Liberty, national security and the Big Society

Green, Alison; Johns, Nick and Rix, Mark (2011). Liberty, national security and the Big Society. Sociological Research Online, 16(2), article no. 19.




The aim of this paper is to place discussion of the Big Society (via the specific issue of counterterrorism) in an international context, by drawing comparisons between counter-terrorism policy in the UK and Australia. The Big Society agenda of the UK Coalition Government has had a significant impact on welfare policy as well as the terms of the debate about how it should be provided for and regulated. The ripples have travelled far beyond the UK and similar discussions are occurring in different national contexts. One such has been Australia, where commentators and policymakers are considering the ramifications of a Big Society approach for social policy in that country (Cox, 2010). This debate no longer focuses on the so-called ‘New Public Management’ agenda with its emphasis on outsourcing to third and private sector providers and the creation of market-like structures and mechanisms for welfare provision. Instead, there is a renewed interest in strengthening communities and developing the voluntary capacities within them to enable them to shoulder the responsibility for service delivery, community safety and sustaining the bonds of social cohesion. Nevertheless, essentially the objectives are the same: smaller government, reduced social expenditures and a shrivelled up society. We explore here the implications for counter-terrorism policy, and also provide a contextual discussion of counter-terrorism policy under the New Labour government in the UK from 1997 to 2010. This was a particularly important period, with the policy responses to the invasion of Iraq and the 9/11 attacks.

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