The article aims to contribute to the sociological theory of the welfare state by addressing a fundamental puzzle of social policy, namely, the weakness of its claim to be a rational effort of society dealing with problems of social integration. Drawing on the work of Franz-Xaver Kaufmann, I distinguish between the cultural or ideational side of the welfare state and the social engineering or outcome side, arguing to take the rhetoric and symbolism of social policy more seriously. The integration of society is more due to the communicative action of social policy than to its organizational quality. As early as the axial age civilizations, symbolism and ideology emerged as an autonomous field of social conflict and societal union. Taking ancient Israel as an example, I argue that societal integration may take place even in the absence of strong institutional correlates of social politics. This can help to explain why the welfare state in modern society is compatible with ever-increasing economic and social inequality.
The Logic of Welfare
Religious and Sociological Foundations of Social Policy Rationality
The article addresses the relationship between party systems and welfare state regimes in Europe. It argues that the European party systems show a systematic variation with respect to the electoral success of communist parties – which is argued to be related to the intensity of past conflicts between the nation-state and the Catholic Church in the mono-confessional countries of Europe's south. The article presents empirical evidence for the manifestation of the pro-clerical/anti-clerical cleavage in the party systems of Southern Europe and sketches the consequences for the political economy of these countries. The article demonstrates the impact of religious cleavages (rather than the conflict between capital and labor) on the shape of social policy in a country. The Southern European variety of the welfare state differs markedly from the Continental and Northern European varieties, with fragmented and particularistic provisions, decentralized occupation-based social security, strong insider-outsider cleavages and a weak state. This testifies to the broad range of meanings the "social" may assume.
The Rise of the "Global Social"
Origins and Transformations of Social Rights under UN Human Rights Law
The article explores how national social policy ideas and UN-sponsored international social rights interrelate, historically and recently. Based on UN documents of the 1940s and 1950s, the article argues that UN-sponsored social rights – the "global social" – originally did not primarily reflect welfare statism (as taken for granted today), but drew on competing ideas (liberal welfare statism, developmental thinking, socialism). Based on an analysis of the state reports under the Social Covenant from 1977 to 2011, the article also argues that the states' reading of the UN social rights became more homogeneous over time. Only from the 1990s did essentials of welfare statism spread globally. This recent reading of the "global social" focuses on poverty and basic rights, such as the right to food and housing, with instruments like social assistance and measures enabling access to health services, education and land. The article draws on a global database of UN documents created by the author.
The Global Career of an Idea
This special issue assembles contributions from the global North and South to inquire into the future of the “social” from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on sociology, political science and law. What does “social” mean, and do social policy and the welfare state have a future in a global age? The issue is published on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Franz-Xaver Kaufmann, who is considered the doyen of the sociology of social policy in Germany (see his recent books, translated into English, Kaufmann 2012, 2013a, 2013b).
Welfare Systems in Europe and the United States
Conservative Germany Converging toward the Liberal US Model?
This article demonstrates how the Conservative system of social protection in Germany has been converging toward the Liberal American model during the past two decades, focusing on social protection for the unemployed and pensioners. In addition to public/statutory provisions, occupational welfare is also covered. Despite an overall process of convergence, we continue to witness stark dissimilarities in the arrangements for social protection outsiders: whereas Germany continues to constitutionally guarantee a legal entitlement to minimum social protection for all citizens, such a guarantee does not exist in the United States. The lack of such legal entitlement for poor people of working age, combined with the criminalization of the "dangerous class," is a key differentiating characteristic of the US model at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The findings confirm but also qualify Franz-Xaver Kaufmann's analysis of the United States as "capitalism," which lacks collective welfare responsibility for all citizens, as compared to Germany's "welfare state."
Analyzing Societal Circumstances, Sustainability and Sustainable Urban Development
New Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
Laurent J.G. van der Maesen
This article reviews the development of social quality indicators and the challenges ahead. First, through a review of recent Asian and Australian work carried out on social quality indicators, and the World Bank related work on “social development indicators,” the article argues that social quality indicators research should move beyond the empirical level of particular policy areas. Therefore, it should be guided by a clear methodological perspective regarding the role of indicators as part of a social quality theory (SQT) and their relation to the social quality approach (SQA). Second, the article opens a debate about the rationale behind distinguishing between three different functions of social quality indicators. Indicators should address the change in the conditional factors in daily life, as manifested in its economic, socio-political, socio-cultural and environmental dimensions, in order to examine the consequences of general trends and contradictions in (1) societal circumstances, (2) the development (or lack of development) toward sustainability, and (3) the related issue of sustainable urban development. Before 2010 social quality scholars mainly concentrated on the first issue. Recently, however, they are approaching all three issues. It is essential to delve deeper into SQT and the SQA for understanding these three issues separately and integrally. This has implications for the nature of social quality indicators and their comparison to those of other mainstream approaches; the article introduces this agenda of work.
For a decade, the issue of sustainable development has been highlighted in international social policy debates and development studies. In order to ensure and increase the level of social quality, various societies struggle to achieve sustainable growth, with different policy measures in dissimilar circumstances of policy making. For some societies, including the European states, to ensure sustainability of welfare state systems is the primary task of government (especially after the financial crisis in the late 2000s), and in other cases, such as in Russia and the Southeast Asian states, economic growth (accompanied by sustainability, as is hoped) is the main concern. Several key issues are involved in this, such as sustainable economic growth, welfare finance, environmental policy and overall sustainability of society. The articles included in this issue of IJSQ touch on different aspects of the “sustainable growth” issue.
Risks of Society Stability and Precarity of Employment
A Look at Russia
Vyacheslav Nikolayevitch Bobkov, Olesya Veredyuk, and Ulvi Aliyev
This article exposes criterial bases of the development of social quality in the USSR and Russia. The causes of the increased volatility of the state-monopoly capitalism emerging in Russia from the 1990s and in the first decade of the twenty-first century are analyzed. Characteristics of social quality such as a high proportion of low-paid employees, a low standard of living and a high economic inequality are considered. The impact of the precarity of employment on these processes is demonstrated. Risk factors of precarity of employment such as type of labor contract, form of employment, working conditions and wages (in particular, volatility and discreteness of payments) are analyzed. The evaluation of scale of the precarity of employment in the formal sector in Russia is made; the distribution of workers in precarity of employment by kinds of economic activity and the deviation of their average wages are introduced. Overcoming the instability of development is linked to the transition to a society of people-humanistic socialism.
One of the principal means by which state management of rapid economic development has been attempted in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has been the creation and maintenance of special economic zones (SEZs). The purpose of SEZs is to encourage domestic and international investment in specific areas to promote mainly export-oriented manufacturing. They have been created in large numbers in Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan Province of China, and they are being built across Cambodia, Laos and now Myanmar. Negative effects, such as pollution and the forcible clearances of people, are balanced by the provision of new jobs and better income-generating opportunities for people and their families. SEZs in the GMS are being increasingly drawn together by the large-scale creation of the Asian Highway Network, in addition to investment by domestic governments and by capital from Chinese corporations and the state. The creation of these linkages will have additional changes on the economic geography of the region and on the distribution of the factors leading to uneven development. This article seeks to identify the social and human implications of the spread of SEZs across the GMS. It seeks to draw together conclusions that lead to recommendations for public policy that will reduce the risks that people will face as a result.
The Socio-political Bases of Willingness to Join Environmental NGOs 57 in China
A Study in Social Cohesion
This article examines willingness to join China's emerging green movement through an analysis of data from the China General Social Survey of 2006. A question asked about environmental NGO membership shows that while only 1 percent of respondents claim to be members of an environmental NGO, more than three-fifths say they would like to join one in future if there is an opportunity, slightly less than one-fifth reject the idea and the remainder are “don't knows.” The article tests explanations of willingness to join based on instrumentality, ideology, social identity and social capital networks. It finds that instrumental considerations dominate, although ideology, identity and networks contribute incrementally. The conclusion considers the usefulness of willingness to join as an indicator of social cohesion within the framework of a wider effort to evaluate social quality.