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Marlon Barbehön, Sybille Münch and Wolfram Lamping

Public policy-making, as technocratically conceived, appears as a rational process of solving known problems. Political problems are then regarded as part of a pre-given ‘neutral’ reality to which public policy simply responds. In contrast, our contribution develops a critical approach in that it traces three different (at times overlapping) perspectives. Firstly, we introduce approaches that criticize the top-down and linear conceptualizations of policy-making as problem-solving and instead study agenda-building as a complex process of turning issues into political problems. Secondly, we present a more fundamental epistemological challenge as constituted by post-positivist approaches and their focus on the struggle over the definition of problems at various stages of the policy process. Lastly, we introduce approaches that emphasize the role of power and political manipulation in problem definition and agenda-setting. Taken together, these strands provide the basis for a critical perspective which conceptualizes problem definition as a basic discursive process – part of the construction of a political world – and agenda-setting as a specific type of problem definition that attributes responsibility to a political actor or institution. From this perspective, problem definition and agenda-setting are not regarded as distinct phases but as constructions of reality that can be identified within the larger policy-making process.

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Putting Sustainability into Practice

Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption

Edited by Emily H. Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi Krogman

Putting Sustainability into Practice offers a robust and interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary consumption routines that challenges conventional approaches to social change premised on behavioral economics and social psychology. Empirical research is featured from eight different countries, using both qualitative and quantitative data to support its thesis.
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Alan Southern and Geoff Whittam

Neoliberal perspectives heavily influence the language and outcomes from the enterprise and entrepreneurship agenda. While in recent years there has been a challenge to the market-driven functionalist approach to understanding enterprise, particularly from the Scandinavian School, which prioritises narrative, the primacy attached to enterprise has remained essentially neoliberal. The Left appear to have acquiesced in this discourse, and both sets of views coalesce around the characteristics of enterprise, with, for example, profit seeking and exploitation referring to the same sets of activity although from a different perspective. In this chapter we argue how entrepreneurship and place can be examined through collective enterprising activities that exist in urban communities across the UK and beyond and that provide the basis to re-appropriate language and action in this domain. This chapter highlights entrepreneurial activity which is based on collectivism and solidarity rather than the actions of individual entrepreneurs. It does so using case study research in Liverpool and Glasgow. This demonstrates the resilience and resistance that can accompany enterprise and entrepreneurship in urban communities.

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Melanie Jaeger-Erben and Jana Rückert-John

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Biao Xiang

The stock of international migrants from China increased from 4.1 million in 1990 to 9.3 million in 2013. China is now the fourth largest source country representing 4 per cent of the world’s migrants in 2013, having moved up from the seventh representing 2.6 percent in 1990. Apart from the numerical increase, Chinese emigration is characterized by a trend of ‘upward concentration’ in emigration – meaning that more wealthy and/or well-educated people are moving to a small number of the most advanced countries in the global north. By contrast, unskilled labour migration has increased much slower, the financial returns of migration remain stagnant and the conditions of migration are uncertain, and thus migrants more vulnerable. This chapter explores how these emigration trends are related to the general developments in China over the last 30 years. The author argues that migration from China is increasingly a means of reinforcing and reproducing social inequality rather than a means of mitigating it.

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Susan S. Fainstein

Although critical analysis of urban policy has had as a subtext the identification of injustice and a normative standard by which to evaluate policy, until recently the criteria for determining just policy were rarely specified. Urban scholars, however, have now begun to address the topic of justice explicitly and to prescribe approaches to realizing it within the urban context. Choosing justice as the norm for urban policy reacts to the growing inequality and social exclusion resulting from the application of neoliberalism to public policy. Within this ideological framework, competitiveness has become the chief justification for policy choice. Policies to reduce inequality and provide advantages to minority groups, in the neoliberal view, hinder the workings of the market’s invisible hand, produce moral hazards, and cause the economy to perform at a suboptimal level. By this logic efficiency becomes the single criterion for evaluating public policy, and cost–benefit analysis constitutes the tool for its realization. The counter-argument is that using justice as the yardstick for measuring public policy effectiveness does not negate efficiency as a goal but instead requires that the policy maker ask to what end efficiency applies. This chapter outlines a mode of policy analysis that takes justice into account, using examples of schemes to restructure the built environment. I use the three general principles of democracy, diversity, and equity to define justice and derive from them more specific metrics by which to judge the process and outcomes of particular policies.

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Emily Huddart Kennedy, Maurie J. Cohen and Naomi T. Krogman

Social practice theories are the subject of much discussion among those who study sustainability. Using social practice theories to analyze how routinized activity can contribute to unsustainability problems has resulted in a great deal of stimulating scholarship. In this introductory chapter, we begin by venturing back to some of the early work on social practices and offer an account of key theoretical contributions to the contemporary study of sustainable consumption. Our review indicates that concepts from Anthony Giddens’ theory of practice have had considerably more impact on the study of sustainable consumption than the practice-based concepts that Pierre Bourdieu developed. We suggest that this may have led to overlooking the power relations that keep certain materially consumptive social practices firmly rooted in everyday routines. The chapters in this volume advance current theorizing at the nexus of social practices and sustainable consumption. The chapters in Part II explore how the study of sustainable consumption must move beyond the household and into the public sphere. The third Part, ‘Collective Dimensions of Household Practices’, illustrates how the routines in a household such as driving and eating are shaped by societal variables and thus are not a reflection of individual agency. Part IV, ‘Sustainable Consumption and Social Innovation’, examines shifts in systems of provision that shape daily routines that have environmental consequences.

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Hendrik Wagenaar

This chapter explores the radical epistemological claim of Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA) that it provides a better kind of knowledge, knowledge with a better fit with society, than traditional empiricist policy analysis (EPA). While EPA takes an unreflexive, realist view of the categories of analysis and is oblivious to the meaning of the data, IPA presents a variety of critical functions. By foregrounding the target group’s narratives of the impact of the policy intervention on their lives, hermeneutic IPA is critical in the sense of confronting the policy maker’s assumptions of the world with the resistances that the world exerts on a policy intervention. This confrontation is an elementary act of critique and enlightenment. Discursive IPA is critical in the sense that it overcomes the cognitive, moral and practical confinement that is intrinsic to the captivity imposed by large, unnoticed cognitive-ideational frameworks that compromise our capacity for free, unfettered judgment and self-government. Dialogical IPA, finally, is critical in that it is not only aimed at critically diagnosing a situation but also, and always, at transforming it, at finding accommodations, workable solutions and possibilities for change. I conclude that in confronting assumptions with experience, facilitating collaborative forms of policy making, and setting up dialogues of practice and argument that are as inclusive as possible, IPA contributes to deepening democracy.

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Mike Gismondi, Juanita Marois and Danica Straith

The excessive power of global finance capital and financial markets contributes to social inequality and ecological unsustainability. This challenge is being increasingly addressed at a community level, in innovative forms of cooperative investing that are widening membership and increasing the capital pool, while putting financial democracy, community well-being, the environment, and local business creation ahead of personal gain. A key question that warrants further scrutiny is, how can we imagine and enact a transition to an alternative financial ecosystem by scaling the impact of these financial social innovations? In this chapter we describe the “Unleashing Local Capital” (ULC) program, a cooperative local investment innovation designed by the Alberta Community and Cooperative Association, a community development organization based in the Canadian province of Alberta. The ULC project provides rural communities with a financial tool with which to retain local capital and invest in community businesses. We analyze the ULC team’s attempts to scale this cooperative investment model across Alberta and the challenges that were encountered. To do so, we applied a framework that is informed by both social practice theories and the multi-level perspective common in the study of socio-technical transitions. The most notable forces influencing scale include the incumbent financial structure and legislative systems and people’s habitual practices with respect to investing and borrowing. We discuss in detail the pivotal factors, such as the ways in which we commonly discuss money, concerns around transparency, the speed of the investment, cooperative practices, and perception of risk and trust.

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Darja Reuschke and Colin Mason

Little attention has been paid to the geography of home-based businesses and how potential differences in characteristics and business operations are manifested across space. This chapter seeks to shed light on the characteristics of urban home-based businesses (HBBs) and their owners. It has three aims: first, to identify peculiarities of HBBs in urban areas; second, to test whether there exist ‘typical’ urban HBB entrepreneurs; and, third, to make recommendations as to how cities and national government can support home-based businesses. The empirical findings drawn from a survey of the members of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland clearly show that urban HBBs possess distinct characteristics and motivations. Key findings are: urban HBBs are concentrated in business services and creative services; urban economies benefit from the local supplier network of HBBs; and HBBs that are operated around disability or care are more likely to be found in urban areas. It concludes that HBBs are diverse, with distinct sub-groups having distinct needs. For cities and local governments it is therefore important not to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Different business needs should be identified on the basis not only of the characteristics of the business (industry, number of employees) but also of the characteristics of the owner (gender, disability or health).