University Of Tasmania

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The allure of the “Big Society”: conveying authority in an era of uncertainty

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 02:56 authored by Keith JacobsKeith Jacobs
The inception and roll out of the UK Government’s Big Society agenda offers an opportunity to consider the changing modalities of contemporary political engagement. Much of the critical scholarship on the Big Society views it as a rationale to legitimize both a reconfiguration of the welfare state and an austerity programme to reduce government debt. While these interpretations are helpful, they explain only partially the appeal of these agendas for politicians and their political parties. The key question explored in this article is why, despite the hostility and cynicism towards ideological projects such as Big Society, do politicians continue to identify and pursue them? I argue that the Big Society agenda is only in part a rationale for austerity and welfare reform; it also provides a discursive setting for politicians to address societal anxieties by offering a navigable route for the future. Although the Big Society agenda has been roundly derided, its Manichean morality tale offers assurance at a time when politics is being reshaped by neoliberal ideology, changing media practices and globalization processes.


Publication title

Housing, Theory and Society






School of Social Sciences


Taylor & Francis Scandinavia

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2014 IBF, The Institute for Housing and Urban Research

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Government and politics not elsewhere classified

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