Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Community gun"

The Independent reports on 23rd September that:
'"Community Gun" used in murder after pub row'. A .22 calibre rifle used to kill a Bristol man was hidden in bushes as a "community gun" to use as needed. This gives a whole new meaning to term "community asset"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Arun Kundnani in his tremendous book "The end of tolerance: racism in 21st Century Britain" sets out the new relationship between the individual and the state better than I have seen it done anywhere else.

If there is a breakdown of society (as Cameron as well as New Labour so often claim) it is because of the ascendancy of a globalised capitalism which fractures the remaining semblance of a welfare state and systematically excludes individuals by creating an underclass who are then blamed for all the ills of society: "the well being of social groups is no longer the responsibility of the state: its responsibility is to maximise the choices available to individuals. Market states engage in a Dutch auction for foreign investment, offering ever-worsening protection for their populations in the name of 'competitiveness'. Public servives shift from welfare provision to a focus on 'enabling' individuals to re-enter the labour market, through 'welfare to work' programmes ....... Welfare rights are diminished while the responsibility of welfare recipients to adapt themselves to market demands is increased... and if markets cannot find a use for an individual, then neither can society. Insecurity and vulnerability are the hallmarks of this new order, in which entire communities can be socially abandoned by the state to poverty, low-level violence and disorder. In Britain, these abandoned communities - whether marked out by race or class - are entirely disenfranchsed by the market-state and can no longer be held together by traditional working-class or immigrant culture. It is the children of this underclass, disdained as 'chavs' and 'hoodies', who are being imprisoned in their thousands under powers to tackle 'anti-social behaviour'.

It is here that we can see why attempts by New Labour and others to make these so-called "communities" cohesive simply miss the point at best and end up blaming the victims at worst. Community development work that (as it so often does) fails to confront the real causes of this fracturing of society ends up with the half baked analyses of "the New East End" where recently arrived migrants and their alleged dependence on a welfare state that preceded and 'was not designed for them' are identified as the cause rather than the result of the problem.

The language of New Labour - substituting "social exclusion" for poverty and setting forward "community cohesion" as a balm for all the (now) unspoken and unmentionable issues of class, racism and economic inequality - may have worked in a time of relative affluence but will no longer wash as we move decisively into a serious recession.