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‘The Big Society Depends on the Big Parish’, by John Milbank

Professor John Milbank has published an article on ABC Religion and Ethics entitled ‘The Big Society Depends on the Big Parish’. The piece begins:

Last week, a motley and anachronistic crew of liberal Anglican theologians and dissenting ministers, in collaboration with the think tank Ecclesia, launched the Common Wealth: Christians for Economic and Social Justiceinitiative, whose purpose is to oppose government cuts in public spending and welfare provision. It in turn urges the churches not to collude with such measures by supporting and enabling the “Big Society” agenda, insisting that “churches should not be deceived by claims that the government is sympathetic to Christian ideals … The ‘Big Society’ masks injustice, suffocating dissent with phoney ‘we’re all in it together’ sound bites.”

On one level, one can agree with Common Wealth about the unnecessary pace and regressive social impact of some of the budget cuts – although their scale is being somewhat exaggerated. And yet the reaction of this group is superficial, and is in sharp contrast to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury who has proffered “two and a half cheers for the Big Society.”

Now, five-sixths support is really quite a lot, and probably gets it about right. It is clear that Rowan Williams realises – andCommon Wealth does not – that the Big Society is more than a mere cover for further neoliberal privatisation. To the extent that it is, and to the extent that it fails to tackle the injustices and monopolies of the market as much as those of the state, it deserves half a cheer to be withheld. But there are four crucial reasons why the big society is no neo-Thatcherite sham. […]

Read the rest here.



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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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