Does Big Society Foretell the Demise of Confrontational Government?

Kevin Harris has written a fascinating post about the possibility of the transition to Big Society foretelling the demise of confrontational we/you type government.
I too can see a way in which Big Society foretells the demise of command and control. However I can also see dozens of ways in which it doesn’t.  The recent Marsh Farm decision provides an example.
Government has a long track record of maintaining the status quo while providing the illusion of radical change.  Left/Right, Centralise/Decentralise, National/Local.  They all look like major change, but in fact politicians and civil servants collude to ensure that nothing REALLY happens.  It is  as if the pendulum of change is allowed to swing through an arc of only a very few degrees.
Kevin makes a good point about the nature of  you/me thinking.  A shift to ‘we’ would do no harm at all.  But I am not holding my breathe.  The very nature of democracy means that we elect a ‘you’.
In my mind the real shift needs to from a perspective where government seeks to engage us in the delivery of their agenda to one where it learns to engage itself in the development of our agendas.  A government focussed on enabling citizens in pursuit of their interests rather than recruiting them to do the work of the state.
But I will not hold my breathe for that swing of the pendulum either.
Perhaps it is time we learned to wean ourselves off the teat of the state and learn to make progress without them?


  1. I would agree that we have to wean ourselves off the state and not wait for government to make the running on the kind of change we need. Enabling, empowerment and the rest have been around for some time and we will still be talking as the power of markets and those whose interests they serve shape the future. We need to regain a sense of activism which did have some place in some communities in the past and still exists today again in some communities. So what is the platform for this renewed activism? Could new digital media have some part to play?

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