The coalition government is vigorously engaged in reducing the role of the state in the delivery of services in education, including schools and universities, the health service and services traditionally delivered by local authorities, writes Keith Popple. The social policies that are shaping this new terrain are predicated on neo-liberal economic policies and are accompanied by the notion of the Big Society, which is encourages different communities and neighbourhoods to take greater responsibility for their own affairs. The ideology that informs the Big Society has no truck with concepts like social justice, equality and empowerment that social workers consider to be central to their values and practice.
It is therefore opportune that the second edition of Margaret Ledwith’s important book on community development should be published now, as it offers us a keenly-observed and well-argued critical analysis of contemporary times. In particular, it encourages readers who are committed to advancing the cause of those who are marginalised and indisposed by the economic and political circumstances we are now experiencing to take action to achieve a more equitable society. Successfully building on the arguments she presented in the first edition, Ledwith draws on the work of a number of key writers such as Paulo Freire and Antonio Gramsci and, together with examples from practice, she demonstrates that it is possible to construct and nurture social movements that strengthen democracy.
At a time of major change in British social work, this text provides practitioners, students and academics with encouragement and optimism for a future that is more just, equitable and sustainable.
Keith Popple is professor of social work at London South Bank University