Stuck on questions of place and governance

I am rather stuck.

I have been thinking about the relationship between associational governance, place based interventions, social capital and inequality. These concepts seem to be linked in thinking and commentary. I wonder if this has something to do with community as requiring people to have something in common and place is seen as a place for that common ground to be based on? How will this interact with actual happenings?

The National Compact, which is part of the federal government’s Social Inclusion unit’s work, could be seen as a move towards associational governance and an embracing of Third Way politics. Of course, it could also be a way to remove the responsibility of government for a lot of research and direct delivery. This does not even need to be a cost saving activity. It could certainly result in a lot of face saving for ministers and governments because there is going to be other people to blame. The diversity of voices could actually reduce competition, just as joined-up government can force programs to meet the publicity needs of multiple ministers.

Perhaps I am stuck solely because I am too cynical to engage with what is really happening. Perhaps my frustration at this work which is somewhat explicitly ‘theory light’ (made worse by the single paragraph summaries of the work of Bourdieu, Putnam and Giddens) is because I am hiding from more messy, engaged and real world questions.

I feel like looking at work by people such as Tim Reddel is not only reading academic interpretations but, now that he works for government, it seems to be a window into where things are trying to head. Only, I cannot work out what the overall motivation is.

I am frustrated with what I see as the amount of performance but the lack of access to ‘back stage’. I was relieved when I found Mark Peel’s account of how people in poor areas not only performed poverty strategically as a way to satisfy the media or to access resources, but also saw ‘being poor’ as a set of skills. I am finding it difficult to find similar work that will help me think about how governments and academics in Australia use social and urban planning. I really liked this critique of a body of evidence presented by Mowbray. However, there must be more about there about how ideas/ models about the world are used to understand and change the world.

Maybe my inability to settle down to explore the various Australian and Victorian government agendas, reports and agendas related to social inclusion is that I am unable to think about the words separately from detailed understandings of contexts within which the words have been used to do things in the world. The indeterminacy of meaning is often very useful for governments just as it can be essential for community cohesion.

[Note: This post does draw on a lot of the work I have been reading, but it is so messy that I have not bothered to put in references.]


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