Conceptualising community as a social fix, argument and persuasion in health, housing and local governance. A review of the literature

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Politics and Public Policy


Community is a politically contested concept (Finlayson, 2007: 551). Often described as an empty concept with so many meanings, it has been stretched beyond any real usefulness (Hillery, 1955). Our review describes the shape of; and tensions within; the contestations existing around 'community' as a 'fix' for complex social problems in the UK, since the 1960s. The focus was on undertaking a rhetorical discourse analysis of local policy in health, housing and local governance written in connection to poverty in the East Midlands. We found that policy-makers were able to define their own definitions of 'community' out of the nexus between traditions, individual beliefs and dilemmas. However, the policy areas of health, housing and local governance did not appear to be a key determinant of constructions of 'community' over time. Instead, definitions were mediated by two factors, that of party ideology and bureaucratic managerialism, in that accounts of 'community' are defined locally along party lines, and in spite of local interpretations, the bureaucratic-spatial construct of community is ever present. It is this latter definition that seems to dominate in the lives of practitioners and in effect constrains their ability to influence the definition of 'community' in practices.


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