Justification

This was my last draft of the ‘aims and justifications’ part of my ethics form. I think it is getting closer but that the version I submit with be rather different so I am unlikely to encounter any problems by posting this version here.

Can we call it community?

This project will explore the schema of community through real life actions, representations and experiences, along with the logic of third sector and government programs, in a geographic area. The Victorian and Australian governments are promoting agendas of social inclusion and localism in response to research demonstrating place based disadvantage. Community and social capital are reinterpreted as goods that governments should seek to provide through a range of measurable outcomes. This is occurring through, and alongside, the the expansion of economic measures of wellbeing (Mitchell 2010) and the associated growth in literature on the (economic and wellbeing) value of social equality (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009).

This research seeks to explore whether social inclusion, social capital and community exist within, and whether or not these schemas mean anything to the the people who live in, a suburb which could be classified as a ‘place where people want to live’*. In generating empirical data to assess critiques of the policy applications of ‘community’ (e.g. Bryson and Mowbray 2005) and social capital (e.g. Carpiano 2006), this research seeks to understand if place as the basis for belonging to community provides resistance to individualism, or if community and social capital can be used to devolve risk and shore up the neoliberal project.

Data generated through participant observation field work and interviews provides the opportunity to explore not just what is happening, but also what it means to the people who live in the area. This project is concerned with practice – what actually happens – in a way that contrasts with evaluations directed at assessing pre-determined outcomes.

* “Liveable communities are places where people want to live. They have good local facilities and services, economic and social activities, a diverse and sustainable natural environment, affordable
housing, and a sense of safety and security where rights are protected and diversity is welcomed.” A Fairer Victoria 2010 Pg 70

References

Bryson, L., and M. Mowbray. 2005. More Spray on Solution: Community, Social Capital and Evidence Based Policy. Australian Journal of Social Issues 40:91-107.

Carpiano, R. M. 2006. Toward a neighborhood resource-based theory of social capital for health: Can Bourdieu and sociology help? Social Science & Medicine 62:165-175.

Mitchell, H. 2010. Economics of equality report: An investigation into the economic benefits of equality and a framework for linking the work of the Commission with its impact on the wellbeing of Victorians. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Melbourne.

Wilkinson, R. G., and K. Pickett. 2009. The spirit level : why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane.

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