Power, discursive space and institutional practices in the construction of housing problems

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Jacobs, Keith ; Kemeny, Jim ; Manzi, Tony

A constructionist approach to the study of social problems and housing policy provides a theoretically informed means of analysing the ways in which housing policy is formulated and implemented. Yet despite a strong commitment by housing researchers to policy-relevance, constructionist studies of how specific social problems are generated and deployed have so far made only a limited impact on housing research. The paper addresses this lacuna by first discussing important literature and the key conceptual issues in this field of study. This is followed by a discussion of two examples from recent UK housing policy (the shift in the 1980s from defining lone mothers as the victims of housing shortages to a morally questionable group subverting needs based allocation policies and the re-emergence of anti-social behaviour as a problem on housing estates). The paper's conclusion is that the 'construction of problems' provides a rich source of new material as well as offering significant opportunities to develop a more critically informed housing research agenda.
  • References (5)

    Allen, I. and Bourke, S. (1998) Teenage Mothers-Decisions and Outcomes (London, Policy Studies Institute).

    Atkinson, R. (2000) Narratives of policy: the construction or urban problems and urban policy in the official discourse of British government, 1968-1998, Critical Social Policy20 (2) pp.211-232.

    Bachrach, P. and Baratz, M. (1962) The two faces of power, American Political Science Review No.56, pp.947-952.

    Blumer, H. (1971) Social problems as collective behaviour, Social Problems 18, pp.298-306

    Brown, M. and Payne, S. (1994) Introduction to Social Administration in Britain (London, Routledge).

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