Posted on Leave a comment

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein: A Summary (of Part 1)

The focus of this book is on the causes of climate change, some potential solutions, and the dangers of carrying on with ‘business as usual’. More specifically:

  • Chapter two provides an overview of how globalised neoliberal policies helped to cause climate change (chapter two)
  • Chapters three and four explore how governments have a crucial role to play in combating climate change (chapters three and four)
  • Chapter five reminds us of the possible consequences of carrying on with the extractivist logic of the industrial era which underpins the neoliberal exploitation of the environment (chapter five).
  • Chapter one alerts us to the strategies which neoliberals employ to deny climate change in order to prevent the collapse of their neoliberal world order and their fall from world power

NB – I changed the order from the actual book because I think my order makes more sense!

NB2 – I’ve changed the arty subtitles of the chapters so they are more meaningful to a mass audience.

Chapter Two – Hot Money: How Neoliberalism Accelerated Climate Change

Klein argues that the three policy pillars of the neoliberal age (1989 – present day ) are each incompatible with many of the actions we must take to bring our emissions to safe levels and bring climate change under control.

The three main neoliberal policies are:

  1. privatisation of the public sphere
  2. deregulation of the corporate sector
  3. lowering of income and corporate taxes, paid for with cuts to public spending.

These neoliberal ideas lie at the heart of the World Trade Organisation, and many of its policies are incompatible with a sustainable future. Specifically Klein says there are three contradictions between the (neoliberal) goals of the WTO and what’s needed to control climate change.

  • Firstly, the WTO encourages more international trade which has meant a huge increase in fossil fuel burning container ships and lorries. Reduced carbon emissions would require less trade or more local trade.
  • Secondly, the WTO gave TNCs the rights to sue national governments for preventing them from making a profit out of mining/ burning fossil fuels, whereas to protect the environment, governments would need to be able pass laws to protect the environment.
  • Thirdly, the WTO has given western companies stronger patent rights over their technologies – whereas if renewable technologies are to be transferred to the developing world, they would need to make their own cheap copies of those technologies (because they would not be able to afford to buy them).

As general evidence of the link between neoliberal policies and the increase in global warming we have the following stats – ‘Before the neoliberal era, emissions growth had been slowing from 4.5% annual increases in the 1960s to about 1% a year in the 1990s, but between 2000 and 2008 the growth rate reached 3.4%, before reaching a historic high of 5.9% in 2009. (Evidence for this comes in the form of the report below (although growth does slow in more recent years!)

global carbon emissions

To illustrate the link between increasing international trade and global warming Klein gives the following examples:

According to Andreas Malm, China had became the workshop of the world by the year 2000 and by 2007 China was responsible for 2/3rds of the annual increase in global emissions. However, global warming cannot all be pinned on China – because only half of that growth in emissions is down to China’s internal growth, the other half being because of China’s increasing exports to other countries (production being done for TNCs).

This in turn is down to the primary driving force of the trade system in the 1980s and 1990s – allowing multinationals the freedom to scour the globe in search of the cheapest and most exploitable labour force (the ‘race to the bottom’) – it was a journey that passed through Mexico and South Korea and ended up in China where wages were extraordinarily low, trade unions were brutally suppressed and the state was willing to spend seemingly limitless funds on massive infrastructure projects – modern ports, sprawling highway systems, endless numbers of coal-fired power plants, massive dams, all to ensure that the lights stayed on in the factories and the goods made it from the assembly lines onto the container ships in time – A free trader’s dream, in other words, and a climate nightmare.

increasing trade to China
The expansion of China’s ports indicates the increasing volume of trade between China and other countries

Klein suggests that there is a causal link between the quest for cheap labour and rising CO2 emissions – the same logic which works labour to the bone will burn mountains of coal while spending next to nothing on pollution controls because it’s the cheapest way to produce.

As further evidence that it’s the global trade system/ increasing consumption in general (rather than just China) that’s the problem – most of the increase in emissions in the last decade and a half are a result of the globalisation of the trade in food (as observed by Steven Shyrbman a decade and a half ago). The global food system accounts for between 19 and 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

At one level this is a result of the increase in food miles that come with shipping food products around the world (for example shipping New Zealand apples to Britain in September), at a deeper level it is about the intensification of production through the industrialisation of agriculture – which has resulted in larger and larger farms devoting themselves to producing one crop (or one animal in intensive meat-factories) which requires not only tractors, but also artificial fertilisers and pesticides, all of which are derived from oil. At deeper level still, the problem lies in the fact that gigantic food companies such as Monsanto and Cargill are major players in writing the WTO rules that allow them to operate this way.

To illustrate the second point above: How TNCs use the WTO to sue governments Klein cites the following:

(Firstly some context) Fossil fuel companies lie firmly at the heart of the global capitalist system, and presently receive $775 billion to $1 trillion in annual global subsidies, but they pay nothing for the privilege of treating our shared atmosphere as free waste dump.

exxonmobil.jpg
Are oil companies to blame for environmental decline?

In order to cope with these distortions (which the WTO has made no attempt to correct), governments need to take a range of aggressive steps – such as price guarantees to straight subsidies so that green energy has a shot at competing.

However, green energy programmes which have been instigated under nation states are increasingly being challenged under World Trade Organisation rules. For example:

In 2010 the United States challenged China’s wind powered subsidy programs on the grounds that it contained supports for local industry considered protectionist. China in turn filed a complaint in 2012 targeting various renewable energy programmes in mainly Italy and Greece.

In short, the WTO encourages nation states to tear down each others windmills while encouraging them to subsidise coal burning power stations.

The sad thing is, when governments subsidise green energy – it works – Denmark has the most successful renewable energy programs in the world, with 40% of its energy coming from renewables, mostly wind, but its programme was rolled out in the 1980s, with most installations being subsidised at 30%, before the WTO was established. Now such subsidies are illegal under WTO rules because it’s ‘unfair’ to fossil fuel companies.

Climate Change Treaties – The 1990s to the Present Day: Free Trade Trumps Environmental Protection

Klein notes that there is startling parallel between the emergence of international treaties on climate change and the neoliberal agenda free-trade agenda advanced by the World Trade Organisation.

1992 marked the date of the first United Nations Earth Summit in Rio – the first UN Framework Convention of Climate Change was signed.

1995 marked the date of the establishment of the World Trade Organisation, which formally put in place all of the above rules which effectively prevent any country doing anything about climate-change.

However, the commitments made in the climate negotiations all effectively functioned on the honour system, with a weak and unthreatening mechanisms to penalise countries which failed to keep their promises. The commitments made under trade agreements, on the other hand, were enforced by a dispute settlement system with real teeth, and failure to comply would land governments in trade court, often facing harsh penalties.

The hierarchy was so clear that the 1992 Rio Earth Summit agreement made clear that ‘measures taken to combat climate change… should not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.’

To illustrate how weak the measures to combat climate change actually are Klein cites the fact that there are fundamental flaws with the way CO2 emissions are monitored:

Countries are bound by voluntary agreements to keep CO2 emissions low – but the emissions counting system on which nation states are judged is fundamentally flawed because it doesn’t take account of emissions from transportation across borders – and container shipping has increased by 400% over the last 20 years.

Also countries are judged by the emissions which take place in their boarders – not for the pollution produced in the manufacturing of goods which are shipped to their shores – for example the TV set in my living room is not counted on the UK’s emissions count, but on China’s, where it was produced.

Basically, Klein sees the lack of effective monitoring as allowing countries to under-report their CO2 emissions, and thus dodge responsibility.

What can we do?

We need to consume less, straight away, and aim to reduce our emissions to the levels of the 1970s, if we wish to be staying alive…

Chapter Three – Public and Paid For: Arguments and Evidence that Ground-Up Social Democracy Is The Most Effective Way to Combat Climate Change

Much has been written about Germany’s renewable energy transition – It is currently undergoing a ‘transition to green’ – with 25% of its energy coming from renewables. This is up from only 6% in 2000.

Though rarely talked about there is a clear and compelling relationship between public ownership and the ability of communities to get off dirty energy.

In Germany, this has taken the form of local citizens groups taking control of their own energy supplies from multinational corporations. There are about 200 of these in Germany, and they take the form of locally controlled energy companies which are concerned with public interests, not profit, which was democratically controlled by citizens, with money earned being returned to the city, rather than lost to shareholders of some multinational.

This movement is actually more widespread than Germany (there are even some cities in America have done this, such as Boulder in Colorado which have gone down this route), and is most prevalent in the Netherlands, Austria, and Norway, and these are the countries with the highest commitment to coming off fossil fuels and pursuing green energy alternatives.

On the other hand, according to John Farrel, the attitude of most private energy companies has been, and still is ‘we’re going to take the money we make from selling fossil fuels and use it to lobby as hard as we can against any change to the way we do business’.

In 2009 Mark Z. Jacobsen and Mark A Deluchi authored a road map for how 100% of the world’s energy for all purposes could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early 2030. There are numerous studies which confirm the possibility of this, but the biggest barriers to change are social and economic.

Increasing Natural Disasters Require Strong Public Institutions to Manage

In the course of the 1970s there were 660 reported disasters around the world, including droughts, floods, extreme temperature events, wild-fires and storms. In the 2000s there were 2,322 – a fivefold boost…. There is not doubt that man-made climate change has caused this increase.

Yet these are three decades in which governments around the world have been chipping away at the health and resilience of the public sphere – the problem with this is that governments are realistically the only institutions that are up to the challenge of responding to natural disasters (during disasters most people tend to lose their free market religion and wants to know their government has their backs).

A case in point here is the devastation caused by the the floods of 2013-14 – These were particularly awkward for the coalition government because a year earlier David Cameron had gutted the Environment Agency, which was responsible for dealing with flooding. Since 2009, approximately 25% of its workforce has been axed or were lined up to be axed and nearly 300 flood defence schemes had been left unbuilt due to government budget cuts.

The worldwide costs of coping with weather extremes are astronomical – In 2011 the global cost stood at $380 billion.

Given this it is clear that public money needs to spent urgently on reducing the carbon emissions which are causing these crises – and much of that needs to spent in developing countries – and who should pay? The polluters!

The Polluter Pays Principle

A 2011 Survey by the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs concluded that it would cost $1.9 trillion dollars a year for the next forty years to overcome poverty, increase food production to eradicate hunger without degrading land and water resources and avert the climate change catastrophe, and at least half of that would have to be spent in developing countries.

The problem is that public spending has been going in the opposite direction, and the fossil fuel companies who profit from climate change have blocked moves to sustainability on every turn.

These companies are very profitable – the top five oil companies pulled in $900 billion in profits from 2001 to 2010. These companies are rich because they have dumped the cost of cleaning up their mess on regular people, and this needs to fundamentally change.

So who should pay?

Oil and Gas companies should be forced to pay by putting in place a steep carbon tax, and laws to prevent these companies from polluting – If these companies are going to stop polluting, it will be because they are forced to do so by law.

The United States – because the US military is the biggest consumer of petroleum in the world, arms companies should also pay.

The 500 million richest of us are responsible for about half of all emissions – so we are going to have to pay for our pollution.

Other suggestions for raising the almost $2 billion annually include:

  • A low rate financial transaction tax (would raise $650 billion)
  • Closing tax havens ($190 billion)
  • A 1% billionaires tax ($46 dollars annually)
  • Slashing the military budgets of the top ten military spenders ($325 billion)
  • A $50 tax per metric ton of CO2 would raise $450 billion
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies – $775 billion.

If these measures were taken, they would raise more than $2 trillion annually.

Our current political class is probably not going to sort out climate change – because

  • They are not prepared to challenge big money Corporations
  • They are not prepared to engage in long term planning (real market fundamentalists don’t plan – the market sorts all that out!

Chapter Four – Planning and Banning: Arguments that Governments will need to Plan and Regulate Corporations to Combat Climate Change

In short – Governments need to plan for jobs.

The gist of this section is that the public sector needs to put green jobs creation at the centre of its green strategy – investment in renewables and local agriculture, as well as the renationalising of private companies (like in Germany, but also extended to rail networks in countries like Britain) could create millions of jobs worldwide, many more than a continued dependency on fossil fuels.

Governments need to plan for power (the transition to green energy)

We need to depart from neoliberal ideology to bring about the green transition – like is being done in Germany – this means engaging in long term national planning and deliberately picking green energy, and fixing prices to help young start up renewable companies.

However, what we don’t need is massive state owned energy companies – The highest rates of renewable energy have been achieved in Germany and Denmark with lots of smaller locally run co-operative businesses.

One threat to the green transition is cheap gas – In the US fracking has damaged Wind Power’s position in the new energy market – down from 42% of the market in new energy in 2009 to 32% in 2011.

Governments also need to plan for food.

Here Klein cites the important role agroecology which is about small scale, organic, local production, increasing as far as possible the species diversity on farms, in sharp contrast to the monocultures preferred by big international food companies, which are heavily dependent on fertilisers and pesticides.

In Malawi, agroecology has led to a doubling or tripling of Maize yields, and to date projects world-wide have shown a crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects.

Governments will need to learn to say no to big oil companies.

For example, companies simply should not be given permits to frack, period. Some studies have found that the methane emissions from fracking are 30% higher than those associated with natural gas, and that the warming potential once the gas is emitted is 86 times greater than carbon dioxide.

The government should also say no to projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline which is being built to pump shale gas from Canada to the US – this will require massive acts of civil disobedience to achieve.

Meanwhile, big oil companies are investing in extracting projects like never before, and spending a fortune on lobbying governments – One study found that they spend $400 000 a day lobbying.

Chapter Five – The Decline of Nauru – The Consequences of Carrying on with Business as Usual

In this chapter Klein provides us with a brief history of the tiny Island of Nauru, which offers us a useful warning against the extractivist logic of the industrial era.

Few places on earth embody the suicidal results of building our economies on polluting extraction more graphically than Nauru. Thanks to its mining of phosphate, Nauru has spent the last century disappearing from the inside out; now, thanks to our collective mining of fossil fuels, it is disappearing from the outside in: I covered this in a previous post – The Island of Nauru…..

 

Chapter OneClimate-Change Proves that Neoliberal Policies are Killing the Planet and Us With It – thus Neoliberals Deny Climate Change in Order to Cling on to Power.

Neoliberals know full well that our global economy is created by and reliant on the burning of fossil fuels and that to change this requires the opposite of neoliberalism – It will require governments to intervene heavily in business – with such measures as

  • sweeping bans on polluting activities
  • deep subsidies for green alternatives
  • pricey penalties for violations
  • new taxes
  • new public works programmes
  • reversals of privatisations.

There is however, little motivation for neoliberals to adopt climate change policies because climate change will affect the poor more than the rich…

For starters, in the wealthier countries we will be able to protect our cities from the effects of sea level rise with expensive flood barriers, and then there’s the fact that climate change will affect poor countries in the South more than rich countries in the North.

And more drastically, in the words of Naomi Klein….

‘Since people who scare Americans are unlucky to live in poor, hot places, climate change will cook them, leaving the United States to rise like a phoenix from the flames of global warming.’

So instead of changing anything, neoliberals have established institutions which fund people to do research which counters the overwhelming (97%) scientific consensus that climate change exists.

The premier institute for doing this is The Heartland Institute, which hosts annual gatherings of climate change deniers, during which little serious scientific debate takes place, with the most popular speakers being right-wing (neoliberal) ideologues who present the issue of climate change as a hoax being perpetuated by the left in order to force people into giving up their high-consumption lifestyles.**

Worryingly, these think tanks seem to be very influential in shaping public opinion – A 2007 Harris poll found that 71% of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would alter the climate. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51%. In June 2011, to 44%. This is one of the largest shifts in a short period of time seen in public opinion in recent years.

Two Possible Futures…

Klein believes that we have a choice….

If we stay on the road we are on, we will get the big corporate, big military, big engineering responses to climate change – the world of a tiny group of big corporate winners and armies of locked-out losers that we have imagined in virtually every account of our dystopic future, from Mad Max to The Children of Men, to The Hunger Games, to Elysium.

Or we can choose to heed climate change’s planetary wake-up call and change course and steer away not just from the emissions cliff but from the logic which brought us that precipice.

That means laying out a vision of the world that competes direclty with neoliberalism….. that resonates deeply with the majority of the people on the planet because it is true: that we are not apart from nature, but of it. That acting collectively for a greater good is not suspect, and that such common projects for responsible for our species’ greatest accomplishments. That greed must be tempered by both rule and example. That poverty amidst plenty is unconscionable.

** That their position on climate-change is not objective is suggested by four facts:

  • Transnational Corporations which are responsible for climate change (and so benefit from it) such as Koch and ExxonMobil fund such think tanks, to the tune of almost $1bn a year.
  • Many of the companies funding climate change denial are at the same time insuring themselves heavily against the future consequences of climate change.
  • A 2013 study by political scientist Peter Jacques found that 72% of climate denial books, mostly published since the 1990s, were linked to right-wing think tanks such as the Heartland Institute.
  • One’s political outlook predicts one’s views on climate change more so than anything else – only 11% of Americans with hierarchical/ individualistic (right-wing) worldviews rate climate change as high risk, while 69% of those with egalitarian and communitarian worldviews rate it as high risk.)

Sources:

Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

Grenfell Tower – Profits before Safety?

This truly horrific, and avoidable tragedy seems to be a perfect illustration of the downsides of neoliberal policies – deregulation, cutting public services (such as social housing) and outsourcing to private companies are the three cornerstones of neoliberal economic policy – and the conflation of these three things together seem to be directly responsible for the deaths in Grenfell Tower.

Grenfell Tower neoliberalism
The official death toll for the Grenfell Tower is currently 79 people, although the actual number might be considerably higher.

NB – This isn’t just me saying this, below is an approximate quote by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, in a speech given on 24th June:

‘The Grenfell Tower fire was a ‘direct consequence of Tory attitudes towards social housing… they think they are second class citizens, and thus they got second class fire safety standards. It is also a direct consequence of outsourcing and of deregulation” (video from The Independent).

Five things which suggest Kensington Council put profits before safety…

I’ve taken the  five pieces of evidence from a recent article in The Week : ‘The Grenfell Inferno: were profits put before safety’? (NB – as far as I can tell, this is only in the print copy of The Week, 24th June, Issue 1130).

One – The council ignored repeated warnings by Grenfell residents

Grenfell residents had repeatedly warned KCTMO that the building was unsafe:

  • rubbish blocking hallways was going uncollected
  • emergency lighting was inadequate
  • there was no fire escape (save the main stairs)
  • fire extinguishers weren’t being tested
  • repeated power surges had led to electrical appliances catching fire previously.
  • It was also claimed that on the night of the fire, the fire alarms failed.

The council’s response was to actually threaten one of those bringing up the issue of fire safety with legal action:

grenfell fire safety.png

Two – The council made a conscious choice to cut costs on social housing

The council had the money to make the Tower safe, but it chose not to spend it.

Amelia Gentlemen in The Guardian suggests that, in the context of the vast wealth in the borough, there is a strong suspicion that council officials ‘see social housing tenants, many of them immigrants, as a nuisance, occupying valuable land that could be sold off to developers at a vast profit’. 

Three – The council outsourced the recent refurbishment of Grenfell Tower to a firm called Rydon, which has a track record of putting profits before safety.

Rydon, which made a pre-tax profit of £14 million last year, won the contract over the councils ‘preferred contractor’ by undercutting them, despite the fact that another council, Sutton council, had recently cancelled a five year repairs contract with Rydon becaue its performance fell short of requirements.

Rydon Cladding.jpg

Rydon subcontracted out the Grenfell work to nine different companies, which raised ‘serious concerns about the quality of supervision and accountability’.

So it was Rydon that was the firm who would have agreed to install the non fire-proof cladding, rather than going for the fire-proof panels for an extra £5000.

Four – Deregulation has meant that landlords have managed to avoid acting on fire safety advice. 

Retrofitting sprinklers (which would have cost £200 000) was one of the recommendations made after a fire at Lakanal House in south London in 2009 killed nine people, but lawmakers decided not to make this mandatory – they left it up to landlords and councils to do so on a voluntary basis, and few did.

deregulation Grenfell
The Cabinet Office boasts how deregulation has reduced the rigor of fire safety inspections

Five – The incapable response by the council to the disaster

Despite an amazing voluntary response by the public, the ‘council was no where to be seen’ – even 24 hours after the fire, there was no centralised co-ordination from the council, no point of information about missing persons, and some residents were still sleeping rough 4 days later.

All of this suggests that the council see social housing tenants as second class citizens. 

Grenfell protests kensington.jpg

NB – the poor treatment is continuing several days later….According to The Guardian around 30 households were subsequently told by the council that they would have to move out their Holiday Inn accommodation because of previous bookings; some families have been asked to move several times.

The relevance of all of this to A-level sociology….

As I mentioned above, this tragedy can be used to illustrate downsides of neoliberal policies – deregulation, cutting public services (such as social housing) and outsourcing to private companies are the three cornerstones of neoliberal economic policy – and the conflation of these three things together seem to be directly responsible for the deaths in Grenfell Tower.

It’s also a useful reminder that poor people in rich (unequal) societies can be treated appallingly, suggesting that inequality is the main barrier to further social development in so called ‘developed’ countries like the United Kingdom.

I also think Bauman’s concept of ‘flawed consumers’ can be applied here – Bauman has long commented that capitalism produces ‘surplus people’ – those without the means to consume, and many of the Grenfell residents fit this category – and because they perform no useful function in a capitalist system (because they can’t buy that many things and keep profit flowing) these people are treated with contempt, as this case study clearly demonstrates.

As a final note, a harsh question I’d like people to consider is simply this – how many people in the U.K. genuinely believe that the state should guarantee a decent standard of housing for everyone, even if that means spending a few billion extra pounds at the national level, which in turn would mean an increasing in taxes?

Clearly the Kensington council leader, and probably most of the Tory party, think the state should provide no or minimal help to the poor in the form of social housing, that’s one of the main strands of neoliberal thought, but how many of those people cheering for Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury really believe the state should pay more towards social housing, especially if that means your council tax bill going up?

I have this uncomfortable feeling that while it’s easy to come together and hate the Tories, if you probed public opinion a little deeper, there probably wouldn’t be that much support for increased spending on social welfare, or that much commitment to giving serious thought about how to implement policies to make capitalism work better for the poor, let alone how to replace it with a post-capitalist order.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Using material from item A, analyse two ways in which globalisation may have changed pupils’ experience of education(10)

A suggested model answer to this 10 mark analyse question, a possible question for the AQA’s education with theory and method’s A level paper (paper 7192/1) 

  • Hooks
  • What you need to apply the hooks to

Item A

Globalisation, or the increasing interconnectedness of countries across the globe, creates both challenges and opportunities for the United Kingdom. For example, economic globalisation has resulted in both more opportunities abroad and more competition for jobs for these jobs; and increasing migration has resulted in greater multiculturalism in the UK.

Education has had to adapt to globalization, and as a result, pupils today experience education very differently to previous generations.

Suggested Answer

Point 1 – Economic globalisation means increased competition from abroad, which means British students today are expected to spend longer in education (as evidence by the increasing of the school leaving age. So one change in the experience of education is that students stay in school for longer.

Development  – globalisation has meant that most of the unskilled factory jobs have now moved abroad, and increasingly British workers need to be better educated in order to get jobs at all, thus the expansion of higher education means that more students ‘experience’ higher education and are better qualified than their parents.

Further development – however, ironically, poorer UK students are put off by the fees universities now charge, meaning that the globalisation of HE is possibly resulting in more class inequality.

Further development  – increased competition also means more pressure to succeed, schools are now ranked by PISA league tables, which means even more ‘teaching the test’ and ‘narrowing of the curriculum’, which is a final way the experience of education has changed.

Point 2 – The item also refers to the pressures of increased immigration resulting in more multiculturalism – and British schools have long had multicultural education in response to this, which also changes pupils’ experiences of education.

Development 1 – For example, religious education has long taught about other religions, and increasingly schools and colleges have events such as ‘black history month’ raising awareness of diversity.

Further Development – schools have also introduced compensatory education to help recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, such as extra support for pupils who don’t have English as a first language.

Further development – however, some policies may be seen as potentially divisive, for example, the prevent agenda in schools seems to target Muslim pupils through ‘categorical suspicion’.

Further development – There is also doubt that these inclusive policies are working, many people, especially in working class areas, object to the extra resources being spent on minority groups, and given the fact that it is the white working classes who have the lowest achievement, they might have a point.

Posted on Leave a comment

Neoliberalism in Conservative and New Labour Education Policy (1979-1997)

The resurgence of neoliberalism between 1979 to 1997 resulted in a rolling back of the collectivist principles of welfare state and a return to Victorian era individualsim, a reassertion of the twin pillars of individual liberty defined as freedom to choose and market forces, or the discipline of competition.

Throughout this period, conservative economic policy was reoriented towards the neoliberal agenda of deregulation, privitasation and and liberalisation.

Neoliberalism under the conservative government (1979-1997)

Ball points to six key elements of the conservative (neoliberal) framework for education, the main platform for which was the 1988 Education Reform Act:

  • The establishment of a national curriculum – (What Ball refers to as revisionist – a Victorian fantasy with Britain at the centre as a benign power lighting the way for others)
  • Suspicion of teacher professionalism – accountability and control
  • ‘Teacher-proof’ evaluation – more market information
  • Offering parents choice
  • Devolution of budgets from LEAs to schools
  • Enhancement of roles of governors and headteachers in local management systems.

These elements tied together as a reform package that provided the infrastructure for an education market and the neoliberal vision of the education system focused on market reform, which also had six key elements:

  • Choice for parents
  • Per capita funding meant schools were driven by recruitment
  • Diversity of provision
  • Competition
  • League tables
  • New organisationl ecologies – management modeled on business – focusing on ‘efficient’ use of resources and budget maximisation.

Further features of the neoliberal education system include:

  • A complex infrastructure of testing
  • A discourse of othering – constructing inner cities as a problem in need of correction, for example.
  • The TVEI was also established to reorient schools to the needs of employers. This was intended to make colleges more vocationally oriented, provide job-related training to 14-18 year olds and steer students into boom industries.

 Neoliberalism under the New Labour Government (1997-2010)

When New Labour cam to power in 1997 there were three further shifts or ruptures which were subtle yet distinct inflections of the period of Thatcherism or neoliberalism:

  • A further move in political terms towards the knowledge economy
  • A reassertion of the state as the ‘competition state’
  • A re-articulation of values to new labour values Following Jessop (2002) a competition state ‘aims to secure economic growth within its borders and/or seek competitive advantage for capitals based in its borders’ by promoting the economic and extra-economic conditions necessary for competitive success.

There was a corresponding refocusing of funding so it was increasingly related to performance and competitive success and a move away from public funding to contract funding through private, voluntary or quasi-public bodies.

 Specific policies to drive up standards included:

  • priortiorising literacy and numeracy
  • performance tables were amended to show student progress
  • every school was to be inspected every six years
  • failing schools were to become fresh start schools
  • there were more standards and effectiveness units and task forces

Policy also became increasingly complex/ diverse and dynamic – it talked of culture of success, and the economic imperative became absolutely clear – which represented a change in tone of policy making.

Ball refers to New Labour’s third way as warmed-over neoliberalism. The Third Way preferred a flexible repertoire of state roles and responses (following Eagle 2003) rather than being into market fundamentalism…. but ultimately the aim of the state was not to replace the market, but to make sure it worked properly.

Later on through the agendas of increasing diversification, differentiation and personalisation of learning we see policy being adapted to the interests/ fears and skills of the middle classes.

There was a new emphasis on modernisation, flexibility and dynamism – responding to globalisation – Schools should be innovators

There was a move away from the discourse of the comprehensive school, minimum standards and the start of what Kenway (1990) calls a ‘discourse of derision’ – bog standard comprehensives were stereotypically portrayed as bad – in order to undermine public services.

Sources

Post sumarised from Stephen Ball’s (2013) – The Education Debate

Posted on Leave a comment

The Prevent Agenda – Arguments For and Against

The Prevent Agenda is a recent social policy which requires schools (among other public bodies) to assist the government in preventing people from being drawn into terrorism, which is worth looking at because it’s relevant to several areas of the A level syllabus – education, crime and deviance, ethnicity, and social policy.

The Prevent duty: what it means for schools and childcare providers

From 1 July 2015 all schools are subject to a duty under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015,  to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This duty is known as the Prevent duty.

Below is a brief summary of some of the main points from the Government’s guidance to schools

It is essential that staff are able to identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation, and know what to do when they are identified.

Schools and childcare providers can also build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

“Extremism” is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.  We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.

Schools and childcare providers should be aware of the increased risk of online radicalisation, as terrorist organisations such as ISIL seek to radicalise young people through the use of social media and the internet.

There is no single way of identifying an individual who is likely to be susceptible to a terrorist ideology. Children at risk of radicalisation may display different signs or seek to hide their views.  The Prevent duty does not require teachers or childcare providers to carry out unnecessary intrusion into family life, but schools are expected to liase with social services where it seems appropriate

School staff and childcare providers should understand when it is appropriate to make a referral to the Channel programme. Channel is a programme which focuses on providing support at an early stage to people who are identified as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

Stats so Far….

There were 7500 referalls in 2015-16, about 20 a day, with 1/10 being deemed at risk of radicalisation with a referral to the ‘Channel’ programme.

What are the arguments for the Prevent agenda?

Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole (also the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Prevent), argues Prevent is essential to fighting terrorism and describes the scheme as “putting an arm around” people at risk of radicalisation.

“We try and divert, allow people the opportunity to help them make better decisions. It’s absolutely fundamental,” he said.

“It has enabled us to try and help stabilise communities and stop people getting us into a cycle of aggravation.”

He cited a case in which people referred a young man from the Midlands who had been considering travelling to fight in Syria. Prevent groups worked with the man and he decided not to go,

“The people he was travelling to meet, we believe, are dead. This is very real stuff,” he said.

Some of the arguements against Prevent

Click on link four below for lots of different types of criticism – to summarise just a few:

  • It alienates British Muslim communities – let’s face it, most of the focus is on Islamic radicalisation, especially when 9/10 people thought to be at risk aren’t
  • It doesn’t stop everyone from being radicalised, even though so many people who aren’t at risk are caught in its net, the very existence of the Prevent agenda could just make those people who are inclined to get radicalised to be more cautious.
  • It means an increased level of surveillance of some people (links to categorical suspicion nicely).
  • It’s something else teachers now have to do on top of teaching
  • Should schools be politicised in this way?

Sources:

  1. Prevent – Advice for Schools (Department for Education)
  2. BBC News Article (December 2016) – Arguments for Prevent, and some problems
  3. Analysis – the Prevent strategy and its problems
  4. The Guardian – lots of articles criticizing Prevent
Posted on 2 Comments

Theory and Methods for A Level Sociology: The Basics

An overview of theory and methods for second year A level sociology – a very brief overview covering the bare-bones of (1) Positivism and Interpretivism, (2) Is sociology a sicence?, (3) Sociology and value freedom, (4) Functionalism, (5) Marxism, (6) Feminism, (7) Social action theory, (8) Post and late modernism, (9) Sociology and social policy. 

0-sociological-theories
Theory and Methods for A Level Sociology

1.  Positivism and Interpretivism

  • Positivist approaches to social research are quantitative, ‘scientific’, objective.
  • Durkhiem’s suicide is an example of a positivist study
  • Interpretivists criticise Positivist’s reliance on statistics (they are socially constructed)
  • Interpretivist approaches to social research = qualitative, empathetic, micro
  • Key example = Douglas’ study of the multiple meanings of suicide.
  • Positivists criticise Interpretivist research because it’s too subjective, not authoritative.

2. Is Sociology a science?

  • Key features of the scientific method = the experiment, objectivity, cause and effect relationships, making predictions.
  • Positivism = a scientific approach applied to society – Durkheim’s suicide as an example.
  • Interpretivist criticisms of the scientific method applied to society – humans are conscious actors, they cannot be understood using detached, quantitative methods
  • Criticisms of the ‘objectivity’ of science and the scientific method – Kuhn’s paradigm critique is especially important.
  • Realism – we can still usefully study society as an open system, rather than just focussing on individuals – for example we can still make general predictions about social behaviour based on statistical trends, even if we can’t predict exactly what that action will be or who, specifically will do what.
  • Postmodern views of science – the idea that ‘truth’ is no longer possible.

3. Can Sociology be value free?

  • Values = people’s own subjective beliefs and opinions. If social research is value free then it means that it is free of the personal biases of the researcher.
  • Positivism – Claimed that sociology could be value free using scientific methods which meant the researcher was as detached as possible.
  • Interpretivists criticise this – values creep into the quantitative research process – through the social construction of statistics for example.
  • Moreover – Interpretivists say we need to understand people’s values to understand how they act! However, it is harder to remain value free when doing qualitative research.
  • Weber argued that we could collect objective date on people’s values but we needed to be explicit about our own values all the way through the research process.
  • Some sociologists criticise ‘institutional sociology’ for being limited in scope, and argue we need a political, explicitly value laden sociology to counter-balance this.
  • For example Howard Becker argued sociologists should take the side of the underdog and give them a voice – this is an explicitly value-laden sociology
  • Marxist and Feminist sociology is also value laden in its choice of research topic – Sociology should be aimed at achieving political
  • Postmodernists believe objective knowledge is not possible, so all we can do is deconstruct knowledge, and criticise people who claim to have value-free, objective knowledge.
  • Late Modernists such as Giddens criticise at least one aspect of postmodernism – there are still objective social problems, such as global warming, migration, global inequality, which sociology needs to focus on.
  • However, constructing objective knowledge is a problem in contemporary sociology because knowledge is reflexive – it is part of the society it comes from – thus we need to careful to make our own value and opinions clear throughout the research process so that others can make an informed judgement about the usefulness of our research. That’s just the way it is!

4. Functionalism

  • Durkheim’s functionalism – social facts and anomie
  • Parson’s systems theory – the organic analogy and social evolution
  • Merton’s internal critique of functionalism – latent and manifest functions
  • Functionalism applied to the family – Murdock’s four universal functions, Parson’s functional fit theory and the two irreducible functions of the family – socialisation and the stabilisation of adult personalities
  • Functionalism applied to education – meritocracy, social solidarity, school as a bridge between home and society (particularistic and universalistic values)
  • Functionalism applied to Crime and Deviance – Durkheim’s three positive functions of crime, strain theory, consensus subcultural theories.
  • Functionalism and Modernisation Theory – Parson’s traditional and modern values and the evolutionary model of society
  • Functionalism and research methods – Durkheim’s Positivist approach to suicide

5. Marxism

  • Karl Marx – the basics: bourgeoisie and proletariat, exploitation, alienation, false consciousness, revolution.
  • Gramsci’s humanistic Marxism – hegemony, dual consciousness and organic intellectuals
  • Althusser’s structuralist Marxism – the repressive state apparatus.
  • Marxism applied to the Family – capitalism, private property and the family, The family as a safe haven, ideological functions, also see Marxist Feminism
  • Marxism applied to education – the ideological state apparatus, reproduction of class inequality, legitiimation of class inequality, correspondence principle
  • Marxism applied to Crime and Deviance – • Private Property and Crime, The costs of Corporate Crime, Selective Law Enforcement, Criminogenic Captialism („Dog Eat Dog“ Society)
  • Marxism applied to Global Development – Colonialism and Slavery, The Modern World System, Unfair trade rules, TNC exploitation
  • Marxism and Research Methods – Social Class, Comparative Analysis, Objectivity/ Critical Research.

6. Feminism

  • Liberal Feminism – does not seek revolutionary changes: they want changes to take place within the existing structure; the creation of equal opportunities is the main aim of liberal feminists – e.g. the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act
  • Marxist Feminism – capitalism rather than patriarchy is the principal source of women’s oppression, and capitalists as the main beneficiaries, through the housewife role for example; overthrowing capitalism remains the main objective.
  • Radical Feminism – Society is patriarchal, dominated and ruled by men – men are the ruling class, and women the subject class. Rape, violence and pornography some of the key tools through which men control women; separatism can be part of the solution.
  • Difference Feminism – women are not a homogenous group, they experience disadvantage in different ways.
  • Postmodern Feminism – critiqued preceding Feminist theory as being part of the masculinist Enlightenment Project; concerned with language (discourses) and the relationship between power and knowledge rather than ‘politics and opportunities‘.

7. Social Action Theory

  • Max Weber: Verstehen, and Social Change – observation alone is not enough to understand human action, we need empathetic understanding. Gaining Verstehen is the main point of Sociology, e.g. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).
  • Symbolic Interactionism – people’s self-concepts based on their understanding of how others perceive them (the looking glass self); need to understand meanings to understanding actions;  social roles are not specific or fixed; they can be interpreted in various different ways.
  • Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory – People are actors on a ‘social stage’ who actively create an impression of themselves
  • Labeling Theory – the definitions (meanings) people impose on situations or on other people can have real consequences (even if those definitions are not based in reality)

8. Post Modernism and Late Modernism

Postmodernism

  • Economy and Politics = Industrial economies, jobs for life; Nation State, most people vote and are in trades unions; Organised/ Heavy Capitalism and the Welfare State
  • Society/ Culture reflects the underlying class and patriarchal structures; Nuclear family the norm, marriage for life; Identities shaped/ constrained by class position/ sex; Media – one way communication, reflects ‘reality’
  • Knowledge – The Enlightenment – Science/ Objective Knowledge/ Truth and Progress
  • Sociology – Positivism/ Functionalism – doing research to find how societies function and gradually building a better world; Marxism/ Feminism –emancipation.

Late Modernism

  • Economy/ Politics  = Post-Industrial, service sector, portfolio workers and consumption is central; Declining power of the Nation State; Disorganised Capitalism/ Liquid Capitalism (Bauman)
  • Society/ Culture – Culture is free from structure – it is more Diverse and Fragmented ; Relationships more diverse; More Individual Freedom to shape identities; Media – more global, two- way, hyperreality (Baudrillard)
  • Knowledge – Critique of the Enlightenment; Incredulity towards Metanarratives (Lyotard)
  • Sociology – Narrative histories; Deconstruction (Lyotard) and Destabilising Theory.

9. Sociology and social policy

  • Intro – Social policy = things the government does to steer society in some way. Examples include taxation which affects wealth distribution, various education policies and policies about how to tackle crime
  • There are several reasons why governments may ignore certain findings of research – e.g. lack of money; Marxists and Feminists believe governments generally have an ideological bias which mean they ignore certain research findings.
  • Positivists believe researchers should collect objective knowledge to assess the impact of social policies and to help introduce new policies
  • Social Democratic Perspectives generally agree with the above.
  • The New Right and Neoliberals – have had most influence on social policy recently – e.g. The education system/ crime policy and in International Development
  • Marxist approaches to social policy – prefer policies which favour the redistribution of wealth and promote equality of opportunity, such as the abolition of private schools.
  • Feminist approaches to social policy – prefer policies which emphasis gender equality, such as the Paternity Act.
  • Postmodernists focus on deconstruction rather than social policies
  • Late Modernists emphasise the importance and challenges of developing and evaluating social policies in an age of globalisation.

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my social theory revision notes – available for cheap on iTunes.

social-theory-revision-notes

You might also like my ‘Theory and Methods Mind Maps’ – 11 Beautiful mind maps covering the above material, available for cheap on Selfy.

sociological-theories mind maps

 

Related Posts 

Please see my ‘Social Theories Page‘ For more links to a whole range of posts – both summary and in depth on various social theories relevant to both A level sociology and beyond!

Sources Used 

The content in this post has been derived from the four major ‘A’ Level sociology text books and the AQA specification.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Troubled Families Programme

The Troubled Families Programme is a good example of a New Right social policy aimed at tackling criminality by targeting the so called underclass, it basically involves local authority workers intervening in so called troubled families in order to get them to take responsibility for their behaviour.

troubled-families
The New Right claim we need to intervene in the lives of a few hundred thousand ‘troubled families’, but are there really that many ‘troubled families’?

Following the riots in 2011, a new government initiative, the Troubled Families Programme (TFP), was announced, which set out to ‘turn around’ the 120,000 most ‘troubled families’ in England by May 2015.

The second phase of the TFP is now underway, following the ‘successful’ completion of Phase 1. The ‘massive expansion’ of the programme, to include 400,000 more ‘troubled families’, with wider-ranging criteria for inclusion, was announced in July 2013, when only 1 per cent of ‘troubled families’ had been ‘turned around’.

The concept of ‘troubled families’ came into the public consciousness in the aftermath of the English riots in 2011. Structural factors, such as poverty and racial inequality and injustice, were eschewed as possible factors behind the riots in favour of an explanation of ‘pure criminality’. Rioters were, in Cameron’s words, ‘people with a twisted moral code, people with a complete absence of self- restraint’. The blame for the riots, in the governments’ eyes, was split between poor parenting and anti-social families, and an overly generous welfare system that encouraged delinquency

london-riots
The London Rioters – David Cameron claimed most of them were from ‘troubled families’

In December 2011, the TFP was launched to help realise Cameron’s ambition to ‘turn round’ the lives of the 120,000 ‘troubled families’

The TFP then, was a policy response designed to not just address the problems caused by ‘troubled families’, but to also completely change the way the state interacted with them. Local authorities were expected to deliver the programme using a ‘family intervention’ approach (DCLG, 2012a) which had been rolled out to 53 areas in England under the previous Labour government’s Respect agenda. This approach sees a single ‘persistent, assertive and challenging’ (ibid) key worker working intensively with the family ‘from the inside out’ to address their problems, encouraging them to take responsibility for their circumstances.

Definitions

‘Troubled families’ were officially defined as those who met three of the four following criteria:

  • Are involved in youth crime or anti-social behaviour
  • Have children who are regularly truanting or not in school
  • Have an adult on out of work benefits
  • Cause high costs to the taxpayer

Payment by Results

All 152 local authorities in England ‘signed up’ to take part in the TFP which was to be run on a Payment by Results basis, with local authorities paid an attachment fee for each ‘troubled family’ they worked with, and a further allocation of funding dependent on certain outcomes being met.

Families were deemed to have been ‘turned around’ if:

  1. Educational attendance improved above 85%, youth crime reduced by 33% and anti-social behaviour reduced by 60% across the family, or
  2. A family member moved off out-of-work benefits and into continuous employment for three or six months, depending on the benefits they were initially receiving (ibid)

Claims for ‘turning around’ ‘troubled families’ were submitted by local authorities on a quarterly basis.

In August 2014, further detail was announced on the expansion of the programme. The ‘new’ ‘troubled families’ were families that met two out of the following six criteria:

  • Parents and children involved in crime or anti-social behaviour
  • Children who have not been attending school regularly
  • Children who need help
  • Adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion and young people at risk of worklessness
  • Families affected by domestic violence and abuse
  • Parents and children with a range of health problems

In May 2015, the government published figures that showed that local authorities had ‘turned around’ 99 per cent of ‘troubled families’. David Cameron called it a ‘real government success’.

troubled_families_progress
The government claims 99% of ‘troubled families’ lives have been ‘turned around’ – but both of these are extremely vague concepts!

Criticisms of the Troubled Families Programme

The Centre for Crime and Justice is very sceptical about the success-claims made by the government . They actually suggest 10 reasons why we should be suspicious of the 99% success rate, which they call a social policy impossibility, especially in an era of government cuts, but I’m going to focus on just two criticisms, which taken together seem to strongly suggest that the government is simply lying about the effectiveness of the TFP – I mean as in not just manipulating statistics, just literally lying.

Firstly – ‘Troubled Families’ are not actually that troubled

How ‘troublesome’ are ‘troubled families’?

In contrast to the image of ‘troubled families’ as ‘neighbours from hell’ where drug and alcohol addictions, crime and irresponsibility ‘cascade through generations’, an interim report from the national evaluation of the TFP (DCLG, 2014b) shows that in ‘troubled families’:

  • 85% ‘had no adults with a criminal offence in the previous six months
  • 97% had children with one or zero offences in the previous six months
  • 84% had children who were not permanently excluded from school
  • 26% had at least one adult in work
  • 93% had no adults clinically diagnosed as being dependent on alcohol

The only characteristics shared by the majority of ‘troubled families’ are that they are white, not in work, live in social housing and have at least one household member experiencing poor health, illness and/or a disability. Crime, anti-social behaviour and substance abuse, even at relatively low levels, are all characteristics which relate to small minorities of official ‘troubled families’.

Secondly, we don’t actually know if lives really been ‘turned around’?

When many ‘troubled families’ experience unemployment and poor health, and some of them also experience issues such as domestic violence, it is unclear to what extent their lives will have been ‘turned around’ by the programme.

Only 10 per cent of all ‘turned around’ families gained work and, as noted above, no detail is known about the quality or security of that work.

Changes to educational attendance and anti-social behaviour/crime levels within households accounted for around 90 per cent of the ‘turned around’ families, but government figures show that the majority of ‘troubled families’ had children who were already attending school and were not committing large amounts of crime or anti-social behaviour on entry into the programme.

Furthermore, we do not know how many ‘turned around’ families are still experiencing domestic violence, poor mental health or other issues such as poor quality or overcrowded housing, poverty or material deprivation, because this information has not been reported by the government.

Further problems with assessing the effectiveness of the TFP

Basically, we don’t have the data to make an accurate assessment, hence why I say above that the government must be lying when they claim a 99% success rate.

Also, at present we are also not aware of whether the families consider their lives to have been ‘turned around’ by their involvement with the programme, or whether their lives remained ‘turned around’ after the intensive support was withdrawn.

It should also be noted that many families will not know that they have been labelled as ‘troubled families’ because many local authorities choose not to inform them of this and use different names for their local programmes.

Further Reading

The main source used in this post was: Stephen Crossley, The Troubled Families Programme: the perfect social policy? – Briefing Paper – November 2015

In defence of the troubled families programme (Conservative Home)

More than £1bn has had little impact on ‘troubled families’ (The Guardian)

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s Political Appointments – TNCs to shape U.S. Social Policy?

Trump’s political appointments seem to illustrate an extreme neoliberal approach to politics – those who are successful at business are being placed into senior positions in the U.S. political system which will allow them more power to shape domestic and foreign policy.

Trump’s Appointments – Transnational Corporations to Shape U.S. Social Policy  

According to a recent Guardian article on Donald Trump’s political appointments he ‘has so far nominated a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers and the chief executive of the world’s largest oil firm to senior positions…. His team [has been] dubbed the “team of billionaires”.

Trump’s (neoliberal) argument for these appointments is that the accumulation of wealth is a sign of success and that having internationally successful business people in positions of power to negotiate (or renegotiate) trade-deals will benefit the U.S. economy and the the American people.

Two of Trumps appointments demonstrate this neoliberal approach (and its problems) perfectly: his appointment (still prospective at time of writing) of the CEO of Exxon-Mobile to Secretary of State and the appointment of Steve Mnuchin to the position of treasury secretary

It is the selection of Exxon’s chief executive, Rex Tillerson which has caused the most controversy. Tillerson has a close relationship with Vladimir Putin and some years ago agreed a joint venture with Russia to drill for oil in Siberia and the North Sea, however this venture was shelved following sanctions against Russia when it annexed Crimea. As secretary of state, Tillerson (who has $250 million of Exxon stock) will be leading discussions on whether the US should maintain sanctions against Russia.

According to this article from the Daily Kos, Tillerman’s appointment would be a disaster for business ethics…

‘Rex Tillerson is exactly the man you would expect a man who rose to the top of the oil industry to be. He has no evident morals or concerns about the world that supersede a paycheck. His respect for his own nation ends when there is a business deal to be made somewhere else.’

Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is also a multimillionaire former Goldman Sachs banker who went on to be dubbed a “foreclosure king” for buying up distressed mortgages and evicting thousands of homeowners during the financial crisis.

Potential problems with Trump’s neoliberal agenda

  1. Increasing wealth and income inequality in the U.S. – With the transnational capitalist class now in direct control of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, there is every likelihood that the super rich will get richer while the income and wealth of the majority of U.S. citizens will stagnate or even go into reverse. Critics such as Warren (above) argue that Donald Trump has every intention of running Washington to benefit himself and his rich buddies”.
  2. Less respect for human rights globally. The appointment of Tillerson as Secretary of State and his close relations with the human-rights abuser Vladimir Putin suggests that the financial interests of the super-rich will trump (excuse the pun) issues such as respect for universal human rights – it’s more likely that the U.S. will turn a blind eye to dictators who trample on human rights, so long as there’s a profit to made for U.S. companies.
  3. More economic instability – The fact that Goldman Sachs executives now have greater say in shaping U.S. economic policy could mean more deregulation of financial markets and more instability in the global economy in the long run.
  4. Environmental decline – this is possibly the beginning of the end of life on planet earth as oil companies will almost certainly be given the green light to dig up the arctic.

Where can you use this in the A Level Sociology Course?

Unfortunately for those of you who haven’t been given the option of studying global development, this is just extension work, but if you are one of the fortunate few studying this most relevant and interesting topic – this info fits in as follows:

  • It’s a great example of current neoliberal policy (so neoliberalism is still very much relevant)
  • It demonstrates the increasing power of TNCs – yet how they need control over nation states to empower themselves.
  • It’s a great example of how the global super-class work – at a level above that of the nation state.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Sociology in the News – The Ageing Population and The Crisis in Social Care

A couple of not very pleasant news-items which relate to the problems of the ‘ageing population’:

The U.K. is on the brink of a social care crisis according to The Independent (November 2016) – with local authorities saying they could face a £2.6 billion funding gap by 2020.

According to The Guardian (December 2016), this is because funding has been slashed by 10%; there has been a 25% reduction in the number of people receiving help, and a third of all care homes face bankruptcy after cuts in the fees paid by local authorities.

All of this of course means that elderly people receive a lower quality of care, either in care-homes, or through reduced numbers of home-visits, but Age UK (Sept 2015) further calculates that up to a million people who have difficulties with basic activities such as getting dressed get no help at all.

All of this suggests that the problems of the ageing population are very much real, and given the present government’s neoliberal ideology, seem likely to get worse.

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Social Policy and The Family – Topic Overview

Families and Households – Topic 6 – Social Policy

Overview of the topic

You need to be able to assess a range of policies using three key perspectives

The New Right

New Labour

Feminism (Liberal and Radical)

Some of the policies you need to know about –

Changes to the Divorce law

Tax breaks for married couples

Maternity and paternity pay

Civil Partnerships

Sure Start – early years child care

Key ‘test yourself’ questions (basic knowledge)

Identify three social policies that might have led to increasing family diversity

Identify three social policies that have ‘extended childhood’ (links to last topic)

Essays

Assess the New Right’s perspective on the relationship between Social Policy and The Family (20)

Assess the view that the main function of laws and policies on families and households is to reproduce patriarchy (20)