Social Quality – opening individual well-being for a social perspective Presentation on the Annual Conference of the Social Policy Association, June 2005, Bath



Download 99.86 Kb.
Date conversion09.05.2016
Size99.86 Kb.
Peter Herrmann1

Social Quality – opening individual well-being for a social perspective
Presentation on the Annual Conference of the Social Policy Association, June 2005, Bath

Introduction


Point of departure is the thesis that a clear understanding of the social vanished from social science itself. Over time, the interpretation of social and individual developed into a direction that confronts the two as two distinct areas, relating as mutually external «faits sociaux» and «faits individuels». Moreover, individuals are seen as the actual «core» of life, confronted with a society which is a seemingly superior power. The following presentation tries to oppose such a position, claiming that individual and social can fundamentally be grasped as constitutive entity. Furthermore, it is by taking such a relational view that we can understand the social – and its quality – as distinct from interactions.

Background


It is easy to start with the common crisis-scenario:

* desintegrating societies in which individuals are more and more isolated



* ineffective socio-politics,

  • consisting of a system of political decisions which are shattered, not following any integrated approach

  • consisting at the same time, however, of arrogant decisions makers, presuming that they would have overview and right to «know what is the best for the people» by following scientific advisors, pursuing an «evidence-based approach»

* finally, uncertain scientists who are in danger of getting lost

  • in an overwhelming flood of data – be they quantitative or qualitative – data that divert evidence rather than founding action

  • by answering the increasing knowledge of complexity with a decreasing willingness to decision-taking.
    Niklas Luhmann’s dictum that Everything is possible but there is nothing I can do about turns into Everything is possible and it is actually done, everything can be proved by reality, so there is no certainty of knowledge.

In consequence, life, politics/policies (and even polities) and scientific work loose more and more integrity and coherence.

However, at the same time the old question is still decisive – namely how is society possible? How is society despite all these mechanism, fundamentally pointing on disintegration, possible? The basic proposal here is that current social policy lacks a proper meta-theoretical approach to deal with the question.


Modernisation – different perspectives on rationalisation


Modernisation is, of course, first and foremost a social and societal mechanism – independent of the material circumstances that had been the natural spring of such a process. What basically took place – and this is of course only a very short characterisation of a very complex process – was a process of rationalisation. Though aiming on gaining an insight into the complexity of society – the claim of humanist enlightenment – the rationalisation which actually took place was concerned with an increasing mechanisation and «technologisation» – obviously following the needs as they had been based in the objective interest of a bourgeoisie for whom enlightenment was understood as «protestantisation» of the world as it had been particularly described by Max Weber. The «good» as it is underlying Kantian imperative had been reduced on what it was: a voluntarist concept of trying to overcome the inherent factors of a materially and religiously disintegrating world. The completion of instrumentalist reason had not been anything else than the scientific reflection of a soci(et)al development that had been based on the isolated individual. In short: society lost the social out of sight – and consequently social science did so as well. Much later Marcus talked about this process as eclipse of reason.

It is not the goal of this presentation to recapitulate the research and debate on individualisation which is going back much further than the more or less recent revivals as we can find them for instance in the debates on post-modernism. Rather, this presentation is aiming on defining the social in a positive approach and understanding its constitution. I refer to the work of the Foundation on Social Quality, a Foundation which can be seen as an academic think tank of which the goal is to contribute by academic debate and work in different projects to the development of a new social policy. Despite of aiming at influencing the academic debate, the Foundation tries as well to lobby national and in particular European policy making. Of course we argue in particular against the orientation on social policy as subordinate of economic development.


Challenges set by setting «Well-being and Social Justice» as core for Social Policy


A major issue of today’s social science – and this is well reflected in the overall title of this conference – is the concern with issues of life styles and life situations, well-being, quality of life, social quality etc. And of course, there cannot be any doubt about the importance of such apprehension as it is finally the individual – as citizen with full rights or as person who is excluded from mainstream society – who is at the centre stage of social policy. It is his/her life who shapes by demands, needs and political activities of social policy and who is meant to be the «target» of any measures. However, life styles, living situations and life circumstances and well-being are highly individualist concepts. This is even true if we admit that they are admittedly concerned with the localisation of the individual in a «social context». The unanswered challenge is that the social is not only assumed. In addition, it is indirectly defined as an external entity, not needing a clear definition nor actually being constituted as part of this process.

Now, we could recently see in very blunt terms the consequences of such a social state that tries first to establish itself and thereafter «constituting» itself as a political entity – public opinion showed not only by the French Non and Dutch Nej regarding the suggested EU-constitution but as well in polls throughout the Union a widespread reservations regarding a constitution which had been by and large elaborated by a minority, not being with social quality.


Constituting the Social – Understanding Concerns around Well-Being and Social Justice Better


The rejection of the EU-Constitution is only one example from contemporary politics, showing the problems of social policy that does not have an understanding of the social as central point of reference. Surely, the weak position of «social policy» was an important issue, resulting in the rejection in France and The Netherlands. Many other concerns, sometimes concerned with only small issues, can be summarised under the heading of lacking democracy and accountability.

However, the thesis here is that such an interpretation is reductionist. Looking more closely at the debates we can employ the following methodological tool to understand the process. I emphasise again that this is only an example taken because of its topical stance – the background of the presentation is the interest in the meta-methodological framework for social (policy) research.

Looking at this example we can see that the actual process of European integration is only concerned with a very limited approach. I do not mean what is frequently issued as the predominance of «economic policies» and subsequently the neglect of «social policies». Such a lack of balance is only a symptom. The following pictures suggest a more complex framework for analysing the constitution of the social.

First we are concerned with Objective Factors and the Interaction of Constituting the Social.





Objective Factors and the Interaction of Constituting the Social
At least for these objective factors there are rather clear definitions established by the work of the Foundation. As well, indicators had been elaborated. Although these are to some extent tentative the following gives an overview:

Socio-economic security


is the degree to which people have command over material and immaterial resources over time in the context of social relations.

Domains

Sub-domains

Work

"workfare", employment security, quality of employment

Financial security

social security, income, dependence on income support

Housing

quality of housing, affordability, quality of environment

Health

quality of health & care services, lifestyle, physical and mental health

Education

levels and distribution of education and skills

Social Networks

dependence on family, friends and charity

Time

time spent on care (unpaid work), travel time

Social Inclusion


is the degree to which people are and feel integrated in the different social relations (systems, institutions, organisations and structures) that constitute everyday life.

Domains

Sub-domains

Citizenship rights

constitutional/political rights, social rights, civil rights

Labour market

access to paid employment, quality of employment

Public services

health services, transport, commercial facilities, leisure services

Social Networks

friendships, neighbourhood participation, family life

Cohesion


is the strength of social relations between people (including networks) which are a function of the integration of the integration between integrative norms and values (including trust and solidarity) in society.

Domains

Sub-domains

Trust

generalised trust, specific trust

Integrative norms and values

altruism, justice, commonality and reciprocity

Social networks

horizontal network, vertical networks, cross-cutting ties

Identity

national/European, regional/community/local interpersonal

Empowerment


is concerned with the means and processes necessary for people to be capable of actively participating in social relations and actively influencing the immediate and more distant social and physical environment.

Domains

Sub-domains

Personal Capability and relationships

general and political knowledge, access to information, availability of advice and guidance, job flexibility. "compensating socialisation", personal relationships

Civic rights

availability of access points, openness of community towards new organisations ..., openness for "unorganised" action

Accessibility of the institutional system/civic control

electoral system and political accessibility, material independence of accessibility pf political system, availability of services supporting physical and social independence

However, these have to be seen in a wider context, allowing for an interaction not only in a circular mode. In addition to these factors, we have to take the Subjective Factors and the Interaction of Constituting the Social into account.




Subjective Factors and the Interaction of Constituting the Social

The Debate on the European Constitution as an Example


If we apply these two sets of constitutional factors as methodological framework for analysing contemporary debates on the EU-constitutional draft we can easily see the reductionist approach on two levels, namely

* the draft document itself and then

* the way how the document had been elaborated.

The following matrix is a first step, marking the individualist approach of the underlying definition of well-being and social justice as it is employed. First, we are looking at the role, the various factors that plaid a role during the Convent while drafting the constitution. As such it means to investigate the process side of the draft.



The following table gives some impression. The relevance of the actual realisation of the dimension for constituting social quality is here – and as well in the following table – marked by a scale from «+5» (highest relevance) to«-5» (lowest relevance). Here, «0» does not mean neutrality but is marking the beginning of a «counterproductive grade». The assessment here is purely subjective, i.e. based on my personal judgement. The assessment has a tentative character. Further elaboration would be possible by strictly applying the indicators as they had been mentioned before.

Objective and Subjective Factors

Elaboration of Constitution = Constitutional Process

Consi-dered?

Comment

SQ-Relevance

Socio-Economic Security

No

Materially securing the participants during the process of negotiating the constitution had been limited to the members of the political bodies – this is as well true for the participation of representatives of NGOs who could take part «on their own expenses».

-2

Social Inclusion

Yes

Inclusion of «various interest groups» into the negotiations took place. However, these groups did not have full rights in the overall structure.

+2

Social Cohesion

Yes

Inclusion of «various interest groups» into the negotiations. However, these groups did not have the full rights though the rights could be extended over time at least in terms of gaining indirect political influence.

0

Empowerment

No

Empowerment played only a marginal role and as far as it played a role at all this had been «empowerment of the anyway empowered».

-1

Participation

Yes

Though limited on non-representative actors who had at most an advocacy role (from outside).

0

Responsiveness

No

Despite limited concessions in very broad terms

-2

Social Justice

Yes

With reference to general values and on a mostly declarative level

0

Social Recognition

Yes

At least on a verbal, non-obliging level; mainly concerned with anyway recognised status, led by formal lobbying procedures

+1

Result

0/-2



Objective and Subjective Factors

Envisaged Constitutional Reality = Constitutional Status

Consi-dered?

Comment

SQ-Relevance

Socio-Economic Security

Yes

Considered as employment and employment related social protection – highly commodified

+2

Social Inclusion

Yes

As workfare and antidiscrimination

0

Social Cohesion

No

Despite approaches on the macro level. However, on the micro level, i.e. in the national perspective we find increasing disparities = decreasing cohesion

Despite some marginal acknowledgement of SGIs



-2

Empowerment

No

Any relevant policy areas remain in the realm of the member states; relevance of programme policies and Method of Open Co-ordination is questionable

-4

Participation

Yes

Inclusion of article on participative democracy

0

Responsiveness

No

Democratic structures are built into the institutional structure (EP, COR, ECOSOC, participative democracy). However, they are still too weak in terms 0f securing a strong democratic and social system and process.

+2

Social Justice

Yes

As antidiscrimination, mainly employment related

0

Social Recognition

No

Taking for instance ECOSOC, recognition of social groups is based on formal parity and remains largely without influence

-4




+2/-6

In both schemes, those areas that are in mainstream debates considered as particularly relevant for well-being and social justice in a limited approach are highlighted in red. If we take the assessments in these areas we arrive at relatively high scores in terms of a calculable Social-Quality Relevance Index, namely 0 and +2 respectively. However, if we include the wider perspective of the social quality approach, the result is much lower, and adds up to -2 and -6 respectively.






Well-being and Social Justice Approaches

Social Quality Approach

Elaboration of Constitution = Constitutional Process

0

-2

Envisaged Constitutional Reality = Constitutional Status

+2

-6

Admittedly, the empirical basis of the presentation here is rather weak. It would be necessary to modify and apply the indicators that had been developed in the ENIQ-research (European Network on Indicators of Social Quality). However, the Foundation on Social Quality just concluded a major EU-funded project on social indicators, looking for indicators that reflect the different constitutional factors – these had been documented before. It had been a first approach and over time it will be extended. Another shortfall of this presentation is surely that the individual dimensions are approached as that, i.e. individual dimensions. In a more complex approach we would have to consider the interconnections of the factors.

Although the discussion within the Foundation is by far not concluded, the following graph is just one proposal which may be useful in this regard.



It brings together the two quadrangles presented before. And further debate has to show if and how far we can establish exact links between the factors. For the time being it is suggested that we have the constitutional factors, again i.e.

* socio-economic security,

* social inclusion,

* social cohesion,

* empowerment

as objective factors and

* participation

* responsiveness

* social justice

* social recognition

as subjective factors. Both, objective and subjective factors are constitutive for social quality as they both dialectically constitute societal and biographical development. At the same time, they constitute each other in a way that objective and subjective factors dialectically interact.


Social Policy Conclusion


The foregoing wants to make from another angle clear that a simplified measurement of well-being and social justice, reducing them to the status of individuals, is extremely limited. As valuable as results may be in certain regards and as useful as they may be for informing ad-hoc policies, they largely fail as soon as it comes to conceptualising policies in the sense of fundamentally shaping society. Actually, attempts to measure well-being are largely reduced on managerialist social policy and social management approaches. They aim on regulating relations between individuals and at most certain groups. However, by and large there is at most only a very limited understanding of what the social actually is. Taking a wider approach as it is proposed by the social quality approach allows

* to develop a clearer understanding of well-being by genuinely integrating objective and subjective factors

* to develop and influence social policy in a way that actually focuses on shaping «social order» rather than establishing an utilitarian approach to it,

* finally, the concept of class relationship is maintained and importantly extended from a concept of status to a dynamic aspect of society and social settings – it is important here that the «human as shaping his/her own history» is highlighted by such an approach.

Consequently, the Social Quality Approach is capable to serve as instrument to analyse life-situations and processes as well as supply situation, all in their immediate links to social and societal formations. Moreover, the foregoing debates show that the SQA can as well be used to assess political processes. This culminates in the definition of social quality as the extent to which people are able to participate in the social-economic, cultural, juridical and political life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potentials for contributing to societal development as well.

Peter Herrmann, Brugge, Belgium; June 2005



_______________________

Institute for independent Research

The Jasnaja Poljana, Aghabullogue, Ireland



herrmann@esosc.org




1 The following is based on the involvement in the work of the European Foundation on Social Quality for which I work now for some time as senior advisor. Some of the definitions and statements are taken from working documents, some of them having tentative character. So I have to acknowledge the work by the colleagues from the Foundation, in particular from Laurent van der Maesen. However, the responsibility is entirely with me.


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page