A New Agenda for Social Welfare?
Edited by Armine Ishkanian and Simon Szreter
Chapter 13: European Perspectives on the Big Society Agenda
Markus Ketola It’s the spirit of activism, dynamism, people taking the initiative, working together to get things done. (Cameron 2010a) From state power to people power. From big government to the big society. I will work with others to give Britain a brand new start. (Cameron 2010b) INTRODUCTION Whichever way you look at it, volunteerism is a central part of David Cameron’s Big Society agenda. It speaks of a ‘new culture of volunteering’ that stems from action in the areas of community empowerment, redistribution of power, social action and public service reform. Volunteering is part of the ideological impetus behind the government agenda where free markets, charities and volunteers come together to complete the bigger picture of what constitutes modern conservatism. Therefore, the success of Big Society depends largely on the capacity of citizens to volunteer and participate actively in their communities, and the proponents of Big Society tend to characterize this focus on volunteering as a radical culture change for Britain. Depicting the issue like this paves the way for an argument that suggests change is necessary because the current culture of volunteering is lacking either in quantity or quality, or both. In addition the problem is framed in a way that blames big government for the dearth of volunteerism. The argument proceeds, therefore, that the Big Society agenda with its emphasis on small government is perfectly placed to provide the required remedy. But is either of the above arguments at all plausible or evidence-based? Is there indeed a...
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