Goal 5: Gender Equality

SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Browse books and journal articles relating to this SDG below and find out more on the UN Sustainable Development Goals website.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

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  • Understanding Welfare: Social Issues, Policy and Practice x
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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.

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The question of how communities are to be developed economically takes us back to the discussion of community development in Chapter Two. This chapter looks more closely at the nature of the value created by community development generally, and more specifically at the character of the organisations that create that value, as well as governmental approaches to realising that value.

At the heart of the matter here is the category of labour. It is labour in general that produces value but, under capitalism, the focus is primarily on the creation of what Marx called exchange value or what is commonly called commercial value, which is expressed in the price that the products of labour are likely to fetch in the market. Capital is invested in the means of production and in hiring workers, who are set to work to produce the goods and services that have this commercial value. Under capitalism, therefore, community economic development is understood primarily in terms of increasing the market value of goods and services produced in the community, which is achieved primarily by the investment of capital in community-based enterprises that produce this added value. However, community economic development can equally be understood as involving the production of use-value for the community, and this observation serves to highlight the contradictory character of such development – as oriented towards either profit or community benefit.

This contradiction points to the problems with capitalist work (see Weeks, 2011, for a fuller account). Under capitalism, the capitalist or entrepreneur is seen as benefiting the workers because s/he is providing them with needed employment, while the workers are seen as adding value for their employer through their work.

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It seems to be generally agreed that health and wellbeing have material, psychological and social dimensions:

  • Material – that is, the health of the body, which involves not only a lack of physical impairments, diseases, and so on, but also access to whatever that body needs to sustain itself, for example, food, shelter, relevant skills;

  • Psychological – that is, the health of the mind, which similarly involves not only lack of mental impairments, disorders, and so on, but also understanding of one’s state of being, one’s needs, drives and aspirations;

  • Social – that is, the health of society, in which the material and psychological aspects of health are given meaning through relationships among actors (see, for example, Vaitilingam, 2009, 6).

Each of these dimensions can be seen as indispensable for healthy living: material conditions that enable the sustaining of life itself; psychological conditions that enable a sentient being to determine for itself how its life is lived; and social conditions that shape and integrate material and psychological conditions. A healthy community has been characterised as one that is liveable, sustainable and equitable (Barr and Hashagen, 2000, 23) and empowered (Wilkinson, 1999; Marmot and Wilkinson, 2001) (see Table 7.1 ). A liveable community is therefore one whose members have healthy minds in healthy bodies in a healthy environment, with a sufficiency and variety of resources and experiences, and supported by effective health services. A sustainable community is one that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, with a high quality of internal and external connectedness. An equitable community is one that is mutually respectful, trusting, caring, supportive and non-exploitative, acting together to ensure that everyone has access to the health and social care and support or assistance that they need.

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Learning can be considered as a process of developing knowledge, skills and understanding. Understanding is key because without it knowledge is just lists of facts, and skills are merely cleverness. The nature of understanding, however, or rather of the capacity to understand, commonly known as intelligence, is the subject of considerable debate:

Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of ‘intelligence’ are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence)

All learning is social, involving interaction between sentient beings and their environments, whether direct or mediated (for example, using print or electronic communications). There is an important difference, however, between institutional learning (understood as individual learning in institutions such as schools and universities) and community learning (shared learning within and across communities). One way of understanding this is in terms of Bourdieu’s distinction between habitus and field. In the case of institutional learning, the school or university represents a specific field, namely a set of positions to which individuals are assigned (teachers, students, administrative and support staff), and a range of manual workers (caretakers, cleaners, caterers, estate workers, security).

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Since the time of Aristotle (1976), if not earlier, it has been recognised that there exist forms of what might be called moral order, which involve methods and techniques whereby the behaviour of a society’s members is characterised by a certain level of peace and productivity. The number of such forms of moral order, however, is potentially infinite. At different times in history, it has been viewed as perfectly ‘in order’, for example, to own slaves, to kill disobedient wives and children, to commit incest, to invade neighbouring territories without provocation and to rape, enslave and kill their inhabitants, to kill those of a different religious faith or ideology, to steal from the poor and defenceless and evict them from their homes, and so on. A moral order is therefore not necessarily a ‘good’ or ethical order in the way that term is understood today. This raises the question, however, of whether we do actually have a common sense of a moral order today, or whether the form of that order might vary from one community to another.1

Sayer (2005a, 948) argues that such a common moral sense does exist and he calls it ‘lay normativity’ or ‘lay morality’. At the heart of this conception is the principle of valuing, caring about and being concerned for oneself and others – that is to say, respect (Somerville, 2009a, 140). It is important to bear in mind that this lay normativity may not involve equal valuing of others and may be compatible with a wide variety of discriminatory constructions such as classism (see, for example, Sayer, 2005b), racism, sexism, heterosexism, or disablism.

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In this conclusion, I want to revisit the concept of a beloved community and consider what has been learned about how that community can be made more real in the contemporary world.

First, I have argued that community is to be understood as a collection of people who have in common an attachment to something (which involves caring about and caring for that something), and who recognise one another as having that attachment. In this sense, a family is a kind of community, although in this book I have examined only relationships going beyond the family. The causes of attachment are largely mysterious but I have tended to assume that they arise from dispositions that are part of our common humanity, experience and struggle for life.

A beloved community is then a special kind of community, in which the ethics of care and recognition that define community generally are enhanced by ethics of justice and freedom that work to abolish all exploitation and domination. In Part I of the book, I argued for a form of beloved community as self-organising and democratic - which sounds utopian, but in Part II I attempted to endow this ideal with practical meaning, as a community whose members together create value, learn through practice, look after one another, live in decent housing and police themselves, supported as necessary by people with relevant skills and qualities, who themselves work together in communities of practice. The book has identified two major obstacles in the path of achieving a beloved community.

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Contemporary governmental approaches to community have been dominated by neoliberal agendas (for historical background on government and community, see Newman and Lake, 2006; Somerville, 2011a), and this has led to a convergence of policies on community across a number of advanced capitalist states including US, UK and Canada (Mitchell, 2001; Brodie, 2002; MacLeod, 2002; Fyfe and Milligan, 2003; Fremeaux, 2005; DeFilippis et al, 2010, 68). Increasingly, in the Anglo-American world at least, governments have attempted to govern ‘through community’ (Rose, 1996a), as an ‘institutional fix’ for problems of social services and social policy (Macmillan and Townsend, 2006; DeFilippis et al, 2010, 83). The result has been a ‘shadow state’ (Wolch, 1990), in which governments rule increasingly through voluntary and community sector organisations (which DeFilippis et al, 2010, 86, call ‘the nonprofitization of the state’), in which they expect citizens to be ‘active’ (Marinetto, 2003) and ‘engaged’ (Buser, 2013) –‘a new mode of governance that…appears to involve mobilization from below but does so in an extremely circumscribed and biased way’ (Mayer, 2003, 110).

In spite of academic support for greater public participation (for example, Dryzek, 2002), the experience of such ‘active citizenship’, as of participation in government projects generally, has not been particularly positive (for a variety of evidence to support this, see Hastings et al, 1996; Skelcher et al, 1996; Cooke and Kothari, 2001; Shiner et al, 2004; Atkinson and Carmichael, 2007; Cornwall, 2008). Of their 17 case studies of public participation, Barnes et al (2007, 184) acknowledge that many ‘seemed to have achieved little in terms of challenging professional expertise or bringing about changes in the ways in which services were delivered.’

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Housing is a distinctive kind of field. In other fields, such as health or education, goods and services are broadly viewed as being provided in three different ways: through the market, through the state and through voluntary effort. These three ways are equated with three different sectors: the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary and community sector, respectively. The main cleavages in welfare provision are therefore regarded as sectoral. With housing, however, tenure – understood as a distinct bundle of property rights and obligations – presents a complicating factor because it gives rise to a different kind of cleavage, between those who own housing (as owner-occupiers or landlords) and those who rent it. Some commentators, such as Saunders (1990), argue that tenure cleavages are more important than sectoral cleavages, and it is at least plausible that those who rent their homes (whether from a private, public or voluntary sector landlord) have more in common with one another as tenants than they have with their landlords. However, the relationship between housing tenure and community is complex, varies from one country to another, and is still not very well understood. For example, although in many countries, the most precarious households are likely to be found in the private rented sector, it is not generally the case that homeowners are less ‘community-minded’ than public sector tenants. In the US: ‘The most prominent form of community organizing in the 1950s was the neighborhood homeowners’ associations that proliferated in outer cities and new suburbs’, which ‘all shared a twofold goal of protecting property values and building and maintaining community’ (DeFilippis et al, 2010, 61).

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‘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.

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