Democracy, Power and Governance

In these politically turbulent times, questions about democracy, power and society are frequently raised. How does power work in society? Can we ever achieve equal rights when the power dynamics in society are so skewed?

With the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions in focus, our publishing in this area addresses questions like these from multiple angles, from extensive research into democratic governance and the concept of political power, to the role of power between different nations in foreign policy negotiations

Bristol University Press and Policy Press are signed up to the UN SDG Publishers Compact. In Democracy, power and governance, we aim to address the following goal: 

Democracy, Power and Governance

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Demonstrating the relevance of theory to political and policy debates and practice, this lively and accessible second edition helps students to grasp the real-life implications of social policy theory.

It considers contemporary shifts in welfare ideologies in the context of global austerity and the UK Coalition and Conservative governments (2010 onwards). With a new chapter focusing on critical debates about disability, sexuality and the environment, this textbook also includes fresh reflections on migration, social security conditionality, resilience, social justice and human rights.

Key features include:

• real-life examples from UK and international politics and policy to explain and illuminate the significance of social policy theory;

• key questions for student reflection and engagement;

• and bulleted chapter summaries and annotated further readings at the end of every chapter.

This new edition is a dynamic, engaging and valuable introduction to the key theoretical perspectives and concepts deployed in social policy.

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Context, Practices and Challenges

Neighbourhood policing has been called the ‘cornerstone of British policing’ but changing demand, pressures on funding and the cyclical nature of political support mean that this approach is under considerable pressure.

Locating neighbourhood policing in its social and political context, the book investigates whether this UK model - intended to build confidence and legitimacy - has been successful. Exploring effective policing strategies and the importance of funding and philosophical support, it concludes with an assessment of the model’s future and the challenges that it needs to overcome.

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Contemporary Perspectives from Italy
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From earthquakes to oil spills, Italy is recurrently affected by different kinds of disasters. This book brings a critical perspective to post-disaster reconstruction and recovery, which can impact in both the short- and long- term upon society, politics and organisations.

It is often assumed that disaster-hit areas return to normality or even ‘build back better’ thanks to the interventions of experts. Giuseppe Forino considers the complexities of disaster recovery and the sometimes radical changes in individual and collective behaviours that persist following such events. Bringing together the impacts of natural hazards (including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic), this edited book will stimulate debate on policy and practice in disaster recovery.

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Focusing on the policy approaches of Conservative governments since 2015, this book examines key social policy areas including education, health, housing, employment, children and young people, and more.

Respected social policy researchers explore the degree to which the positions and policies of recent Conservative governments have differed from the previous Coalition government (2010–15). They consider the extent to which austerity has continued and the influence of other policy emphases, such as a ‘levelling up’ agenda. Reflecting on the rapid changes of Prime Minister, they compare the themes of the Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak administrations, critically examine the impacts of the external shocks of Brexit and COVID-19, and the changing patterns of public expenditure.

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Urban Data Politics in Times of Crisis

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Drawing on the study of different cities in the Global South, this book explores how the intensive use of data changes politics, power relations and everyday life in contemporary cities.

Across the volume, expert contributors show how urban actors, from the state to activists, are increasingly using data as a resource to empower their actions and support their claims and shows how times of crisis are moments when the power of data is made visible.

Focusing on the different dimensions of data power and politics in the urban realm, this is an important contribution to our understanding of how datafication transforms the places in which we live and how we experience them.

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Ideology in the Age of Social Media
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Defying the current pessimistic narrative, this book challenges the prevailing assumptions that the political Left is spent, hopeful ideological discourse has collapsed and social media has corroded public debates about politics.

Instead, the book argues that ideological activism remains vibrant on the Left, but there is currently no clear way of recognizing and analysing this phenomenon. The book fills this gap by first defining what political social media is and then by taking a morphological approach to investigating political ideologies and revealing the ways in which interconnected concepts are arranged. It concludes by coining the term ‘proto-ideologies’ to approach the construction of concepts that generate ideologies in the making.

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Postliberalism, Street-Level Bureaucracy and the Reawakening of Democratic Citizenship
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In recent years, failures in health and social care, mental health services, public housing, welfare and policing have dominated headlines and been the subject of much public debate. The means for addressing such concerns have become increasingly legalistic and subject to a particular brand of liberal legalism that stifles the possibility of transformational intervention.

For this reason, this book argues there is urgent need for a radical reassessment of the way the law mediates between citizens and the state. Drawing on public inquiries into high-profile cases, such as Hillsborough and Grenfell, fictional/cinematic treatments such as I, Daniel Blake, and the disability rights movement, this book examines how the regulation of street-level bureaucracy can play an integral part in reimagining postliberal politics and the role of the law.

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Humour and Offensiveness in Contemporary Culture and Politics
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We’re accustomed to seeing humour as a diversion from the serious side of life, but humour also permeates some of the most troubling political developments in recent years. From the resurgence of white nationalism to the erosion of democratic norms, jokes force-feed us objectionable ideologies while we gasp and splutter at all the side-splitting shenanigans.

This book explores the relationship between humour and offensiveness in contemporary society. Drawing on examples from philosophical thinkers and popular culture, it invites readers to consider the dark side of humour.

Weaving together cultural analysis, political discussion and philosophical reflection, the book provides an antidote to positive thinking about laughter and a roadmap for navigating different types of offensive humour.

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In spring 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, research projects funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) were subjected to budget cuts. The cuts were the result of UK government’s decision to reduce its Official Development Assistance (ODA), which had devastating effects for humanitarian, development and research work. This article draws on focus group discussions with project teams working on three large GCRF-funded projects to explore the effects of these cuts. The article documents how the cuts curtailed project aspirations and impact, had a negative toll on the mental health of researchers, and imperilled the trusting relationships upon which international research collaborations are built. The article argues that the cuts expose the shallow commitments to research ethics and equitable partnerships of powerful actors in the UK research ecosystem, including research councils and government. In ‘doing harm’ via these cuts, the article explores the failure of research governance structures and the continued coloniality underpinning the UK’s approach to researching ‘global challenges’.

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In this article we identify the ways in which Leon Trotsky’s ideas constitute a powerful resource to understand the contemporary crisis of international relations and its historical roots in the 20th century. Trotsky’s concept of uneven and combined development has already been highlighted as a signal contribution by an established scholarship in and around the discipline of International Relations. While this is a welcome development, we contend that it has come at a significant cost, detaching Trotsky’s theoretical insights from his revolutionary politics. We employ a different mode of engagement with Trotsky’s ideas, focusing on the theory of Permanent Revolution as an expression of an original analysis of the dialectic between the national and the international. Far from being a theoretically detachable and politically erroneous appendage to the more fundamental and applicable concept of uneven and combined development, we argue that Permanent Revolution constitutes its necessary culmination, as well as Trotsky’s most significant contribution to classical Marxism. We then elucidate how, writing in the first half of the 20th century and applying his theory of Permanent Revolution, Trotsky was able to diagnose certain essential lines of political development – the rise and ongoing breakdown of American hegemony, the political degeneration and collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence and failure of the postcolonial independent nation states – tracing the long and crisis-ridden trajectory of international relations from the second half of the 20th century down to today.

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