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Archive for January 2012

Just what kind of ‘Social Justice’ does Iain Duncan Smith believe in?

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Is it the one whose meaning that we are accustomed to, or is it, in the Orwellian sense, its opposite?

Iain Duncan Smith surely professes to support the notion of ‘social justice’. He founded the Centre for Social Justice in 2004, is its Life Patron and served as its Chairman until joining the Cabinet in 2010. It would be more than reasonable, then, to expect him to be committed to the idea of social justice, particularly, considering his official post in government as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in the area of work.

The International Labour Office (ILO, 2004) has identified certain principles which it asserts must be abided by in the creation of social policies in this respect if they are to be regarded as socially ‘just’. Guy Standing (2010) has picked out three which he considers most important with respect to ‘poverty alleviation’, which are as follows:

  • A policy is socially just only if it improves the security and work prospects of the least secure groups in society (the security difference principle.)
  • A policy is socially just only if it does not impose controls on some groups that are not imposed on the most free groups in society (the paternalism test principle)
  • A policy is socially just if it enhances the rights of the recipient of benefits or services, and limits the discretionary power of the providers (the rights-not-charity principle).

Since the government’s current policies could not be further from fulfilling these basic principles one has to ask what form of  ‘social justice’ it is that Mr Iain Duncan Smith believes in?

Standing, G. (2011) ‘Labour Market Policies, Poverty and Insecurity’. International Journal of Social Welfare, 20: 260-269.

International Labour Office (ILO) (2004) ‘Economic Security for a Better World’. Geneva, Switzerland, Socio-Economic Security Programme, International Labour Office. (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/ses/info/publ/economic_security.htm)

Written by bigleyma

January 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

The Problem of ‘Scientifically Unfounded Attitudes’: A BioPsychoSocial Analysis

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A small, but select, number of individuals in our society can be seen to be suffering from the mysterious problem of “Scientifically Unfounded Attitudes“. This is a significant issue for society as a whole since those afflicted tend to hold high status, influential positions in the academic, state and corporate medical community, and have been complicit in cobbling together a rag bag of ideas (under the guise of a theory) which has had profoundly negative effects on many people’s lives, economically, socially and personally. This is also true of its effects on taxpayers money, a great deal of which has been wasted on spurious processes whose only objective, it seems, is to channel vast amounts of money into the pockets of private companies.

So how has this situation arisen? A biopsychosocial model is very helpful in the analysis of these individuals:
First it is necessary to address the ‘bio-medical’ element (in order to get it out of the way, which is the usual concern of these adherents). Exhaustive medical data is not available for this group, but considering their fairly advanced average  age, and the fact that they are still furiously active, and able to travel extensively around the world touting their ‘theories’ suggests that they belong to a privileged sector of the health spectrum. That is, they are those in whom illness is relatively absent. This is confirmed visibly by the absence of any ‘aids’ in their conduct of work. It can be reasonably assumed, then, that they have been in the main favoured with good health.

Further, and here we introduce a social aspect into the analysis, a singular feature which connects all these individuals is their tenancy of high profile positions within state, academic or corporate agencies. Occupying, as they do, the top strata of the employment scale, which attracts to it a slew of benefits extra to the significantly high salaries these positions command, they are comfortably placed should they ever find the spectre of ill-health casting a shadow across their lives. This ‘social’ lens, then helps to explain how their distorted perspective on illness may have been reinforced by their privileged social location. The protection of affluence provides an impenetrable buffer against physical or mental affliction.

And it is the second of these, the mental, which perhaps offers the greatest insight into the behaviour and attitudes of this group. The psychological element of this model is able to highlight the source of shared distortions in beliefs that manifest within this sector of the population. Significantly this group place an excessive value upon psychological explanations of illness. Perhaps this is an instinctive acknowledgement of the fact that they, themselves, suffer from psychologically deluded ideas about the sources of illness (for reasons not unconnected to their own bio and social circumstances). Many of them, some explicitly, some tacitly, derive their understanding of illness from what is termed ‘positive’ psychology (or the rather more respectable ‘cognitive behavioural’ theory). The ideas underpinning this minority field of the discipline is that it is not the circumstances of people’s lives which determine the outcomes for them but their ‘attitude of mind‘. More rational people consider this ‘wishful thinking’, or when applied to the dire circumstances of some people’s lives by an outside agent, abuse. Other psychological dysfunctions are also visible among this group, particularly that of the persecution complex which is evidenced in ‘knee-jerk’ responses to any legitimate criticism that those actually suffering from illness have the temerity to raise.

This has been a brief analysis of this afflicted group, but it has also been a demonstration of just how widely it is possible to apply the BPS model. I believe it has been put to a far more realistic use here than it has by the group in question, who stretch one or two ideas to breaking point in their attempt to legitimise their theories, with their notably unbalanced emphasis on the (out-dated) psychological at the expense of those accompanying elements of the model. Interestingly this analysis too has found more significance of the ‘psycho‘ aspect in revealing underlying attitudes and distorted beliefs surrounding an issue. Perhaps that ultimately is this model’s failing, in that under the aegis of a purported ‘scientific’ paradigm it is able to provide a platform for the legitimisation of any, or all,  biased attitudes.

Hopefully this small exercise will have enlightened people as to the uses to which the BPS model can be put. Anyone who wishes to give an apparent scientific gloss to their biased propositions need only to remember to quickly dispense with the ‘bio’ and the ‘social’ and focus excessively on the ‘psycho’ where, given its controversial history, psychology is certain to furnish them with something with which to underpin their claims.

As the examples become ever more extreme…

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Private Eye reports on a man shot with a .44 Magnum, which resulted in damage to various organs, a coma, followed by heart attacks, and strokes and lasting disability, including enduring post-traumatic stress disorder, being ‘found’  fit for work by Atos.

Further proof (if any were needed) that what is happening at Atos is not due to an occasional ‘inefficiency’ or a handful of incompetent assessors, but a systemic, inbuilt process designed to deliberately find almost anyone ‘fit’ for work.

Chomsky said something to the effect that it takes a real education to make people able to avoid what is in front of their eyes:

“[Y]ou don’t really have to work very hard to see these things. You have to work very hard not to see them. It takes a really good education to miss this. “

This seems to be particularly relevant to this training of Atos’ ‘Disability Analysts’. In light of the fact that messages have been more widely disseminated out of this process to those in parliament, the houses of Commons and Lords, some might view this as part of a propaganda campaign against the vulnerable. Others might view it less generously as brainwashing.

Written by bigleyma

January 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm

The ‘Psychologising’ of Illness and The Sanctification of Work

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I’ve been away a little while (longer than I intended), partly because I’ve been working on an article for the International Green Socialist online magazine. It turned into a larger project than I intended, but I hope visitors here will give it a go because I think it exposes some deliberate processes that have been going on behind the scenes of the new ‘reforms’ of health related benefits, to the disadvantage of the sick and disabled in this country. Despite its length I still feel there is more to be said about this and I hope to be following it up with more in depth analyses in the near future.

Fill your boots (as my darling daughter would say) here:

Illness as ‘Deviance’, Work as Glittering Salvation and the ‘Psyching-up’ of the Medical Model: Strategies for Getting The Sick ‘Back To Work’.

(You might need more than one pair :D)

Update: Noticed that the above link is not presently working so a copy of the article can be found here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/32109159/Illness%20as%20Deviance.pdf