This seminar responds to two ongoing policy movements in the UK from equal opportunities towards ‘positive action’ on the one hand, and from multiculturalism towards community cohesion on the other.
A new Equalities Bill has now made its way through Parliament which allows (and encourages, but does not require) employers to use gender, ethnicity and other forms of under-representation to differentiate between candidates of equal merit. The Bill stretches the UK’s notion of ‘positive action’ into territory that seems a short step from positive discrimination.
In response to a perceived separateness between different ethnic groups, that was alleged to underpin social unrest in northern England in 2001, the Government has been persuaded by critiques of multiculturalism that suggest the need for both greater social integration and a stronger common and shared notion of what it means to be British.
While ethnicity and gender feature strongly in these debates, (socio-economic) class became conspicuous by its absence in New Labour discourse. At the beginning of the 2010 election campaign class has begun to re-emerge, in part as Labour seeks ‘white working class’ votes in response to the rise of the British National Party. In this context, the seminar will include concern for: how we should interpret these policy and political debates; how they relate to embedded and intersecting inequalities; and the implications of a language of ‘Britishness’.