Successfully reported this slideshow.

The 'Broken' Society: Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? - Gerry Mooney


Published on

Dr Gerry Mooney, from the Open University, talks about the stigmatisation of poverty and disadvantage.

Stephen Boyd, Assistant Secretary of the Scottish Trade Unions Congress, talks about how the Scottish economy works.

The Whose Economy? seminars, organised by Oxfam Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland, brought together experts to look at recent changes in the Scottish economy and their impact on Scotland's most vulnerable communities.

Held over winter and spring 2010-11 in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Stirling, the series posed the question of what economy is being created in Scotland and, specifically, for whom?

To find out more and view other Whose Economy? papers, presentations and videos visit:

Published in: News & Politics
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

The 'Broken' Society: Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? - Gerry Mooney

  1. 1. The ‘Broken’ Society:Stigmatising Poverty and Disadvantage? Gerry Mooney Department of Social Policy and Criminology Faculty of Social Sciences The Open UniversityOxfam/UWS ‘Whose Economy’ Seminar Series Stirling: March 10 2011
  2. 2. The Problem of the ‘Problem Poor’• Once again people experiencing poverty are represented as among the key „problem‟ groups in the contemporary UK• We are living in the deepest recession and economic crisis since the 1930s, yet for successive governments and for large sections of the media there is another crisis – a „social crisis‟• Underpinning this political discourse is an even more explicitly US- style workfare model, framing „the problem‟ as one of the individual behaviour of the most disadvantaged, those living in poverty• Amidst all the talk of „austerity‟, that „we are all in this together‟, the poorest sections of the working class are constructed as a „problem‟• Neglect of wider inequalities – growing inequalities.
  3. 3. From the ‘Underclass’ to the ‘Broken Society’….Old Wine in an New Bottle?• Broken Society Narrative emerges with Iain Duncan Smith and the Tory Centre for Social Justice in 2007/2008• Key Report: Breakthrough Britain (2007): ‘As the fabric of society crumbles at the margins what has been left behind is an underclass living lives of dependency, addiction, debt and family breakdown. As a result social mobility had stalled and been replaced by a mentality of entrapment, where aspiration and hope are for other people, who live in another place.’
  4. 4. A Broken Society’?• Family and community „breakdown‟• Declining „civility‟/ „civicness‟• Weak/weakening social bonds• Rising violent, deviant and „anti-social behaviour‟• Absence of moral standards, deference, respect and independence – cultural pathology and deficit• Absence of aspiration/backward looking• Welfare „dependency‟• Politically driven by a strong and virulent anti-welfare narrative
  5. 5. Crises of Welfare Narratives:1. Death of Baby Peter in North London in 2007 Horrors of violence against and harm of a child in the private spaces of families; failed child protection etc.2. Karen Matthews, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, 2008 Conviction for kidnapping 9 year old daughter Mooreside Estate: welfarist cultures, dysfunctional family life3. Edlington Boys, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, 2009 Conviction for torturing of young children Claims again of failure of welfare protection, parents from dysfunctional families, and so on.
  6. 6. ‘The verdict last week on Karen Matthews and her vileaccomplice is also a verdict on our broken society. The detailsare damning. A fragmented family held together by drink, drugsand deception. An estate where decency fights a losing battleagainst degradation and despair. A community whose pillars arecrime, unemployment and addiction. How can Gordon Brownargue that people who talk about a broken society are wrong?These children suffered at the very sharpest end of our brokensociety but all over the country are other young victims, too.Children whose toys are dad’s discarded drink bottles; whoserole models are criminals, liars and layabouts; whose innocenceis lost before their first milk tooth. What chance for thesechildren? Raised without manners, morals or a decenteducation, they’re caught up in the same destructive chain astheir parents. It’s a chain that links unemployment, familybreakdown, debt, drugs and crime’.David Cameron, Daily Mail, December 8, 2008
  7. 7. ‘Problem’ Populations: ‘Problem’ Places?• Council Estates as Symbolic Spaces of Urban „Disorders‟ and of Working Class as „Problem‟ Subjects:• Council estates - backward/disorderly/narratives of decay and decline/pathology – welfare/estate cultures!• Locales of the „Underclass‟/‟Socially Excluded‟• Assumed and implicit causality: Council Estates = Disorder and Criminality• Locales of Welfare Dependency – out of step with urban renewal/regeneration!• Viewed from gentrified/privatised zones, council estates are a locale of deprivation, dysfunction and disorder• Unproductive and ungovernable?• A focus for political intervention?
  8. 8. A political timebomb in Glasgow’s GuantanamoDespite crushing poverty things are looking up in Glasgow East. But now the SNP could stealLabour’s birthright.Of all the tough constituencies in the UK, Gordon Brown had to walk into this one. Tough in the politicalsense, but above all in the street-fighting sense. Glasgow East wears the weary, pinched look of someone whohas nothing in life and expects even less. Here, life expectancy for men is said to be lower than it is on theGaza Strip. Here, the law of the jungle, not Westminster, rules.Published date: 3 July 2008Taken from: a Glasgow estate, David Cameron has hard words for broken societyDavid Cameron acknowledged his debt to Iain Duncan Smith as he stood in a church in the East End ofGlasgow to deliver his address on personal morality. Mr Duncan Smith, in turn, credits the deprivation hefound on the estates of Gallowgate for inspiring his “modern, compassionate Conservatism”.Published date: 8 July 2008Taken from:
  9. 9. Glasgow East Is Brown’s Dirty Little Secret: A Hideous, Costly SocialExperiment Gone WrongGlasgow East symbolises – as few other places in Britain can – the fact that the problem Labour faces is not justlack of leadership but lack of mission. What is to be seen in this constituency encapsulates and dramatises Labour‟sabject failures to comprehend, let alone tackle, the nature of the poverty which grips our council estates.Published date: 2 July 2008Taken from: Living, and dying, on welfare in Glasgow East I remember the scene as if it was yesterday. It was a cool spring day, and for the second time in a few months I found myself in Glasgow East, the Labour seat in which there will be a by-election next week. I was visiting the Gallowgate Family Support centre, a voluntary sector community project aimed at helping families cope with drug-addicted children. Jim Doherty had taken me into the front office of his small centre to get us away from the crowd of journalists outside. Published date: 13 July 2008 Taken from:,-and-dying,-on-welfare-in-Glasgow-East.html
  10. 10. ‘Poverty Porn’• „Problem Places‟ and „Problem People‟: poor social capital, lacking aspirations, dysfunctionality, backward and welfare dependent: symbolising „Broken Britain‟/‟The Broken Society‟!• „Poverty Porn‟: long history in the UK and elsewhere of• Poverty as entertainment – „Povertainment‟• Reality TV: Jeremy Kyle, Tricia, Saints and Scroungers, The Scheme.....• Travelogues of „Hidden Britain‟• „Chav‟ & „Ned‟ Towns – massive presence on the Web.
  11. 11. ‘The Scheme’: Stigmatising Poverty & Poor People?
  12. 12. The Role and Significance of ‘Poverty Porn’• Legitimation and Tutelage – role of „expert‟ narratives, stress on self-improvement, normalisation of middle class lives and the dysfunctionality of poor working class lives, drive for an „aspirational culture‟• Zygmunt Bauman – Poor are not only „flawed consumers‟ (consume the „wrong things‟ and non-essentials: Plasma TVs, alcohol, tobacco, wrong foods etc .)• But also state dependent consumers (i.e. state housing etc)• Invites moral indignation and disgust• Draws also a binary divide between „us‟ and „them‟• Serves to harden attitudes to welfare – helps to drive an anti- welfare policy/welfare cuts.
  13. 13. Some Concluding Thoughts• The „Broken Society‟ is an anti-welfare narrative• In this narrative a specific spatialisation is at work: the Broken Society mobilises a particular representation of social housing estates and the populations therein as not only vulnerable – but as problematic• There is a developing and unfolding moral geography of responsibilisation• The „Broken Society‟ is the Classed Representation of „Welfare Spaces‟ – it represents the material interests of the powerful• It works to valorise responsibility, restraint and civic duty• And to misrepresent and apportion blame for some of the real and fundamental changes taking place in the UK today• In the context of widespread and growing inequalities, it apportions blame for the „social crisis‟ of the contemporary UK – to some of the most disadvantaged sections of society!
  14. 14. Some Additional Reading Gerry Mooney & Lynn Hancock „Poverty Porn & the Broken Society‟, Variant, 39/40 Winter 2010: 14-17 available at: Gerry Mooney & Sarah Neal (2009/2010) “Welfare worries‟: mapping the directions of welfare futures in the contemporary UK‟, Research, Policy and Planning, 27, 3, 2009/2010: 141- 150
  15. 15. Contact Information• Gerry Mooney, Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology, Department of Social Policy and Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University in Scotland• E -• Web - profile.php?name=Gerry_Mooney• Co-editor: Social Justice and Social Policy in Scotland (Policy Press, forthcoming 2011), Poverty in Scotland 2011 (CPAG, 2011), Criminal Justice in Contemporary Scotland (Willan, 2010), Community: Welfare, Crime and Society (Open University Press, 2009) and New Labour/Hard Labour? (Policy Press, 2007). Co-author: Understanding Social Welfare Movements (Policy
  16. 16. To view all the papers in the Whose Economy series click hereTo view all the videos and presentations from the seminars click here