The concept of ‘evil’ appears to have led many people to look beyond commonly discussed social problems such as drugs, poverty or social exclusion, to express more fundamental, less tangible fears about the nature of society and how it is changing. The debate about contemporary social evils did not reveal any strong discomfort with modernity, or nostalgic desire to go back in time. Inviting contemporary views of social evil risked, as one commentator put it, ‘swimming in a sea of social pessimism’. Notwithstanding, the additional difficulties that the recession has created in people's lives, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)'s inquiry into the nature of social evil demonstrates a desire to grapple with difficult issues, a commitment to identify the common good in shaping a better society and a passionate conviction that the unsustainable present offers an unreliable route map for the future.
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