The 50th Anniversary Conference of the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex
Wednesday 24th June, 2015
Ivor Crewe Hall, 9.30 start.
The Essex Sociology Department has helped to shape sociological thought and practice across Britain and around the world. In our 50th year, a panel of distinguished former and current members offer their own critical reflection on this contribution.
In the morning, we discuss its legacies and the new dialogues it continues to foster (Ted Benton, Joan Busfield, Diane Elson, Ken Plummer, John Scott and Paul Thompson).
In the afternoon, there will be three thematic sessions (social theory, civic challenges and new terrains) that will explore some of the Department’s contemporary research challenges and collaborations. These include: theorizing excess, moral selfhood, hacker ethics, countering austerity and urban security (Michael Halewood, Linsey McGoey, Sandya Hewamanne, Michael Bailey, Neli Demireva, Isabel Crowhurst, Robin West, James Allen- Robertson, Darren Thiel, Pete Fussey).
For further details and to reserve your place please contact Agnes Skamballis on email@example.com
Things can only get better! Another day we need hope!
There has been huge damage to lives in this country over the past five years, driven by an absurd austerity argument and anti-humanist economics. But worse, unashamedly and almost celebratory, the worst is yet to come and bigger cuts are on their way. Humanity once again has shown its darker side, supported and encouraged by the British media.
The Conservatives have specified just over £1bn of the £12bn of cuts they intend to make in the first two years of the next parliament. These will hurt the poor: a freezing of working-age benefits, a reduction in the benefit cap (from £26,000 to £23,0000); the removal of housing benefit from 18-21-year-olds claiming jobseekeer’s allowance. Not good news. Even so: what of the remaining 11 billion?
Here is a reminder are of just a few of the terrible things that the last Government has done and which they can now carry further.
Poverty will continue to grow: not only we have been ‘going backwards’ and witnessed ‘the rise of mass poverty’ (Lansley and Mack, 2015:Ch 2), the government has scrapped the accepted understandings of relative poverty and waged an awful campaign to blame the poor. The poor are now the ‘skivers’, the ‘drinkers’, the ‘broken families’ – Mr Iain Duncan Smith has worked hard to redefine poverty so that it ‘blames the poor’; and the press have gone along with him. Historians and sociologists have long documented this mode of dividing the poor into the respectable and disreputable poor: and this government has adopted this divide and rule strategy its limit. It is bad enough to lack money: you don’t need the stigma.
The housing problem will get worse. A bedroom tax has hit families and communities and has not helped alleviating ‘the homes’ problem. Indeed homelessness has increased (nearly 2,500 people sleep out across England on any given night); and there is now a recognised major housing crisis. Housing has become impossible for first time buyers and schemes introduced by the government have benefited renters?
The Health Crisis Continues – this government forced through the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 as the biggest re-organisation of the NHS since 1948 . Bold indeed, as it was not even in their Manifesto. Being a Coalition government might have suggested a little moderation but they rushed it through in their first year. Those who work in the health services have never been more demoralised and by most accounts the change has been a disaster. What will they do now? Watch this space.
Hunger grows: One Million plus are on the food banks, which the government sees as a good thing. I had thought we were over this stage of poverty in advanced industrialised society, but no! It might have been good for the United States ( one of the most unequal societies in the world!), but surely we did not need it.
Work has become unstable, with ever lower pay and declining rights. The Coalition boasted there are more people in work (2 million!), but the conditions of this work have become increasingly unbearable and untenable. Zero hours Contracts earn less than half the average age (£326 compared with £482)The number of people paid below a Living Wage has increased by more than 400,000 in the last 12 months.Is this the kind of society we want to see in the future- with workers living in minimal and insecure conditions?
There have been cut backs in all the services of ‘working people’. The most deprived local authorities have seen cuts of £220 per head, compared to £40 per head in the least deprived (Hastings, 2015)A 2015 Rowntree Report on the Cost of the Cuts shows that: Local authorities in England lost 27 per cent of their spending power between 2010/11 and 2015/16 in real terms. Some services, such as planning and ‘supporting people’ (discretionary social care with a preventative or enabling focus) have seen cumulative cuts to the order of 45 per cent. People are beginning to notice the impact of the cuts with an increasing proportion of households finding services inadequate or unaffordable. (Hastings et al 2015). These cuts have been made very widely and have left the social fabric of the UK in a bad way. We find closure and/or heavy cuts in
Elderly care homes have already been slashed between 2010-14 by nearly a fifth, whilst the number of adults receiving local authority care services has been cut by nearly a third from 1.8m to 1.3m. Yet the demand for care home places is rising inexorably as the number of over-85s is forecast to rise by 60% by 2035.
Legal Aid Benefits for the needy have been severely cut – especially for the Disabled.
Probation service, has been more or less closed down.
Prisons (which are now at their fullest despite the lower crime rates)
Local Libraries closed
Local arts closed
Women’s Refuges closed and so on….
‘Our’ wealth has been sold off. We have now witnessed privatisation of health, crime, care and education – by stealth! We are getting used to the great sell of- whereby new profit based companies ( whose identity is not always transparent) become part of the sell of the state, companies whose motives is profit and who often can be shown to have failed. See James Meek’s study Treasure Island: Why Britain now Belongs to (2015 2nd ed Verso) looks at privatised mail, railways, water, electricity, health and homes; and shows how a real shift has occurred between the rich v the poor.
Our culture is becoming sleazy. It blames the the poor and scapegoats the immigrant,and is encouraged in this by a media which led the campaign to get the conservatives back to power. It cannot be trusted yet it pervades our lives.
Inequalities will continue to grow as the rich will get even richer: most of the conservative policies have facilitated this. We seem now to be living under a Plutocracy: the rule of the rich and the richest.
This is one of those dark days for humanity as the British Election results gives little sense of a more human, caring world. But we have been here before. It is yet another day we need hope.
Inequality “There’s been class warfare going on for the last twenty years, and my class has won. We’re the ones that have gotten our tex rates reduced”. Warren Buffett Last Sunday saw the publication of the Sunday Times Rich (April 26th 2015). It showed that the wealth of Britain’s richest people has more than doubled…
Against Austerity Austerity is anti- humanist. It takes money and wealth as the starting point rather than people. It celebrates usury, credit and the rich. It erodes human value; and soon becomes insensitive to the widespread suffering of human beings that it generates. Austerity invariably fails – making for more hardship and inequality. The…
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the central figure of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in America. A Christian Humanist who believed in the power of non-violence and love, he was assassinated by a lone gunman on 4 April 1968 on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee as he prepared to attend a rally in support of striking sanitation workers.
April 4th is my birthday and so his assassination is always a date for me to remember.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
I find his compilation book A Testament of Hope remains an inspirational book.
A discussion between Ken Plummer, Jeffrey Weeks and other contributors chaired by Gregg Blachford; with an update with Róisín Ryan-Flood was held in the Sociology Department at the University of Essex on Thursday March 19th 2015. The Making of the Modern Homosexual was published in June 1981 in hardback and paperback. The book was inspired by Mary McIntosh’s article ‘The Homosexual Role” Social Problems Vol. 16, No 2, Fall 1968 which was republished in the book and followed by a discussion. The book was developed in an early workshop, linked to an Open University Second Level Intro to Sociology Course (Study Section 8), and held at Essex in 1979. (The O.U. programme ran for over a decade, throughout the 1980’s.)
The Book ‘Blurb’
‘Is the “homosexual” a type of person that has been with us in various guises throughout history? Is he or she simply a “being” that we are slowly discovering and understanding better? Or is the “homosexual” simply an invention of our century? The authors of this original and important new work take this last view and argue that although “same-sex” sexual experiences may have existed throughout history, the notion of the “homosexual” is a peculiarly modern idea, which has profound consequences in the structuring of recent homosexual experiences. The essays in this book take the contemporary construction of the homosexual as their common concern’.
The Book Contents
Part One: The Making of a Sociology of Homosexuality
Building a Sociology of Homosexuality (Ken Plummer)
‘The Homosexual Role’ (Mary McIntosh); with interview (McIntosh, Weeks, Plummer)
Part Two: Directions for Enquiry
Homosexual Categories (Ken Plummer)
Discourse, Desire And Sexual Deviance: Some Problems In The History Of Historiography (Jeffrey Weeks)
Liberating Lesbian Research (Annabel Faraday)
Part Three: The Making Of The `Modern Male Homosexual: Explorations In Research
Pansies, Perverts And Macho Men: Changing Conceptions Of Male Homosexuality (John Marshall)
Gender Confusions: Psychological And Psychiatric Conceptions Of Transvestism And Transexualism (Dave King)
Male Dominance And The Gay World (Gregg Blachford)
Appendices on Research
Some images from those early days -1980
A day meeting to discuss the book and organised by the Open University who used many images for their programme broadcast throughout the 1980’s. The photos show Jeffrey Weeks, Ken Plummer, Gregg Blachford, John Marshall, Mary McIntosh and Annabel Faraday.
Announcement of forthcoming seminar 50 Years of Essex Sociology: A seminar sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship ‘The Making of the Modern Homosexual’ Revisited A discussion between Ken Plummer and Jeffrey Weeks and other contributors chaired by Gregg Blachford and an update with Róisín Ryan-Flood. Thursday March…
This was my little contribution to Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet which has just been published.
Global Chorus is a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future. As a global roundtable for our times, in the format of a daily reader, this book is a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that has poured in from all over the Earth. Its message is enormously inspiring, and ominous in its warnings. And yet, united in a thread of hope, its contents are capable of helping even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our world. Places at this roundtable are occupied by writers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, politicians, professors, doctors, athletes, businesspeople, farmers, chefs, yogis, painters, actors, architects, musicians, TV personalities, humanitarians, adventurers, concerned youth, concerned senior citizens, civil servants, carpenters, bus drivers, activists, CEO’s, scientists, and essentially those who have something thoughtful and visionary to say about humanity’s place upon Earth. Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.
Contributors to Global Chorus have provided one-page responses to the following line of questioning:
“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”