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- Author or Editor: Peter Somerville x
Understanding community is a highly topical text offering a clear understanding of policy and theory in relation to community. By examining areas of government policy, such as economic development, education, health, housing, and community safety, this book explores the difficulties that communities face and discusses new concepts such as community cohesion, social capital and community capacity building. Somerville challenges our understanding of community, both social and conceptual, and assesses the strengths and limitations of this understanding.
This book is essential for students studying social policy, social work and sociology, and an invaluable resource for policymakers in community development, urban regeneration and allied fields.
This article reviews key issues of governance and democracy and asks what current theory and evidence have to teach us about how local governance should be changed in order to make it more conducive to human emancipation. A distinction is drawn between governance and metagovernance, and the potential is assessed for the democratisation of both at community level. Particular attention is paid to the ‘persistence of oligarchy’ and its manifestations at local level. The article concludes with suggestions on how to build countervailing power in order to achieve the democratisation that is deemed to be desirable.
Global institutions and national governments have failed to provide effective policy guidance or leadership on tackling climate change. The extraction and combustion of fossil fuels continues apace, resulting in continual rising of greenhouse gas emissions, which pose a threat to all life on earth. However, the global climate regime continues to underestimate the need for immediate, radical and powerful action. Dominant framings of the problem continue to emphasise behaviour change rather than system change, and fail to challenge the power of fossil-fuel capital. This failure makes it difficult to be optimistic about the future but there may be hope in a new kind of politics based on non-violent direct action and mass civil disobedience. This form of action is directed at delegitimising fossil fuels and stopping their extraction, and acting as a ‘radical flank’ in positively influencing political decision-making towards a democratically agreed just transition.
This paper reviews the history of homelessness policy in Britain, with special emphasis on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977. The structural changes in society which made the 1977 Act possible are identified, and the immediate causation of the Act itself is examined in detail. The consensus view that pressure groups played the main part in bringing about the legislative change is criticised, and instead it is argued that the Department of the Environment took the lead from start to finish.
The paper then goes on to argue that the Department of the Environment has retained the initiative in homelessness policy from 1977 up to the present day. Further structural shifts in British society are identified, which have had the cumulative effect of undermining the 1977 Act’s main provisions. Specific influences on the Department which have led to its current proposals for legislative change are then outlined, and used to explain the nature and timing of these proposals. Issues of centralisation, depoliticisation and privatisation are argued to be of particular importance in explaining the overall pattern of change.
This chapter reviews the current understanding of mutual respect and recognition, identifying it as a general form of cooperative interaction and identifying is as practices of civility, sociability and intimacy. The chapter also differentiates the ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ variants of civility and sociability and offers a new perspective on solidarity. It aims to determine the correlation between disrespect and social inequality and attempts to illustrate how disrespect stems from the latter. It also provides a critic on the government approaches to respect, particularly the Respect Action Plan which is believed to be disrespectful and counterproductive. The chapter also examines the issue of ‘informal social control’ as an alternative to governmental approaches. The concluding discussion focuses on suggestions on how mutual respect and recognition may be better promoted in communities.
This chapter describes the housing policy of the Conservative Party. The Conservative housing policy has continued to be overshadowed by wider debates about welfare reform and the so-called ‘Big Society’, and the relationship of housing to these debates is not entirely clear. The factors that can perhaps explain why the Coalition government has been completely silent about the equity-sharing proposal are explored. The Coalition government’s policy now looks very similar to that of the outgoing Labour government’s, with a referendum on the neighbourhood plan taking the place of a vote by the parish council. The ‘Big Society’ idea can be understood as a continuation and development of New Labour’s emphasis on the third sector, community participation, civil renewal and ‘active citizenship’. It is stated that progressive Conservatism is not quite what it claims to be. The Coalition has no clear strategic role for government in relation to housing policy.
The allocation of social housing has always been a contentious issue. Accusations of institutional discrimination, excessive bureaucracy and unresponsiveness to consumer demand have long bedevilled the organisations responsible for this function. It is now over 10 years since the late Valerie Karn and Bruce Stafford reported on a survey of the allocation policies and practices of local authorities in England and Wales (Karn and Stafford, 1990). This survey showed that, typically, authorities had bureaucratic allocations and lettings systems that were geared more towards administrative convenience than towards assisting customers. Since then, two major research projects on local authority housing management have been commissioned by what was then the Department of the Environment. The first of these was carried out by the University of York (Bines et al, 1993) and the second by the University of Wales (Griffiths et al, 1997). Neither of these projects, however, seems to have actually talked to any applicants on a housing waiting list or attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of the allocations process for such applicants. Consequently, until recently, with research being conducted for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions by Heriot-Watt University and the London Research Centre (Pawson et al, 2000) and for Shelter by the University of Wales (Smith et al, 2000), we have had no reliable up-to-date national information on this matter.
Institutional racism is arguably one of the most sensitive aspects of institutional discrimination and, since the MacPherson Report, this issue has been very much to the fore. It is therefore sobering to recall that it was 15 years ago that Deborah Phillips concluded that: “Nearly every serious investigation of local authority housing allocations has found evidence of systematic racial disadvantage” (Phillips, 1986).
This chapter examines the coalition government’s housing policy. It suggests that in most respects it was largely indistinguishable from Conservative Party policy. The chapter considers the aims of the coalition’s housing policy, including to increase the number of homes, to help people to buy their homes, to transform social renting, improve energy efficiency and reduce the cost of housing benefit. It analyses initiatives such as the New Homes Bonus, Help to Buy and welfare reform, and assesses the extent to which they achieved their aims. The chapter suggests that the housing policies of the coalition government (and its Conservative successor) failed to understand how the housing market works, and in particular how to resolve the difficulties faced by ordinary people in navigating that market.
‘Community’ is a much used and abused word, with countless different definitions and interpretations (Hillery, 1955). The more it is mentioned and discussed, however, the more difficult it seems to identify it in real life (Hobsbawm, 1994, 428). This book attempts to clarify the situation. It argues that there is a sense in which we all know what community is but this ‘common sense’ co-exists with a variety of interpretations of how communities are. Understanding community, therefore, requires that we first make a distinction between ‘community’ and ‘communities’.
What kind of ‘thing’, then, is community? It is easier, perhaps, to say what community is not. It is not, indeed, a ‘thing’ at all: it is not a system or structure or relation or network or text or space or object of any kind – all of which have been stated to be characteristics of communities. This does not mean, however, that community is purely subjective, being identified, for example, with a certain kind of feeling or emotion or desire, as some scholars have claimed (for example, Brent, 2004). Rather, community ‘is an ideal and is also real; it is both an experience and an interpretation’ (Delanty, 2010, xii). In short, community is a kind of state of being or existence, which is both subjective and objective, or in which the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity is dissolved.
In the simplest terms, community can be understood as ‘being together’ (or more or less organised ‘convivial consociation’) (Neal and Walters, 2008, 291) – a state of being or set of practices in which people are connected or linked in some way.
This chapter aims to examine the nature of capitalism, its links to social class and inequality, and the implications of this for our understanding of community. Capitalism is a potentially totalising system, which rests on a capacity to invest value in such way as to produce greater value (value so invested is known as ‘capital’), giving rise to what is usually called ‘economic growth’ or what Marx called ‘surplus value’. This is possible, according to Marx, only because workers produce more value than the value of the wages or salaries that they are paid. There was a point in history when labour itself became a commodity that could be bought and sold on a market, and its value, like that of any other commodity, was then determined by the value of the labour required to produce it. This value, however, was less than the value that, when put to work, it added to the commodities that it produced – hence surplus value. To distinguish labour as a commodity from the labour expended in the production process, Marx called the former ‘labour power’ (Marx, 1970, chap VI). What workers do under capitalism, then, is to hire out their labour power for specified periods of time in return for wages, while the value they add to the products of their labour exceeds the value of the wages they receive. This is called labour exploitation.1
Three points are crucial for understanding capitalism. The first is that it involves a fundamental social division between ‘employers’ of labour power and ‘employees’, whom they employ.