Recent and Upcoming conferences

This page provides an overview of upcoming or recently presented work at conferences.

Upcoming

Exploring Socio-economic dimensions of Community Resilience: Community, Participation and Politics in post-crisis Britain. Paper to be presented as ESA RN09 (Economic Sociology) Mid-term conference, Madrid (Spain), 22-24 September 2016

This paper explores the nature of community resilience to socio-economic shocks in Britain post-2008. Communities are increasingly expected to take on the burden of their own care in the context of retreating welfare, cuts to public expenditure and the increasing difficulty for civil society organisations to meet demand for services. Using semi-structured household and key informant interviews in urban and rural areas of the UK, the paper investigates how the ways in which people participate in their communities and society, and their relationship with social and political structures, impact upon communities’ ability to foster practices of resilience and support their members in times of crisis. It contributes to the nascent literature on socio-economic dimensions of community resilience, particularly on the role played by households and formal and informal support structures, such as local and central government and civil society, in creating strong communities resilient to socio-economic shocks.

The paper argues that historical factors (e.g. the UK’s liberal tradition of citizenship that prioritises private interests over public participation), structural constraints (e.g. austerity and recession), and political choices (e.g. welfare retrenchment and public sector cuts) impact negatively on communities’ ability to develop deep socio-economic ties. Our data suggests that adequate access to resources (e.g. financial and social capital) is essential for households to contribute to community resilience. Yet many interviewees did not have access to either the resources or the time to participate meaningfully in their communities, especially in the urban site. This was compounded for those on low-incomes by the increasing difficulty of making ends meet through labour or welfare support. This means that those that would benefit most from membership of a resilient community cannot access the support structures within it, damaging community resilience overall and making communities more susceptible to fragmentation in times of crisis.

Previous Conferences

Squeezed out of the labour market and the welfare system after austerity: citizens in need of charity in the UK. Paper to be presented at BSA Work, Employment and Society conference, Leeds (UK), 6-8 September 2016
With H. Dagdeviren

The 2008 crisis led to a rise in unemployment and greater insecurity in the labour market. Since then, the conditions for the working class have worsened as a result of the austerity policies pursued by the UK government involving cuts in public spending and the deepening of welfare reforms that started in the earlier decades. After the crisis, discourses around welfare recipients moved from ‘smoothing transition from welfare to work’ or ‘making work pay’ (DWP 2006, 2010) to an unfounded explicit discourse of strivers vs skivers/scroungers (Allen et al., 2015: 908) despite the fact that the benefit fraud accounted for less than one per cent of benefit expenditure (DWP 2015: 1). Stigmatisation as a disincentive to claim welfare has been complemented by a drive to create a more disciplinary welfare state (Goodin, 2001, Greer, 2015) through widespread use of sanctions and workfare measures. The result is that vast numbers of people have not only been squeezed out of the labour market but also the welfare system. Those who fall through the cracks often find themselves in need of charity. Indeed, Trussell Trust data shows that their distribution of food parcels increased from around 26 thousand in 2008 to over one million in 2015. Around 43 per cent of the foodbank use is related to the problems associated with the welfare system. This paper discusses the slide of households in the post-crisis period from labour market to the welfare system and then to the charitable sector. The analysis is based on 20 Key Informant interviews and 40 household interviews carried out in three different regions in England and Wales in 2015. Our findings can be highlighted as follows:

First, the rigidities introduced into the welfare system in the form of sanctions have intensified its existing contradiction with wider flexibilisation of the labour market. New restrictions limit access to welfare further especially when workers have irregular hours and work insecure jobs. Second, sanctions and benefit delays create temporary destitution amongst some households and force them to rely on various charities or third sector organisations. Third, making a distinction between advocacy (independent, non-governmental organisations such as Law Centres, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux) and relief oriented charities (e.g. foodbanks) we show that the size of the former shrunk while that of the latter expanded after the crisis. This is symptomatic of the negative effects of the Government’s austerity agenda on democratic processes in which advocacy organisations strengthen citizens’ use of their rights and entitlements while charities provide immensely valuable but non-universal, non-obligatory and patronage based support often causing stigma and shame amongst beneficiaries.

Regressive innovations in the context of post-crisis welfare reform: Social economy and the UK welfare settlement. Paper to be presented at ESPAnet Conference, Rotterdam (Netherlands), 1-3 September 2016
With H. Dagdeviren and A. Wearmouth

The global financial crisis impacted the UK welfare state deeply, particularly within the context of the Coalition and Conservative government’s austerity agenda. The crisis helped legitimise continuing sweeping reforms to welfare provision, reducing the role of the state and including ‘the social economy’ to a greater extent than before by emphasising individuals’ responsibility for fellow citizens, neighbourhoods and communities. This paper draws upon semi-structured interviews with key informants from the third sector and socio-economically vulnerable households in London, Cornwall and Pembrokeshire. It explores the role of the social economy in the UK’s post-crisis welfare state within the political, economic and social context of a retreating state, austerity and divided support for greater welfare provision amongst the British public. The paper makes two arguments. Firstly, the government’s ambitions to increase the role of the third sector whilst shrinking the role of the state in a time of austerity, sluggish recovery and increased economic insecurity is problematic because of the difficulty the third sector faces in meeting an increased demand on its services. Secondly and more importantly, partial substitution of the ‘social economy’ for welfare provision is essentially a ‘regressive innovation’ threatening civic, political and social rights. This is demonstrated with reference to the role foodbanks played in catering the needs of those who have been sanctioned by the welfare agencies, replacing entitlements with partial, voluntary and charitable actions of ‘the social economy’.

Resilience, coping and crisis: How European households deal with hardship after the 2008 financial crisis. Paper presented at 23rd International Conference of Europeanists, Philadelphia (PA, USA), 14-16 April 2016
With H. Dagdeviren

It is well documented that the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 plunged many European countries into financial difficulty, either through sovereign debt crises or crises of the financialised economy. However, what has been less discussed is how European households have dealt, and continue to deal seven years on, with the effects of this crisis on their everyday lives. In particular, little attention has been paid to manifestations of coping and the socio-economic resilience of these households. Resilience has the potential to help academics understand how households deal with hardship in a new light. However, the concept in the social sciences remains largely ambiguous in terms of the characteristics and outcomes of resilience. As part of the EU FP7 funded project RESCuE, we investigate the practices they employ to reduce, protect against, and escape hardship. We find that households employ strategies concerned with: utilising available resources; managing household consumption, and; protecting and increasing household income. We also find that there is a significant physical, mental and emotional toll associated with employing resilient practices, which is particularly true for those households who find themselves experiencing a crisis of hardship for the first time.