Afterword: the moral in moral panics

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‘Panic’ is a theme I am familiar with in my work with women who regularly experience extremely distressing situations. It is a natural response to fear, and one that can be managed. Panic of itself is, arguably, morally neutral; how panic is fuelled, steered and exploited is not. Woven through the discussion in this chapter is an interest in moving toward a productive understanding of the function of ‘moral panic’, in order that it might create stimulus for positive change rather than being steered towards the imperative to cling to problematic norms. This interest underpins the discussion of themes derived from the chapters in this part: the constitution of ‘the deviant other’ and the discharge of moral responsibility. I then consider the Scottish Government’s policy on violence against women, Equally Safe (Scottish Government, 2014a), to explore how such themes become operationalised in the context of my practice as a criminal justice social worker in a ‘women’s’ service.

Each of the chapters in this byte has illuminated a view of the ‘undesirable other’ as a prerequisite for ‘moral panic’. Furedi’s Chapter One focused on the contemporary ‘other’, ‘the paedophile’; Benson and Charsley, and Clark, in Chapters Three and Four, respectively, highlighted the ‘othering’ of those who are perceived as ‘not like us’ for reasons of cultural difference. These three are, arguably, the most emotive of panics discussed, as they portray clearly recognisible human actors who become readily stereotyped as a homogeneous group. Grumett’s discussion of animal welfare in Chapter Two is another emotive topic, as those believed to mistreat animals readily become associated with other immoral practices.

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