Thursday, 05 January 2006

Informal social control and respect: seminar Together with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, I've organised a seminar on 'Informal social control and the respect agenda,' which takes place at the LSE in London on 18 January 2006. Here are my thoughts on the topic. *UPDATE* - the seminar will be chaired by Richard Sennett. The political salience of the ‘respect’ agenda arises from a perceived crisis in the extent to which social norms of considerate behaviour are shared. High levels of antisocial behaviour reflect low levels of respect in everyday social relations. Policy makers can approach this issue from a number of angles including measures of control and retribution for antisocial behaviour; the promotion of mutuality and shared experience, for example through community participation as well as in education and the workplace; and ways of nurturing a stronger culture of informal social control and parenting. This last would appear to be the most difficult and the area about which we know least. It touches on issues of neighbourliness and collective efficacy. It raises questions about the legitimate reach of policy into people’s personal lives; about levels of trust in formal policing; the erosion of the public realm; the responsibility and readiness of the citizen to intervene; fear of crime; lack of intergenerational interaction; citizens’ negotiation skills and levels of confidence when confronting others, and so on. Particularly within the context of 'building sustainable communities,' it raises questions about the design of neighbourhoods, levels of transience and stability, and face-to-face recognition at local level. We know that weak local social networks, and persistent stressful interactions in everyday life, probably have significant costs in terms of health and other quality of life indicators. We need to understand how to reverse these effects, reducing pressure on public services and recovering the sense of autonomous local identity. Two recent research projects help us to begin unpacking the issues, and this exploratory policy seminar will be based around them: § The Families and Neighbourhoods Study, funded by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and carried out at the Institute for the Study of Children, Families & Social Issues, Birkbeck. This large-scale study included survey and qualitative data on norms of neighbourhood parenting and informal social control. § The ‘Incentives for citizenship behaviour’ study carried out for the Civil Renewal research programme by LSE Housing. This small-scale project looked at incentives such as good neighbour agreements, and sanctions and rewards for negative and positive behaviours. The speakers will be Jacqueline Barnes and Liz Richardson. The event runs from 1630-1800, followed by a reception. There is no charge for attending. To reserve a place, email Yusuf Osman – y.osman(at) There’s a pdf flier here. My last posts on the respect agenda are here and here.

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