Article

Middle-Class Political Activism and Middle-Class Advantage in Relation to Public Services: A Realist Synthesis of the Evidence Base

Citation

Matthews P & Hastings A (2013) Middle-Class Political Activism and Middle-Class Advantage in Relation to Public Services: A Realist Synthesis of the Evidence Base. Social Policy and Administration, 47 (1), pp. 72-92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2012.00866.x

Abstract
Since the late 1960s social policy scholarship has been concerned with the distribution of the resources or benefits across social gradients. This article presents a review of the literature on one mechanism by which inequity might be produced - activism by middle-class service-users enabling them to capture a disproportionate share of resources. The review used the methodology of realist synthesis to bring together evidence from the UK, the USA and Scandinavian countries over the past 30 years. The aim was to construct a ‘middle-theory' to understand how and in which contexts collective and individual activity by middle-class service-users might produce inequitable resource allocation or rationing decisions that disproportionately benefit middle-class service-users. The article identifies four causal theories which nuance the view that it is the ‘sharp elbows' of the middle-classes which confer advantage on this group. It shows how advantage accrues via the interplay between service-users, providers and the broader policy and social context.

Keywords
Inequality; Middle-classes; Activism; Public services; Realist synthesis

Journal
Social Policy and Administration: Volume 47, Issue 1

StatusPublished
Publication date28/02/2013
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/20838
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
ISSN0144-5596