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Policing the poor: the surveillance state and inequality Kieron Hatton ConCrit Conference Berlin 24th May 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Policing the poor: the surveillance state and inequality Kieron Hatton ConCrit Conference Berlin 24th May 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Policing the poor: the surveillance state and inequality Kieron Hatton ConCrit Conference Berlin 24th May 2014

2 Structure Setting the context Poverty today Watching the poor The power of language Creating alternative discourses Building for change

3 Setting the context Jones and Novak (2014) have suggested that 500 years of history of dealing with poverty have meant that the UK state has become permeated with ‘a particularly callous treatment which marks it off from many of its European neighbours’ (p.4). These problems have been in turn compounded by the development of capitalism which enabled new levels of class exploitation and enshrined the principal that profit would be the driving economic and social force and that,at best,if you were not in work your role was residual and mainly confined to being a reserve army of labour which holds down wages. These processes have become further entrenched since neo-liberalism became the primary economic and social ideology from the 1970’s onwards. Poverty has become an enduring phenomena across the world and is a major factor in developed economies. How then does this continue to occur without the poor, marginalised and dispossessed challenging this process of domination? We can begin by looking at the extent of the problem of poverty.

4 Poverty today In UK: 2 million more people are multiply deprived today than in 1999 Households are more insecure. 5 million more people live in inadequate housing than in the 1990’s 3.5 million more people miss out on social activities than in 1999. (taken from Poverty and Social Exclusion, 1983 – 2012) Food poverty has increased – around 4 million people are not properly fed by today’s standards. 913,138 used Foodbanks in 2013/14 cp. with 346,992 in 2012/13 (Trussell Trust Press Release, 16/04/14 – downloaded from www.truselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/FOODBANK- FIGURES-TOP-900,000 on 21/05/14) www.truselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/FOODBANK- FIGURES-TOP-900,000

5 Poverty in Europe In Europe: In EU27 24% of population were at risk of poverty in 2011 (approx. 120 million people) 17% at risk of material poverty (receiving 60% national median disposable income 9% severely materially deprived (Eurostat newsrelease www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat 171/2012 - 3/12/12) downloaded 19/05/14) www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat 171/2012 - 3/12/12

6 OECD 2014 The financial upheaval of 2007 - 8 created not just an economic and fiscal crisis but also a social crisis.. Countries that experienced the deepest and longest downturns are seeing profound knock-on effects on people’s job prospects, incomes and living arrangements. Some 48 million people in OECD countries are looking for a job – 15 million more than in September 2007 – and millions are in financial distress. The numbers living in households without any income from work have doubled in Greece, Ireland and Spain. Low income groups have been hit hardest as have young people and families with children. (OECD,2104 Society at a Glance)

7 Britain and Germany This not just problem for poorer countries. UNICEF reported in 2010 that in terms of inequality the UK was in the fourth tier regarding childrens’ well-being and Germany in the third tier. A recent publication of the Sunday Times Rich List showed that of the 25 richest people in Europe 7 were from Germany and 3 were from the UK equating to 40% of the richest in just 2 countries. Analysing date from prior to the financial crisis in 2008 UNICEF found that out of 23 countries:

8 Measurements of inequality Material well-being - Norway and DK came top, Germany was 14 th and the UK 16 th Educational resources DK and Switzerland top, Germany 18 th and UK 22 nd House living space – Iceland, Germany and Switzerland top, UK 17 th Health inequalities – Netherlands Norway top Germany 10 th, UK 19 th Overview Netherlands, Norway top, Germany 4 th, UK 11 th (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2010) report Card 9)

9 Costs and consequences Among a range of factors impacting on child well- being were: Low birthweight Parental stress and lack of parental time Chronic stress for the child Poorer health outcomes Lower skills and aspirations Unemployment and welfare dependency (UNICEF, 2010)

10 Adaptation and resilience Pemberton and colleagues however point to how people facing poverty and exclusion show: Agency – in their adaptive responses to the challenges of managing on low incomes, and ‘resourcefulness and creativity’ in developing strategies to make ends meet. This includes: Budgeting – travelling distances to secure the cheapest products, going without demonstrating considerable restraint and self-discipline

11 Response of state, public authorities and media to these The social construction of negative discourses as ‘common sense’ through aiming: To blame the poor To portray people in poverty, facing exclusion as scroungers, feckless, lacking capacity To repress people in poverty with sanctions, withdrawal of benefits, reductions in benefits e.g in UK forcing people out of accommodation through the ‘bedroom tax’ To promote inequality – the combined wealth of Britains richest 1,000 people hits £519bn = 1/3 rd of UK’s entire economic output. Britains elites worth increased by 15.4% between 2013/14 (Guardian 19 May 2014 To diminish controls on the rich and increase surveillance of the poor

12 Examples of UK Poverty discourses Around young people – the lower rate of income support for young people under 25 Around single mothers – the assumption that benefits causes young single mothers to become dependent Around disability – the work capability test Around Food – food banks – surely the debate around living standards should start with the immorality of food banks in one of the richest countries in the world (Suzanne Moore, Guardian: 17/10/13) Benefit Street – Channel 4 documentary?

13 ‘Poverty porn’ People in poverty often referred to as ‘scroungers’, feckless, ‘spongers’, ‘idle’ Abigail Scott Paul from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation refers to much of the coverage as ‘poverty porn’. She says, ‘ we know that the media is partial, and that people in poverty themselves feel victimised, stigmatised and objectified’. Adding: When public attitudes are hardening towards people in poverty and when life is getting worse for people at the lowest end of the income scale, is it right that broadcasters commission shows that compound stereotypes by pitting deserving against undeserving poor? (JRF blog 23/08/13)

14 The size of the gap between between popular conceptions and the reality of life in poverty is...profoundly depressing – and difficult territory to start putting together a compelling public case for tackling poverty (Bamfield 2005, in Jones and Novak, 2014)

15 Criticism from within the state - UK Interestingly even the more mature government agencies point to the unfairness of these discourses. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee (2014) commented on the way the government releases information to the press about people using welfare services says: The government is...promoting a positive image of disabled people...However this positive image is undermined if the language used in Press Releases and ministerial media comments...adopts a tone which feeds into negative preconceptions and prejudices about people on benefits, including disabled people (para’s 141 – 143, pp 44 - 45)

16 Surveillance Surveillance can mean to look at, to watch, to control. Recent discussions have focused on how the state controls information, maps behaviours and seeks to reduce dissent. Often seen as function of information society. Focus on how people who disagree with state behave. However there is a history of the state using these powers to control and punish the poor

17 Surveillance and the poor This can be seen in a number of ways: Through the ‘penalisation of poverty’ which Waquant (2001) describes as the process, ‘designed to manage the effects of neo-liberal policies at the lower end of the social structure of advanced societies. The harsh police practices and extended prison measures adopted today...are indeed part and parcel of a wider transformation of the state...precipitated by the overturning of the inherent balance of power between classes and groups fighting over control of employment and the state’. (p. 401)

18 Cont. Waquant, following Faugeron (1995) suggests that imprisonment can perform three functions at the same time: ‘imprisonment of safety’ – for dangerous offenders ‘imprisonment of differentiation’ – designed to exclude so called undesirable categories’ increasingly used against refugees and marginal groups such as Roma/Travellers (see also Powell, 2012) ‘imprisonment of authority’ – used to reaffirm the powers of the state and often used against black and minority ethnic communities

19 Cont. Waquant suggests that to oppose the ‘penalisation of precariousness’ a triple strategy is needed: On the level of words and discourses On a judicial level we should stress that, ‘police surveillance’ aggravate and amplify the problems they are supposed to resolve’ (p.410) To link together activists and researchers at a European level to optimise resources to oppose these trends

20 Language and discourse Foucault has highlighted for us the way language is a source of oppression but can also be liberating. He points out how language/discourse needs to understood in the context of power and the structures underpinning power relationships. Habermas warns how language gives us the power to think but also it can be distorted by imbalances of power to the extent that: the lack of suitable language may even inhibit the ability of the oppressed to articulate their situation to themselves (Edgar, 2006:78) This is similar to the way writers such as Fanon and Memmi describe the way people experiencing colonialism began to believe in their own inferiority

21 Challenging these distortions of language Foucault (and Chris Weedon) talk about how we need to enter into a ‘reverse discourse’ – that is we need to re-appropriate the language of the powerful, reclaim it so that it represents the aspirations of those currently without power and helps challenge dominant power relationships. Examples include: People with disabilities reclaiming the word ‘crips’ GLTB people reclaiming the word ‘queer’ People in poverty demanding to be treated as citizens with equal rights and a recognition of their ‘voice’ – from Benefits Street to opposing fraud investigations (the Rabbit Squads)

22 Orwell, 1984 and today At the beginning of 1984 Orwell outlines the three slogans of the party: WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH Under the banner headline that ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ Today these may read: AUSTERITY IS GOOD AVARICE IS ESSENTIAL ANOMIE IS RIGHT with perhaps and addendum that INDIVIDUALISM RULES Under the headline banner ‘Neo Liberalism Rules the State’

23 What can we do to change this situation? We have the choice to be passive, retreat into our personal and professional bunkers and project responsibility onto others or we can begin to develop our own alternative discourses. But as Stuart Hall wrote almost 25 years ago: contestation is not enough there is a need to generate positive alternatives Without such positives there is a danger that we will, to quote Amin (1998), degenerate into a ‘self destructive nihilism’ (p.78)

24 Role of social professionals To return to Foucault, who says there is a need for ‘specific intellectuals: Magistrates and psychiatrists, doctors and social workers, laboratory technicians and sociologists have become able to participate, both within their own fields, and through mutual exchange and support, in a global process of politicisation of intellectuals (Foucault,1980:127–my emphasis). But he warns such specific intellectuals: encounter obstacles and faces real dangers – the danger of remaining at the level of the conjunctural struggles, pressing demands restricted to particular sectors….above all the risk of being unable to develop these struggles for lack of a global strategy or outside support (p.130).

25 Vygotsky and Creativity Vygotsky focuses on link between creativity and imagination. Our creative actions are in turn, he argues, based on our use of imagination which he suggests is: The basis of all creative activity,...an important component of all aspects of cultural life, enabling artistic, scientific, and technical creation alike...whenever a person imagines, combines, alters and creates something new, (p.11)

26 Relevant intellectual traditions Gramsci – challenges way ideas refracted through the lens of the powerful, development of counter hegemony, organic intellectuals Friere - concientisation, dialogue and social action Foucault – dispersed nature of power, social workers/ social pedagogues as specific intellectuals, need to use political imagination Overall commitment to equality and diversity

27 The Social Work Action Network The current degraded status of social work as a profession is inextricably related to the status and standing of those we work with. Social work clients are amongst some of the most vulnerable and impoverished in our society, and have benefited least from New Labour’s social welfare reforms. In fact, under New Labour we have witnessed not only greater levels of material inequality, but also an intensified demonisation of asylum seekers, young people and poor families, the very groups that social workers engage with. Too often today social workers are often doing little more than supervising the deterioration of people’s lives. (www.socialworkfuture.org/about-swan/national- organisation/manifesto )www.socialworkfuture.org/about-swan/national- organisation/manifesto

28 Resources of Hope (Raymond Williams) If we are going to change things we need to draw on our ‘resources of hope’. This involves us not only understanding the processes which combine to marginalise the poor and reinforce oppression but also taking action to change things in a positive way. As critical social professionals (social pedagogues, social workers youth workers, community workers) we therefore need to develop a:

29 New pedagogy A critical, creative and conscious: Pedagogy of Hope Pedagogy of Resistance Pedagogy of Social Change

30 Final remarks Many of us have learned, over the years, to live with the tension, and the contradiction, between what we find and what we would like to happen. I consider social action and political projects to be essential in the betterment of a society that clearly needs change and hope (my italics). (Manuel Castells, 2000:389)

31 It is necessary to direct one’s attention violently towards the present as it is, if one wishes to transform it. Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will (my italics). (Gramsci, 1971: 175)

32 Selected References Amin, A (1998) Spectres of Capitalism: A Critique of current Intellectual Fashions, New York, Monthly Review Press Edgar, A (2006) Habermas: The key concepts, London, Routledge Eurostat newsrelease www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat 171/2012 - 3/12/12) downloaded 19/05/14www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat 171/2012 - 3/12/12 Faugeron, C (1995) La derive penale, Espirit, 215, pp 132 – 144 Gordon, C (1980) Michael Foucault: Power/Knowledge – selected interviews and other writings 1972 -1977 by Michael Foucault, London, Harvester Wheatsheaf House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee (2014)3 rd report of Session 2013 – 14 Monitoring the performance of the Department for Work and Pensions in 212 -13 (downloaded 18/03/14)

33 References cont. Jones, C and Novak, T (2014) Poverty and Inequality, Critical and radical debates in social work, Bristol, Policy Press Moore, S (2013) Surely the debate around living standards must start with the immorality of food banks in one of the richest countries in the world, Guardian 17/10/13 Pemberton, S Sutton, E Fahmy, E (2013) A review of the qualitative evidence relating to the experience of poverty and exclusion, Working paper – Methods Series No. 22, Birmingham, PSEUK/ESRC Poverty UK ((2012) Going Backwards: 1983 – 2012 downloaded from www.poverty.ac.uk/pse-research/going-backwards-1983-2012 on 01/05/14 www.poverty.ac.uk/pse-research/going-backwards-1983-2012 Powell, R (2013) Loic Waquant’s ‘Ghetto’ and Ethnic minority Segregation in the UK: The Neglected Case of Gypsy-Travellers, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37.1 pp 115 - 34 OECD (2104) Society at a Glance, OECD Social Indicators, OECD Publishing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/soc_glance-2014-en http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/soc_glance-2014-en

34 Trussell Trust (2014) Press Release, 16/04/14 – downloaded from www.truselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/FOODBANK- FIGURES-TOP-900,000 on 21/05/14 www.truselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/FOODBANK- FIGURES-TOP-900,000 UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2010) report Card 9 – The Children Left Behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world’s richest countries, Florence, Italy Waquant, L (2001) The penalisation of poverty and the rise of neo- liberalism, European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, 9, 401 -412 Wilkinson RG and Pickett KE (2006) Income inequality and population health: A review of the evidence, Social Science and Medicine pp 1768 – 1784 Wilkinson RG and Pickett KE (2007) The problems of relative deprivation: Why some societies do better than others, Social Science and Medicine 1965 - 1978


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