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From New Labour to the Big Society
Author: Hugh Atkinson

There is a widespread view that local democracy in Britain is in deep trouble and that people face a crisis of civic engagement and political participation. This book counterweighs the many negative accounts that seek to dominate the political discourse with talks on political apathy and selfish individualism. It commences with an examination of theoretical debates as to the meaning of local democracy and related concepts. The book looks at the policy agenda around local democracy in the context of the developing nature of central/local relations since 1979. It considers the available evidence on level of political participation and civic engagement by looking at eight themes. These include the state of formal politics, forms of civic engagement, community identity and the emerging world of the internet/world wide web. The book also looks at nine key aspects of the reform of local democracy over the last fifteen years, including local democracy and the New Labour reform agenda; the constitutional position of local government; and double devolution. It focuses on the so-called 'crisis of formal democracy' at the local level. The book ascertains the recent developments beyond the realm of elections, political parties and formal political institutions. It then concentrates on local services and policy attempts to widen public participation in the shaping and delivery of such services. Finally, the book discusses the concept of sustainability and regeneration strategies to build sustainable communities, both physical and social.

Chris McInerney

4 Civic engagement and social justice Introduction Public policy in a variety of countries, Ireland included, has recognised the value of some level of deeper citizen participation in democratic and civic life. At the same time, civil society organisations have increasingly asserted the importance of their participation in policy-­making processes. It was in this context that the Irish government clearly stated that ‘There is a need to create a more participatory democracy where active citizenship is fostered’ defining participation ‘as an exchange between

in Challenging times, challenging administration
Debates and evidence
Hugh Atkinson

2 Civic engagement and political participation: debates and evidence Introduction There is a widespread view that democracy at the local level in Britain is in crisis with levels of political participation at an all-time low. Indeed, there is an increasing ‘anti-politics’ narrative that posits a public alienated from the political class. The public uproar in 2009 over the ‘excessive’ allowances claimed by some members of parliament (MPs) has fed into this. However, the central argument of this chapter, and indeed of the book itself, is that a deeper and more

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Cormac Behan

6 Civic engagement and community participation Introduction This chapter examines the level of active citizenship in prison and, similar to the last chapter, is based on the interviews with 50 prisoners. Recognising that citizenship encompasses more than just rights and responsibilities but is intertwined with participation, it considers their activities prior to imprisonment, the opportunities for participative citizenship behind bars and outlines some reasons for involvement in what are characterised as citizenship activities inside. The chapter concludes by

in Citizen convicts
Hugh Atkinson

6 Local services, community and civic engagement Introduction In Chapter 6 the focus is on local services and their impact on strengthening civic engagement and local communities. First, there will be a focus on central government policy. There will be an analysis of some initiatives of the last Labour government as well as an initial assessment of the emerging policy agenda of the current Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition. Local public service reform will also be looked at in the context of the role of markets and the increasing emphasis on the choice

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
An agenda for change?
Hugh Atkinson

3 The challenge of local democracy, civic engagement and community: an agenda for change? Introduction In the early period of the newly elected Labour government after 1997 the apparent conciliatory tone towards local government was in sharp contrast to the conflicted nature of central/local relations during the Thatcher and Major years. Tighter financial restrictions, rate capping, cuts in central government financial support, increased privatisation of local authority services and loss of policy autonomy all gave the clear impression of a beleaguered local

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
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Documentary theatre in twenty-first-century Russia
Author: Molly Flynn

Since the early 2000s, Russia’s most innovative theatre artists have increasingly taken to incorporating material from real-life events into their performance practice. As the Kremlin’s crackdown on freedom of expression continues to tighten, playwrights and directors are using documentary theatre to create space for public discussion of injustice in the civic sphere and its connections to the country’s twentieth-century past. This book traces the history of documentary theatre’s remarkable growth in Russia since its inception in 1999 and situates the form’s impact within the sociopolitical setting of the Putin years (2000–). It argues that through the practice of performing documents, Russia’s theatre artists are creating a new type of cultural and historical archive that challenges the dominance of state-sponsored media and invites individuals to participate in a collective renegotiation of cultural narratives. Drawing on the author’s previous work as a researcher, producer, and performer of documentary theatre in contemporary Russia, Witness Onstage offers original insight into the nature of the exchange between audience and performance as well as new perspectives on the efficacy of theatre as a venue for civic engagement.

The politics of consultation in Britain and Australia
Author: Rob Manwaring

This book attempts to understand how two sister centre-left parties, the British Labour Party and the Australian Labor Party (ALP), have sought to adapt to the modern era and effect changes. It identifies and examines a range of drivers for Labour's desire to experiment and find new forms of citizen engagement. Linked to the influence of the New Social Democracy (NSD) is the lingering legacy of the new public management (NPM) reforms implemented in the public sectors in both countries. For Labour, democratic renewal is an attempt to secure wider legitimacy in neoliberal settings; similarly, the NSD is also linked to the debates about the perceived shift from government to governance. The NSD has attempted to respond to these debates and in Britain a concerted effort has been made to reformulate the role of the state and, by extension, civil society. The book examines how far the NSD has influenced Labour governments in Britain and Australia. It establishes Labour's interest in democratic renewal, specifically, the role of political participation and civic engagement in the wider context of democratic theory. Given that the NSD calls for an 'active citizenry', this is important. A central motif of democratic theory is an ambivalence about the role of political participation in a modern liberal democratic polity. The book explores how far New Social Democratic governments in Britain and Australia have been successful in seeking to link new forms of public dialogue to existing democratic decision-making processes in the modern western world.

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Hugh Atkinson

Introduction This is a book about local democracy, about community and civic engagement in Britain. It was conceived as a counterweight to the many negative accounts that seek to dominate our political discourse with their talk of political apathy and selfish individualism. Barack Obama made the point effectively in the American context long before his successful bid for the Presidency. In an interview given to the Chicago Reader newspaper on 8 December 1995 he set out his now wellrehearsed argument about the need for change in the way the USA does its politics

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Hugh Atkinson

decisions essentially political is ‘their collective character, affecting and committing those who belong to the group’ (Hague and Harrop, 1987: 3). Healy et al. argue that ‘A redefinition of politics and the role of elected representatives’ is necessary if we are to enhance political and civic engagement (Healey et al., 2005: 42). Indeed this is most certainly true. Whilst we need to acknowledge the importance of formal political institutions and political parties, we need to construct a way of doing politics that is about more than petty squabbles, sound bites and

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community