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Social Evils Summary

Social Evils Summary



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Published by Nick Wilding
From Juliet at Eden:
Tony thought this paper would be of interest to Firey Spirits, it is a great summary of a re-evaluation of Joseph Rowntrees original social evils from 1904. Through both a web consultation and discussion groups it highlights some of the social strains of today. It expresses some of the concerns about community decline, and considers the reasoning behind why this could be.
From Juliet at Eden:
Tony thought this paper would be of interest to Firey Spirits, it is a great summary of a re-evaluation of Joseph Rowntrees original social evils from 1904. Through both a web consultation and discussion groups it highlights some of the social strains of today. It expresses some of the concerns about community decline, and considers the reasoning behind why this could be.

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Published by: Nick Wilding on Nov 07, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Participants highlighted the ollowing concerns about how we seem to live our lives:
 A decline of community 
: communities are weak and people are increasingly isolated romtheir neighbours, at considerable cost to well-being and happiness.
: people tend to see themselves as individuals and not as part o wider society,leading to selshness and insularity.
Consumerism and greed 
: an excessive desire or money and consumer goods has eclipsedvalues and aspirations rooted in relationships and communities.
 A decline of values
: there is no longer a set o shared values to guide behaviour.Participants emphasised a lack o tolerance, compassion and respect shown to others.
 Against this backdrop, people identied the ollowing, more concrete, social evils:
The decline of the family 
: amily breakdown and poor parenting were elt to cause manyother social problems and leave young people particularly vulnerable.
Young people as victims or perpetrators
: Young people were seen as perpetrators o socialevils like anti-social behaviour, or the victims o stereotypes and limited opportunities.
Drugs and alcohol 
: misuse o drugs and alcohol was viewed as the consequence andcause o many other social problems, like amily breakdown and poverty.
Poverty and inequality 
: poverty was viewed as a corrosive social evil in an afuent society,underpinning other social problems, such as homelessness and amily breakdown.
 Immigration and responses to immigration
: participants elt that local residents lose out toimmigrants in competition or scarce resources. Others criticised negative attitudes to andlack o support or immigrants and thought society should be more tolerant and inclusive.
Crime and violence
: people elt that Britain is more dangerous and violent than in the past.Child abuse and exploitation were highlighted as particularly damaging evils.
Government, media, big business
were believed to be responsible or these socialevils. People also emphasised
 personal responsibility 
or social evils, but thought bad choices anddamaging behaviour could be symptoms o underlying social problems, such as poverty. Theyalso thought some social evils are
in current ways o living and thinking.
This summary presents the fndings o a public consultation exploringthe social evils acing Britain today. In 1904, Joseph Rowntreeidentifed what he believed were the worst social evils. The new listis the result o a web survey o 3,500 people and discussions withgroups whose voices are not usually heard. It reveals a strong senseo unease about some o the changes shaping British society.
 April 2008
What are today’s social evils?
 A century has passed since Joseph Rowntreeset up the three trusts which bear his name to“search out the underlying causes o weaknessor evil in the community”. In 1904, he identiedpoverty, war, slavery, intemperance, the opiumtrade, impurity and gambling as the “greatscourges o humanity”. Joseph Rowntreerecognised, however, that times would changeand he wanted the trusts to be “ree to adaptthemselves to the ever-changing necessities o the nation”. This consultation revisits theconcept o ‘social evil’ and explores theunderlying problems that cause the mostdamage to British society or the most misery toits people. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s publicconsultation asked ‘
What are today’s social evils?
’ Ten social evils are detailed in thissummary, but many other concerns wereraised, including gender inequality; religion andthe decline o religion; the provision o healthservices and care; and environmental issuessuch as global warming. These are discussed inmore detail in a separate report by Beth Watts.
The consultation
 The consultation had two strands. A web-based consultation was held rom July toSeptember 2007 at www.socialevils.org.uk. Anyone could contribute to this by visiting thewebsite and listing their top three social evils.Some 3,500 people took part and a urther100 responses were sent to the JRF by post.However, this group was not representative o the British population generally – or example,black and minority ethnic groups and youngerpeople were under-represented. Furthermore,it was recognised that conducting the webconsultation might exclude some groupswhose voices are not usually heard, who mighthave limited access to the internet. The National Centre or Social Research wascommissioned to address these concerns andensure that the voices o these potentiallyexcluded groups were heard. They exploredthe questions o today’s social evils withgroups less likely to be reached through theweb consultation. In total, 60 people took partin eight discussion groups held across Englandand Scotland in September and October 2007.Participants were recruited through a numbero charitable organisations working withgroups o people whose voices are not usuallyheard, and included people with learningdiculties, ex-oenders, people withexperience o homelessness, unemployedpeople, care leavers and carers. A particularattempt was made to include black andminority ethnic groups and young people. This summary examines the results o theconsultations, identiying the ten key socialevils that have emerged. While some peopleelt uncomortable with the word ‘evil’, with itsreligious connotations and inherent negativity,the phrase has clearly struck a chord.Moreover, although the contributions o theunheard voices stand out because o theirpersonal experience o many o the social evilsidentied, it is striking how similar the socialproblems identied by each group were.
Ten social evils
 A decline o community
 A major theme that emerged rom theconsultation was a decline o community andweakened local neighbourhoods. Participantselt that neighbours no longer know or look outor one another, which let people eelingisolated, lonely and earul – particularly theelderly and those who live alone. People alsospoke o a decline o community in a moreabstract sense, in terms o a lack o publicspiritedness or social responsibility. Olderpeople spoke about how dierent things usedto be:While it was recognised that new kinds o communities were emerging (such as virtual oronline communities) people elt these were aninadequate substitute or the ace-to-aceinteractions o more traditional localcommunities.
Individualism and selshness
 There was a strong sense that this decline o community has corresponded to a rise inindividualism. Participants suggested thatpeople increasingly look ater their ownindividual or amily interests without consideringthe needs o society or the community. This individualism was seen to have damagingconsequences, uelling selshness and greedand leading to isolation and ear as peoplestruggle to cope and live ullling lives alone.
Consumerism and greed
 A common theme was that values andaspirations rooted in communities andrelationships have been eclipsed by anexcessive desire or consumer goods. Greedemerged as a key issue, seemingly a symptomo society valuing things in terms o money ormaterial worth. People argued that the concepto 
or o 
 having enough
has been orgottenand that we are losing sight o the things thatare really important in lie – things that can’t bebought and sold, such as riendship andkindness. These issues o consumerism and greed did notemerge as strongly rom the unheard voices,but there was a shared concern about theimpact o celebrity culture on society andparticularly on young people.
 A decline o values
One website participant suggested: “in theworld we’ve created, there’s no such thing as‘right and wrong’ any more”. Participants eltthat we lack a set o shared values which guidepeople’s behaviour and interactions. This wasstrongly associated with individualism,
“ ... the community spirit is broken down terribly over the last 20 or 30 years. I amnearly 50 years old. I can rememberbeore. Society has changed, it is a lotmore selfsh and ‘me, mysel and I’.(Unemployed man, discussion groupparticipant)“Everything seems to be based aroundmoney and owning things. The more youhave, the more successul you are. There’snothing wrong with having enough, but there’s pressure on people to go or moreand more.(Website participant)“Nothing is more important than mysuccess, comort and convenience – and that o my amily.(Website participant)

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