Recontextualising the big society : from central imaginaries to local 'realities'

Eyre, Laura (2014) Recontextualising the big society : from central imaginaries to local 'realities'. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

Accepted Version
Available under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

Download (1MB) | Preview


The Big Society was conceived of in Conservative Party documents and speeches in 2009 and announced as a driving ambition of the new coalition government in May 2010. The Big Society represents an imagined future; a vision for change; an answer to the problem of ‘broken’ Britain. The idea has been criticised, its theoretical and ideological underpinnings have been widely examined, and its prospects for changing British society have been scrutinised. Despite all this there remains a need for research which explores the various ways in which ideas relating to the Big Society are defined, explained and put into practice, particularly at the level of local government. This is the contribution that my thesis seeks to make. My research is based on a simple premise; that the imagined Big Society at a central government level is potentially incompatible with the lived experience of society at a local level. Local government authorities, as the beneficiaries of decentralisation as power is supposedly passed to them from central government on its way to local communities and people, must be considered as influential mediators with significant causal powers. An integrated dialectical relational and discourse historical approach to Critical Discourse Analysis enables me to explore representations and recontextualisations of the Big Society during the development of localism – arguably a policy response to the Big Society - at Cambridgeshire County Council. I have developed an empirically based critique of the Big Society in its own terms at a local government level and conclude that the Big Society has failed to be realised in Cambridgeshire. I interpret this as being largely due to four key incompatibilities: (1) the ‘age of austerity’; (2) the unrealistic representations people and communities in the imagined Big Society; (3) the differences evident between the representation of local government in the imagined Big Society and the complexities of local government in Cambridgeshire; and (4) the unrealistic representation of local government freed from central government control.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Big society, localism, local government, critical discourse analysis, policy analysis
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Ian Walker
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2016 10:58
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2021 11:33

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item