Crisis social policy and the resilience of the concept of community

Hancock, Lynn; Mooney, Gerry and Neal, Sarah (2012). Crisis social policy and the resilience of the concept of community. Critical Social Policy, 32(3) pp. 343–364.



This paper considers the continuing resilience of the notion of community in social policy making and wider political commentary in the contemporary UK. Focusing in particular on the ways in which community is negatively and positively invoked in narratives of the ‘big’ and ‘broken’ societies, it considers why the notion of community, so popular with the previous Labour government, continues to enchant the present Coalition government and has been given added resonance in the context of the economic crisis and of the ‘austerity’ measures adopted by the UK coalition government. The paper argues that placing community at the heart of current welfare provision illuminates a number of tensions in UK government’s policy-making agenda. Informed by a discussion of Liverpool - once one of the big society ‘laboratories’ - we highlight the contradictions between top-down, depoliticized understandings of community and the types of community engagement and participation that are to be found in poor, disadvantaged communities in particular. Such communities are also where the impact of UK government ‘austerity’ measures are being most keenly felt.

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