1995 presidential elections, José Octavio Bordón, and, in Lima, research for a (never-completed) book about Peru's reelected and still-promisingly reformist 'outsider' president, Alberto Fujimori, until I was sidetracked by the temptation of Australia and the broader more scholarly topic of Good Capitalism.

At UTS I was Country Studies Coordinator with the politically-sensitive responsibilities of academic content design, student safety, and the scholastic integrity of all of the overseas components of UTS's innovative International Studies degree programs, the first such degrees ever to be offered in Australia. 

I was also the Latin America Coordinator, an autonomous adventurous job that sent me on well-funded expeditions to my favorite places in Latin America twice a year, experimenting with strange routes and means of transport as I established productive partnerships with some of the region’s finest universities and supervised widely-dispersed Australian undergraduate and research students. 

In 1987-1988 I worked for 12 months at the social science institute, El Colegio de México, in Mexico City while researching my doctoral thesis on the regulation, corruption, and partial liberalisation of telecoms. The argument was summarised in a book chapter titled 'Hijacking The Public Interest'. The thesis is free to download at the British Library's EthOS: The politics of telecommunications policy in Mexico. Sadly the long list of high-level interviewees from public and private sectors could not be included in the online version. Given the political system and the material I unearthed on state corruption there were privacy and safety concerns. 

My PhD was supervised by Carlos Fortin and Alan Cawson. It was examined by Laurence Whitehead of Oxford University. He cites my thesis in several publications, including his now classic Cambridge text State Organization in Latin America Since 1930.

While an undergraduate in 1981-1982 I spent 12 months in Peru researching an honours dissertation on the economic history of Andean artisanal-cultural markets, and took history classes at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas. During that impressionable year I witnessed first-hand the initiations of Shinning Path's brutal marxist war, and I attended the landmark conference in Lima where Hernando de Soto, Milton Friedman, and Mario Vargas Llosa discussed their developmental economic and political 'Other Path'.

A nearby page has a review of my Capitalism book by eminent economic historian Eric L. Jones, author of The European Miracle. Another book review can be found at the Economic History Association.

I wrote often at Project Syndicate during 2012-2013 while living on a remote estate at the heart of Reiver country in the Scottish Borders pursuing a new-found interest in early modern English history. 

In 2014, I returned to Australia. Over a 3-year period from 2017 in a 3-ton 4-wheel drive with gear and 80L of water for remote locations survival, I accomplished an exploration of the massive Australian wilderness, mostly off-grid and solo, and never in camp sites.

That was in Northern Territory, a welcome bathe, having moved south of the 'croc' (crocodile) zone. 

This nomadic phase ended, I have begun work on a second book and created a second website where I explore the book's topics: Social Science Files. 

I live in Australia's Blue Mountains in a lovely old peeling weatherboard with unkempt English cottage garden and dramatic bush views just minutes away. 

Michael Guy St John Heller


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