Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice

The issues involved in poverty, inequality and social justice are many and varied, from basic access to education and healthcare, to the financial crisis and resulting austerity, and now COVID-19. Addressing Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, our list both presents research on these topics and tackles emerging problems. A key series in the area is the SSSP Agendas for Social Justice.

This focus has always been at the heart of our publishing with the view to making the research in this area as visible and accessible as possible in order to maximise its potential impact.

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Poverty, inequality and social justice, we aim to address the following goals: 

Poverty, Inequality and Social Justice

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This book, the second title in the Rethinking Community Development series, starts from concern about increasing inequality worldwide and the re-emergence of community development in public policy debates.

It argues for the centrality of class analysis and its associated divisions of power to any discussion of the potential benefits of community development. It proposes that, without such an analysis, community development can simply mask the underlying causes of structural inequality. It may even exacerbate divisions between groups competing for dwindling public resources in the context of neoliberal globalisation.

Reflecting on their own contexts, a wide range of contributors from across the global north and south explore how an understanding of social class can offer ways forward in the face of increasing social polarisation. The book considers class as a dynamic and contested concept and examines its application in policies and practices past and present. These include local/global and rural/urban alliances, community organising, ecology, gender and education.

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In contexts across the world, community development is being rediscovered as a cost-effective intervention for dealing with the social consequences of global economic restructuring that has taken place over the last half century. This chapter introduces the term ‘community development’ and its plurality of meanings, as well as introducing the ways in which community development can be used to address inequality. The authors pose that class should be central to an analysis of inequality and the ways in which it is framed by community development strategies. The chapter then goes on to give a more detailed explanation of the terms ‘class’ ‘inequality’ and ‘community development’ and how they interplay with one another. The chapter concludes by giving a description of the layout of the remainder of the book.

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This book, the second title in the Rethinking Community Development series, starts from concern about increasing inequality worldwide and the re-emergence of community development in public policy debates. It argues for the centrality of class analysis and its associated divisions of power to any discussion of the potential benefits of community development. It proposes that, without such an analysis, community development can simply mask the underlying causes of structural inequality. It may even exacerbate divisions between groups competing for dwindling public resources in the context of neoliberal globalisation. Reflecting on their own contexts, a wide range of contributors from across the global north and south explore how an understanding of social class can offer ways forward in the face of increasing social polarisation. The book considers class as a dynamic and contested concept and examines its application in policies and practices past and present. These include local/global and rural/urban alliances, community organising, ecology, gender and education.

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This chapter argues that class analyses have been underdeveloped in community development studies in Hong Kong. Consequently, this has impacted on the ways in which community development services have developed. This paucity of class analysis is revealed through the findings of a study that the author conducted, exploring community development service organisations’ approaches to service planning and delivery. The scarcity of class analysis, under a context of worsening social inequality and declining welfare for the disadvantaged communities, reinforces the popularity of the consensus approach, and its implications in terms of the promotion of competitive tendering to provide services and the promotion of community mutual help initiatives. Even though the curricula in most of the community development training institutions in Hong Kong has included attention to class perspectives, the paucity of class analysis apparent in community development theory and practice deserves continual attention and further research.

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Prior to the 1950s, differing strands of what might be seen as community development can be perceived in work by extension officers in colonial settings, as an extension of trades union activism, or ‘community-building’ with a social focus, usually in social housing areas. Yet, despite a common emphasis on poverty and disadvantage, attempts to locate community development within a class-based understanding of, for example, the unequal distribution of income, wealth and power within most societies have been limited. This chapter will trace ways in which the issue of class has or has not been addressed within community development theory and practice, drawing on key texts and experiences from across the world. It will seek to identify the extent to which the mainstream practice of community development, as it has developed, has been able to locate itself solidly within and build alliances with more explicitly class-based forms of political struggle.

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This chapter aims to explore the subtle relationship between social class and caste and its implications for community development practice in the Indian context. The chapter locates the ways in which ‘common sense’ conceals the subordination and oppression of the marginalised, and normalises it as a ‘natural’ process. The chapter focuses on the Balmiki community, a substantial majority of whose constituents are still engaged in the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. This practice of the manual sweeping of household dry toilets and carrying of human excreta, though banned by law, still exists in many parts of India. It has been enforced as a traditional hereditary caste-based occupation. Based on field experiences of working with the Balmiki community, the chapter explores the dynamics of social class, caste and common sense, and accordingly argues for an anti-hegemonic community development practice.

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This chapter argues that community development policies may contribute to perpetuating social inequalities in spite of the very concept of community development being ideologically underpinned by the fundamental human values, such as equality, social equity, citizenship, participation in communal life and sustainable development. The authors’ argument is grounded in Poland’s post-socialist experiences in building communities, fostering participatory citizenship and advancing community development. Drawing on historical and empirical analyses, the authors seek to establish why, despite changes in the political configurations, profound systemic changes, and social and economic transformations, community development in Poland still persists in the fragmentary and discontinuous stage.

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Launched in England in 2010, the government-funded Community Organisers Programme was one of a number of initiatives claiming to put power back in the hands of people. However, it was introduced at the same time as the government was introducing a range of austerity policies, and the divide between the rich and the poor was growing ever greater. This chapter explores the Community Organisers Programme’s approach and the extent to which issues of class have featured in its approach and practice.

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The importance of building alliances based upon shared community and trade union interests is a theme with resonances from the history of community development, both in Britain and beyond. This chapter starts by summarising the lessons from previous approaches to building such alliances. The issues arising have even more relevance for community development workers in the contemporary context, the chapter argues, drawing on the findings from the authors’ work by way of illustration. The chapter then moves on to explore the experiences of the two largest trade unions in Britain: UNITE and UNISON. Both have their successes to share. Both have also faced challenges, however, illustrating some of the tensions inherent in building alliances between organisations and movements with differing histories and cultures. The chapter concludes by summarising the implications for building solidarity and developing alliances based upon mutual trust and understanding, rooted in shared values for social justice.

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This chapter reviews some of the trends associated with the new phase of capitalism called ‘neoliberalism’, particularly widening inequality and its correlates in the growing political influence of the wealthiest strata. The consequences for community development include tax cuts, cuts in public spending, and mounting private and public debt. Finally, the authors consider the prospects for effective resistance within the context of community development theory and practice.

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