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'It's not about race, it's about the community': New Labour and community cohesion

Worley, Claire (2005) 'It's not about race, it's about the community': New Labour and community cohesion. Critical social policy, 25 (4). pp. 483-496. ISSN 0261-0183

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Abstract

‘Community cohesion’ is widely regarded as the ‘new’ framework governing race relations policy in the UK. It emerged in government discourse following the civil disturbances that occurred in several northern UK towns in 2001, and has rapidly become absorbed within local government and related organizations to replace previous attempts of multiculturalism. This paper examines several key characteristics of this agenda. In particular, I explore ‘slippages’ in language within and around discourses of ‘community cohesion’. I demonstrate how ‘community’ is central to the community cohesion agenda, and suggest that whilst the concept of ‘community’ is highly ambiguous, it has continuing resonance in New Labour policymaking. The concept of ‘community’ has particular implications for processes of race and gender. Talking about ‘communities’ enables for language to become deracialized, whilst at the same time the language of community cohesion draws upon earlier discourses of assimilation through notions of ‘integration’. The community cohesion agenda is also gendered, and as suggested in this paper, has specific implications for women and the construction of ‘cultures’.

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