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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2011): Community regeneration and development - UK

A big idea for the Big Society? The advent of National Citizen Service

A. Mycock and J. Tonge

Political Quarterly, vol. 82, Jan.-Mar. 2011, p. 56-66

National citizen service (NCS) (i.e. a universal programme of community service undertaken by young people) has been identified by David Cameron as being 'at the heart of my political philosophy'. This article assesses whether an NCS programme would help to develop the Big Society as an idea. It considers how NCS has emerged on the political agenda, analyses whether the introduction of NCS is founded on evidence from pilot studies in the UK and explores evidence from two distinct models of citizen service: the privatised programme in the United States and the more statist German model. The article concludes by assessing how citizen service has philosophical underpinnings which enhance understanding of Cameronian conservatism.

Big societies, little platoons and the problems with pluralism

R. Barker

Political Quarterly, vol. 82, Jan-Mar. 2011, p. 50-55

The Conservative Party now in government is championing the cause of pluralism in the sense of encouraging decentralised group and community life outside of the state, to the annoyance of the Left. The author argues that not all manifestations of pluralism are progressive or benign, since associational life can refer to a fox hunt or hedge fund as well as a trade union or cooperative. Pluralism can imply an acceptance of existing and unequal powers and privileges just as readily as insistence on equality of responsibility and status. Organisations outside the state can be as exploitative, oppressive or destructive as any central government. Until the character of each group or association becomes clear, the author argues for a sceptical response.

Understanding community: politics, policy and practice

P. Somerville

Bristol: Policy Press, 2011

Interest in 'community' has increased in recent years for a variety of reasons, including civil renewal, active citizenship and the increasing diversity of British society. This is highlighted by the increasing governmental emphasis on 'community', leading up to the current ideas of the 'Big Society'. This book provides a clear understanding of policy and theory in relation to community. By examining areas of government policy, such as economic development, education, health, housing, and community safety, it explores the difficulties that communities face in dealing with state power as well as discussing the new concepts of community cohesion, social capital and community capacity building.

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