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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.

Open Access (free)
Piercing the politics of silencing
Hilary Pilkington

activists. In this chapter, that experience is shown to be one of a politics of silencing in which attempts to articulate grievances are met with accusations of racism and respondents learn to ‘keep your mouth shut’. This constraint on political space compounds a wider disengagement from the formal political sphere and a denial of the ‘political’ nature of activism. Such disengagement, it is argued here, is not rooted in a traditional far right, anti-democratic ideology, however, but in an experientially based scepticism about the functioning of contemporary formal

in Loud and proud
Abstract only
Hugh Atkinson

in the subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 analyses the widespread view that we face a crisis of local democracy with such evidence as low electoral turnout and declining membership of political parties. However, this chapter will argue that a more nuanced analysis of the available evidence points to a much complex picture with a wide variety of both informal and formal political activity taking place. Chapter 3 looks at the policy agenda around local democracy in the context of the developing nature of central/local relations since 1979. It provides a broad survey of

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Debates and evidence
Hugh Atkinson

thoughtful analysis of the available evidence points to a much more nuanced and complex political terrain, with a wide variety of both informal and formal political activity. Democracy at the local level does face real challenges but there are rich seams to be mined and real opportunities to be grasped. Robert Putnam’s study of the USA provides an interesting comparative perspective. Putnam concludes that over the last forty years the country has witnessed a marked decline in civic engagement and notions of community. He talks of ‘the complex factors that lie behind the

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Open Access (free)
Geoffrey Wood

. Working for democratization is about finding out the truth of politics under capitalism, and seeking to eliminate formal politics altogether (Lefebvre 1966: 138). Thus, while Marx saw the modern capitalist state as more advanced than any previous form of state, it remained imperfect and must be done away with. To Marx, as long as the fundamentals of capitalism remained in place, any apparent element of pluralism in the capitalist state was of little worth. Finally, classical social theorists such as Max Weber and Emile Durkheim locate democratization in terms of the

in Democratization through the looking-glass
Hugh Atkinson

the possible. More broadly, we can understand politics as being about conflicts between groups and the resolution of these conflicts. As Hague and Harrop note, it is ‘the process by which groups make collective decisions’ (Hague and Harrop, 1987: 3). Groups can range from formal political institutions such as cabinet, parliament and political parties through to local tenants’ groups and voluntary organisations. Political decisions can be determined in a variety of ways. These can include diplomacy, negotiation, voting and, in extreme cases, violence. What makes such

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Máire Braniff and Sophie Whiting

. The data collected shows that women continue to be underrepresented in relation to elected political office, appointments to public bodies, and in the judiciary. Historically, the invisibility of women within Northern Ireland’s formal political arena is striking. During the period of Home Rule (1921–69), political structures were ethnically discriminatory in favour of Protestant unionists, while also being gender exclusive. In the twelve elections to Stormont between 1921 and 1969, only thirty-seven of the 1008 candidates were women.45 Only one of these women ever

in Theories of International Relations and Northern Ireland
Elizabeth Meehan and Fiona Mackay

which intensified in Northern Ireland in the second half of the twentieth century. The significance of the voluntary and community sector in policy-making is connected to sectarianism in local formal politics, the ‘democratic deficits’ of direct rule by Westminster and the conditions for receipt of funding from the European Union (EU). In the 1990s, women’s groups were

in Everyday life after the Irish conflict
Kate Bowan and Paul A. Pickering

public scrutiny. The first examines parades using Labour Day as the focus for a broader discussion of the sound of marching feet. The second considers the place of music in the formal political world of electioneering. Our point of entry into the public sphere of music-making by radicals and reformers is to rejoin the parade about to set off down Marshall Street under the burning sun in Cobar. The

in Sounds of liberty
Liberal women and regional perspectives
Megan Smitley

own personal claims. Their first act has been to declare war on alcohol … In New Zealand … feminine direct influence has had excellent results in the cause of temperance.’26 Thus, the SWLF could argue that women’s enfranchisement was not sought out of self-interest, but rather as a means of empowering supposed feminine moral superiority with a formal political expression. This perception of the New Zealand women’s vote as purifying was reinforced by individual women’s testimonies. Mrs Helen Barton, a member of the SWLF from 1900 and connected with the Glasgow Prayer

in The feminine public sphere