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Durham University

St Cuthbert's Society


Publication details

Warren, Jon (2017). “The way things get done around here…” Exploring spatial biographies, social policy and governance in the North East of England. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 37(11/12): 655-666.

Author(s) from Durham


The purpose of this paper is to argue that the application of social policy in the North East of England is often characterised by tension and conflict. The agencies and professionals charged with implementation of Westminster driven policies constantly seek to deploy their knowledge of local conditions in order to make them both practical and palatable.

This paper examines the region via established literature from history, geography, sociology and social policy. The paper gives illustrations via empirical work which has evaluated initiatives to improve the health of long term health-related benefit recipients and to sustain individuals in employment in the region.

Central to the paper’s argument is the notion of “biographies of place”. The core of this idea is that places have biographies in the same way as individuals and possess specific identities. These biographies have been shaped by the intersections between environment, history, culture and economic and social policy. The paper identifies the region’s economic development, subsequent decline and the alliance of labour politics and industrial employers around a common consensus that sought economic prosperity and social progress via a vision of “modernisation” as a key component of this biography.

The paper argues that an appreciation of these spatial biographies can result in innovative and more effective social policy interventions with the potential to address issues that affect entire localities.