Friday, 29 November 2013

Teaching deindustrialisation

All our postgraduate courses are delivered as distance learning, so I've had to write a full set of notes for them. These are generally in a chatty textbook style and are available to on-campus students to support the lectures as well. I intersperse the notes with examples from practice and other bits to break the flow of text. I thought I'd blog an addition I just made to the notes for Social Sustainability which I'm teaching next semester. Hopefully you'll see why.

Personal stories or history?

When I teach issues that touch on deindustrialisation I am actually speaking from personal experience. I was born in 1982, just a the UK was in the major recession of the early 1980s and as the industrial regions of the UK descended into full-on deindustrialisation. The trouble is, I look around the classroom and see predominantly young people looking back at me and presume you must know the same. I’ve come to realise from the blank looks staring back at me that you’re all a lot younger than I think (some of you won’t have been born when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister) and that a lot of you are not from the UK. Those of you who are younger will have really just known about our current recession and economic difficulties since 2008. Those of you from outside the UK might not have a clue what I’m talking about at all.

To give an idea of the extent of the change, in my own doctoral research, an officer from a local authority in the west of Scotland described the deindustrialisation as a “psychic shock”. In my own home town I watched very large mills, such as Listers Mill up the road from my house in the city of Bradford, empty out and eventually close. This was also as much about economic restructuring. Bradford was known for its woollen industry. Predominantly it made worsted, a very fine cloth used for suits. In 1994 the Bradford woollen industry produced more miles of cloth than it had ever done in its history, but this was at a small number of very large mills with electric machinery employing very few people.

There is a club in the centre of Bradford called the 1 in 12. It was so named because that was the unemployment rate in the city when it was opened in the mid-1980s. In 1984 the UKs unemployment rate reached its highest ever recorded level of 12%. It’s easy now to think this isn’t that bad. Even during the long boom from 1994 – 2007, unemployment was 4%.  But the unemployment of the 1980s was set against a context where from 1945 to 1976 governments had focused on reducing unemployment. If unemployment started nudging towards one million people then the government would intervene to keep the economy going. The memories of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s haunted the political and social memory. The 1980s changed this.

The whole identity of places was also closely tied to the industries that declined, both in employment and output. Bradford was known as “Worstedopolis”, Sheffield made steel, Manchester was cotton, Glasgow shipbuilding, Dundee the three Js of jam, jute and journalism. As these industries declined, so did the identity and raison d’etre of the towns and cities.

This was evoked in popular culture. One of the most striking portrayals was Yozzer Hughe’s, an unemployed Liverpudlian dockworker in the TV drama Boys from the Black Stuff, with his now famous catchphrase “gizza job”.

The 1996 film Brassed Off and the 1997 film The Full Monty both evoked the destitution and emotional destruction wrought by these processes of deindustrialisation particularly on male working class identity.

This was also picked up in music. Listen to “Ghost Town” by the Specials on the Social Sustainability playlist and this excellent BBC radio documentary The People’s Playlist.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Middle-class nation state?

This afternoon I told a struggling undergrad dissertation to go an write. Just write. Anything. Write, write, write. I also explained I had the idea for this post in my head and had been desperate to write it out all day after reading this paper(£) on the train this morning. So, apologies, it's scrappy and not very hyperlinked, but I needed to get the ideas out.

For some context, you might also want to see my blogs about my middle class activism research here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

So Haugaard argues, via Marx, that the nation state subverted class interests by creating other social structures, in Foucault’s terms, the technologies of governance, schools etc. He frames this in terms of creating a habitus – a being in one’s self – that is being part of the nation state. The symbolic violence that makes this seem natural obscures the activation of power by the state. Now, we can accept this as positive power, as the enabling of good things to happen.

However, we can link this to T.H. Marshall’s concept of welfare citizenship and social rights as a development from civil and political rights. In his framing of the development of the welfare state he saw people gaining greater citizenship as the benefits of the state enabled them to participate fully. Further this developed a social contract across the nation, nation-state reciprocity. This can be seen as the positive power, as just mentioned. However, the obvious criticism is that this was a paternalist state. The growth of the welfare state led to a growth in social mobility through a growth in technical professions, as Mike Savage has argued. The UK, in particular, stopped being a gentlemanly country/state and became an increasingly technocratic one. Goldthorpe and Lockwood wanted technically competent knowledge of the affluent workers of Luton through using cutting-edge sociological methods.

So to argue that the postwar welfare state created a welfare citizenship based on social rights is already looking a bit flimsy – it created a state of the minds of the technically proficient bureaucrats who were managing it: of householders managers by the Corporation Sanitary Inspectress and latterly social workers; of suburbs and city centres of the planners’ ideal type; of hospitals which treated people with the same problems as the consultant’s or GP’s friends. The social mobility associated with these professions arguably created a new social class, particularly as identified by Goldthorpe and Lockwood’s Weberian schema that became NS-SEC.

If we turned to a Bourdieusian conception of class we can get at this a bit more and bring the debate back full circle to consider habitus and symbolic violence. I am using the shorthand here of “the middle class” to describe these professionals who were created by and created the postwar welfare state, and also those with the social capital that links to them, and similar cultural capital. As myself and Annette Hastings have argued, the middle classes, so conceived, are particularly effective at extracting gain from the welfare state, especially in terms of services that suit their needs and demands – a subtle form of Tudor-Hart’s inverse care law. We can suggest that in the period 1945-1979 the growth of the state, the high social mobility, and increasing equality led to a devaluation of economic capital in securing class positions. Instead, a large group of people gained an enhanced class position through social and cultural capital – the 11+, investment in the arts and culture (National Theatre, Arts Council etc.). They then created a middle-class state in their own image; a state where middle-class habitus, the being in one’s self, helped you get on. It helped you get into the right school; it helped you get on in that school; it helped you get the best treatment from your GP or consultant; it helped you oppose that social housing development that might detract from your neighbourhood; it enabled you to get your street swept more regularly than the inner city neighbourhoods; it meant you felt comfortable in the plate glass university you went to; increasingly now it means you have the means to shield your assets from being used to pay for your care and being able to use your personal budget to buy absolutely excellent care or get you into the best care home.

Obviously there are exceptions to this, but the evidence suggests that to suggest that we created a middle-class state in the UK is not that far-fetched an idea. This is acceptable during a period like that from 1945-1979 where we had large amounts of upward social mobility. There was lots of space, for people like my parents, to be in this middle class. But this social mobility has stalled. What is more, a lot of these people (with a household income of £60k - £100k based on two professionals working full time) are in the top quartile, decile or even percentile of the income scale yet they do not recognise this. So this group are sailing away from the rest of society who have very little chance of joining them and yet they are still creating the state in their own mould because they expect or presume everyone to be like them. Their habitus and symbolic violence makes it seem natural that, for example, you should work very hard to get your child into the best school. As a result non-middle-class parents begin to feel guilty about making a choice based on family connections, or just what school is nearest and easiest to get to.

So where does this leave us? I feel uncomfortable in our middle classes work because if you follow the logic to its conclusion you can argue that state resources should be withdrawn from the middle-classes as it just entrenches inequality and be focused solely on those poorer in society. But for me that leaves us with the problem that services for the poor are poor services. However, if we conceive of the modern welfare state as a middle class state, then what is important is to reduce inequality and make sure there is social mobility. Then we can return to Marshall’s model of social citizenship as it will be something all can benefit from. Further, to link Marshall’s point about reciprocity to the Wilkinson and Pickett Spirit Level argument, and particularly their point that is does not matter how you get your equality either by having equal incomes, or progressive taxation what matter is equality. Then what we need to ensure the welfare state does not entrench and exacerbate inequality is to produce equality so that everyone is paying in equally, or that the wealthier are paying in more but seeing the benefit to all around them.

I think.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

After my last hopeful post, the Evening snooze in Edinburgh have changed their tune:

The Police Scotland team in Edinburgh were hot on their social media and pointed out to me that the actual campaign was more balanced.
But let's go back to the starting point of a policy process - problem definition - as I did with the mostpointlesspublicinformationcampaigneverthattheScottishGovernmentshouldbeashamedof. So, what is the problem? Police Scotland say what it is in their press release, it's "road safety" - too many people are being killed and injured on Edinburgh's roads. So, let's divvy up the danger to vulnerable road users between drivers and cyclists. Here is a list of things I see drivers doing every time I get on my bike: 
  • Going through red lights - both "amber gambler" and just going through a light, while it's been at red sometime. Quite often this is when the driver has been sat at the light and then just decides they can't be bothered waiting. Or drivers crossing into the advanced stop zone while the light is at red. According to the highway code, they have passed a stop line while the traffic light was at red - aka they've gone through a red light.
  • Illegal parking - including double-parking, parking on double-yellows, on no-loading areas, on greenways and in loading bays on greenways (I see the same cars parked every evening in the loading bays on greenways. They are not loading).
  • Dangerous overtaking - including overtaking on blind corners and the brow of a hill, overtaking and giving insufficient room to other traffic, overtaking when there is quite obviously a vehicle coming in the other direction (this is a head-on collision I'm waiting to happen).
  • Not signalling, or using mirrors. Ever. 
  • Using mobile phones while driving - and these days, to do your shopping with and chat on Facebook using your smartphone, not for phone conversations.
  • Driving down the wrong side of the road at oncoming traffic (oddly common, that one).
  • Speeding. All the time. And if not speeding, not adjusting speed to the road conditions. There's a reason every time it rains the city comes to a standstill, particularly the bypass - people are driving too fast to stop safely.
  • Every line of traffic I join because I can't cycle past to get to the ASL zone contains a car with brake lights not working.
  • Over behaviour that isn't that dangerous but is contrary to the highway code including: revving your engine and honking your horn in anger or frustration; swearing at other road users.
Here's what I see cyclists doing:
  • Rarely they will go through a red light at a pedestrian crossing, or a crossroads which is at the all-pedestrian phase. I see this about once a month, if that.
  • About once a week I will see a cyclist going down the pavement, usually this is a teenager who doesn't (but should) know better, or someone from a country that has decent cycling infrastructure and is quite rightly scared shitless by cycling on Edinburgh's roads. In the latter case, they are usually going very slowly and carefully.
  • I've had a couple of cyclists emerge out of the dark since the days have shortened and given me a surprise. But then, as I'd not used my lights all summer, I did a couple of rides with insufficient lighting as my batteries had gone flat. You can get caught out quite easily at this time of year unintentionally. And if you've picked up your bike for £30 as cheap transport, then another £15 for decent lights might be the difference between eating and not.
I've had the misfortune to hit pedestrians twice, when they just stepped out in front of me. As a result I've half a tooth missing, another tooth so sensitive it acts as a thermometer and some scarring on my right hand. Of the two pedestrians, one had a slight bruise on their thigh. If there is a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the former invariably suffers far worse injuries.

So, let's get this straight. Drivers kill people with their motorised vehicles. That's your road safety problem there so stop treating bad driving and bad cycling as equal problems in policy. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cycling in a city with trams

There's some good news on the cycling front. Edinburgh City Council might be investing a record amount in cycling in its transport budget next year; and London and Bristol are going Dutch/Danish, it seems. However, in Edinburgh the latest transport news is the slow unveiling of what's been built of our difficult tram project. The line is complete and roads are reopened.

Unfortunately, at one key junction, Haymarket, this is happening:

The road has been "redesigned" with very little thought for cyclists coming out of town. They're supposed to go down the taxi rank to the right there, and then wait an age at the lights, and then cross the tracks at a less acute angle. Taxis often block the entrance to the rank (they were doing so again this evening) and so cyclists are forced to use this lethal bit of road.

As soon as I cycled through the reopened junction I realised another danger, that got me a close shave this evening. I come out of Dalry Road, to the right of that video, and turn right to head down Shandwick place - I have to cross the tram tracks. To do so, I have to cross the entrance to Grosvenor Street - the "straight on" of the junction. Now with the tram tracks, I have to swing out left to cross at a less acute angle, and then swing back right across the entrance to Grosvenor Street. I make sure I'm in the Advanced Stop Area and signal right to make sure any car going down Grosvenor Street has half an idea of the daft manoeuvre I'm about to be forced to do. Until tonight, every car has also been going along West Maitland Street so I've been vaguely safe. Tonight two cars were going down Grosvenor Street and were very closely to killing me. I knew this was an accident waiting to happen. 

To make it safe, a simple solution would be to paint an mandatory cycle lane over the tram tracks and then loop it behind a small traffic island with a "Give Way" sign at the entrance of Grosvenor Street and then continue the path on a raised surface across to West Maitland Street and Shandwick Place. What we'll probably get is a few more pointless cycle/tram signs. 

But what really depresses me is the utter lack of strategic thought in the tram road designs. In remodelling the roads for the trams they had the opportunity to completely remodel the roads to make them safe for active travel. At Haymarket we have what it was before - basically a very large roundabout distributing traffic in and out of the city centre - with some tram tracks across it. The presumption is you'll be on four wheels or a tram. If you're not then you might as well be dead. The lost opportunity just leaves me despairing.

However, one good thing is, the farce of road design at Haymarket did actually make the front page of the local newspaper calling for the Council to do something about it. So there is some hope. In the meantime, as far as I'm concerned, if the Council leave the junction open then they're failing in their duty of care under health and safety legislation. The junction needs to be closed and temporarily remodelled to remove these dangers and more permanent solutions put in. Otherwise someone will die.