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Local justice and public sector professionalism: The case of leisure services. / Stephen Howell
Swansea University Author: Stephen, Howell
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This thesis critically examines the manner in which local authorities allocate and distribute their leisure services. A lack of coherence in the rationale for distributing the scarce resources of public leisure services currently exists. Moreover, no serious attempt has been made to articulate this...
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This thesis critically examines the manner in which local authorities allocate and distribute their leisure services. A lack of coherence in the rationale for distributing the scarce resources of public leisure services currently exists. Moreover, no serious attempt has been made to articulate this incoherence within an overarching theoretical framework. In establishing a coherent and defensible notion of social justice in the context of public leisure professionalism, public leisure services are interpreted within a range of traditionally conceived political conceptions of justice (Elster, 1992; Rawls, 1972; and Walzer, 1983). A communitarian account of just public leisure services is then presented which develops Elster's idea of 'local justice' while rejecting a liberal account. In order to establish claims regarding the incoherence of extant public leisure provision and the legitimacy of the proposed account, data were collected in the form of five semi-structured interviews with senior leisure professionals and elected officials taken from three local authorities. Arising from the data a taxonomy of mechanisms and preferences was established in order to characterise just public leisure services. A number of themes emerge from the data, the most critical of which relates to the misconception of 'public opinion' in the formulation of policy and practice or, at times, the complete absence of such. The data, however, revealed that what passed for 'public opinion' was in fact advocacy by organised self-interest groups. Given the political desirability, inherent within a communitarian account, for public involvement in debates within public leisure services these forces are antagonistic to 'public opinion' and undermine the operationalisation of local justice in public leisure. To overcome this weakness a communitarian model of allocative and distributive practice is developed. Following from this, it is argued public leisure services can be justly allocated and distributed according to schemes of local justice. It is concluded that public leisure services ought properly to provide non-standardised, locally derived, conceptualisations of justice that are ethically justifiable according to communitarian criteria.
College of Human and Health Sciences