Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The idea of community involvement and empowerment has become central to politics in recent years. Governments, keen to reduce public spending and increase civic involvement, believe active communities are essential for tackling a range of social, economic and political challenges, such as crime, sustainable development and the provision of care.

Public Policy in the Community examines the way that community and the ideas associated with it – civil society, social capital, mutuality, networks – have been understood and applied from the 1960s to the present day. Marilyn Taylor examines the issues involved in putting the community at the heart of policy making, and considers the political and social implications of such a practice. Drawing on a wide range of relevant examples from around the world, the book considers the success of existing approaches and the prospects for further developments. Thoroughly updated to reflect advances in research and practice, the new edition of this important text gives a state-of-the-art assessment of the place of community in public policy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
We can learn a great deal about a society from the words that crop up again and again in government policy documents, that are de rigueur in the top circles and that mark the insiders from the outsiders. In the 1980s, that language was the language of the market and those who wanted to get on in any sphere of public life went to business school to learn it. Every organisation got its ‘mission statement’; people who used to suffer poor quality public services suddenly became ‘customers’ — even those on welfare benefits, who were hardly in a position to exercise much choice. Public sector services were ‘outsourced’, bureaucracies were ‘downsized’, departments became ‘cost centres’. The development of a new approach to public management placed ‘performance’ and ‘efficiency’ at the top of the agenda.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 2. The Changing Fortunes of ‘Community’

Abstract
In the heady days of the 1960s, it was possible to be optimistic about the prospects for ‘community’ and ‘empowerment’. These were the years when the civil rights, peace and feminist movements in the North were challenging the post-war consensus, while, behind the Iron Curtain, the Prague Spring of 1968 briefly defied Soviet totalitarianism. Northern governments were introducing programmes — such as the War on Poverty in the USA and the National Community Development Project in the UK — that worked with communities to tackle the problems of poverty and alienation that persisted despite the growth of the welfare state and the economy. Change was in the air.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 3. Community in Policy and Practice

Abstract
Community policies have undergone several metamorphoses over recent decades. They are also shaped by the socio-political context and history of the particular country in which they are based. It is, however, possible to identify several distinct themes that cut across time and space — each with its own definition of the problem, its own ideologies and assumptions, and its associated solutions. One theme focuses on the community as the target for change. Approaches of this kind may assume that there is something lacking in the community itself, whether it be capacity, confidence, cohesion or moral integrity. Or they may want to build on and maximise community assets so that they can be used more effectively for community benefit. A second theme sees the system as the focus for change. Approaches of this kind seek to make services work more effectively together and make them more responsive to community needs.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 4. Ideas of Community

Abstract
In Chapter 2, I set out some of the reasons why politicians and the media might be looking to ‘community’ and the set of ideas associated with it. I also suggested that these ideas were being used so freely and imprecisely by their advocates that they ran the risk of becoming almost meaningless. In a much-cited text, George Hillery (1955) found over 94 meanings of community. ‘Civil society’, meanwhile, is a term that has undergone several metamorphoses over the centuries while, in its briefer life, ‘social capital’ has been used by its advocates in many different ways. A bewildering array of other concepts and ideas also pop up from time to time under the community umbrella. So can these terms be more than a ‘call to arms’? Do they have the potential to guide policy, especially policies which aim to tackle the intractable problems of poverty and social exclusion?
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 5. Contradictions of Community

Abstract
‘The notion of a tight-knit affective community’ Antony Black (1984, p. 1) argues, ‘is notoriously alluring to modern western man; we tend to associate it with an ideal past, and to see in its restoration a focus for our hopes for a better society’. However, while the ‘community’ discourse has much to offer, it has also been much criticised for its oversimplification of complex ideas, its romanticism and its avoidance of the tensions inherent in many of its terms. It is to these that I now turn.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 6. Prescribing Community to the Poor

Abstract
In his nineteenth century novel, Sybil, Benjamin Disraeli, a politician who was to become one of the most famous prime ministers in Victorian Britain, spoke of Britain at that time as ‘two nations’
between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws. (Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, Book II, Ch. 5)
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 7. Power and Empowerment

Abstract
In the early 1990s, the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report defined participation as giving people constant ‘access to decision-making and power’ (UNDP 1993, p. 21). A decade later, the idea of ‘community empowerment’ emerged as one of the central themes of policy in England and other parts of the UK. But if the language of community is contested, so too is the language of ‘power’: what it is, how it is created and how it is sustained and reproduced. Some people argue, as we shall see, that power is finite — a ‘zero-sum’ good — which means that if communities are going to be empowered, someone else is going to have to give up power. Others see it as a more fluid, positive-sum good that can grow as it is shared. Either way, the idea of empowerment can seem something of a paradox. If A can empower B, surely this assumes that A holds a position of superior power and could take that power away again? Or it could imply that the power that is given to B is somehow of an inferior kind compared to that held by A. Can power be ‘granted’ or must it be taken?
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 8. Power in the Policy Process

Abstract
Zero-sum explanations of power tend to see policymaking as the domain of particular elites or classes in society. Pluralist explanations provide more dispersed models. At one end of the scale, corporatist models formalise the involvement of potentially fragmented and conflicting interests — capital and labour, for example, or different ethnic or religious groupings — by incorporating them into the policymaking process through representative or ‘peak’ organisations (Schmitter 1974). At the other end, associational models of democracy promote a system based on self-regulating voluntary associations with the state taking a secondary, co-ordinating role (Hirst 1994). In pluralist models, the state is not controlled by any interest or group, but plays an independent though still dominant role. Power is still zero sum and policymaking still tends to be confined to certain groups. Nonetheless it is possible in a pluralist approach to argue that different groups will have power in different policy arenas.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 9. Experiencing Empowerment

Abstract
Previous chapters have described how empowerment through community participation has become a central element of responses to poverty and exclusion across the world. Promoted within the context of a move from government to governance, community participation and partnership policies have the potential to open up a new public and political space. The partnership rhetoric implies a move from a fixed idea of power being rooted in the institution of the state to a more fluid idea of power shared, developed and negotiated between partners. Like all the other terms we have been examining, however, governance, partnership and participation are terms that can be overexposed and oversimplified. So are the new political opportunities that we have been discussing symbolic or are they real?
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 10. Reclaiming Community

Abstract
Chapter 6 described the cycle of exclusion that many of the most disadvantaged communities in our society experience. It described how their residents or members find themselves labelled as in some way inferior or abnormal, how they internalise this label and how it is further reinforced by the way in which outsiders and the media treat them. Community for them becomes a place to leave — if they can — rather than to stay. The cycle can be reversed, however. If people can develop confidence, skills and build on their assets, if they can build up networks both within and beyond their own neighbourhood or community, they can challenge the way in which outsiders treat them and the way they are portrayed. If they can develop organisations that can act on behalf of their residents or members, then they can work with other organisations to create change. A confident community which is respected by the outside world can then become a place where people want to live and work, which reinforces the self-esteem of those who live there and so on.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 11. Reclaiming Power

Abstract
Once the foundation described in Chapter 10 has been developed, the process of change and empowerment will take different and overlapping forms. Communities may be empowered as consumers by having a greater say in the quality and delivery of services provided by others. They may become producers and co-producers, taking over the running of local services or developing other kinds of social enterprise. They may become involved as citizens in governance or partnership initiatives, working on an equal basis with other players to set policy agendas and to develop and implement policy. Or they may decide to take independent action, creating their own ‘claimed spaces’ (Cornwall 2004) to campaign for change from below. This chapter describes some of the different initiatives that have emerged in each case.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 12. The Challenge for Communities

Abstract
In previous chapters, I have identified a number of tensions within community policy and practice: between cohesion and diversity, integration and difference; between leadership, representation and participation, inclusion and effectiveness; between negotiating on the inside with the danger of incorporation, or campaigning from the outside with the danger of irrelevance. This chapter discusses the challenges these tensions pose and considers how they can be addressed. It also considers a further challenge, which is that of ‘scaling up’. By this I mean developing the links between different communities that will enable them to support each other and to address issues beyond the neighbourhood at different levels of government. Addressing the problems of disadvantage and social exclusion is something that needs action beyond the neighbourhood if change is to be achieved. Communities need therefore to engage with other communities, whether of locality, identity or interest, if they are to make a lasting difference. All this needs an effective infrastructure, which can mediate difference and channel a diversity of voices into the policy process.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 13. The Institutional Challenge

Abstract
In the course of this book I have drawn on a number of metaphors: power circuits, trees, journeys. For this chapter, I want to introduce one more: the metaphor of jazz, which I have borrowed from Wynton Marsalis, the jazz musician, via a pamphlet produced by the US-based Pew Foundation. In an interview for The American Heritage magazine, he described jazz as a social invention (Marsalis 1996). He saw in it both musical and nonmusical elements. The first of the non-musical elements is the desire to think about an issue in a new light, to play with an idea. Second, he refers to the need to ‘make room’: jazz, he argues, is about participation, dialogue and reaction. His third non-musical element is respect for individuality: ‘Playing jazz means learning how to reconcile differences, even when they’re opposites’. He calls it ‘dialogue with integrity’.
Marilyn Taylor

Chapter 14. Community Empowerment: Myth or Reality?

Abstract
This book began with the many challenges that commentators across the globe have identified for the twenty-first century. The giant among these has been ‘globalisation’. It is a phenomenon that brings many new opportunities, but the ideological dominance of market capitalism, with the convergence of global markets, has costs too. It has seen a widening chasm between the winners and the losers. The middle classes may have expanded, giving more of us access to the fruits of economic growth, but the gap between the rich and the poor has grown inexorably and social mobility is in decline (Judt 2010). The excessive earnings of the wealthy pull the threshold of inclusion up to ever higher levels. And while, at the one end of the scale we have global citizens, whose influence extends across continents; at the other, growing numbers of people are dispossessed by war, environmental catastrophe, and political and economic oppression.
Marilyn Taylor
Additional information