Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference: 24th June, 2015 NEW DIALOGUES AND DIRECTIONS Ivor Crewe Auditorium 9.15-9.50 Registration and Refreshments 9.50-10.00 Conference Introduction (Nigel South) 10.00-12.30 Past Excitements New Dialogues A panel of distinguished members of the Department reflect on what was thought to be most exciting about Sociology in the past (both as…
Cosmopolitan Sexualities is now published My latest book was published in May 2015 by Polity Press. You can find details and a study guide for it by clicking here or the tab at the top: Cosmosexualities It is reviewed in the Times Higher Education here, along with my ‘full profile, at: Review’ From the cover:…
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.
- and more…….
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.
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…
No Other Way
There’s no other way
That’s what they say.
Economics must put money before people
And medicine must put profit before health.
Education must put management before wisdom
And religion must put war before love.
Technology must put machines before environments.
And politicians must put power before care.
We must follow the way things are done.
There’s no other way
That’s what they say.
But what if economics valued feelings
And medicine fostered dignity
Education aimed for all to flourish
And religion wanted better worlds for all
Technology looked out for justice
And politicians put people first.
If we would just be kind and care for each other.
Then we would have the road less travelled.
A much better way
Than the way they say.
There is never only one way.
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?”
The Marrying Kind. Edited by Mary Bernstein and Verta Taylor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. Pp 432 $25.00pb $75.00 cloth Reviewed by Ken Plummer in the American Journal of Sociology Vol. 19, No 6, May 2014. p1765-7. Gay Marriage was scarcely a whisper twenty years ago. Now it has become a global public…
I gave this lecture at the Huddersfield Conference TROUBLING NARRATIVES: IDENTITY MATTERS on June 20th 2014. In this lecture I revisited my study Telling Sexual Stories, published nearly twenty years ago. I began by considering the background – how it came to be written. I then asked what its original contributions might have…
A dear friend Michael Schofield, the researcher and campaigner, died on Thursday 27th March, aged 94. This “Tribute to Michael” was presented at Golders Green Crematorium on Tuesday 15h April by Ken For timeline , click here…….. For the service, Click here The service 1 I first met Michael in 1967 as…
If our world is to be a decent world in the future, we must acknowledge right now that we are citizens of one interdependent world, held together by mutual fellowship as well as the pursuit of mutual advantage, by compassion as well as self interest, by a love of human dignity, in all people, even when there is nothing to gain from cooperating with them. Or rather even when we have to gain the biggest thing of all: participation in a just and morally decent world. Martha Nussbaum Frontiers of Justice 2006: p324
I first encountered Martha Nussbaum through her book Sex and Justice (1999), and have been a cautious fan ever since.
I thank her for her discussions of the issues of narrative and ‘cultivating humanity’; of the importance of capabilities, rights and human flourishing; for her tentative list of central human capabilities; for her ideas of shame and disgust;for her work beyond the narrow confines of a US academic; for the ideas of cosmopolitanism; for her concerns about gender and sexuality; for her ‘religious tolerance’; for her concern with anmals and disability; and for her passion for a ‘decent world culture’ and a world moral community; She is surely one of the world’s leading philosophers and feminists and ~i think provides a good grounding for developing a better sociology. .
Martha Nussbaum’s Central Human Functional Capabilities.
- Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely or before one’s life is so reduced as to be not worth living
- Bodily Health and Integrity. Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; being adequately nourished; being able to have adequate shelter
- Bodily Integrity. Being able to move freely from place to place; being able to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault, marital rape, and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.
- Senses, imagination, thought. Being able to use the senses; being able to imagine, to think, and to reason – and to do these things in a “truly human” way, a way informed and cultivated by an adequate education, including, but by no means limited to, literacy and basic mathematical and scientific training; being able to use imagination and thought in connection with experiencing and producing expressive works and events of one’s own choice (religious, literary, musical etc.); being able to use one’s mind in ways protected by guarantees of freedom of expression wit respect to both political and artistic speech and freedom of religious exercise; being able to have pleasurable experiences and to avoid nonbeneficial pain
- Emotions. Being able to have attachments to things and persons outside ourselves; being able to love those who love and care for us; being able to grieve at their absence; in general being able to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger; not having one’s emotional developing blighted by fear or anxiety. (Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development.
- Practical reason. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one’s own life. (This entails protection for the liberty of conscience.)
- Affiliation. (a) Being able to live for and in relation to others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; being able to imagine the situation of another and to have compassion for the situation; having the capability for both justice and friendship. (Protecting this capability means, once again, protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting the freedoms of assembly and political speech.) (b) Having the social bases of self-respect and nonhumiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others. (This entails provisions of nondiscrimination.)
- Other species. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature
- Play. Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities.
- Control over one’s environment. (a) Political: being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one’s life; having the rights of political participation, free speech, and freedom of association (b) Material: being able to hold property (both land and movable goods); having the right to seek employment on an equal basis with others; having the freedom from unwarranted search and seizure. In work, being able to work as a human being, exercising practical reason and entering into meaningful relationships of mutual recognition with other workers.
From Martha Nussbaum Sex and Social Justice. 1999: 41-2; but it can be found everywhere in her work (eg Frontiers of Justice); and most recently in Creating Capabilities (2011) and Development and Change, Forum 2006 Vol 37, No 6 November 2006 p1325-7, where she also comments on problems with the list – page 1315.
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