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Negotiating cohesion, inequality and change

Negotiating cohesion, inequality and change: Uncomfortable positions in local government

Hannah Jones
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Negotiating cohesion, inequality and change
    Book Description:

    How are multiculturalism, inequality and belonging understood in the day-to-day thinking and practices of local government? Examining original empirical data, this book explores how local government officers and politicians negotiate 'difficult subjects' linked with community cohesion policy: diversity, inequality, discrimination, extremism, migration, religion, class, power and change. The book argues that such work necessitates 'uncomfortable positions' when managing ethical, professional and political commitments. Based on first-hand experience of working in urban local government and extensive ethnographic, interview and documentary research, the book applies governmentality perspectives in a new way to consider how people working within government are subject to regimes of governmentality themselves, and demonstrates how power operates through emotions. Its exploration of how 'sociological imaginations' are applied beyond academia will be valuable to those arguing for the future of public services and building connections between the university and wider society, including scholars and students in sociology, social policy, social geography, urban studies and politics, and policy practitioners in local and central government.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-1005-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of acronyms
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Notes on the author
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction: Getting uncomfortable
    (pp. 1-10)

    Working in policy and government can be uncomfortable. It can be uncomfortable to recognise inequalities of power and discrimination, to challenge these inequalities, and to find limitations on what can be changed. As someone working on policy, it can be uncomfortable to recognise that one is in a relatively privileged position compared to many of the people for whom one is working. As this excerpt from an interview with a local authority officer in London points out, people working in local government can think of their work to meet public needs as separate from their own personal lives. But, as...

  7. ONE Negotiating cohesion, inequality and change
    (pp. 11-30)

    Community cohesion policy is a collection of ideas, practices and texts which touches on a whole host of other subjects – difference, inequality and discrimination along lines of class, race, gender, religion, age and geography, conflicting values, questions of nationhood, community, belonging, trust, power and governance. Negotiating the meanings and resonances of community cohesion policy provides many opportunities to take up or avoid uncomfortable positions. Meanwhile, its supporters’ insistence that it should be considered in all areas of public services, and of life (COIC, 2007), allows us to consider how far it morphs and changes in different contexts.

    Community cohesion...

  8. TWO Contradictory narratives of cohesion
    (pp. 31-58)

    This chapter narrates the landscape of cohesion through four narratives with geographically anchored reference points. This is a figurative landscape; it is imagined from material geographies, but only partly related to lived experience (Keith and Pile, 1993, p 6). Each of the four overlapping policy narratives demonstrates a relationship between community cohesion (the problem, description, cause or prescription) imagined through place (‘they’ experience community cohesion problems ‘over there’, but ‘we’ do not have problems ‘here’) and imagined through time (problems of the past which have now been solved, or problems of the present which never used to exist). Barnor Hesse...

  9. THREE “Is there anything the council did that distracted you from extremism?”
    (pp. 59-86)

    The establishment of the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in 2007 shows how far community cohesion policy, in one articulation, has been tied to the targeting of Muslims as a ‘problem group’, and refracted through the lens of religious and ethnic representation, privilege and stigma. As discussed in Chapter Two, some constructions of community cohesion position it as separate from PVE. This separation does not necessarily translate into the common-sense understandings of practitioners. In my experiences and interviews with local and national policy practitioners they suggest, based on the timing, presentation, implementation and funding of projects and their own professional...

  10. FOUR ‘I Love Hackney’/‘Keep It Crap’
    (pp. 87-112)

    A sense of place and shared belonging have been incorporated into considerations of community cohesion policy partly as a way of trying to negotiate the more difficult subjects of difference and belonging by imagining a neutral, shared, neighbourhood space. But this chapter demonstrates a set of competing claims about the meaning of a place – and about authenticity, narrative, histories, futures, power, class and identity. These debates suggest that far from providing a neutral ground for a simple shared coherence, places exist as both shared and contested meanings, grounded in and experienced through competing narratives in emotional registers.

    This chapter...

  11. FIVE “We spent a lot of time trying to be known for other things”
    (pp. 113-140)

    Local policy practitioners are concerned to present a positive image of the place they represent (politically or professionally) because they perceive that its material conditions, as well as perhaps their own careers, are mediated primarily through presentation and reputation. So this chapter is dedicated to understanding the metaphors that policy practitioners use to make sense of, and work within, reality. These metaphors are important not because theycapture‘reality’, and not because theydisguisereality. They are important because they are ‘a means through which reality is rendered comprehensible’ (Keith, 2005, p 70).

    To remind ourselves of how narratives of...

  12. SIX “You need to be totally objective, but you can’t be”
    (pp. 141-166)

    Previous chapters have considered how difficult subjects are narrated and negotiated in relation to different topics, times and places. In this chapter, drawing on interviews from all of my local and national research sites, I concentrate on how policy practitioners talk about community cohesion policy and the difficult subjects it invokes in relation to themselves, how they locate themselves and are located by others. I argue that for the most part, feminist thinking on the situated subject and situated knowledge – that people understand the world in specific ways depending on their experiences and social location, and that it is...

  13. SEVEN Thinking inside the box
    (pp. 167-188)

    In this final chapter I draw together four key arguments of the book. First, community cohesion policy, as I have demonstrated, is concerned withenabling citizens to behave in appropriate ways(which entails, of course, the unspoken question of who determines what is appropriate). Importantly, for the perspective of this study, governing through governmentality is a practice and a process itself. It involves individuals taking decisions within regimes of power and truth. Those regimes help to form individual selves; individuals are able to amend regimes through their actions to differing extents; and they are also (made to feel) responsible for...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-194)
  15. References
    (pp. 195-218)
  16. Appendix: A note on methods
    (pp. 219-230)
  17. Index
    (pp. 231-237)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)