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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2012): Community regeneration and development - UK

Big Society: a concept in pursuit of a definition

B. Hudson

Journal of Integrated Care, vol. 19, no.5, 2011, p. 17-24

This paper examines the conceptual and policy underpinnings of the Coalition government's Big Society programme. An examination of ministerial speeches and official publications suggests that the notion of the Big Society is underpinned by three key ideas: 1) the rolling back of state activity; 2) transfer of power from the state to individuals, neighbourhoods and the lowest possible tier of government; and 3) promotion of active citizenship. Policies built on these ideas aim to empower communities, open up public services to new providers and encourage social action, voluntarism and philanthropy. The author concludes that in reality the Big Society is more concerned with extending marketisation of public services than with promoting community cohesion. A more sustainable model for the Big Society would focus on the co-production of services rather than opening up markets.

Geographies and utopias of Cameron's Big Society

P. North

Social and Cultural Geography, vol. 12, 2011, p. 817-827

This commentary critiques David Cameron's concept of the 'Big Society' as a cure for multiple deprivation in UK cities. The Big Society agenda could offer communities an opportunity to mobilise resources to develop collective solutions to local problems. However this would require relaxation of central control, redistribution of wealth, and adequate funding of a civil society with real autonomy. The author concludes that the UK state is not seriously interested in local autonomy, and that the Big Society is, in the short term, a cover for cuts and the repression of rioters, and in the longer term, for privatisation.

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