The Big Society: The return of the repressed or business as usual?
Newman, Janet (2010)

by Janet Newman

So far the Big Society has been received with considerable cynicism by political commentators of the left and right. It has also produced anger on the part of voluntary organisations faced with the paradox of cuts to their funding just at the point where it would seem that their role should be expanding – not only to meet intensifying needs but also to build the capacity of civic actors to participate in the ways that Blond and Cameron envisage. But I want to step back from both cynicism and anger to offer some thoughts on how we might understand the current political moment, not least to ask whether there is anything we should be taking seriously about the idea of the Big society and its Labour alternative. The paper will trace both continuities with departures from the New Labour project and offer some speculations about the future. Its aim is to stimulate debate about the role of the voluntary sector voice in shaping up, resisting and perhaps offering alternative conceptions of social and civic action that look beyond the ’empty rhetoric’ of the Big Society.

Janet Newman’s presentation is available here (Powerpoint format).

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