Equity, Austerity and Access to Public Services
The challenge of how public services can develop to be more locally responsive in times of austerity has been the subject of much recent debate on public service reform. There have also been growing concerns over the resource pressures on neighbourhoods in the UK and Europe, which have experienced new forms of migration and accelerated population growth. These pressures are particularly acute in ethnically diverse inner city neighbourhoods, which have become gateways to migrants escaping global terror and extreme poverty (Vertovec 2007). This article examines the processes that influence ‘access to’ and more importantly ‘receipt of’ public services in the context of increasing neighbourhood diversity. It draws on recent research using the theory of candidacy and argues that greater understanding of the processes of candidacy in the context of neighbourhood services will contribute to knowledge and debate on improving access to public services in times of austerity. The candidacy theory, describes the successful receipt of a service as the result of interactions between the service-user and service-provider through which the individual becomes a suitable match for the service (Dixon-Woods 2006). Findings from a case study of a neighbourhood in the South East of Glasgow suggest that the judgements made by front line staff have a strong influence on access to public services. Front-line professionals use eligibility criteria as ‘strategies of control’ to limit local demand. The pressures of austerity are likely to increase these tendencies and further undermine the principle of equity.
Keywords: Access to Public Services - Candidacy - Neighbourhoods - Diversity - Austerity
Promised Land into Real-Life Utopia? Utopian Theory, Numbers 13 and Of Plymouth Plantation
This essay traces the afterlife of a biblical passage to discuss the impact of the Bible on the development of attitudes towards conquest and group identity. The biblical Exodus narrative records the ‘(hi)story’ of a minority community. Liberated with divine help from oppression in Egypt, the group travels back to a territory regarded as ancestral homeland, the land of Canaan. The story portrays the land of Canaan as a quasi-utopian space with autonomy and guaranteed subsistence, ‘promised’ to the Israelites by God. At some point, the Exodus story about liberation and return develops into a conquest narrative that endorses a particular ideology, and as such has tremendous implications. The biblical stories about a ‘chosen’ community have resonated with later communities, who were on the threshold of conquest and adopted ‘chosen-ness’ as their own identity. Numbers 13 – a biblical story about being on the threshold of conquest – is cited by Puritans migrating to America to settle there in 1620. The biblical story is developed into a justification text that will fit their particular realities, to the disadvantage of the conquests’ discontents: tribes already living in the land to be claimed, who are not part of the ‘chosen’ community’s idea of their own progress towards utopia.
Keywords: Bible - Utopia - Conquest - Migration - American History
Too Much of a Good Thing? Society, Affluence and Obesity in Britain, 1940-1970
A period of absolute economic growth in the 1950s and
1960s gave the British population the freedom to indulge in consumerism as
never before, and in 1957, then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan declared to the
population that they had ‘never had it so good’. Yet, in the following decades,
this new prosperity came to be viewed as something of a poisoned chalice in
relation to the health of the population, as affluence was written on the
bodies of the British population through a rising tide of obesity. There are
numerous concerns that accompany rising obesity rates, and questions such as
how and when a government should intervene in the health of the population are
considerations that Britain, as a wealthy western state, has needed to grapple
with since the early 1960s. However, before obesity could be perceived as a
public health risk, its physiological consequences first needed to be
identified and recognised both by governments and the medical profession. Using
a historical discourse analysis of primary material, such as media and state
responses to the developments in the weight of the populace, this paper will
discuss the ways in which Britain has politically, socially and culturally
responded to changes in food availability and the subsequent consequences for
the health of the nation between 1940 and 1970. It will argue that throughout
these developments, new sets of medical knowledge have led to major
reconfigurations of the politics of the obese body that the social cost for
those perceived to over-consume has remained a consistent challenge.
Keywords: Affluence - Health - Society - Obesity – Rationing
21st Century Regionalism in South America: UNASUR and the Search for Development Alternatives
Regionalism is always a project under construction. It reflects a dynamic process through which a region seeks to face the challenges of globalization and development. During the last decades of the 20th Century, regional integration projects in Latin America were aligned to the formulas of neo-liberalism. Yet as the weaknesses of the Washington Consensus became more evident, the most unequal region in the world saw an uprising of mass movements and an expansion of left and left-of-centre governments that came together claiming for a more inclusive model of development. This was particularly true in South America. New institutions were needed to advance an agenda that reflected the values and ideas of the 21st Century. The Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was signed in May 2008 in Brasilia, and the organization became a legally constituted international entity on March 11th of 2011, after nine countries ratified the treaty. So far, it has recorded important political gains, and it is now advancing a regional economic agenda in response to the global financial crisis. Yet it still needs to show that it can channel the grievances of the social movements, fight inequality and enhance regional autonomy if it wants to claim being the expression an alternative model of development.
Keywords: Regionalism - Integration - Development - Post-neoliberalism - UNASUR