'Theorising Empowerment Thought: Illuminating the Relationship
Ideology and Politics in the Contemporary Era'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/4/forrest.html>
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Received: 31/8/1999 Accepted: 14/12/1999 Published: 29/2/2000
Many business schools have now embraced the issue of participatory leadership and are integrating democratic concepts into management courses. Executive development courses taught by major universities now routinely teach democratic concepts to enable companies to achieve world class competitive positions. (Dew, 1997: p160).
Ideology is not an immanent attribute of certain forms of consciousness. It only emerges when ideas are related to changing contradictions in specific ways. So non-ideological ideas may become ideological and vice versa (p 26).
In order to empower the Association, it needed to consolidate its power by increasing its representation and enhancing solidarity amongst Chinese people, on the one hand, and seek allies/resources outside the Chinese community to help its development, on the other hand (p 160).
Through the case study material it has been briefly demonstrated that anti-racist community work is feasible and effective in empowering the Chinese community to resist racism...(p162).
No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve... (p 21).
The enormous attention paid to ideology by Marxist theoreticians over the past 50 years must be set alongside the fact that there is no satisfactory account of ideology in Marx (p 128).
...the illusions generated by the 'historical life process' serve the interests of the ruling class by smoothing over and concealing the contradictions of class society (p 129).
like every metaphor, this metaphor suggests something, makes something visible...that the upper floors could not 'stay up' (in the air) alone, if they did not rest precisely on their base (p 129)
...that ideology does have significant effects but these are primarily on the dominant rather than the subordinate class (p2).
...a new system was being constructed post 1945 that was to fit the universalist prescription of labour and the reorganised nationalised industries (p 11).
A clutch of official reports and royal commissions at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s concentrated on suggesting ways of improving managerial efficiency and stream-lining decision-making within large (more business like) authorities...Maud (1967), Redcliffe-Maud (1969), Wheatley (1969), Bains (1972) and Paterson (1973) (p 15).
The attempt to rebuild the economy through local initiative has two different loci: one concerns individuals, the other concerns institutions. The focus on individuals has been part of a general shift in Western society away from welfare and social rights approaches that emphasise 'compensation' and 'subsidy' toward incentives for individual responsibility. the focus on local institutions has also been reflected in a wide range of initiatives in Western society to decentralise. Other thrusts emphasise empowerment - of people, of localities - as part of a shift of responsibility away from the state at national and particularly local level (p 26).
'People don't want an overbearing state, but they do not want to live in a social vacuum either. It is in the search for this different reconstructed relationship between individual and society that ideas about "community" are found. "Community" implies a recognition of inter-dependence but not overweening government power. It accepts that we are better equipped to meet the forces of change and insecurity through working together' Tony Blair, cited in Barr, 1997: p 47).
...the overhead cost of excessive bureaucratic controls, people checking up on people, layers of supervision and so on can be avoided by those organizations that work in an empowered mode (p 75).
...less risk aversive and more willing to suggest bolder solutions...more innovative and creative...more part of an adult -to- adult relationship...(that) managers will have more time to handle other tasks for which they are responsible (p 19).
...spending time with people, relinquishing control, encouraging decision making, stressing innovation, allowing risk-taking, providing support, increasing motivation, giving feedback (ibid: p19).
... by troubling employees the manager means employees whom they are afraid to empower. However some of these employees have empowered themseves in negative ways (p3). These are the employees who have an "I'm entitled" mental set...they got their jobs, and are continuing to acquire their positions through these special privileges and there are a few of them who also feel that they are entitled to automatic pay rises and promotion (p3).
...it is necessary in today's workplace that workers function as part of an entrpreneurial team. Nowhere is this more important than in the smaller ventures where ability to identify performance gaps and fill them quickly means survival in a competitive market place. (p1).
...it is important to distinguish between liberty and license - National and Provincial determines what teams do, while teams are empowered to choose how they do it (Judge, 1996: p 18).
...the need to build democracy; since democracy is more than the mere right to cast votes at elections. Active politics of this kind has commonly only been available to privileged elites and powerful interests. Local politics is about its extension so that people can run their own affairs, adopting an increasingly broad perspective as confidence in democracy grows' ( cited in Cochrane, 1993: 43).
Empowerment of disadvantaged communities has become a rallying call...In Scotland...councils have adopted social strategies employing this term and it is common currency in objectives presented by third sector (voluntary) organisations (p121).
For the poor to be powerful is a contradiction - they lack market power, they lack organised or social status because they are the victims of predominant power distribution. Why should they trust the overtures of the state as an agency of empowerment? (p 128).
We can so organise our society that power and decision-making devolve downwards to neighbourhoods and precincts, so that people will form genuine communities as they make decisions together concerning the future of their own area....We should not hesitate to be radical about this. If the creation of such communities implies that ownership of the estates or even the streets be transferred out of state hands and into those of the community, so be it.(Farquharson, 1995: p10).
Community empowerment lies at the very heart of the Social Strategy...The Council supports all forms of community involvement...but it particularly wants to encourage and enable communities to have a much more direct role in, and wherever possible, to have much more control over their lives and areas. It will therefore actively promote participation in communities in taking decisions which affect them, in identifying and responding to local needs and opportunities, in the delivery of services and the control and ownership of local assets. This is what the Council means by empowerment. (quoted in Barr, 1995).
We have been attacked by the Conservatives for being on the left and by trade unions for being Thatcherite. They both can't be right and neither of them are...we want to reduce the bureaucracy of the local authority and bring it closer to the people. (The Daily Telegraph: August 9th, 1995).
...as internal markets take hold, the state services can be expected to orient more of their output to the satisfaction of consumer needs, mimicking what private markets routinely do...[and] have access to redress and compensation if that service is not delivered...when such rights are more widely acknowledged and known about, the effect will be to make council authorities more alert to their responsibilities in such matters, and more attentive to their obligations (1991: 5).
we should not be afraid to hand back government power to individuals by contracting with them, in a new social contract which is built up of millions of enforceable micro contracts for better standards of public service... this may properly be provided through private contractors where they can do it best (ibid: 13).
...they (local partnerships) can contribute to the emergence of a more active and inclusive society and to what may be termed a 'negotiated economy' in which consensus-creating institutions form one of the keys to economic prosperity (p 156).
From the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, through to voluntary and local community sector associations, partnerships are firmly on the agenda in the second half of the 1990s (p5).
City Challenge (Partnership) took away the debate, the struggle, and forced people to focus on funding and imposed outputs, they can't, don't fight back anymore. (Deptford City Challenge, 1995a: p32 - cited, 1997, p 20).
2It is beyong the scope of this article to view ideology from a number of 'angles of vision' (Collins, 1990). The ideas of racism, nationalism, sexism, homophobia and attitudes to disability are all arguably ideological in the sense that reality is distorted and fragmented. This process of weakening solidarity and cohesion serves to divide those who are exploited and oppressed. These are also ideas which have been subject to sustained struggle throughout the twentieth century, continually contested and challenged. According to Callinicos (1983) there are two methods of undermining ideology. One is to generate a scientific understanding of reality. The second is to challenge 'reality' through direct action. He states, in opposition to the view that capitalism can forever generate ideological misrecognition and thus preclude empirical enquiry into the formation and development of ideology or forever be trapped in a state of 'false consciousness' that:...experience is always already conceptualised; no perception admits of only one interpretation (p 131). As Freire (1985) observed: Whom does reality serve? Whom does it hurt? (p 169).
3Fordism, as defined by Gramsci (Prison Notebooks 1971, pp 277-316) in the section of the Prison Notebooks entitled Americanism and Fordism refers to a form of productive organisation exemplified by Henry Ford's systems of mass automobile production and allied management technique known as 'scientific management' or Taylorism. In the latter half of the twentieth century, following the economic crises of the 70's, 80's and 90's it has been argued that new flexible production systems mark the end of the Ford-type era. Adherents of this thesis argue that we now live in a post-industrial, post-Fordist phase of capitalism.
4The Blair Labour administration in Britain came to power in 1997 under the banner of 'New Labour'. The distinction between 'New labour' and 'Old Labour' hinges on substantial differences of emphasis with regard to state intervention in the economy and the provision of welfare. New Labour is keen to promote partnership with the business sector whereas Old Labour continues to argue for a redistributive fiscal policy.
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