This was a quote from someone getting at Stafford Beer, head of O.R. at the United Steel Companies. Well, a copy of one of Mr Beer's early works 'Decision and Control' had winged its way to me from the U.S. via ABE Books. I had ordered an earlier work in the hope that it might (a) put some things into context and (b) have the author's head less far up his jargon than the later works.
The final chapter (no, I haven't read the book yet, I do intend to, but to my mind he is actually quite a turgid writer, so it may take some time) is a 25, count 'em, 25 page chapter entitled 'On Practicability' beginning with the epigraph: 'I define the practical man as the man who has no idea what to do in practice.' Betrand Russell, Impromptu (1958)
It contains, inter alia, this wonderful prose..
'The practical man sees (and has even described) himself as the king of the ironworks. Perhaps it is because he alone has the experience to woo and beguile the blast furnace into acceptable behaviour. Rejection of the new aids of modern science springs from this posture. It is as if an unknown rival could suddenly seduce the object of affection who had resisted the courtship of a life-time.'
One wonders if Elliot ever heard about Beer's book and if so what he thought. I cannot imagine they were on each other's Christmas card lists by that point.
It is interesting to note that there were seven years between the publication of the two books, ample brooding time!