There go the Tories again, making out that people such as Karen Matthews are a typical example of our 'broken society' as Chris Grayling compares our society to that of a USA T.V drama, The Wire. A huge generalisation, and highly unhelpful. There are problems with gang crime, drug crime, etc. but there is in every society, and to demonise our society like this is wrong. Furthermore, he is focusing too much on stigmatisation and failing to wholly recognise the reasons and causes for why they undertake this behaviour. He refers to a 'culture of deprivation', which anyone familiar to the term, is used to blame the individuals for their problems, demining them as depraved and unable to conduct proper lives for themselves. Does he consider why they are in the position they are and unable to change their life the way they want to be? No. Does he consider the mounts of research that shows the poor want to change their lives for the better, but structural constraints prevent them from doing so? No.
What he is referring to are the so-called NEETs. This term is a variation to the 'underclass' concept (but it is important to recognise there has always been a term used to explain the bottom group of society, such as Marx's Lumpenproletariat), which formed in sociological discourse when USA sociologists talked about the Ghettos riddled with poverty. The concept became associated with hard right wingers in the 1990s, such as Murray, who argued that the underclass are a class of their own defined by illegitimacy, unemployment and crime. What many competent sociologists argue however, is that actually the underclass is a flawed concept altogether, and that it is just a way that Murray and other theorists demonise everyone who does something they don't agree with. How can the unemployed, lone mothers, criminals, drug uses, drinkers etc, all form the same class? - they will hardly have class identification and alignment. However, despite the obvious flaws to the concept, the term has entered mainstream critiques, especially the Tories rhetoric and polices, through a process that Giddens calls slippage.
The problem with the Tories and those who support the Tories' association with the concept NEET/underclass, is that they are failing to see the underlying structural problems that people who are more disadvantaged than themselves are unable to avoid. Even those who are on the left of the underclass debate actually fall into blaming the individual, as they are still saying that whilst it is the structural reasons for why they act like that, that they are in that position because they act and do those things. This is wrong. The underclass concept is wholly unhelpful, and proposals by Grayling are too. It makes out that Britain is some kind of run down anarchist state, that needs an iron fist to lock the 'life threatening' NEET's away. This is a flawed conception of reality, and just shows how much the Tories are disconnected from real life.
Cameron talks about his problems with smoking and alcohol abuse, well why don't you show a bit of REAL compassion and see that stigmatising a disadvantaged section in society is wrong? Why don't you put some real energy into forming real policies that help address the root causes of problems, such as housing, education, employment? But there again, even when they try to address this, they fail abysmally. Just look at their shoddy attempts of educational reform, which I wrote a blog about, it is wholly disheartening to the sections of society that they are blaspheming.
So, what this comes down to, is that the Tories have once again demonstrated how out of touch they are with reality, and that their agency based approach misses the need for real structural change, to help those who are disadvantaged. What wont help, is constant stigmatisation!