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This article introduces the concept of dialectic icons: public figures who feature in contentious and polarising political discourse. The inflammatory quality of dialectic icons and their role as highly mediated symbols of conflict creates long-lasting emotional energy among audiences, who cluster in ideological camps as a response. However, these audiences can also actively and directly engage in and shape these discourses, particularly through social media. Examples of the public discourse about quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests illustrate how the controversiality, newsworthiness, interactivity and visibility of dialectic icons ultimately contribute to social polarisation. By focusing on dialectic icons as proxy battlegrounds for public audiences, this article establishes a useful concept for gaining fresh insights into collective meaning- and truth-making processes.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders claimed that their public health policy decisions were ‘following the science’; however, the literature on evidence-based policy problematises the idea that this is a realistic or desirable form of governance. This article examines why leaders make such claims using blame avoidance theory. Based on a qualitative content analysis of two national newspapers in each of Australia, Canada and the UK, we gathered and focused on unique moments when leaders claimed to ‘follow the science’ in the first six months of the pandemic. We applied Hood’s theory to identify the types of blame avoidance strategies used for issues such as mass event cancellation, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning. Politicians most commonly used ‘follow the science’ to deflect blame onto processes and people. When leaders’ claims to ‘follow the science’ confuse the public as to who chooses and who should be held accountable for those decisions, this slogan risks undermining trust in science, scientific advisors, and, at its most extreme, representative government. This article addresses a gap in the literature on blame avoidance and the relationship between scientific evidence and public policy by demonstrating how governments’ claims to ‘follow the science’ mitigated blame by abdicating responsibility, thus risking undermining the use of scientific advice in policymaking.
A popular explanation for governments’ persistent enthusiasm for evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) is its expected capacity to solve policy conflict. However, research is divided on whether or not EBPM actually has a positive impact on conflict. On the one hand, EBPM is said to introduce a set of principles that helps overcome political differences. Simultaneously, EBPM has been criticised for narrowing the space for democratic debate, fuelling the very conflict it is trying to prevent. This article explores how EBPM structures policy conflict by studying the example of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in policy processes through reconstructive interviews and ethnographic observations. It argues that, although EBPM channels conflict in a way that prompts engagement from stakeholders, it also escalates conflict by misrepresenting the nature of policy processes. As such, the findings suggest that managing process participants’ expectations about what evidence is and can do is key in fostering productive policy conflict.
For-profit companies have begun competing with women’s shelters for ‘clients’ trying to escape violence. Using discourse theory, this study examines how 20 private shelters describe their business. The analysis shows that private shelters describe themselves as: (1) having a broad expertise and target group: (2) being able to tend to the individual needs of any client; and (3) being highly available and flexible. We understand this as an expression of a neoliberal market discourse and as a way to differentiate themselves from women’s shelters. This may put pressure on women’s shelters to provide similar ‘inclusion’, availability and flexibility. Furthermore: (4) private shelters contribute to shaping a desirable neoliberal subject, that is, a self-reliant woman; and (5), by articulating needs as individual and inherently mundane, they lean more towards ‘providing accommodation’ than addressing the particularities of (gendered) violence.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are still working through health systems worldwide, and further reflections about the nature of health and disease, and about how to design and implement effective public health interventions are much needed. For numerous diseases and conditions, as well as for COVID-19, our knowledge base is rich. We know a lot about the biology of the disease, and we have plenty of statistics that relate health to socio-economic factors. In this paper, we argue that we need to add a third dimension to this knowledge base, namely a thorough description of the lifeworld of health and disease, in terms of the mixed biosocial mechanisms that operate in it. We present the concepts of lifeworld and of mixed mechanisms, and then illustrate how they can be operationalised and measured through mixed methodologies that combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Finally, we explain the complementarity of our approach with the biological and statistical dimensions of health and disease for the design of public health interventions.
Between 1968 and 2010 more than one thousand groups and many more individuals on the left of the political spectrum were targeted by intrusive police surveillance.
This intervention gives an overview of what has become known as the Spycops scandal and the active role of the grassroot movements that were spied on, while focusing on the authors’ own organisation, the Undercover Research Group.
It explores how a critical approach to the Undercover Policing Inquiry had been productive, while conceding that misgivings about engagement are understandable and valid as well.
This paper also considers how the impact of this mode of policing are still being felt today and discusses whether the current hostile environment for protesters makes a reoccurrence of these abuses more likely.
This chapter investigates the work of the Airport Commission (2012–2015). It first discerns and characterises the bundle of mechanisms, strategies, arguments and rhetorical claims at play in its discourse. It explores how the Commission deployed legitimising appeals to independent expertise; transformed the economic boosterism of aviation into the strategic advantages of connectivity; marshalled the techniques of forecasting and prediction; and redefined information-giving and transparency as forms of engagement. In particular, it demonstrates how the Commission strategically framed aviation emissions and aircraft noise to negate opposition to expansion and how its ‘performance of authority’ was embodied in the ‘reasonable’ and ‘neutral’ position of its chair, Sir Howard Davies. Politically, the Commission successfully kept the aviation issue off the national political agenda in the run-up to the 2015 general election, while also satisfying the demands of the pro-expansion Heathrow lobby, which was a programme success for the Cameron government. However, in disclosing the complex dynamics of politicisation and re-politicisation at work during the Commission’s lifespan, we conclude that ultimately it did little more than instil a temporary ‘phoney war’ in aviation policy, with the publication of its Final Report in 2015 triggering another round of ‘trench warfare’ that re-politicised aviation policy.
Chapter 12, The ‘Anti-Capitalist’ Critique, deals with critics who wish to reverse globalisation to form areas of self-governing autonomous communities which may run in parallel to post-industrial capitalism. They propose justice and democracy in place of hierarchy and authority. The emphasis is on action, the ‘here and now’, a prefigurative strategy. Discussion includes the ‘occupy’ movements whose objectives are to replace the oppressive forms of capitalism with a democratic symbiotic society based on mutualism and cooperation. Many of these tendencies adopt an ‘exit’ strategy: the objectives are either to replace globalisation with autonomous economic democratic cooperative associations or to coexist with global capitalist forces. Other movements include informal networks and ‘Twitter’ revolutions which enable mobilisation. These movements are considered expressions of social and political discontent that reveal and identify important forms of oppression. Many of these movements are limited to micro changes and present alternatives forms of coexistence to global capitalism.
This chapter explores how the operation of the Mental Capacity Act 2008 is influenced by the sociocultural environment in Singapore, and subsequently how the prevailing attitudes and cultural milieu of the local populace have shaped the interactions between P, P’s caregivers and the legal system – specifically the extent of P’s participation in proceedings. The author attempts to explore methodically by first setting out the relevant legal provisions followed by the analysis of case judgments and a discussion on current legal barriers to P’s participation in proceedings. The impact of culture milieu, through the influence of Asian values and religious views, is further explored under the theme of surrogate decision-making for P in Singapore. This chapter concludes by considering ways to further advance and support P in the decision-making process in light of the finding of a culture of surrogate decision-making in Singapore.