The Not So Big Society – Lessons from Greece

As regular readers will now, I’ve been using the title of this blog as an excuse to ponder the kind of social changes we’re going through, and what it will mean for the most vulnerable in society.

I’ve been reading a fascinating article about a Greek island, and how it’s been affected by the economic collapse in that country. I suspect that we’ve got further hardships to come here in the UK, so I was left wondering whether it might have any lessons for us in the near future.

The article describes the island of Samos, and it’s clearly been hit hard.

Evidence of the crisis, the lack of jobs and the absence of money in people’s pockets is everywhere. In the two major towns of the island, Vathi and Karlovassi, approximately a quarter of the shops are now closed. Most of those that remain open are offering such discounts that we assume it is a matter of time before they shut too.

A friend who has a tourist shop in Vathi thinks at least another six shops will close by Christmas, with more to follow soon after. In our village we have two tavernas – and they only survive because their owners take no income. What income can you take from only selling a few Greek coffees and some beer and ouzo in the evening?  Continue reading

Book Review: Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson

This book was part of the reading list that I’ve put together as part of my attempt to define the Not So Big Society.

Jackson attempts to reconcile a key area of disagreement between economists and environmentalists. Economists tend to view prosperity as inextricably linked to economic growth. Ecologists and environmentalists insist that simply isn’t sustainable – the planetary resources are finite, oil production will eventually peak, and potentially catastrophic climate change is waiting in the wings. Sooner or later economic growth will hit the buffers. I was curious to see if this book would have anything to say about how we’re going to look after the most vulnerable members of society in the trials to come.
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Pondering the Not So Big Society – A Reading List

As I mentioned on Friday, I’ve been musing the snarky title I gave this blog, and trying to flesh it out into an actual idea.

Something that I suspect will be of key relevance is the idea of the ‘Triple Crunch’ – the suggestion that industrial civilisation will face a threefold challenge of financial chaos, peak oil and climate change in the coming years and decades. I’m trying to avoid some of the usual cliches when talking about this subject matter, so I’ll merely state that “Perfect Storm” is a rather good movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

The question is how to look after each other – and particularly the most vulnerable people in society – during the ongoing chaos. At present the Not So Big Society is a snappy title in search of a theory, but then the same is equally true of Cameron’s Big Society and Miliband’s Good Society.

If the theory is to be fleshed out, I think it’s time to do some reading (and in some cases viewing and listening). Here’s my reading list for what I hope will turn into an ongoing series of posts.
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