Self-help groups as sites of active citizenship: a qualitative study of the democratising role of self-help in the public sphere

Chaudhary, Sarah (2014) Self-help groups as sites of active citizenship: a qualitative study of the democratising role of self-help in the public sphere. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Self-help groups in the United Kingdom continue to grow in number and address virtually every conceivable health condition, but they remain the subject of very little theoretical analysis. The literature to date has predominantly focused on their therapeutic effects on individual members. And yet they are widely presumed to fulfil a broader civic role and to encourage democratic citizenship. The thesis uses qualitative data derived from individual and group interviews with 33 groups in order to provide an outline of the ethos, aims, activities and structural arrangements of a broad range of self-help groups in Nottinghamshire, UK. It then uses these findings as the foundation on which to construct a model of self-help groups’ democratising effects in the public sphere and as a means of differentiating them from other types of ‘health citizenship’ organisation such as new social movements. In order to do this it broadly follows the work of Jurgen Habermas, making use of his concepts of communicative action; system-lifeworld integration; lifeworld autonomy and collective identity as an appropriate framework against which to account for these groups in civic terms.

It was found that in their pursuit of personal and collective identities the groups were augmenting individual autonomy through increasing mutual recognition and understanding in the lifeworld. Although at first sight the groups appeared to be structured hierarchically, leaders tended to use their influence to foster a type of communicative equality that sustained the democratic negotiation of these identities. In addition, through their two-way communicative links with the system the groups were adding to the complexity and quality of discourse in the public sphere and increasing the possibility of attaining social consensus. Unlike new social movements who are believed to operate at the protest end of civil society, the self-help groups were oriented to its enabling sector.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Avis, M.
Munn-Giddings, C.
Keywords: Self-help group, Habermas, Social movement, Collective identity, Citizenship
Subjects: H Social sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Item ID: 14525
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2015 12:48
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 14:42

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