Tag Archives: politics

Policy & Politics at ECPR 2017

Representatives from the Policy & Politics journal team are delighted to be attending the 2017 General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) in Oslo from 6-8 September.

Please look out for our representatives around the conference to discuss any relevant articles you are planning to publish. They are:

Ayres

Sarah Ayres, Academic Co-Editor

 

 

 

 

Brown Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

 

 

 

 

Many of our Editorial Board members are attending too so do approach them if you want to get their views on the journal as a potential publication outlet. They are Nikolaos Zahariadis, Associate Editor for North America and Editorial Advisory Board members Eva Sorenson, Isabelle Engeli & Richard Simmons.

With such incredible variety and impressive quality across the 72 panels and 1,881 papers being presented at the conference, we are looking forward to meeting and discussing research ideas with many of you.

The Policy & Politics exhibition stand is located in the exhibitors’ hall in the Eilert Sundts hus alongside our publisher Policy Press, so please do stop by to find out more about the journal. We’ll look forward to seeing you.

Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

If you enjoyed this blog you may also enjoy top tips on how to get published in Policy & Politics

How politics and power create poor health: ‘I think they’re trying to kill folk aff’

Mhairi Mackenzie et al

By Mhairi Mackenzie, Chik Collins, John Connolly, Gerard McCartney, Mick Doyle

 

 

 

 

We know from decades of international research that power, politics and specific social and economic policies have a fundamental role in creating health.  These factors contribute very significantly to the gradient we see across income groups in terms of life expectancy and more general wellbeing.

However, many health policy researchers have identified how policies which claim to be about reducing health inequalities seldom squarely address these fundamental determinants of health.  Instead, policies have a distinct tendency to focus on changing the behaviours of (mainly) poor people. The message is often that people smoke too much, drink too much or don’t make the best use of services that are available to them.  These messages do not give proper consideration to why particular health damaging behaviours occur in particular places or why health is worse in certain places even in the absence of these behaviours. Even those policies which do start with a broader analysis of the problem of disparities in health are subject to lifestyle drift when it comes to putting policy into practice.  Although policy documents may state that the causes of poor health or inequalities in health are to do with poverty and deprivation, the interventions which actually operate on the ground focus much less (if at all) on changing people’s material circumstances and rather more on trying to change behaviours (which are in fact heavily shaped by material circumstances).

In light of the above, it is unsurprising that research in different countries also shows that when policy makers and practitioners talk about how health is created they tend not to give due regard to these known fundamental causes. Again, the emphasis is on explanations that focus on individual lifestyles. Behavioural interventions aimed at changing the lives of poor individuals clearly have a powerful draw on the attention of policy makers.  The reasons for this preference are many and varied and include the desire for quick policy wins over longer term action and the seductive appeal of short and simplistic causal pathways to health, in preference to having to deal, intellectually and practically, with the longer and more complex pathways which are actually at work.

Another reason, however, for the hardiness of the behavioural intervention as a policy tool – despite its apparent lack of success in addressing the problem – is that it fits within a broader contemporary political narrative.  That narrative tells us that individuals are responsible for making and breaking their own life chances.  Consequently, their health and social outcomes lie overwhelmingly in their own hands.  There is, in this view, ‘no such thing as society’, or at least no wider societal determinants which individuals can’t be expected to just over-ride through their personal choices and individual acts of will.  In this narrative the state’s role is to ‘nudge’, ‘activate’ or mandate individuals to do the right thing rather than to challenge fundamentally the existing power relations within society.

This kind of thinking is part of the wider set of discourses, policies and practices associated with neoliberalism.  These provide both the context in which, and the mechanisms through which, the lives of some communities have become in many ways much more difficult since the 1980s – and their existence and identity much more marginalised.  Research tells us that it is this fundamental part of the story of how poor health is created that is largely missing from the discourse of those in policy and practice.

In our recent Policy & Politics article: working-class discourses of politics, policy and health: ‘I don’t smoke; I don’t drink. The only thing wrong with me is my health’, we wanted to look at how people living in deprived communities – which had felt the brunt of deindustrialisation in the 1980s and had been at the sharp edge of austerity in current times – talked about how politics and policies had impacted on their health, and that of their families and their wider communities.  Unlike the messages from policymakers, our sample of participants in the towns of Kilmarnock and Cumnock in East Ayrshire, Scotland, brought vividly to life how it is that power, politics and social and economic policies are indeed a fundamental matter for health – at both an individual and community level.

Here are some of the things our participants told us:

They do not feel at all valued by political elites; on the contrary they are made to feel literally surplus to requirements. An ex-miner told us: ‘I’ve heated their bums wae coal…we’ve served wur cause. If they could dae away wae you noo, they would dae away wae you, because you’re a drain on society…They want me, noo, to work til I’m sixty-seven. I’ve no chance of working to I’m sixty-seven. I’ll no’ see sixty-seven.’ Similarly, another respondent, reflecting on ‘austerity’ and so-called ‘welfare reform’, simply said, “I think they’re trying to kill folk aff”.

They sense that deliberate action was taken by government to destroy the industries on which their communities had depended, and to undermine the strong and more solidaristic community relationships which had prevailed in the past. A respondent from Kilmarnock said: “She [Thatcher] allowed a’ the work to go abroad. And oor factories in Kilmarnock…we had a great town, and it just finished. Factory after factory, well-known brands…employers went. They all went wi’ a feeling o’ sorrow but it didnae help the workers.” Another ex-miner from Cumnock, reflecting on the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike across the UK, said: “looking back you can see the preparation got made. And they really backed the union into a corner … it was to diminish the power of the unions and fragment communities”.

Where ‘negative lifestyles’ exist within these communities, they are seen as closely connected to broader social and political circumstances. Another ex-miner told us how downwardly spiralling morale and behaviours in his community were rooted in changing circumstances: ‘The factories started slimmin doon, cutting workforces. The ability for young people to get into work was becoming limited. We started to see probably drugs in our community for the first time. And probably the excessive drinking was starting to take a hold as well…’ Further, not all of our participants were able to understand their current poor health in terms of their own behavioural decisions – as we indicate in the title of our research paper – one man in poor health summed up this personal conundrum by saying ‘I don’t drink; I don’t smoke – the only thing wrong with me is my health’.

Participants are conscious of current day political strategies to set poor and struggling communities apart from the rest of society. One young woman said: ‘They are using the media…tae bombard folk wi’ … the good old ‘divide and conquer’…it’s like stigmatising full groups at a time. It comes in waves. I mean, the immigrants’ll be due a shot…it’s a’ their fault. It’s like they’re trying to deliberately create this, ‘Everybody that’s on incapacity’s a scrounger.’”

All in all, our research participants provided a vivid articulation of links between politics, policies, deindustrialisation, damage to community fabric and impacts on health. We ask: given the way in which these lay participants’ understandings of health reflect (and enrich) the views of researchers, should our participants and the many who share their stories, actually be the ones educating policy makers and practitioners, rather than being seen as the recipients of perennially failing health education messages? What might be the impact of turning the traditional health education model on its head? How would such a shift in who is doing the educating be received by policy-makers and practitioners?

Mhairi Mackenzie is Professor of Public Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.  Chik Collins is Professor of Applied Social Science in the School of Media, Culture and Society at the University of the West of Scotland. John Connolly is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of West of Scotland.  Mick Doyle works for the Scottish Community Development Centre. Gerry McCartney works for NHS Health Scotland.

If you enjoyed this blog you may also be interested to read Policy, Politics, Health, and Housing in the UK.

Reposted with kind permission from: http://discoversociety.org/2016/04/05/policy-briefing-how-politics-and-power-create-poor-health-i-think-theyre-trying-to-kill-folk-aff/

Trump that: the failure and farce of American politics

MFlinders-new-small
Matthew Flinders

By Matthew Flinders

There is something very odd and bizarrely impressive about Donald Trump’s approach to democratic politics: it is quite obviously undemocratic. Indeed, if anything, his campaign is fueled by anti-political sentiment and populist slogans. It’s strong stuff. So strong that it deserves to be recognized in the form of a new political ideology: “Trump-ism” Eponymous…and yet also synonymous with the failure and farce of American politics. I’ve tried so hard not to write a piece about “you know who” Trump. I really have! It’s just too obvious and to some extent just too easy but as his apparent popularity in the United States grows so does my concern about who might actually hold the most powerful political office on the planet.

But in many ways my concern has nothing to do with partisanship, less to do with politics and everything to do with democracy.

I don’t care what party Mr Trump belongs to, I know that politics is a worldly art, but it strikes me that Donald is not democratic. Continue reading Trump that: the failure and farce of American politics

Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Danny Dorling
Danny Dorling

Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…

The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).

In Scotland all but three of the constituencies fell to the Scottish National Party (SNP) which now represented as wide a cross-section of society as it is possible to imagine. The former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, Alex Salmond became Continue reading Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Fire and ashes: success and failure in politics

Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

By Matthew Flinders. This was originally published on the Oxford University Press blog.

Politics is a worldly art. It is a profession that is founded on the ability to instill hope, convince doubters and unite the disunited – to find simple and pain free solutions to what are in fact complex and painful social challenges. In recent months a small seam of scholarship has emerged that explores public attitudes to politics and politicians through the lens of Daniel Kahneman’s work on behavioral economics and psychology. ‘Think fast’ and the public’s responses are generally aggressive, negative and hopeless; ‘think slow’ and the public’s responses are far more positive, understanding and hopeful. Such findings resonate with my own personal experience and particularly when I founded a “Be Kind to Politicians Party” as part of a project for the BBC and it was amazing how many people I was able to recruit in a fairly short time.

The aim of telling this tale is not to make the reader feel sorry for politicians, or really to defend them or their profession. The ‘aim’ – if there really is one – is to promote the public understanding of political life and to steer it away from over-simplistic representations of sleaze, scandal and self-interest. (P.J. O’Rourke’s Don’t Vote for the Bastards – It Just Encourages Them! suddenly springs to mind.) Continue reading Fire and ashes: success and failure in politics

Where next? New politics, kinder politics, and the myth of anti-politics

Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

by Matthews Flinders, Co-Editor of Policy & Politics. This was originally posted on the OUP blog and is reposted here with kind permission.

For many commentators the 2015 General Election was the first genuinely ‘anti-political’ election but at the same time it was one in which the existence of a major debate about the nature of British democracy served to politicize huge sections of society. The surge in party membership for the Scottish National Party, for example, with over 100,000 members at the time of the election (i.e. far more members than soldiers in the whole British Army) deserves some explanation in a context dominated by the rhetoric of disenchantment and decline. The subsequent election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party with over a quarter of a million votes (59.5% of those cast) raises further questions about ‘anti-politics being all the rage’.

The simple fact is that ‘anti-politics’ is a myth. It is also a dangerous myth due to the manner in which it seeks to perpetuate cynicism when the evidence is arguably far more positive. The truth is that the results of the 2015 General Election and the Labour leadership contest were actually more anti-establishment than anti-political. Take, for example, the influential writing and public interventions of Owen Jones [The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It, 2014] or Russell Brand’s raw anti-elite, anti-establishment, anti-elections nihilism that was Continue reading Where next? New politics, kinder politics, and the myth of anti-politics

Can democracy survive?

IMG_3928by Tessa Coombes, PhD Researcher at Bristol University

For the final plenary session of the conference Prof. Andrew Gamble, from Cambridge University, took us back to the issue of democracy and its ability to survive and even thrive. We were reminded that for the first time in the modern state system authoritarian regimes are in retreat and representative democracy, in some form or other, is on the rise.

Representative liberal democracies have been described as the least admirable form of governance not least because of their inability to take difficult decisions and their short term thinking. Despite this, in the 20th century, representative democracy came to be seen as an ideal state. But it now seems we are in a time of transition, where there is a real disengagement and disillusionment with mainstream politics, where the choice is narrowing and where people are indifferent to their right to vote. This crisis of representative politics reflects a crisis of trust in our politics and politicians. Once more, despite this process, representative democracy Continue reading Can democracy survive?