The Big Society Debate

The Big Society Debate

A New Agenda for Social Welfare?

Edited by Armine Ishkanian and Simon Szreter

The book is divided into two sections, history and policy, which together provide readers with a historically grounded, internationally informed, and multidisciplinary analysis of the Big Society policies. The introduction and conclusion tie the strands together, providing a coherent analysis of the key issues in both sections. Various chapters in this study examine the limitations and consider the challenges involved in translating the ideas of the Big Society agenda into practice.

Introduction: What is Big Society? Contemporary Social Policy in a Historical and Comparative Perspective

Simon Szreter and Armine Ishkanian

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Simon Szreter and Armine Ishkanian 1 INTRODUCTION: POLICY AND RHETORIC There can be no sensible commentary or meaningful debate about Big Society without full recognition that it ‘is a deeply historical concept’, to cite Matthew Hilton’s opening sentence in his chapter below. The aim of this volume is to create a dialogue between history, policy and practice, and to provide readers with a historically grounded, internationally informed, multidisciplinary answer to the question we pose in the title – The Big Society Debate: A New Agenda for Social Welfare? The idea for the volume came about following a one-day workshop held in March 2011 at the London School of Economics titled ‘Thinking Critically about the Big Society’. The workshop brought together academics from different disciplines, practitioners from the voluntary and public sectors, and historians from the History and Policy network to discuss the underpinnings of the ‘Big Society’ agenda, the historical context from which this idea emerged, the effects of the Big Society in practice, its implications longer term for civil society, relations between state and non-state actors, and what lessons can be drawn from international experience. This volume continues that discussion and begins with the historical. The chapters in Part I provide the archivally researched contributions of professional historians, which are vital to critically inform and complement the chapters in Part II that focus on social policy and examine the challenges of operationalising the three key components of the Big Society agenda as defined by the Cabinet Office: community empowerment; opening...