When scores of student activists converged on Parliament Square to protest against tuition fees, organised through social networks and through parent groups like UK Uncut and the NUS, we were given a glimpse of what the Big Society's vision of autonomous, self-organising communities might look like. It was not a particularly edifying sight, what with the criminal damage and the violence, yet for David Cameron the Big Society remains his mission in politics.
Strange then that – some smart, slow-burn work from Cabinet Office ministers Francis Maude and Nick Hurd on growing the social investment market aside – evangelists of this agenda have been all but silent on its relevance to the most important issue of our time: economic growth.
The irony of the student opposition to all things Tory, and therefore the Big Society, is that many – but crucially not all – Big Society evangelists share their view of economic growth. They form a group I call the Moralisers. The Moralisers believe that there is something profoundly wrong with a society that demands nothing but growth, and favour wholesale abandonment of the pro-growth agenda, in lieu of a wellbeing or happiness-based mindset.