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Contemporary politics and policies of governing the social in the age of ‘austerity’: Wendy Larner and Sarah Neal discuss John Clarke

The opening lecture of CCIG lecture series on 'Being on the line' was given by John Clarke. Wendy Larner and Sarah Neal then discussed John’s presentation.

CCIG launched on the 21st of May a lecture Series: ‘Being on the line: citizenship, identities and governance in times of crises’.

In this series, leading CCIG researchers examine social sciences’ potentials and limits, rework old concepts and develop new ideas and methods to draw out possibilities for critique, social justice and positive social change in times of crises.

The opening lecture was given by Prof John Clarke who explored contemporary politics and policies of governing the social in the age of ‘austerity’. See video here.

Wendy Larner (University of Bristol) and Sarah Neal (University of Surrey) then discussed John’s presentation.

Wendy Larner presented her case-study on Bristol-based organisation called ‘Co-Exist’. Co-Exist epitomizes alternative initiative that grew from this context of austerity, while adopting languages and practices of a social enterprise that has been economized and functionalised. However, Co-Exist is a radical social enterprise that proposes a political alternative. As such, we see the emergence of a homo relationalis, who differs from the homo economicus. Wendy drew from Andrea Muehlebach’s research on ‘The Moral Neoliberal’, and stressed a rise of new forms of social belongings. Wendy then concluded that if we understand the social as always in the making, we cannot presuppose that the social is fully discreet from the economic. 

Sarah Neal came back to what can be seen as the disciplinary nature of social policy and underlined how, in this context of austerity, the cleavage and gap has widened between the precarious class and the elite. Divisions in society are polarized as never before, as shown during the riots in August 2011. How do you manage the social under such context? The answers to the riots have been punitive ones. Furthermore, social policy initiatives such as conditional job seekers allowance, bedrooms taxes show an anti-poor, anti-migration policies being implemented in times of crisis.

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