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Welfare after Growth

Theoretical Discussion and Policy Implications

Max Koch

The article discusses approaches to welfare under no-growth conditions and against the background of the growing significance of climate change as a socio-ecological issue. While most governments and scholars favor “green deal” solutions for tackling the climate crisis, a growing number of discussants are casting doubt on economic growth as the answer to it and have provided empirical evidence that the prospects for globally decoupling economic growth and carbon emissions are very low indeed. These doubts are supported by recent contributions on happiness, well-being and alternative measures of measuring prosperity, which indicate that individual and social welfare is by no means equivalent to GDP growth. If the requirements of prosperity and welfare go well beyond material sustenance, then approaches that aim to conceptualize welfare under the circumstances of a “stable state economy” become more relevant. A qualitatively different environmental and welfare policy governance network would need to integrate the redistribution of carbon emissions, work, time, income and wealth. Since social policies will be necessary to address the emerging inequalities and conflicts, this article considers the roles that the various “no-growth” approaches dedicate to social policy and welfare instruments.

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Can Information and Communications Technology Enhance Social Quality?

Claire Wallace

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) open up the possibility of new forms of relationship and engagement, which form part of the sociality of modern society, leading some to characterize this as a transition to an "information society", a "network society", or a "third industrial revolution". This has implications for Social Quality, especially in terms of social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. Drawing upon recent research we find that ICTs have added new dimensions to social life in ways that go beyond the original formulations of the digital divide. Conversely, Social Quality can also add important insights into our understanding of the relationship between society and technology. The article argues that discussions of Social Quality should take these dimensions into account.

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Introduction

Samantha B. Meyer, Paul R. Ward, and Raymond K. H. Chan

It gives us great pleasure to introduce this special issue of the International Journal of Social Quality. This special issue features empirical papers from Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. The data presented in this special issue originate from a large cross-cultural research project investigating social quality across six Asia-Pacific societies: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

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Investigating Australians' Trust

Findings from a National Survey

Samantha B. Meyer, Tini C. N. Luong, Paul R. Ward, George Tsourtos, and Tiffany K. Gill

Trust has been identified as an indicator within Social Quality theory. As an important component of social quality, trust has become increasingly important in modern society because literature suggests that trust in a number of democratic countries is declining. Modern technologies and specialties are often beyond the understanding of lay individuals and thus, the need for trusting relations between lay individuals and organizations/individuals has grown. The purpose of the study was to examine the extent to which Australians (dis)trust individuals and organizations/institutions. A national postal survey was conducted with 1,044 respondents recruited using the electronic white pages directory. Findings from multivariate analyses suggest that income, age, sex, and health status are associated with trust in groups of individuals and trust in organizations/institutions. The findings highlight populations where trust needs to be (re)built. Future government policy and practice should utilize these findings as a means of facilitating social quality.

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Social Capital and Civic Engagement in Urban China

Kang Hu and Raymond K. H. Chan

Promoting civic engagement could be a way of strengthening the social solidarity of China's urban population. The drastic socio-economic changes resulting from recent economic reform are likely to have a deleterious effect on social solidarity. Based on a survey conducted in 2010 in the Southern China city of Xiamen, this paper examines a specific form of civic engagement - citizen cooperation - to resolve community problems, and assesses its relationship with social capital. The study reveals that discrepancies in the level of civic engagement exist among urban residents and that inequality of social capital plays a significant role in these discrepancies. The findings suggest that such gaps could be addressed by increasing social capital, especially by expanding residents' personal community networks.

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Social Exclusion Experiences of Atypical Workers

A Case Study of Taipei

Fen-ling Chen and Shih-Jiunn Shi

Since the late 1990s, the dynamics of welfare reform in Taiwan have gradually shifted to tackling new social risks emerging from economic globalization and labor market changes. This article analyzes these structural changes and the relevant institutional features of the labor market. The rise of atypical work has generated wide concern regarding its low wage income and insufficient social protection, triggering debates about which policy measures can effectively tackle the problem of the working poor. Drawing on the quantitative data from a social quality survey conducted by the Social Policy Research Center in National Taiwan University (NTUSPRC) in 2009, our analysis explores the social exclusion differences between regular and atypical workers for their objective and subjective experiences. The objective experiences include current financial situations, negative events, living conditions and political activities of the workers, whereas the subjective experiences refer to their feelings in family position, welfare assessment, discrimination, and autonomy. Our analysis helps explain the effects of work status on the degrees of social exclusion, both in the private and public spheres. The social exclusion experiences of working conditions shed light on social quality in Asia.

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Social Inclusion in Southern Border Provinces of Thailand

Surasit Vajirakachorn

This study was aimed at appraising the overall situation of social inclusion in the three southern border provinces of Thailand as well as comparing the results with the national level. The results of the analyses revealed significant difference between the social inclusion situation in the southern border provinces and the overall situation of the whole country in terms of last election voting rate; discrimination experienced because of social status, physical handicap, age, sexual harassment, gender, nationality, among others. Priority is given to Thai students over immigrant students in college admission, and there is less chance of an immigrant becoming CEO of a Thai company. Opinions on the inequality between men and women are surveyed, such as who would be better political leaders, who could study at the university level, and who make better business executives. It also refers to the experience of difficulty in using public transport, and experience in using social care facilities for their household members.

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Trust and Social Cohesion, the Key to Reconcile Thailand's Future

Thawilwadee Bureekul and Stithorn Thananithichot

Research from various countries demonstrates that trust builds social cohesion and conflicts may be solved as a result. Many alternatives for reconciliation in various countries have been studied and introduced to Thailand. However, the implementation of a reconciliation policy in Thailand seems to be impossible without having the atmosphere of peace building and specifically, trust building. This study aims to measure trust and discuss factors that may be problematic for establishing social cohesion, explaining why the process of reconciliation cannot be successful without trust building. The data from the Social Quality survey conducted by King Prajadhipok's Institute in late 2009 was used. This study finds that Thai society is still fragile because of the decreasing trust among people as well as confidence in various institutions, particularly political institutions.

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Economic Performance, Social Progress and Social Quality

Peter Herrmann

This article concerns challenges arising from the development of economic globalization as the so-called “creator of a new world order“ and its tendency to deteriorate the foundation of a global order in terms of social justice, solidarity, and human dignity. As main point of referral functions, the report of the "Commission Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi" on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress that refers to the European Commission's strategy of development, acknowledges the need for these values. On behalf of this reflection, this article is based on the recent outcomes of the exploration of these social quality issues in a recent published book by the Foundation on Social Quality. The article argues that indicators are needed in order to understand the effects of societal changes in response to the current economic globalization, which increases inequality and the fragmentation of the labor market.

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Editorial

The social quality theory developed over a decade has run into new subject areas of discussion in accordance with the changed international climate of academic debates. Ten years ago, the main focus of these debates was located on the themes of welfare state vs. welfare society, social policy vs. economic policy, and the individual concerns vs. “the social”; the continuous work on the foundation of this theory has led to new issues including sustainability, social innovation, and urban development entering the debate. With regard to the sustainability issue, for instance, the Rio conference of 2012 on human sustainability offered a global forum for experts and policymakers to analyze societal trends and related challenges. These developments provide a new driving force for the social quality theory to move into new directions. This issue of IJSQ includes several articles that reflect this development.