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Subversive citizens

Subversive citizens
Power, agency and resistance in public services

Marian Barnes, David Prior
Paperback, 248 pages, 234 x 156 mm
Other formats available
29 Jul 2009


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North America customers can order this book here from the University of Chicago Press.

"This timely book is essential reading, offering highly original and critical insights into the policy process in its contemporary context."
Marjorie Mayo, Professor of Community Development, Goldsmith's College, University of London
"...this book forms a welcome addition to the current literature."
Maurice Specht in Critical Policy Studies
"This edited collection makes an outstanding contribution to the debate in a provocative, compelling and original way. It is rare indeed for an edited collection to have the conceptual coherence and sense of lively dialogue on display across its chapters. This is a must read for policy makers and practitioners, social science researchers and students, and, of course, potentially subversive citizens."
Professor Gordon Hughes, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
"This is an exciting and sustained interrogation of the social relations of 'responsible' welfare at the point of delivery. It transposes and transforms Lipsky's notion of 'the street level bureaucrat' by exploring agency, counter-agency and subversion within contemporary welfare governance. A must-read."
Fiona Williams, Professor of Social Policy, University of Leeds

About This Book

Many of the recent reforms in public services in the UK have been driven by the image of the 'responsible citizen' - the service user who does not only have rights to receive services but also has responsibilities for the delivery of policy outcomes. In this way, citizens' everyday conduct is shaped by governmental action, yet there is much evidence that both front-line staff in public services and the people who use them can sometimes act in ways that modify, disrupt or negate intended policy outcomes. "Subversive citizens" presents a highly original examination of how official policy objectives can be 'subverted' through the actions of staff and users. It discusses the role of public policy in the creation of 'good citizenship', such as making appropriate choices about what to eat and how much to save, to being an active participant in the local community. It also examines how the roles of service delivery staff have changed substantially, and how theories of 'power' and 'agency' are useful in analysing the engagement between public policies (and those employed to deliver them) and the citizens at whom they are targeted. The idea of subversive citizenship is explored through theoretical and empirical analyses by a range of prominent social researchers and will be of interest to students of social policy, sociology, criminology, politics and related disciplines, as well as policy makers involved in public services.

Author Biography

Marian Barnes is Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Social Science, Policy and Research Centre at the University of Brighton. She has undertaken extensive research in aspects of user involvement and public participation in health and social care, children's services and local governance. David Prior is Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Applied Social Studies, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham. His research has focused specifically on community safety and antisocial behaviour and more broadly on issues of citizenship and local governance.


Part one: Introduction: Examining the idea of 'subversion' in public services ~ Marian Barnes and David Prior
Part two: Perspectives on subversive citizenship: Policy, power and the potential for counter-agency ~ David Prior
Alliances, contention and oppositional consciousness: can public participation generate subversion? ~ Marian Barnes
Subversive spheres: neighbourhoods, citizens and the 'new governance' ~ Helen Sullivan
Narrating subversion, assembling citizenship ~ Janet Newman and John Clarke
Subversive subjects and conditional, earned and denied citizenship ~ John Flint
Part three: Subversive citizens in public service settings: Family Intervention Projects: sites of subversion and resilience ~ Sadie Parr and Judy Nixon
Family decision making: new spaces for participation and resistance ~ Kate Morris and Gale Burford
Subversive attachments: gendered, raced and professional realignments in the 'new' NHS ~ Shona Hunter
Managerialism subverted? Exploring the activity of youth justice practitioners ~ Nathan Hughes
Awkward customers? Policing in a consumer age ~ Louise Westmarland and John Clarke
Part four: Conclusion: 'Subversion' and the analysis of public policy ~ David Prior and Marian Barnes.


Customers in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei must order from their local distributor

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