By Paul Smyth, Tim Reddel, Andrew Jones

This ebook examines the resurgence in Australia of locality-based socialpolicy (concerned with the spatial dimensions of disadvantage), after thepolitical mess ups of the industry orientated method of neighborhood reform. The ebook proposes that those tendencies are resulting in a brand new 'post-competition' coverage regime in Australia that mirrors international coverage tendencies.

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This approach to local governance is linked to Hirst’s (1994) conception of associative democracy and its emphasis on the decentralisation of power, reduced hierarchy and enhanced democratic participation. However, critics of associative democracy and the related emphasis on social capital, social enterprise and ‘third-sector’ solutions argue that these approaches too easily underwrite a diminished role for the state, neglect the often adversarial nature of state–civil society relations and may in the end support neo-liberal strategies by overstating the ‘benefits’ of working with market forces to ensure that localities and regions remain economically competitive (Amin, Cameron & Hudson 2002; Brenner & Theodore 2002; Mayer 2003).

Jessop, B (2002) ‘Liberalism, neo-liberalism and urban governance: a state-theoretical perspective’, Antipode, 34: 452–72. Johnson, C & Tonkiss, F (2002) ‘The third influence: the Blair government and Australian Labor’, Policy and Politics, 30(1): 5–18. Keil, R 1998, ‘Globalisation makes states: perspectives of local governance in the age of the world city’, Review of International Political Economy, 5(4): 616–46. Kjaer, L, ed. (2003) Local Partnerships in Europe: An Action Research Project, Copenhagen Centre, Copenhagen.

The Australian policy and research communities have been somewhat sceptical of the concept. Whiteford (2001), for example, says that the traditionally dominant income measurement approach to poverty should not be discarded lightly. The social inclusion/exclusion approach, he argues, by introducing an emphasis on the attitudes and behaviours of excluded groups, lends itself too readily to a ‘blaming the victim’ approach. While this is a genuine concern, it needs to be emphasised that there is now a wide acknowledgment in the international literature on poverty research that the standard approach to understanding poverty is ‘too narrow’ (Room 1999).

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