Modernisation, managerialism and the culture wars: the reshaping of the local welfare state in England

Cochrane, Allan (2004). Modernisation, managerialism and the culture wars: the reshaping of the local welfare state in England. Local Government Studies, 30(4) pp. 481–496.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0300393042000318950

Abstract

The story of local government over the last few decades is often summarised in the assertion that there has been a move away from institutional authority embodied in the structures of councils towards more complex networks of local governance, incorporating a range of stakeholders and other agencies, alongside a shift of power from local to central government. But local government has been at the centre of wider processes of restructuring - of attempts to modernise the welfare state, and specifically the local welfare state. Underpinning the changes that have faced local government (and created new forms of governance) has been a series of assumptions about welfare and how it is best delivered. These combine notions of community, neighbourhood, personal responsibility, workfare and partnership with a distrust of 'bureaucracy' and professional power. It is in this context that the 'modernisation' agenda - promising cultural change - has been driven forward, paradoxically combining a rhetoric of decentralisation and empowerment with an increasingly direct involvement by the institutions of central government and a range of other state agencies in the practice of 'local' governance. The emergent arrangements are increasingly characterised by forms of self-regulation as well as more differentiated management from above.

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