Series: Civil Society and Social Change

 

Series Editors: Ian Rees Jones, Cardiff University, Mike Woods, Aberystwyth University and Paul Chaney, Cardiff University

This series provides interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives on the rapidly changing nature of civil society at local, regional, national and global scales.

Civil Society and Social Change

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This chapter addresses the (re-)positioning of civil society within new structures of city region governance. Based on stakeholder mapping and semi-structured interviews with key actors operating across each city region, the chapter illustrates how this has created several significant tensions as well as opportunities for civil society actors. The chapter draws from four UK case study city regions and specifically looks at the ways city and devolution deals have impacted upon the positioning of civil society actors. Chapter 3 provides new insights into how civil society organisations have been seeking to respond to this overtly economic focus around the development of city regions that, to a certain extent, leaves such actors on the outside looking in. Beel et al’s new analysis shows how the institutional mechanisms associated with city regions are dominated by business interests and those that are already elected officials, thereby marginalising civil society. In this way the new governance arrangements are narrowing the interests of the local state towards more market-led interests and largely ignoring issues that are more community oriented and concerned with the social reproduction of the city region.

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Institutions, Governance and Existential Challenges

This book explores how the uncertainties of the 21st century present existential challenges to civil society. These include changing modes of governance (through devolution and Brexit), austerity, migration, growing digital divides, issues of (mis)trust and democratic confidence, welfare delivery and the COVID-19 pandemic and the contemporary threat to minority languages and cultures.

Presenting original empirical findings, this book brings together core strands of social theory to provide a new way of understanding existential challenges to the form and function of civil society. It highlights pressing social issues and transferable lessons that will inform policy and practice in today’s age of uncertainty.

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This chapter explores emerging evidence as to whether, in contrast to statist and market-based ‘for profit’ service delivery, civil society is the answer to meeting modern welfare needs. It examines one of the most pressing welfare challenges of the twenty-first century: adult social care (ASC). Underlining this volume’s central theme of the uncertainties of the age, it examines the evidence on ASC delivery in the UK before and during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020–21. It uses a comparative case study approach focusing on policy and practice in the four nations of the UK. The dataset comprises over one hundred interviews with civil society policy actors and other stakeholders, complemented by analysis of parliamentary proceeding, policy documents and the ‘grey’ literature of civil society organisations. The core research questions are: according to the views of key stakeholders, how do the different territorial welfare mixes on ASC in the four nations of the UK compare in their effectiveness? Did the four mixed economy models provide an effective response to ASC delivery in the pandemic? Does the evidence presented in the chapter exacerbate civil inequalities and social stratification? Last, can non-governmental organisations beneficially replace or complement the work of state ASC providers?

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This chapter explores civil society’s past and present role in addressing the existential threat facing two ‘minority’ languages, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. The new analysis in Chapter 5 highlights the key past role played by civil society organisations in staving off language death and reversing language decline in the two countries. This involved mobilisation, protest and civil disobedience and has resulted in new legal rights and a significant expansion of minority language education. The analysis also presents a series of new findings on the contemporary role of national festivals in seeking to promote minority language use in social contexts. This matters because while both languages have seen an increase in the number of speakers, much of the gain has been associated with formal state education. The wider literature warns us that a language which is confined to the educational sector is not a living language. Therefore, much depends on civil society organisations’ co-working with state agencies to promote language use in social settings. The case studies are the Eisteddfod Cenedlaethol (National Eisteddfod) in Wales and Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail (Mòd) in Scotland. The latter being an eight-day annual Gaelic language and culture festival.

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This chapter considers the contemporary decline of political trust and the potential existential threat that it poses to democracy. Drawing on comparative analysis from the UK, France and Germany it examines governance-trust configurations and their likely propensity to foster co-production and co-creation between state and civil society. A key finding is the extent to which the development of trust within civil society varies as much within as between states. The analysis also highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the erosion of trust. The study argues that potential solutions for restoring political trust and reversing the perceived decline of democracy have civil society at their heart and include the adoption of more diverse and effective forms of citizen engagement. Yet the discussion also warns that this is fraught with difficulties. Notably, the adoption of co-creation or co-production to build trust with civil society actors is likely to be most challenging in new governance regions where a shared history or identity is largely absent.

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This chapter examines the challenges and opportunities for local civil society posed by digital technologies, especially social media. Drawing upon case studies of local civil society groups in three localities in Wales – Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea – they explored the dynamics of reconfiguration of local civil society and how the new digital technologies have created a new universal space of social consciousness, identity, belonging and collective action. These are underpinned by a growth in global consciousness and values, mediated by transnational institutions and NGOs. A key issue is whether this presents an existential threat to local civil society, with the global and the local pitted against each other in a zero-sum game, or whether more sophisticated processes are at work. The analysis showed that the social dynamics and civil society structures in the three case study localities have evolved with the deepening of globalisation and other socio-economic changes. The chapter discusses how digital technologies have had both positive and negative impacts. For example, digital technologies afford opportunities to rebuild local community identities through hyper-local platforms, providing new ways of connecting neighbours and new vehicles for civil society action.

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This chapter explores existential challenges facing civil society organisations in the early twenty-first century, a period that has been dubbed ‘the age of uncertainty’. The discussion is grounded in existential humanist studies of social welfare, civic stratification, well-being, culture and democracy. Outlines of each chapter are presented.

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This chapter outlines the contested concept of civil society and how existential threats stemming from prevailing uncertainties reinforce this sense of contestation as new forms of governance and associative practices continue to redefine the civil sphere, subjecting it constantly to change from powerful internal and external forces. These blur boundaries and produce ever more complexity and fragmentation.

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The chapters in this edited collection have examined how the uncertainties of the age present diverse challenges to civil society in the twenty-first century. We have drawn on a wide range of studies from WISERD’s Civil Society research programme. The first part of this concluding chapter summarises the different existential challenges with reference to the principal findings of each study and how they link to the idea of civic stratification. The second part outlines the common themes emerging from this volume and the associated prospects and perils for civil society organisations.

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This chapter highlights turbulence and uncertainty in relation to contemporary patterns and processes of migration. This has been driven by a variety of causes including the international rise of populism and Brexit. Many EU citizens have been targeted in xenoracist incidents. A review of the academic and policy literature underlines how many accounts take an integrationist view of migrants’ participation in the UK. This presents them as passive and requiring support, rather than as being resourceful agents and civil society makers. The interview data discussed in this chapter reveal how the Brexit referendum result made many feel that they no longer belonged or were wanted. In turn, migrants’ experience of hostility and discrimination prompted some to be proactive, setting up and running new civil society initiatives to tackle dominant negative discourses of migrants in the UK. A further core finding is that volunteering and participation in civil society functions as an anchoring practice, helping individuals bond with their communities, both in terms of people and places. The analysis also reveals a major civic participation gap between migrants and non-migrants.

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