What Kind of ‘Big Government’ is the Big Society? A Reply to Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley
Article first published online: 21 MAY 2014
© 2014 The Authors. British Journal of Politics and International Relations © 2014 Political Studies Association
The British Journal of Politics & International Relations
Volume 16, Issue 3, pages 471–478, August 2014
How to Cite
Byrne, C., Kerr, P. and Foster, E. (2014), What Kind of ‘Big Government’ is the Big Society? A Reply to Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley. The British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 16: 471–478. doi: 10.1111/1467-856X.12046
- Issue published online: 1 JUL 2014
- Article first published online: 21 MAY 2014
- Big Society;
Research Highlights and Abstract
- Contributes to the debates applying Foucauldian theory to contemporary British Politics and invigorates the debate through a discussion with Bulley and Sokhi Bulley
- Develops understandings of contemporary British Politics under the Coalition government, particularly in light of the ‘Big Society’ project.
- Compares, through a Foucauldian framework, the differences and similarities between the New Labour (1997–2010) and Coalition (2010–) Governments
- Ultimately argues that the Coalition Government is demonstrative of a hybrid of the neo-liberal governmentality typical of the New Labour governments and a partial reversion to a more rudimentary Thatcherite form of neo-liberal governmentality.
This article is a reply to Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley's recent article on the Big Society. We put forward two main criticisms of Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley's governmentality-focused approach in our alternative reading of the Big Society. Firstly, we argue that, given the ethopolitical strategies Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley focus their attention on are unlikely to produce the kind of transformation in the ethical outlook of citizens they suppose, the real historical significance of the Big Society must lie elsewhere. Secondly, we argue that Bulley and Sokhi-Bulley overlook the lines of continuity and discontinuity linking the Big Society to the forms of neo-liberal governmentality that have preceded it in British politics. In the final section of the article, we argue that the Cameron project amounts to both a partial continuation of the type of neo-liberal governmental rationality characteristic of the New Labour project and a partial reversion to a more rudimentary Thatcherite form of neo-liberal governmentality.