Conceptual spaghetti: or why the Big Society won’t work.

It’s been over three years now since the Big Society was first launched at the Hugo Young Lecture in December 2009. Since that time there have been countless articles dissecting David Cameron’s flagship idea, and it’s fair to say that the majority of these articles have been negative. In some respects the Big Society is a blank canvas onto which various parties have projected their own fears. The lack of a clear message from Number 10 means that in some quarters it is seen as little more than a joke.

But this is a naive view: at it’s best the Big Society can be seen as an inducement for citizens to volunteer and do good, but at it’s worst it is a dangerous gamble predicated on the hope that the third sector can provide core public services. More often than not policies such as these are simply regarded in functionalist terms as indicative of cuts to public expenditure. Indeed it is now an established argument to see the Big Society as an ideological fig-leaf used to cover up the deep and destructive spending cuts currently being implemented (Corbett & Walker, 2012). An agenda it may be, but the Big Society suffers from it’s own problems too. Continue reading

‘The Year of Dreaming Dangerously?’ Protesting, occupying and resisting.

‘They are dismissed as dreamers, but the true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes. They are not dreamers; they are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare. They are not destroying anything, but reacting to how the system is gradually destroying itself.’ (Zizek, 2011)

The protests of the Occupy movement galvanised public support from a range of sectors, moving beyond the traditional protest dynamics that involved those from working-class backgrounds. As a reflection of the extent of the problems that ensued resulting from the financial crisis of 2007/08, Occupy captured a latent disaffection in the public consciousness; a sense that people had become entirely powerless. The financial and corporate excesses that led to the collapse were the ideal catalyst for a social movement. Indeed, the cumulative effect of years of steadily increasing social and economic inequalities – added to the uncertainty and instability of advanced capitalist societies – necessitated a tough response from civil society. Continue reading

Department of Sociological Studies Blog


Welcome to the to the Department of Sociological Studies Blog here at the University of Sheffield. We feature an eclectic mix of articles, book reviews and advice from both staff and students, focusing on the wide range of research being conducted here at Elmfield. We are dedicated to presenting sociology in an accessible and engaging way, whilst fostering an inclusive and supportive platform for sociological comment. We hope you enjoy the blog.