The 'Broken' Society: Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? - Gerry Mooney

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Dr Gerry Mooney, from the Open University, talks about the stigmatisation of poverty and disadvantage.Stephen Boyd, Assistant Secretary of the Scottish Trade Unions Congress, talks about how the Scottish economy works.The Whose Economy? seminars, organised by Oxfam Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland, brought together experts to look at recent changes in the Scottish economy and their impact on Scotland's most vulnerable communities.Held over winter and spring 2010-11 in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Stirling, the series posed the question of what economy is being created in Scotland and, specifically, for whom?To find out more and view other Whose Economy? papers, presentations and videos visit:

Text of The 'Broken' Society: Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? - Gerry Mooney

  • 1. The Broken Society:Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? Gerry Mooney Department of Social Policy and Criminology Faculty of Social SciencesThe Open UniversityOxfam/UWS Whose Economy Seminar Series Stirling: March 10 2011

2. The Problem of the Problem Poor Once again people experiencing poverty are represented as amongthe key problem groups in the contemporary UK We are living in the deepest recession and economic crisis since the1930s, yet for successive governments and for large sections of themedia there is another crisis a social crisis Underpinning this political discourse is an even more explicitly US-style workfare model, framing the problem as one of the individualbehaviour of the most disadvantaged, those living in poverty Amidst all the talk of austerity, that we are all in this together, thepoorest sections of the working class are constructed as a problem Neglect of wider inequalities growing inequalities. 3. From the Underclass to the Broken Society.Old Wine in an New Bottle? Broken Society Narrative emerges with Iain DuncanSmith and the Tory Centre for Social Justice in 2007/2008 Key Report: Breakthrough Britain (2007):As the fabric of society crumbles at the margins what hasbeen left behind is an underclass living lives ofdependency, addiction, debt and family breakdown. As aresult social mobility had stalled and been replaced by amentality of entrapment, where aspiration and hope arefor other people, who live in another place. 4. A Broken Society? Family and community breakdown Declining civility/ civicness Weak/weakening social bonds Rising violent, deviant and anti-social behaviour Absence of moral standards, deference, respect andindependence cultural pathology and deficit Absence of aspiration/backward looking Welfare dependency Politically driven by a strong and virulent anti-welfarenarrative 5. Crises of Welfare Narratives:1. Death of Baby Peter in North London in 2007 Horrors of violence against and harm of a child in the private spaces of families; failed child protection etc.2. Karen Matthews, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, 2008 Conviction for kidnapping 9 year old daughter Mooreside Estate: welfarist cultures, dysfunctional family life3. Edlington Boys, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, 2009 Conviction for torturing of young children Claims again of failure of welfare protection, parents from dysfunctional families, and so on. 6. The verdict last week on Karen Matthews and her vileaccomplice is also a verdict on our broken society. The detailsare damning. A fragmented family held together by drink, drugsand deception. An estate where decency fights a losing battleagainst degradation and despair. A community whose pillars arecrime, unemployment and addiction. How can Gordon Brownargue that people who talk about a broken society are wrong?These children suffered at the very sharpest end of our brokensociety but all over the country are other young victims, too.Children whose toys are dads discarded drink bottles; whoserole models are criminals, liars and layabouts; whose innocenceis lost before their first milk tooth. What chance for thesechildren? Raised without manners, morals or a decenteducation, theyre caught up in the same destructive chain astheir parents. Its a chain that links unemployment, familybreakdown, debt, drugs and crime.David Cameron, Daily Mail, December 8, 2008 7. Problem Populations: Problem Places? Council Estates as Symbolic Spaces of Urban Disordersand of Working Class as Problem Subjects: Council estates - backward/disorderly/narratives of decayand decline/pathology welfare/estate cultures! Locales of the Underclass/Socially Excluded Assumed and implicit causality: Council Estates =Disorder and Criminality Locales of Welfare Dependency out of step with urbanrenewal/regeneration! Viewed from gentrified/privatised zones, council estatesare a locale of deprivation, dysfunction and disorder Unproductive and ungovernable? A focus for political intervention? 8. A political timebomb in Glasgows GuantanamoDespite crushing poverty things are looking up in Glasgow East. But now the SNP could stealLabours birthright.Of all the tough constituencies in the UK, Gordon Brown had to walk into this one. Tough in the politicalsense, but above all in the street-fighting sense. Glasgow East wears the weary, pinched look of someone whohas nothing in life and expects even less. Here, life expectancy for men is said to be lower than it is on theGaza Strip. Here, the law of the jungle, not Westminster, rules.Published date: 3 July 2008Taken from: a Glasgow estate, David Cameron has hard words for broken societyDavid Cameron acknowledged his debt to Iain Duncan Smith as he stood in a church in the East End ofGlasgow to deliver his address on personal morality. Mr Duncan Smith, in turn, credits the deprivation hefound on the estates of Gallowgate for inspiring his modern, compassionate Conservatism.Published date: 8 July 2008Taken from: 9. Glasgow East Is Browns Dirty Little Secret: A Hideous, Costly SocialExperiment Gone WrongGlasgow East symbolises as few other places in Britain can the fact that the problem Labour faces is not justlack of leadership but lack of mission. What is to be seen in this constituency encapsulates and dramatises Laboursabject failures to comprehend, let alone tackle, the nature of the poverty which grips our council estates.Published date: 2 July 2008Taken from: Living, and dying, on welfare in Glasgow East I remember the scene as if it was yesterday. It was a cool spring day, and for the second time in a few months I found myself in Glasgow East, the Labour seat in which there will be a by-election next week. I was visiting the Gallowgate Family Support centre, a voluntary sector community project aimed at helping families cope with drug-addicted children. Jim Doherty had taken me into the front office of his small centre to get us away from the crowd of journalists outside. Published date: 13 July 2008 Taken from:,-and-dying,-on-welfare-in-Glasgow-East.html 10. Poverty Porn Problem Places and Problem People: poor socialcapital, lacking aspirations, dysfunctionality, backwardand welfare dependent: symbolising BrokenBritain/The Broken Society! Poverty Porn: long history in the UK and elsewhere of Poverty as entertainment Povertainment Reality TV: Jeremy Kyle, Tricia, Saints andScroungers, The Scheme..... Travelogues of Hidden Britain Chav & Ned Towns massive presence on the Web. 11. The Scheme: Stigmatising Poverty & Poor People? 12. The Role and Significance of Poverty Porn Legitimation and Tutelage role of expert narratives, stresson self-improvement, normalisation of middle class lives andthe dysfunctionality of poor working class lives, drive for anaspirational culture Zygmunt Bauman Poor are not only flawed consumers(consume the wrong things and non-essentials: PlasmaTVs, alcohol, tobacco, wrong foods etc .) But also state dependent consumers (i.e. state housing etc) Invites moral indignation and disgust Draws also a binary divide between us and them Serves to harden attitudes to welfare helps to drive an anti-welfare policy/welfare cuts. 13. Some Concluding Thoughts The Broken Society is an anti-welfare narrative In this narrative a specific spatialisation is at work: the Broken Societymobilises a particular representation of social housing estates andthe populations therein as not only vulnerable but as problematic There is a developing and unfolding moral geography ofresponsibilisation The Broken Society is the Classed Representation of WelfareSpaces it represents the material interests of the powerful It works to valorise responsibility, restraint and civic duty And to misrepresent and apportion blame for some of the real andfundamental changes taking place in the UK today In the context of widespread and growing inequalities, it apportionsblame for the social crisis of the contemporary UK to some of themost disadvantaged sections of society! 14. Some Additional ReadingGerry Mooney & Lynn HancockPoverty Porn & the Broken Society,Variant, 39/40 Winter 2010: 14-17available at: Mooney & Sarah Neal(2009/2010) Welfare worries: mappingthe directions of welfare futures in thecontemporary UK, Research, Policyand Planning, 27, 3, 2009/2010: 141-150 15. Contact Information Gerry Mooney, Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy andCriminology, Department of Social Policy and Criminology, Faculty ofSocial Sciences, The Open University in Scotland E - Web - Co-editor: Social Justice and Social Policy in Scotland (PolicyPress, forthcoming 2011), Poverty in Scotland 2011(CPAG, 2011), Criminal Justice in Contemporary Scotland(Willan, 2010), Community: Welfare, Crime and Society (OpenUniversity Press, 2009) and New Labour/Hard Labour? (PolicyPress, 2007).Co-author: Understanding Social Welfare Movements (Policy 16. To view all the papers in the Whose Economy series click hereTo view all the videos and presentations from the seminars click here