Blinded by science: when biology meets policy

Sue White and David Wastell, authors of Blinded by science out today, explain the rise of neuroscience and genetics and their influence and impact on social policy.

David Wastell

Sue White

“Biological sciences, particularly neuroscience and genomics, are currently in the ascent. These new ‘techno-sciences’ are increasingly seen to promise a theory of everything in the psychosocial realm.

Social policy has not been slow to conscript technological biology, and is making significant use of neuroscientific evidence to support particular claims about both the soaring potentialities and irreversible vulnerabilities of early childhood, and the proper responses of the state.

The far reaching implications of epigenetics

The last decades have also seen a profound shift in our understanding of biological processes and life itself.

Whereas genetics has conventionally focused on examining the DNA sequence (the genotype), the burgeoning field of epigenetics examines additional mechanisms for modifying gene expression in manifest behaviours, physical features, health status and so on (the phenotype).

It provides a conduit mediating the interaction of the environment on an otherwise immutable DNA blueprint, and invites a natural interest in the impact of adverse conditions, such as deprivation or ‘suboptimal’ parenting. The implications of this for social policy are far reaching.

Continue reading ‘Blinded by science: when biology meets policy’

What would Beatrice Webb say now?

On this International Women’s Day Georgia Smith, Communications Officer at Webb Memorial Trust, highlights the accomplishments of sociologist and social reformer Beatrice Webb, a woman who was truly bold for change. 

Georgia Smith

International Women’s Day offers an opportunity to celebrate the work of a pioneering social reformer whose lifetime of research into the economic conditions of the working class enabled much of the social advancement of the 20th century but who is now largely forgotten: Beatrice Webb (1858-1943).

The legacy of Beatrice Webb

Beatrice Webb’s contribution was to provide substantial intellectual capital for the formation of the welfare state at a time when women didn’t even have the vote.

Her Minority Report on the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress 1905–09 recommended “a national minimum of civilised life” and advocated that government – rather than charity – should be responsible for the well-being of citizens.

Amongst other achievements Beatrice and her husband Sidney founded the New Statesman and the London School of Economics. She is also credited with coining the term “collective bargaining”

“…the seed from which later blossomed the welfare state.”

Continue reading ‘What would Beatrice Webb say now?’

Are the Sister Marches reclaiming feminism? Reflections on International Women’s Day

Miriam E. David, author of Reclaiming feminism, looks at how Donald Trump’s election has contributed to the recent surge of global feminist protest and how International Woman’s Day provides an important focal point for change.  

author-photo-final

Miriam E. David

“New waves of women rising up in protest against misogyny, male violence, abuse and harassment of women and girls, both nationally and internationally, is a particular feature of 2017.

The spark for this spontaneous international movement of feminists was the election of Donald Trump as US President on November 8, 2016.

Not only was it his platform of vulgarity, misogyny and the particular use of the term ‘grabbing women by the pussy’, that provoked women’s outrage but also the fact that his rival, the liberal feminist Hillary Clinton won 3 million more of the popular vote.

Whilst predicted to be a close run competition between the Republican billionaire and his Democrat opponent, most pollsters expected Hillary Clinton to win. Celebrations were in hand for the most powerful political office in the world to be taken by a woman. This was to send an important signal to new generations of women and girls: fourth and fifth wave feminists.

“Everyday misogyny: the casual and flippant comments about women as sexual objects, not worthy of respect.”

Continue reading ‘Are the Sister Marches reclaiming feminism? Reflections on International Women’s Day’

It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast

Where has capitalism gone wrong? In Too much stuff, Kozo Yamamura upends conventional capitalist wisdom to provide a new approach. Read about his new perspective on capitalism’s “sickness.”

kozo_portrait

Kozo Yamamura 1934 – 2017

Over the past three decades, the financial and environmental prospects of the UK, US, Japan and Europe, have slowly but surely been moving in a calamitous direction because of ill-conceived “easy money” policies pursued by those in power, from governments and banks through to multinational corporations and the advertising industry.

The result: a self-perpetuating cycle of stagnating economies, social unrest and political upheaval.

The advanced economies of the world are sick and democracy is floundering. Capitalism as we know it has created a climate where extremist, anti-EU political parties are flourishing by tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with the way things are.

They’re right in one sense – the system does need to change, because if it doesn’t, “what becomes the issue will not be the survival of our system, but the survival of our civilizations”.

“The advanced economies are sick, and the environment is getting sicker.”

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast’

What does the post-Brexit future look like?

Janice Morphet, author of Beyond Brexit, out today, warns that without due consideration of all the challenges that lie ahead, Brexit poses a real threat to UK economic and social stability.

In this article Professor Morphet looks ahead to what the coming months could bring, and suggests priorities going forward.

janice-morphet

Janice Morphet

“As Brexit is a negotiation, it is a dynamic process.

The Prime Minister took this essential position last July and spent her first six months in an enigmatic ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mode.

This allowed some space for the machinery of government to be realigned and the new departments to lead on Brexit – International Trade and Exiting the EU – to be established. But what does the future hold?

The loss of economic security

In terms of economic security, the effects of Brexit on the UK economy have started to pile up – the loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.

“The loss in the value of the pound in the first days after the referendum equated to the value of UK contributions to the EU for fifteen years.”

Deals have been offered to Nissan in Sunderland by the government which have appeared to transgress state aid rules, although more recently the company has suggested changing its mind about remaining in the UK. Asked about investment in the UK, a Chinese source commented that, before the referendum, the UK was a door to the EU and now it is only a door.

Continue reading ‘What does the post-Brexit future look like?’

The welfare myth of them and us

Read the complete preface to the second edition of John Hill’s influential Good times, bad times below. This ground-breaking book uses extensive research and survey evidence to challenge the myth that the population divides into those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it – ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. 

John Hills (small)

John Hills

Good times, bad times was completed in 2014. A great deal has happened in UK politics and policy since then, not least the election of a majority Conservative government led by David Cameron in May 2015, the result of the referendum in June 2016 for Britain to leave the European Union, and the subsequent appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister in July 2016.

Through all of this, the issues discussed in this book have remained central. One of its themes is the way that our lives are ever-changing.

Sometimes this is simply because we get older, we form – and dissolve – marriages and other partnerships, children are born, and they leave home.

But it is also because we move in and out of work, change and lose jobs, and what comes in from work and other sources can change not just from year to- year with our careers, but also from month-to-month, or even day-to-day, in ways highlighted by the spread of ‘zero hours contracts’.

Our needs – for education and for health and social care – change as we grow older, but also with the fluctuations in our state of health.

“Much popular debate assumes that people’s lives are unchanging.”

Continue reading ‘The welfare myth of them and us’


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