Category Archives: News

“Politics in Interesting Times” – Report from the Annual Political Studies Association Conference, University of Strathclyde

felicity-matthewsFelicity Matthews (University of Sheffield), Co-Editor of Policy & Politics

Politics in Interesting Times”.  Has ever a conference title been so apt, or provided such a unifying theme?  This year’s PSA Conference, held at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, was host to a record number of delegates, who had travelled from 75 countries to reflect on the interesting times that we inhabit.  Brexit, Scottish independence, forthcoming elections in Italy and France, the election of Trump, the decline of traditional parties, the rise of populism, new forms of representation and participation.  All of these issues – and many, many more – were discussed, debated and often contested within the conference’s ten panel sessions. Continue reading “Politics in Interesting Times” – Report from the Annual Political Studies Association Conference, University of Strathclyde

Making sense of neoliberalism in the era of Brexit and Trump

Christopher ByrneChristopher Byrne, University of Exeter

The term neoliberalism is most commonly used to refer to the free market-oriented reforms enacted by right-wing governments in the UK and US throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and continued by ‘Third Way’ politicians such as Tony Blair in the UK and Gerhard Schroeder in Germany into the 2000s and beyond. Recently, mainly as a consequence of ‘Brexit’ — Britain’s rejection of EU membership in a 2016 referendum — and the victory of avowed economic nationalist Donald Trump in the recent US presidential election, there has been talk of the end of the neoliberal era. Continue reading Making sense of neoliberalism in the era of Brexit and Trump

Blog from Annual Lecture: Will Self on the End of Champagne Socialism

Tessa Coombes, University of Bristol

@policytessa

The Policy and Politics Annual Lecture this year was delivered by Will Self. The theme of the lecture was ‘the end of champagne socialism’ and was presented as a mixture of personal reflections, concerns and challenges, all seeking to highlight the mess that Will believes politics has seemingly descended into right now.

The lecture was at times depressing, confusing and uncomfortable, whilst at the same time managing to be amusing, engaging and thought provoking. Will has a style of delivery that captures the imagination whilst challenging the mind, often leaving the audience unsure and uncertain about their own thoughts, but also in no doubt about the central message he is trying to convey. That message was about how things have changed, about how there’s been a shift in the way people view politics and politicians, and about how we are now seeing change for change’s sake without any real concept of the consequences.

Will described 2016 as a momentous year in Britain and the world, where a significant proportion of the electorate woke up to the fact that no one knows what is going on, even our leaders don’t know what is going on, and for once enough people woke up to this fact and voted for change. The common theme of 2016 seemed to be that people just wanted things to change. They didn’t know what would happen as a result of that change, but they wanted change, a dangerous attitude to take to political events according to Will. In his words, what we are now seeing is ‘the rise of the idiots and the government of the stupid’.

He then went on to explain this desire for change as a break from the usual left-right dichotomy, exemplified by Brexit where the usual left versus right arguments couldn’t be applied. There were pro leave and remain campaigners on both sides of the political divide, the politics-as-usual approach no longer applied to the debate as the dualism deeply ingrained in British politics since the 1970s seemed to be unraveling.

On Corbyn, Will was conflicted. Whilst sharing many of the same beliefs as Corbyn he described how for some reason he was unable to feel pleased about his election as leader of the Labour Party. He went on to explain this using a series of examples about how Corbyn had failed to stick to his principles and wasn’t saying many of the things he should have on becoming leader. He appeared to feel let down by the failure of the new leadership to display honesty about what being a socialist party really means, about what a redistributive party would actually do, what they would change and what the impact of this would be. The disillusionment he clearly feels was apparent to all as he described the endless dilemma for politicians needing to ‘square the circle’ to retain votes meaning they generally lack any real ability to be honest about what they are trying to achieve.

He launched a scathing attack on the Labour Party and the British Left, who for over 40 years have sat back and done little whilst income disparities have grown consistently across the UK. He described them as sitting in their own bubble failing to acknowledge the changes that are needed. He was pretty damning about Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, about their role in changing the very foundations of the Labour Party during what he calls the Blair Witch Project, the New Labour movement, that moved Labour away from its traditional support whilst at the same time re-creating a new breed of champagne socialists. This he describes as unsustainable, and a nonsense that will never work based as it is on the wealthy middle class socialists’ idea that everyone should be raised to the same level and that redistribution will mean personal betterment and improvement, rather than a reduction in their own personal wealth. He pointed out that there was little evidence of the kind of large-scale voluntarism that would be needed to bring about a socialist society. For example, who among the audience would be willing to curtail their annual spending to live within median average income levels, redistributing any surplus to others earning less than us?

Will seemed to reflect the experience of many in the audience when he challenged us about our own feelings, when he described how those on the left are currently unhappy with things, but that we had done little to actually change anything over the last 20 years as income disparities have increased. As he put it, we knew the poor were getting poorer, we knew inclusiveness was largely cosmetic but we didn’t do much about it and now we are really upset, but still don’t do much about it.

He went on to explain the impact of this on young people and how we need to speak to young people about the state of the world today. He explained that we should think long and hard about what we say to the younger generation and made the point that we live in a time of democratic crisis, where older people have capital and younger people don’t’. He then asked the question about how this affects our politics when our homes make more money in a year than we do and how do we square that circle with young people.

Will’s final comments focused on the hollowness of political rhetoric and how collective action can no longer work as there is no socialist dawn waiting for us and no wheel to put our shoulder against. His description of a new socialism based not on collective action but on autonomy and individualism is a difficult one to grasp. It relies on individuals making changes – for example giving directly to the homeless, picking up litter in our communities – and taking action in an arena where there is more quietism, compassion and thought. In his words, we don’t need to organize to help people, we need to show more compassion and just do something.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also like to read Making the case for the welfare state by Peter Taylor-Gooby.

“I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

esiston-and-humpage

Daniel Edmiston, University of Oxford and Louise Humpage, University of Auckland

An extended version of this post was originally published  on 1 February 2017 in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at  http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Across advanced capitalist economies, welfare withdrawal and reform are undermining the rights, identity and belonging of low-income social citizens. Amidst this upheaval, welfare claimants are engaged in diverse political struggles for and against social citizenship. What risks and opportunities does this present for the future direction of welfare politics? To answer this question, our recent Policy & Politics article explores how welfare claimants negotiate the institutions and ideals driving successive rounds of welfare reform over time.

political-struggles-for-welfare-rights-1

Source: Michael Candelori, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bymikey/18993988515/ (CC BY SA 2.0)

The uneven effects of welfare austerity contradict the notion that ‘we are all in this together’. The promise of shared sacrifice and frugality has failed to materialize across the developed world with the rich and the poor pulling further apart from one another since the global financial crisis. Increasingly restrictive welfare provision has been driven by penalizing and disciplinary reforms targeted at those most reliant on low-income social security and assistance. Continue reading “I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

What Ever Happened to Home Ownership and Asset-based Welfare?  

ronald_lennartz_kadi

Richard Ronald (University of Amsterdam), Christian Lennartz (University of Amsterdam, and Justin Kadi (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)

An extended version of this post was originally published  on 3 January 2017 in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at  http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Owning your own home has long been recognized as a form of asset-based welfare in policy terms. Historic growth in home ownership and house prices has advanced the assumption that housing equity fulfils a welfare function by acting as a store of wealth or even a reserve of cash. However, as Richard Ronald argues, a clear consequence of this policy has been to widen the gap between rich and poor families, as well as between young and old, with access to housing and housing wealth becoming a critical dimension of social inequality, especially since the last financial crisis.  Continue reading What Ever Happened to Home Ownership and Asset-based Welfare?  

Free access to Policy & Politics’ most popular articles in 2016

sarah-brown-from-ecprMessage from Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

To celebrate our most popular articles in 2016, you can access them free of charge throughout December and January from the links below.

Our most highly cited and recent articles this year have ranged from research articles such as rethinking depoliticisation: beyond the governmental  which reflects on a reappraisal of depoliticisation, offering a conceptual horizon beyond a fairly narrow state-centric approach; to an in-depth analysis of behavioural change mechanisms such as nudge set against the political context of neoliberalism in the politics of behaviour change: nudge, neoliberalism and the state; to two different case studies examining different aspects of their respective policies and politics: one on the water sector offering a critical evaluation of policy translation across countries entitled rethinking the travel of ideas, and one offering a new framework that both measures and explains policy change within the context of institutional change entitled measuring and explaining policy paradigm change.

Take some time out to catch up on our most read articles of 2016: Continue reading Free access to Policy & Politics’ most popular articles in 2016

Imagining the future: Growing older together?

Alexandra ChapmanAlexandra Chapman

There is a clear divergence emerging between each region in the UK in terms of the nature and pace of implementing a policy framework that supports older service users and promotes a person-centred framework.

Following devolution, Scotland and Wales have developed adult social care strategies underpinned by person-centred principles through divergent policies and provision from each other and England. Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, policy developments have not progressed at the same pace as the rest of the UK and there has been emphasis on a person-centred policy for adult social care users. The acknowledged shift in dependency ratios and increasing social care projects have emphasised a sense of urgency to reform adult social care policy in Northern Ireland. Continue reading Imagining the future: Growing older together?