Connecting our analysis to create alliances: opportunities for action arising from neoliberalism's joint challenge to communities and our environment

Topics: Sociology, Climate change, Global warming Pages: 14 (3603 words) Published: April 11, 2014
Connecting our analysis to create alliances: opportunities for action arising from neoliberalism's joint challenge to communities and our environment Paper delivered to the Sociologial Association of Ireland Postgraduate Conference, 7 March 2014.

Jamie Gorman, Centre for Rights, Recognition and Redistribution, Department of Applied Social Studies, NUI Maynooth.
jamie.gorman@nuim.ie

Abstract
This paper argues that neoliberalism, as a common threat for social justice and environmental concerns, can create mutual consensus for political action across diverse interest groups. The paper highlights neoliberial trends towards the commodification of community and the marketisation of the environment. It identifies three characteristics of commercialisation, depoliticisation and cosumption. The paper finds that many proposed solutions remain within the neoliberal paradigm and seek to capitalise on the crisis rather than provide for transformative social change. It therefore explores how counter-hegemonic sollutions might be developed through effective alliances between community development and the environmental movement. It maps out the diverse spaces where consensus for political action might be achieved, highlighting examples in marginalised and pollution affected communities, communities promoting sustainability and communities resisting unsustainability. The paper suggests that processes of dialogue and alliance building can support

more

effective

engagement

between

community

development

and

environmentalism. This paper has implications for how the social professions responds to environmental issues at a time when climate change is increasingly affecting communities with whom they are concerned and with whom they work for social justice. Key words

Community development, environmental justice, neoliberalism, action research

1

Introduction
As societies across the globe grapple with the challenges that climate change poses for energy and environmental policy there has been a concurrent explosion of environmental protest. Responding to climate change through decarbonisation, the transition away from fossil fuels, requires states to make significant and controversial resource allocation decisions and public policy choices. In essence, responding to climate change causes us to ask how will society be structured and organised in the future? This paper explores how those working in the social professions, in particular community work, might respond to environmental issues through their practice in order to support the development of equitable and just responses to environmental issues including climate change. This paper offers a systhesis of research carried out as part of a taught, professional MA in Community Work and Youth Work. Community work is an approach to social change underpinned by principles including social justice, participation, empowerment and collective action (CWC, 2009). In Ireland it is is practiced in a variety of contexts, including local Community Development Projects and nationally in organisations such as Pavee Point. Community work has been slow to adopt environmental concerns despite the interconnectedness of social and environmental justice struggles and the joint challenge that neoliberalism poses to communities and our environment. In this paper I identify three broad and interconnected characteristics

of

the

neoliberal

threat

to

communities

and

the

environment:

commercialisation, depoliticisation and hyper-cosumption. I will then map out areas of engagement where consensus for political action might be achieved. Finally, I will suggest that the twin processes of dialogue and alliance building may support effective collaborations for political action between community work and enivronmentalism. This tentative analysis forms the basis of my doctoral research, which I have been undertaking since October 2013 with assistance from the NUI...

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