1.2.06

Community Cohesion

In November 2011, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published the startlingly truthful document from which the following quotes were extracted.

It was written by a died-in-the-wool member of the PC Crowd named Harris Beider, a Professor in Community Cohesion at Coventry University.

“Community cohesion has been influential in shaping government policy since the 2001 disturbances in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford. During this period, few studies have assessed the contribution of white working-class communities to cohesion… A literature review was undertaken of secondary material about white working-class communities and community cohesion… COMPARED TO THE RICH AND VARIED LITERATURE ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES, ANALYSIS OF WHITE COMMUNITIES AND ETHNICITY IS LARGELY ABSENT except for rather fleeting mentions. In much of the literature, INDIVIDUALS BELONGING TO WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES ARE VARIOUSLY DESCRIBED AS PERPETRATORS OF RACIAL HARASSMENT, HOSTILE TO IMMIGRATION AND INFLEXIBLE…

TYPICALLY COMMUNITIES ARE VIEWED AS BEING PROBLEMATIC, DYSFUNCTIONAL… DEVIANCE AND THREAT POSED BY WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES PEPPER MOST ACADEMIC AND POLICY NARRATIVES.

In contrast to the limited material on white working-class communities, community cohesion has generated a variety of responses. Initially a number of reports were published from inquiries into the serious disturbances of 2001... IN THE TEN YEARS SINCE THE DISTURBANCES THERE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE FOCUS ON WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES IN THE COMMUNITY COHESION LITERATURE…

RESIDENTS’ CONCERNS WERE NOT BEING HEARD BY POLICY-MAKERS AT LOCAL OR NATIONAL LEVELS… IN GENERAL RESIDENTS FELT THAT THEY WERE CONSTRAINED AND THEIR VIEWS IGNORED…

THERE WAS A SENSE THAT GOVERNMENT WAS NOT LISTENING TO THE CONCERNS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES AND NOT INTERESTED IN ENGAGEMENT. POLICY WAS SEEN IN THE CONTEXT OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, WHICH HAD BECOME A PEJORATIVE TERM MEANING BENEFICIAL TREATMENT TO ANYONE WHO WAS NOT WHITE WORKING-CLASS...

WHITE WORKING-CLASS RESIDENTS DID NOT FEEL THEY HAVE BEEN TREATED FAIRLY BY GOVERNMENT. THE SENSE OF UNFAIRNESS WAS MOST ACUTE IN TERMS OF ACCESS AND ALLOCATION OF SOCIAL HOUSING…

RESIDENTS FELT THAT THEIR VIEWS WERE NOT BEING ACKNOWLEDGED and that there was no space for discussions about change, immigration and access to public resources…

THE RESEARCH LITERATURE IN RECENT DECADES HAS FOCUSED LARGELY ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES. Consequently, studies of white working-class communities and race, and more recently community cohesion, are inadequate, ALLOWING CULTURAL AND NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES TO POPULATE THE GAP…

The research findings demonstrate that WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES DO NOT FEEL THEY HAVE A VOICE…

THE VIEWS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES ON COHESION HAVE BEEN LARGELY IGNORED IN THE ACADEMIC AND POLICY LITERATURE… The challenge was to build credibility and trust TO ENABLE PEOPLE TO SPEAK FREELY ABOUT THESE ISSUES...

London has been described as THE ‘MOST DIVERSE CITY EVER’ ( Benedictus and Godwin, 2005) and as HAVING MORE IN COMMON WITH NEW YORK AND TOKYO THAN CITIES IN THE UK…

The report will contend that studies of the white working-class and its relationship to race and latterly community cohesion in the UK HAVE PALED INTO INSIGNIFICANCE COMPARED TO THOSE ON MINORITY GROUPS…

During the 1950s and 1960s, the leading publications on race during this phase suggested that CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN IMMIGRANT AND HOST COMMUNITIES LED TO CONFLICT… During the 1960s and 1970s the focus shifted towards understanding discrimination operating within the state and wider society. DEBATES WERE ANCHORED IN ADDRESSING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND CHANGING POLICIES THAT PREVENTED MINORITY COMMUNITIES FROM GAINING ACCESS TO SERVICES, EMPLOYMENT AND PUBLIC GOODS SUCH AS HOUSING…

Academic literature has vicariously viewed immigrants as being problematic, victims and the most radical points of political organisation in society. In contrast, analysis of white communities has been very limited. THEY ARE VARIOUSLY VIEWED AS PERPETRATORS OF HARASSMENT OR SEEN AS HOSTILE TO IMMIGRATION BECAUSE OF A COMBINATION OF RACISM AND LABOUR PROTECTION…

Typically, WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES ARE VIEWED AS BEING PROBLEMATIC, DYSFUNCTIONAL… THERE IS A SENSE THAT THESE GROUPS ARE HOSTILE TO CHANGE AND IN THE VANGUARD OF SUPPORT FOR EXTREMIST PARTIES…

BEING WHITE AND WORKING-CLASS IS VIEWED AS BEING PROBLEMATIC… Charles Murray popularised the term ‘underclass’ in his polemical but influential article in the Sunday Times. He suggested that BRITAIN WAS EXPERIENCING A WHITE WORKING-CLASS PROBLEM THAT WAS GETTING WORSE. This was the result of an over generous welfare state, reduction in common norms and increasing crime...

The establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit was deemed in part a spatial and joined up response to the challenges in some white working-class neighbourhoods. Peter Mandelson was explicit in his analysis of the challenges in Britain. In the quote below he seems to be suggesting (using ‘we’ in a rather ironic way) that WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES ARE PROBLEMATIC AND A BARRIER AGAINST PROGRESS.

‘We are people who are used to being represented as problematic. We are the long term, benefit-claiming, working-class poor, living through another period of cultural contempt. WE ARE LOSERS, NO HOPERS, LOW LIFE SCROUNGERS. OUR CULTURE IS YOB CULTURE. The importance of welfare provisions to our lives has been denigrated and turned against us; we are welfare dependent and our problems won’t be solved by giving us higher benefits. WE ARE PERVERSE IN OUR FAILURE TO SUCCEED, DRAGGING OUR FEET OVER SOCIAL CHANGE, wanting the old jobs back, still having babies instead of careers, stuck in outdated class and gender moulds. WE ARE THE CHALLENGE THAT STANDS OUT ABOVE ALL OTHERS, THE GREATEST SOCIAL CRISIS OF OUR TIMES’…

MURRAY AND MANDELSON SEEM TO MAKE A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN SOCIAL EXCLUSION, PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH WHITE WORKING-CLASS AND DEVIANT PLACES loaded within a problematic cultural construction. Recent interventions, such as the term ‘chav’6, has helped to shape the conventional view of white working-class communities through cultural concerns (normative) rather than social inequality (objective). These communities are thus located as being outside accepted norms within society…

The absence of a coherent academic literature on community cohesion and whiteness has created a vacuum that has been filled by stereotypes in popular culture. In the main THESE HAVE BEEN NEGATIVE WITH THE REPRESENTATION OF WHITENESS IN POPULAR CULTURE EITHER AS A LUMPEN PROLETARIAT, DYSFUNCTIONAL, OR DANGEROUS; OR A COMBINATION OF ALL THREE…

The Jeremy Kyle Show has been described as ‘proletarian porn’ and again emphasises a cultural gulf between NORMS OF BEHAVIOUR OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS AND THE REST OF SOCIETY. Taking this further, some theorists have suggested that that THE WHITE WORKING-CLASS HAS BECOME A DISTINCT ‘OTHER’ WITHIN BRITAIN… THE WHITE WORKING-CLASS CAN BE VIEWED AS DIFFERENT TO MAINSTREAM, COMMON AND SHARED NORMS... Mockery in popular culture is viewed as part of this ‘othering’…

CULTURE CAN BE USED TO EXCLUDE COMMUNITIES AND ENCOURAGE THE FORMATION OF HIERARCHIES OF DOMINANCE IN OWNERSHIP OF KNOWLEDGE, NETWORK AND ACCESS TO POWER…

THE CULTURAL CONFIGURATION OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS CULTURE AS BEING PROBLEMATIC HAS BEEN PROMINENT IN THE MEDIA… THE POPULAR PRESS LED TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF A DEVIANT GROUP WHICH WAS TAKEN UP BY COMMENTATORS IN BROADSHEETS AND THE POLITICAL CLASS…

The intervention of leading politicians such as Peter Mandelson, or more explicitly the writing of Murray is that SOCIETAL PROBLEMS CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES…

A Community Cohesion Unit was established in 2002 to co-ordinate national work and implement practice where necessary. This was supported by an independent panel of practitioners who helped to develop guidance and best practice on cohesion… Much of this thinking was brought together in the Home Office publication Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society (2005)…

Building community cohesion was one of the four key themes alongside addressing inequality, promoting inclusiveness and tackling racism and extremism. There is also continuity, in that YET AGAIN, VERY LITTLE ATTENTION IS GIVEN TO WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES IN THESE POLICIES. In fact, there are fewer than five references to this group in the entire report. POLICY-LED COMMUNITY COHESION PERSISTS WITH THE FOCUS ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES…

The third phase of community cohesion has concentrated on the importance of integration and identity...

Again, THE CIC REPORT FOCUSED ON MINORITIES RATHER THAN THE ROLE OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES. There is discussion of poor educational performance of white working-class boys and of concerns about immigration being shared by most groups, but very little analysis is devoted to community cohesion and white communities…

Some CRITICS OF COMMUNITY COHESION VIEW IT AS A NEW MODEL OF FORCED ASSIMILATION… Despite the criticism levelled at community cohesion there is little doubt that it has been an important driver of policy and practice since the 2001 disturbances. However, IT IS NOT CLEAR THAT COMMUNITY COHESION HAS SPECIFICALLY SPOKEN ABOUT WHITE WORKING-CLASS PEOPLE SINCE THIS POINT…

THE DEBATE HAS BEEN VERY ONE-SIDED ON NORMS, BEHAVIOURS AND INTERACTION, AND FIXED ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES. The focus is on these groups WITH WHITE COMMUNITIES (AT BEST) BEING MENTIONED ON THE MARGINS…

The key focus was on culture rather than disadvantage. This emphasis deepened and largely fixed on Muslim Britons after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington DC and the 7 July 2005 bombings of the London transport system. THERE WAS NO POLITICAL INCLINATION TO DISCUSS THE ROLE OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES IN DELIVERING COMMUNITY COHESION when the focus was on Muslim communities…

In 2009 the terms of reference on white working-class communities changed with announcement of the Connecting Communities programme. This was a £12 million government initiative targeted at more than 160 neighbourhoods across the country that were badly hit by the 2007 recession…

At its core Connecting Communities focused attention on the needs of white working-class communities AND ON PREVENTING THE RISE OF SUPPORT FOR FAR RIGHT ORGANISATIONS SUCH AS THE BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY (BNP). In this way it was hoped that cohesion and resilience would be increased.

In part THIS SEEMED TO BE AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON RACE, COHESION AND RELATED AREAS HAD IGNORED THE WHITE WORKING-CLASS CONSTITUENCY…

The association of the white working-class with the Far Right follows an established (and false) narrative going back to the rise of Oswald Moseley in the East End of London. Since
this point, THE WHITE WORKING-CLASS HAS BEEN LABELLED AS HOSTILE TO RACE AND IMMIGRATION (Teddy Boys in the 1950s; Dockers in the 1960s; Skinheads in the 1970s; and the rise of the BNP since 2000). As Goodwin points out, support for the Far Right covers a gamut of issues including social disadvantage, ineffective leadership and representation result which all lead to scepticism on the role of the state.

Connecting Communities arrived rather belatedly after 13 years of Labour government and now seems to have disappeared or be disappearing with the new Coalition administration. During this period we have noted how WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED BY POLICY AND POPULAR CULTURE AS A PROBLEMATIC GROUP…

IN COMPARISON TO STUDIES ON MINORITY COMMUNITIES AND RACE, THERE HAS BEEN RELATIVELY LITTLE DISCUSSION ON THE TOPIC… PATHOLOGIES OF WHITE CULTURE ARE DEVELOPED WHICH EMPHASISE EXCLUSION FROM MAINSTREAM SOCIETY IN TERMS OF NORMS AND SPACE…

In conclusion… THERE IS A NEED TO CHALLENGE THE EVIDENCE GAP, MYTHS AND COLLECTIVISED PATHOLOGY THAT THESE COMMUNITIES HAVE HAD TO ENDURE FOR FAR TOO LONG…

Community cohesion has been influential in shaping the direction of travel for government policy since 2001 and the project wanted to understand the views of people who had experienced the impact of these policies…

Many residents had not heard of community cohesion and the minority that had thought that it was about groups getting along. Residents were concerned that local policies on race and equality of opportunity had not benefited their lives and some VIEWED POLICIES NEGATIVELY AS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS… There was a consensus that community cohesion was about bringing people together… Much of the discussion with residents was focused on how GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON RACE AND EQUALITY AT LOCAL AND NATIONAL LEVEL HAD NOT CONNECTED WITH WHITE WORKING-CLASS RESIDENTS. THESE POLICIES WERE PROXY FOR POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. IN SHORT, THIS MEANT THAT SOME RESIDENTS VIEWED EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY AS SIMPLY SUPPORTING MINORITY GROUPS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE MAJORITY. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WAS RAISED ON A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS DURING THE COURSE OF THE PROJECT AND WAS SEEN AS DIMINISHING THE RIGHTS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES...

PEOPLE FELT DISENFRANCHISED. THE PERSPECTIVE OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES HAD BEEN EXCLUDED FROM DEBATES ON IMMIGRATION, RACE AND COMMUNITY. MOREOVER, GOVERNMENT (AND COMMUNITY COHESION WAS FRAMED IN THIS WAY) SEEMED UNINTERESTED AND FAVOURED MINORITIES INSTEAD...

Some viewed it as CENTRAL GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE and this was picked up by residents WHO COMPLAINED ABOUT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS AND UNFAIRNESS OF GOVERNMENT POLICY ON RACE AND EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY. The fieldwork shows that PEOPLE PERCEIVE THAT LOCAL AUTHORITIES DO NOT WANT TO HEAR WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY, OR GIVE THEM ANY INPUT INTO DECISION-MAKING...

THE COMMON THEME THAT PERVADED IN ALL THREE AREAS WAS THE NEED FOR WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES TO BE TREATED FAIRLY AND EQUALLY AND TO HAVE A VOICE…

People looked to the past to inform their future neighbourhood. Not surprisingly this was evident especially from retired residents interviewed. There was much retrospection about HOW LIFE USED TO BE, AND WHAT IT HAD BECOME… Community organisations and informal spaces such as the pub, festivals and shops developed a symbolic importance as places where communities had come together. NEIGHBOURHOODS HAVE CHANGED AND GENERALLY NOT FOR THE BETTER. NEW COMMUNITIES WERE SEEN AS EXACERBATING NEIGHBOURHOOD DECLINE…

NEIGHBOURHOOD CHANGE AND IDENTITY LOSS WERE ASSOCIATED WITH CYCLES OF IMMIGRATION ESPECIALLY FROM INDIA, PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH TOGETHER WITH THE FREE MOVEMENT OF WORKERS AS A RESULT OF THE EXPANSION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. THIS CHANGE WAS ALSO LINKED TO THE LOSS OF POWER AND POLITICAL REPRESENTATION. RESIDENTS FELT POWERLESS IN THE FACE OF CHANGE AND SEEMED DISCONNECTED FROM BOTH REPRESENTATIONAL POLITICS AND THE LOCAL AUTHORITY. Partly this is an extension of the identity debate and the view that WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES HAVE BECOME INVISIBLE TO BOTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICERS AND COUNCILLORS. In contrast, it was felt that minority communities had their needs met…

POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES DRAWN FROM MINORITY BACKGROUNDS WERE VIEWED AS NOT SPEAKING ON BEHALF OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES… It is no surprise that residents found it difficult to view these local politicians as representing anything other than sectional minority interests. A STRONGLY HELD VIEW WAS THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICERS WERE SUPPORTING MINORITY INTERESTS IN POLICY ARENAS SUCH AS HOUSING OVER AND ABOVE THE NEEDS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES. IN THIS WAY WE HAVE THE CONSTRUCTION OF A TOXIC MIX OF NEIGHBOURHOOD LOSS, UNINVITED POPULATION CHANGE AND DISCONNECTION FROM LOCAL POLITICS. THE PERCEIVED LOSS OF POWER AND CONTROL IS PALPABLE…

The fundamental theme was that the white working-class do not feel they have been treated fairly by government… Being treated unfairly was most vividly seen in the specific debates on social housing… The commonly held view was that MINORITIES AND IMMIGRANTS WERE PREFERENTIALLY ALLOCATED SOCIAL..

People rejected the view that they were racist or had a dislike of foreigners. Rather THE BLAME WAS PLACED ON ACTIVISTS WHO PROMOTED EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY WHICH LED TO ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’. THE LATTER TERM WAS SEEN AS PREVENTING FREE DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUES OF IDENTITY, RACE AND NEIGHBOURHOOD. MANY THOUGHT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HAD A STIFLING EFFECT ON PEOPLE AS THEY DID NOT WANT TO BE THOUGHT OF AS RACIST or saying something that was deemed inappropriate…

Residents interviewed were concerned not only of the impact of visible minorities but also white minorities such as Poles and students who were viewed as not sharing values or contributing to the neighbourhoods. There was much looking back on what neighbourhoods were like before change… They wanted to be treated fairly by policies and wanted equality in access to resources… Rather than being categorised as racist many simply wanted fairness and equality…

Communities strongly resented negative labelling focused on behaviours and also the assumption that they were racist or supporters of the Far Right. On the contrary, they perceived themselves as open and fair… This was bound up by A SENSE OF NEIGHBOURHOOD LOSS, A DISCONNECTION FROM POLICY DEBATES AND UNHAPPINESS ABOUT THE ALLOCATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES. RESIDENTS WANTED FAIRNESS...

White working-class residents are not being heard… The perceived impact of immigration and new communities should not be ignored. This varied in intensity but residents felt that they were constrained and their views overlooked.

Community cohesion was viewed as a government initiative that was embedded in policy rather than enabling community interaction… More than this, and similar to other policymaking in areas of race and community, IT WAS VIEWED AS BEING IMPOSED ON LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND RESIDENTS BY GOVERNMENT THAT WAS DISCONNECTED FROM REALITY. There was a sense that GOVERNMENT WAS NOT LISTENING TO THE CONCERNS OF WHITE WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITIES AND NOT INTERESTED IN ENGAGEMENT. POLICY WAS SEEN IN THE CONTEXT OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, WHICH HAD BECOME A PEJORATIVE TERM MEANING BENEFICIAL TREATMENT TO ANYONE WHO WAS NOT WHITE WORKING-CLASS…

WHITE WORKING-CLASS RESIDENTS DID NOT FEEL THEY HAVE BEEN TREATED FAIRLY BY GOVERNMENT. THEY HAD BEEN OVERTAKEN BY MINORITY GROUPS AND NEW IMMIGRANTS IN SEARCH OF INCREASED PROSPERITY AND CLASS MOBILITY. THE SENSE OF UNFAIRNESS WAS MOST ACUTE IN TERMS OF ACCESS AND ALLOCATION OF SOCIAL HOUSING. The perception was that HOUSING ORGANISATIONS REWARDED GROUPS WHO DID NOT APPEAR TO ADD ANYTHING POSITIVE TO NEIGHBOURHOODS. The contrast between cohesive and values-driven working-class communities and resistant minority communities as well as other groups such as students was telling…

Stakeholders were largely critical of community cohesion and most residents had not come across the term, which has been focused on minority communities since 2001. COMMUNITY COHESION WAS PERCEIVED AS BEING DRIVEN BY CENTRAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT and not connecting with the real concerns of the local communities that formed this study…

After nearly ten years as a key policy driver, COMMUNITY COHESION HAD NOT SUCCEEDED IN CREATING SHARED VALUES AND TOLERANCE AMONG SOME OF OUR RESPONDENTS…

RESIDENTS, RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY, FELT THAT THEIR VIEWS WERE NOT BEING ACKNOWLEDGED, AND THAT THERE WAS NO SPACE FOR DISCUSSIONS ABOUT CHANGE, IMMIGRATION AND ACCESS TO PUBLIC RESOURCES AS THESE DISCUSSIONS WERE OFTEN PERCEIVED TO BE RACIST IN NATURE.”

COMPLETE TEXT



.

Total Pageviews