The Big Society and Community Politics: My Contribution to #SLFconf

[This is the text accompanying my presentation to the Social Liberal Forum Conference: “Liberalism, Equality and the State”, City University, 18/06/11. Not all of it was delivered on the day, because of the way the session panned out and because there’s too much of it. My thanks to my co-contributors Mark Pack, Simon Hebditch and Lee Chalmers – and to everyone who attended – for a really interesting session.]

“ … a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (MacBeth, Act V, Scene V)

David Cameron clings tenaciously to the Big Society as the organising concept behind his approach to state and society. He does so in the face of almost universal indifference and incomprehension from political opponents, the public, and many on his own side of the House. One is tempted to invoke the above quotation from Shakespeare and leave it at that.

That would, however, be unfair. It would also be a mistake.

Because the Big Society could signal something significant. Although not, perhaps, what its architects intend.

My aim here is to reflect a little on the idea of the Big Society, the consequences of the context in which the idea comes forward, and what it might have in common with the more venerable Liberal idea of Community Politics. In considering these issues it is essential to distinguish clearly between intention and outcome. The pursuit of the Big Society has the potential to set in train processes that may lead to outcomes quite unlike those intended or sought. Read more of this post

Liberalism, Equality and the State – The SLF Conference

The first Social Liberal Forum annual conference – on the theme Liberalism, Equality and the State – is being held on 18th June at City University.

I’ll be saying my piece on the the compatibility of the Big Society and community politics – accountability and marketisation.

Here is the full list of speakers:

Vince Cable, Lee Chalmers, Evan Harris, Simon Hebditch, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, Will Hutton, Neal Lawson, Alex Marsh, Mark Pack, Ed Randell, Alexis Rowell, Naomi Smith, Claire Tyler, Halina Ward

Read more of this post