The Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently set out his vision of a ‘big society’. Its core themes are empowering communities, redistributing power from the state to citizens and promoting a culture of volunteering. The idea is badly flawed. It overlooks the crucial role that needs to be played by the state in promoting social justice, which is vital to the development of active citizenship and vibrant communities. Moreover, Cameron views the active citizen as simply a philanthropist and volunteer rather than as a politically literate individual, knowledgeable about the major political issues of the day and actively involved in debates about how public or private services ought to be run. The initiative is particularly perverse in the context of the credit crunch, a vitally important cause of which was precisely not the development of an over-mighty state but rather the inadequate state regulation of free market trading activities by banks
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