Archbishop of Canterbury: Big Society – Small World?

Speaking to an audience at King’s College London, the Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the way the concept of the Big Society has opened up a serious debate on our political priorities, whilst acknowledging that ‘it has suffered from a lack of definition about the means by which ideals can be realised’.

Turning to a theme he has explored before in relation to the Big Society, Rowan Williams suggested that theology has a key role in defining a proper appreciation of ‘character’ and the notion of ‘empathy’ and that the pursuing of national goals without defining what sort of people we are or want to be cannot be of much value without this.  In essence, that it is important to ask the question about what kind of people are necessary for the Big Society to succeed?

The Archbishop argued that the localism agenda needs to be related to thinking about how civic character is formed and how social relations are shaped. On this the Archbishop affirmed the communities and presence of the established Church which has its own role in recognising and confirming the importance of civic responsibility.

The lecture also turned to exploring the implications of the Big Society on an international level by warning of the twin dangers of excessive centralism and abandonment to the market, and petty and fragmentary localism.

You can read the full lecture here.

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