A guest post by David McKendrick (Lecturer in Social Work, Glasgow Caledonian University) and Jo Finch (Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of East London)
The British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron regularly invokes the notion of “common sense” as a means of explanation or resolution to a variety of complex social issues; from referring to a Supreme Court judgment that denied prisoners’ voting rights, as a “victory for common-sense” (Morris, 2013), calling for “an urgent outbreak of common sense” (More Bridger, 2014) when discussing the arrest and imprisonment of the parents of Ashya King, a seriously ill child removed without medical consent from a British hospital in 2014; describing an EU court ruling on benefit tourism as “simple common-sense” (BBC, 2014) and of importance to this debate, urging social workers to use “common-sense” when dealing with child abuse (Holeman, 2015). As it can be seen, Cameron and his government regularly invoke “common sense” but rarely is it qualified. Rather, there is an assumption that everyone shares the same understanding, as it so obviously simple, and so recognizable and universally agreed upon, that it does not merit qualification. Indeed, this seems a key ingredient in what we previously referred to as “thin narratives” (McKendrick and Finch, 2016), using simplistic and anxiety provoking narratives to explain complex social phenomena.