The politics of deploying community

Newman, Janet and Clarke, John (2016). The politics of deploying community. In: Meade, Rosie R.; Shaw, Mae and Banks, Sarah eds. Politics, power and community development. Rethinking Community Development. Policy Press, pp. 31–46.




Community development is understood – by practitioners and governments, by enthusiasts and critics – as an essentially political practice. In this chapter we seek to show how community development has been the focus of numerous political projects, then go on to trace two crucial political processes that are in play in the engagement of such projects with community development. The first is the politics of translation. Here we argue that it is necessary to explore what happens as ideas and practices of community development move across national and/or institutional boundaries, and we draw attention to the importance of mediating actors – including, but not only, community workers themselves. The second is the politics of articulation. We trace how some of the many possible meanings of 'community' and 'development' are selectively mobilised and articulated with other political concepts in ways that shape their meaning and that open – or close – political possibilities. The politics of articulation is crucial in understanding processes of cooptation, incorporation and managerialisation integral to programmes of neoliberalisation. However as we argue, processes of articulation are never closed and complete. A focus on the work of community development enables us – and other contributors to this book – to show how actors ‘work the spaces’ of would-be hegemonic projects in order to pursue alternative and radical goals of development and democratization.

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