Distress in the City

Racism, fundamentalism and a democratic education

Paperback / softback, 210 pages, 234 mm x 156 mm
15 Jan 2016
Trentham Books

Price: £24.99

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Every day brings news about so-called Islamic State and its seduction of young people in the West. The radicalization of young Muslims causes alarm; even the desirability of multiculturalism is questioned in troubled cities where racism and Islamophobia are on the rise.

This book is a case study of one distressed post-industrial city struggling with various discontents, drawn from those who live there. Their stories illuminate how racism, Islamophobia and Islamism take hold, rendering the city emblematic of wider problems across the world today.

Through Linden West’s holistic, psychosocial analysis, racism, Islamophobia and fundamentalism are understood by reference to growing inequality, mental illness and hopelessness, all within a context of fractured economies, malfunctioning democracies and the narrowing of education’s purpose. But the author also describes the resources of hope in the city – the experiments in democratic education and the working class struggle against Nazi fundamentalism, the concern for the other – that inspire civic education in schools and communities today.

  • Linden West

    Linden West is Professor of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. He jointly coordinates a European life history and biographical research network and also works as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

  • John Field

CONTENTS: Foreword, by John Field; 1. The problems defined: The personal as political, and the political as personal; 2. Spaces of discontent, education, democracy and fundamentalism; 3. Distress in the city: connecting big and intimate worlds; 4. A power to illuminate: Auto/biographical narrative research; 5. Abandonment: The state of the estate; 6. Disrespect and political education for the jihad; 7. The History Man and 'an experiment in democratic education'; 8. The Autodidacts; 9. Resources of hope? Raymond Williams, the WEA and universities; 10. Resources of hope: Lidice shall live and a local education curriculum; 11. Beyond the fragments: Distress, recognition and a democratic education; References; Index.

'We recommend this book to anyone concerned with democracy, education, diversity, inclusion, and emancipatory politics. Assign it to your students; share it with colleagues who blame White working-class people for our current political climate; and allow it to inspire you to explore the history of resistance whereever you are.

Celina V. Tchida and Behrang Foroughi, Arizona State University, USA, Adult Education Quarterly, Vol 67, Issue 3

'In this brilliant and prescient book, Linden West, explores the ways in which people make, and are not just made by, history. ... West does much to reclaim ‘ordinary people’s role in civic and cultural renewal, in creating new forms of localism – in which character, responsibility, vocation and hope can thrive’ (p. 166). This book is a call to us all to ‘take more tea together and think hard about a workable multiculturalism, so as to understand and nurture our shared humanity and the value of difference while thinking seriously about ways of life that may trouble and divide us’ (p. 180).'

Sharon Clancy, University of Nottingham, UK, International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol 35, Issue 2, pages 1-3

'[Linden West] seeks messages of hope from attempts by people to work together and recognise common aims and aspirations in the kind of civic renewal which is firmly based on communal values. He echoes the view of Richard Tawney that democracy is “unstable” where merely political. It must, for harmony and social health, be connected to every element of community life.

It is a powerful message, deserving of wide distribution and considered response.

It is a very necessary updated version of what Richard Tawney earlier and Michael Young later in the last century fought to achieve.'

Eric Midwinter, Third Age Matters, Spring 2016

'Linden West’s important book argues that "democratic education" – "informal and lifewide" – offers a unique antidote to the present toxicity of the rise of racism and fundamentalism, asking what the conditions are that allow humans to flourish. This case study, informed by a depth of historical knowledge, weaves personal experience with a wide range of stories of others to create a multi-layered portrait of Stoke-on-Trent, "the most working class city in England" and a site of growing turmoil. Written in an engaging style, this is at once a scholarly and immensely engaging work, leading the reader to a place of imagining new possibilities, based on civic renewal – a glimmer of hope in hard times.'

Molly Andrews, Professor of Political Psychology, University of East London

‘What a terrific book! In this timely and urgently needed work, Linden West draws on his rich experience working with narrative to explore how people learn ideologies of representative democracy and white supremacy and the ways in which these interrupt the possibility of loving relationships. Both deeply personal and replete with implications for fostering human communication, this is a must-read for anyone alarmed at the spread of totalitarianism, the extension of racism and the loss of democracy.’

Stephen Brookfield, John Ireland Endowed Chair, University of St. Thomas