Moral politics, moral decline and anti-social behaviour

Published: April 2010

This short article focuses on the moral politics associated with anti-social behaviour (ASB) and an assumed moral decline in Britain. The rhetoric and policy of Labour and the Conservatives are considered including talk of ‘respect’ and a ‘broken society’. The 2010 General Election provides the context. It is contended that such civilising agendas are only meaningful if the government of the day can lead by example. Rather than focusing on an assumed moral decline by trying to enforce standards of behaviour, an alternative is suggested that acknowledges that not all youthful (mis)behaviour given the ASB badge is necessarily problematic. Policies that promote social connectedness, inter-group understanding and tolerance are suggested, and the sort of mutual respect originally put forward by Sennett (2003). The promotion of ‘togetherness in difference’ (Sandercock, 2003) that is characteristic of cosmopolitan urbanism is suggested as a more optimistic position to take than a focus on moral decline.

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