Citizens, State and Society

Title underline

A collection of papers exploring the interface between citizens, the state and civil society, to give the Commission the theoretical tools to construct a new public services settlement which will be grounded in the needs, wants and capabilities of contemporary citizens.

1. The Contemporary Citizen & Public Services
According to several recent studies we are: more assertive, more affluent and increasingly individualistic.  At the same time however, we are an increasingly polarised society, increasingly diverse, and we participate in civic and political life inconsistently.  This essay asks: how should the changing nature of contemporary citizenship inform the future of public services?  What are the new opportunities and limits for citizen participation in the design and provision of public services?

Researcher: Prof Michael Kenny, University of Sheffield

2. Motivation, Behaviour and the future of Public Services
Developments in cognitive psychology and neuroscience have found increasing applications across political science and economics.  We are more aware of the normative issues and cognitive pathways that shape human decision-making, and better understand the limits of existing public policy based on rational-individual microfoundational models.  Looking to the future, the question is: how can we use these new understandings (and emerging policy findings) to inform the way we design and deliver public services in the future?  And how might these understandings strengthen the democratic foundations of public action?

Researcher: Prof Gerry Stoker, University of Southampton

3. What are the Social Implications of Meeting New Risks?
The current direction of travel in public service reform combines personalisation and individual entitlement with emphasis on individual responsibility - supposing there should be no rights without certain responsibilities.  At the same time, we all share a vulnerability to certain collective risks, and are increasingly exposed to global, as well as national, notions of citizenship.  This essay asks: how can we reconceptualise the ‘contract' between citizens, the state and society to reflect these realities?  What are the key characteristics of contemporary social citizenship?

Researcher: Dr Hartley Dean, LSE

4. What are the Implications of Public Service Reform for Societal Inequality?
The future of public services must reflect the changing wants, needs and capabilities of citizens, in addition to mitigating the collective social risks we face.  The UK's major parties have argued that achieving this will require a combination of increasingly personalised service provision, and increasing autonomy over budget discretion and outcomes.  Yet this debate ignores the contribution of social spending to a sense of public value, and the idea that public services can (but do not always) act as agents of social cohesion.  This essay asks: as citizens are increasingly seen as individual consumers of public services, what implications might these trends have for societal inequalities?

Researcher: Prof Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent

5. What are our Future Sources of Welfare?
Much of the debate on reforming public services within a fiscal crisis has highlighted the need to mobilise non-state sources of welfare, and for the state to be more innovative and efficient where it does intervene. Yet our conceptions of what mix of welfare we might utilise in the future is relatively under-formed; as is our understanding of what kind of non-state welfare we might look to mobilise.  This essay asks: how should we envisage the ‘mix' of resources that will design, produce and deliver public services in the future?

Suggested researcher: Prof Peter Alcock, University of Birmingham (tbc)

6. How can we Re-think the Relationship Between Democracy and Public Service Reform?
This essay asks: how should we think about the relationship between democracy and public service reform in contemporary Britain, and looking towards 2020?  It asks how we should think about the relationships of citizens as users, payers for, and directors of public services - using healthcare provision as a case study.   In this area, the current model of provision (focused on targets and entitlements) is increasingly under strain; this essay will think about how we can move from a less prescriptive, more democratic model of public services. 

Researcher: Dr Annabelle Lever, LSE

7. How Can We Develop a Capabilities Model for Public Services?
Amartya Sen's idea of capability as a motivating idea for development has gained increasing traction within UK debates on the future of the welfare state.  His thinking implies a framework wherein individuals are afforded the capability to define their own outcomes from the consumption of public services.  This is a shift from the current system, which has focused on embedding prescribed service or income entitlements through central targets.  Moving to a capabilities framework thus throws up an important ethical dilemma: to what extent can we envisage individuals defining the ends of public service consumption, whilst public services remain collectively funded? Can a capabilities model provide a less, prescriptive, more democratic model of public services?

Researcher: Dr Polly Vizard, LSE (tbc)

8. How Should the Future of Public Services be Financed?
We know that future public spending will be under extreme pressure from the immediate crisis, from the costs of addressing climate change, and in the longer-term, from the needs of an ageing population.  The avoidance of swingeing cuts to frontline services will require a creative approach to financing, engaging with citizens in different ways.  Arguments for more user-charging, insurance-based funding, local tax hypothecation and even higher taxes have been mooted.  This essay will ask: how should we re-evaluate our options for the future funding of public services?  When are where might particular approaches be valid?

Researcher: Prof Howard Glennerster, LSE

Supported by ESRC Ventures Fund
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Commissioner Leads
Vernon Bogdanor, Hilary Cottam and Greg Parston

To be published in 2010

For more information please contact project director: Henry Kippin