Equality and Rights in 21st Century Britain: From Trojan Horse to Grenfell
- 4:00 pm
08 December 2020
Online | Free
Stuart Hall, in his account of ‘authoritarian populism’*, argued that marketisation hollows out civil society by removing services from local participation and determination. This, he argued, left a democratic vacuum that would be filled by populism and scapegoating.
This process went much further than he imagined in the 1980s with the subsequent rise of ‘new public management’ and the conversion of local authorities from being the providers of services into commissioners of services through outsourcing.
This is the context in which the events of the Trojan Horse affair, the Windrush scandal, and the Grenfell fire took place.
The populist ‘othering’ of minorities is central to processes that seek to replace democratic accountability with markets and has serious consequences for understandings of equality, rights, and citizenship.
In this session, we examine what we can learn about the state of equality and rights in 21st century Britain, as reflected through the events highlighted and the connections between them.
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This event is hosted by the Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project which seeks to make available open access resources for the teaching of sociology. It emerges out of discussions about the need to broaden our understandings of the past – to be inclusive of colonial and imperial histories – in developing our understandings of the present. The Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project is funded by the Sociological Review Foundation.
Header Image: Students make their feelings known during a fees protest at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Nic Bothma/EPA
* The term ‘authoritarian populism’ goes back to Stuart Hall’s work on British Thatcherism in the late 1970s.5 Our use of the term here is consonant with his, although it may be overstating to say we ‘adhere’ to it. While Critical Theory on authoritarianism, prejudice and populism focused mostly on Nazism, ‘authoritarian populism’ has broad meaning.6 In the pages that follow, to be ‘authoritarian’ is to seek social homogeneity through coercion. ‘Populism’ is defining a section of the population as truly and rightfully ‘the people’ and aligning with this section against a different group identified as elites. Together, ‘authoritarian populism’ refers to the pitting of ‘the people’ against ‘elites’ in order to have the power to drive out, wipe out, or otherwise dominate Others who are not ‘the people.’ Generally, this involves social movements fuelled by prejudice and led by charismatic leaders that seek to increase governmental force to combat difference. It is commonplace for governments under the direction of authoritarian populists to condense and centralize authority, so that more power rests in the hands of fewer people (this text is from Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism)