Social Enterprise and Employment in the United Kingdom

I’ve just had a new article published in Perspectives on Workthe journal of the Labor and Employment Relations Association in the USA.

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In the article, I give a brief overview of the Social Enterprise sector in the UK and comment on the impacts of social enterprise on economic development and, specifically, job creation.  The main points that I make are that:

  • Many social enterprises operate at the margins of the labour market, so their impacts on general unemployment caused by the economic crisis and industrial restructuring are not always significant
  • The barriers to becoming a social entrepreneur are no less high than to becoming an entrepreneur in the private sector.
  • Some of the most important lessons to be learnt from social enterprises are:
  1. How to support marginalised individuals and groups into the workforce
  2. How to involve employees in firm decision-making
  3. How to grow businesses whilst devoting a higher than average proportion of turnover to wages, training and development.

 

 

Seaside towns and Local Enterprise Partnerships

This is a copy of a presentation that myself and a colleague, Samantha Chaperon, were due to give at the ATHE 2010 conference last week. Sadly the weather conspired against us, but the organisers have been kind enough to let us submit the full paper for the proceedings, which I will post a link to here in Spring 2011 once they have been published.

Future Visions

The very talented Rachel Holland, eco-stylist and founder of La Luminata, the sustainable design and trends online magazine, has published a book called ‘Future Visions’.  This contains  “A view of the future from some of today’s top blogger’s, trendwatchers, artists, designers, philosophers, experts and free-thinkers in the eco world”.

20 individuals have contributed their observations on the state of eco design, fashion and society and Rachel has put these together as a set of views on the future in a beautifully designed book.

You can view a preview of the book online here, where you can also order copies.  If you click on the image of the front cover below, you can go straight through to a lovely digital version of the book.

My contribution to the book is on page 17 and is heavily indebted to Mike Davis’ latest writing about the ‘ecological genius of cities’ in the New Left Review and recent actions by the Climate Camp group in the UK.

Chris Harman 1942-2009

This is a recording of Chris Harman, the influential British Marxist and SWP activist who died suddenly this weekend in Egypt, speaking at Marxism 2009  in the summer.  Chris will be greatly missed by the left for his activism and inspiration.   You can read a tribute to Chris written by Alex Callinicos by clicking here.

Heritage matters

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling of a refurbished Romany vardo, or caravan, that had been restored and interpreted with the artist Martin Brockman.  This was project was run by heritage matters as part of the HLF-funded ‘Kentish Culture Past and Present’ project.  In these two pictures you can see how my daughter took up residence inside the caravan for the duration…

 lyra vardo

The vardo, which has been completely restored, has had wooden panels added to it depicting scenes of traditional Kent life carved by Martin Brockman and students from schools in Canterbury, Kent have been involved at all stages of the project.

lyra vardo 2

 This is the first project of its kind that I am aware of my home county of Kent in the UK.   The history of Kent has always involved movements of people, whether they were part of highly mobile communities like the Romany, or the numerous temporary populations that have accompanied the hop-picking season, or the ebb and flow of seaside tourism.  More recently, Kent has found itself to be a point of entry for migrants seeking admission to the UK. 

I  recommend exploring the Heritage Matters website and making use of some of the intriguing audio recordings you will find there, to get a glimpse into some of Kent’s hidden histories.

The politico-cultural complex by the seaside

Last week I went to the Black/North SEAS conference in Skegness.  I posted regularly to my twitter profile while I was there and because of this I was asked by New Start Magazine to contribute a blog post to their website.  You can read this short article by clicking here.

“There was some exciting artistic work on show as part of the seascape event, and reports of fascinating research. But it seems as though the vogue for coastal cultural regeneration is in danger of repeating the rhetorical and ideological mistakes of the now not-so-novel approach to cultural regeneration taken by inland cities over the last 15 years, concentrating on attracting high-spending cultural tourists and viewing communities as a problem that needed to be solved.”

Hey big spender!

Will Hutton is interviewed about the economic crisis in this week’s Big Issue magazine. Despite Hutton’s position in the mainstream media as a bit of a maverick, he normally makes quite conservative predictions about economic and social matters, trumpeting the rise of China or promoting economic / managerial approaches to social and cultural change. As director of the Work Foundation, he is certainly not a radical voice and for that reason we should look at his predctions as representative of a current within mainstream political circles, albeit one that he is able to voice publicly due to his ‘outsider’ status in the media.

 

Hutton points out that an economic recovery will require a rise in spending, by consumers or businesses. The consumer, claims Hutton, is concentrating on rebuilding savings, while businesses are becoming debt-minimizers in order to future-proof themselves against difficult economic times. Whether the British are re-building savings or merely starting to save after years of credit-fuelled spending is a moot point, but the likely outcome of this is stagnation in the economy, as happened in Japan in the 1990s after their economy crashed following a sustained boom. Stagnation of course, is even more problematic than a recession for a capitalist economy. A recession and a collapse in asset values at least offers the opportunity for growth and the restoration of the rate of profit; a prolonged stagnation denies capitalists the ability to grow their capital and limits the potential for competition, destroying the engine of the economy.

 

The stagnation that Hutton predicts however, doesn’t look like stagnation at the level of the individual worker or their communities. In order to maintain profit levels, it is likely that the current rate of job losses could continue at 60,000 per month for another three years before stabilisation is achieved. This could (should) lead to a period of social change as the economy and social provision is restructured to reflect this new socio-economic reality. Whether this period of change can be politicised to promote positive political developments remains to be seen, but already the possibilities of workforce mobilisation and collective responses to the crisis are facing up to the use of the recession to intimidate and manipulate workers. Politicians are keen to avoid taking the blame for the current crisis, as each country seeks to line up other markets or ‘the world financial system’ as the villains of the piece. This tactic creates a moving, camouflaged target for the public at large to aim at, and one that is obscured further by techno-managerial jargon and PR.

 

Will Hutton’s prescription for the crisis is a super-Keynesian level of fiscal stimulus, mainly based around a massive programme of public works similar to that which helped to lift the US economy out of the great depression in the 1930s. This might include large engineering projects and the development of a green economy. Of course, after the 1930s the US was left with a vastly expanded productive capacity which could only be usefully employed on a war footing over the following 60 years. The government funded expansion of production can only fix the system in the short-term, eventually the levels of state production work against competition and so have to be reduced and the debts incurred have to be repaid.

As David Harvey has pointed out, the current crisis offers an opportunity, as do all crises, for the reconfiguration of society within a different ideological framework. A more equitable society is not the necessary outcome of this process. Previous crises have seen the deepening and strengthening of the current system of power and attempts to provide a stimulus to return the economy to ‘normal’ are attempts to do just this.  The human costs of this will be enormous, and should shame journalists and politicians out of their current fetishisation of the fiscal stimulus as they hide behind superlative descriptions of it’s size and importance.

David Harvey ‘The Crisis Today’ @ Marxism 2009

By far the best thing I saw at the conference and an insightful, challenging analysis of the next steps in the crisis in which David Harvey presents a new model of restructuring around seven ‘moments’ that offers an opportunity to the left for a reconceptualisation of it’s approach.

More on the Marx revival

Comedian / activist Mark Steel writes in the Independent yesterday about the resurgence of interest in Karl Marx that appears to be happening as the economic crisis gathers pace….

“Even Karl Marx himself is in vogue. Most papers have had articles about him in their business sections, commending his analysis of booms and slumps, and he was on the front page of The Times. Soon a Times editorial will begin: ‘As the global downturn gathers pace, perhaps one economic remedy to be considered by our esteemed guardians is a violent workers’ revolution as envisaged by Mister Karl Marx, and championed with consummate aplomb on page 32 by William Rees-Mogg.'”

Continuing on the Marx theme, David Harvey has written on his blog about the US stimulus package and why it is “bound to fail”:

“The prevailing hostility in the United States to “spreading the wealth around” and to administering any sort of relief other than tax cuts to individuals, arises out of hard core neoliberal ideological doctrine (centered in but by no means confined to the Republican Party) that “households know best”. These doctrines have broadly been accepted as gospel by the American public at large after more than thirty years of neoliberal political indoctrination. We are, as I have argued elsewhere, “all neoliberals now” for the most part without even knowing it. There is a tacit acceptance, for example, that “wage repression” – a key component to the present problem – is a “normal” state of affairs in the United States. One of the three legs of a Keynesian solution, greater empowerment of labor, rising wages and redistribution towards the lower classes is politically impossible in the United States at this point in time. The very charge that some such program amounts to “socialism” sends shivers of terror through the political establishment. Labor is not strong enough (after thirty years of being battered by political forces) and no broad social movement is in sight that will force redistributions towards the working classes.”

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Cultural Olympiad review published

An article that I have written with a colleague has just been published in the journal Cultural Trends.  You can view the article’s abstract by clicking here.  You will need the appropriate permissions to read the full text.   The article is based on a review of more than 50 documents from the grey literature relating to the Cultural Olympiad of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games in London.

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