During the preparation of this issue of the International Journal of Social Quality, the authors were confronted with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This event thoroughly transcends the issue of the health of people as such. It affects almost all living conditions and the all-encompassing challenge of the sustainability of human life on earth, including flora and fauna. An emerging hypothesis is that pandemics like this one are partly determined by the nature of the current modern ways of life, which drastically disturb the balance of ecological systems. Inevitably, citizens, policymakers, and scientists are confronted with extremely complex challenges that—logically—must be approached in comprehensive ways. In this issue, four articles are published that are—in preliminary form—connected with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Laurent J.G. van der Maesen
Evolutionary Thermodynamics and Theory of Social Quality as Links between Physics, Biology, and the Human Sciences
Jaap Westbroek, Harry Nijhuis, and Laurent van der Maesen
This article seeks to open a dialogue between physics, other natural sciences, and the human sciences. Part 1 questions time reversibility as a fundament of physics. This runs counter to the discourses of all other sciences, which do presume the irreversibility of time and the evolution of phenomena. Characteristics of evolution (time irreversibility, chance, evolvement of higher levels of organization) are explained according to the laws of thermodynamics. Evolutionary thermodynamics (ET) is launched as a new connecting concept. Part 2 explores interpretation of the human sciences in analogy with ET. Dialectical interaction between levels of organizational complexity is seen as a driving force in the evolution of nature, humans, and societies. The theory of social quality and the social quality approach (SQA) imply ontological (and epistemological) features with close affinity to elements of ET. Therefore, the SQA carries potentialities to stimulate border-crossing dialogue between the sciences.
Pathways to Empowerment
The Social Quality Approach as a Foundation for Person-Centered Interventions
Judith R. L. M. Wolf and Irene E. Jonker
A program for person-centered intervention—Pathways to Empowerment (PTE)—is indebted to the social quality approach (SQA), which has been developed as its scientific foundation. It provides comprehensive insight into all sorts of factors that have an impact on the quality of the daily lives of persons who have lost control in their lives. In this article, we describe what puzzles were encountered in this developmental process, specifically with regard to the constitutional factors of social quality, which are strongly linked to biographical development and personal agency and thus are the focal points of person-centered care. This part of the SQA seems less developed and researched. We describe how we have further developed the conceptualization of the constitutional factors and their dialectical relationships with the conditional factors into a practical structure for PTE. We make a case for the further development of the constitutional factors of the theory, specifically the concept of personal agency. A plea is made for reviewing the definition of social quality.
Urbanization and Sustainability after the COVID-19 Pandemic
This article explores the current scenario of urban agglomerations, drawing attention to the growth of population and the process of unruled urbanization that endangers the delicate balance between human settlements and the surrounding environment. It focuses on the heritage values as fundamental elements for a correct urban development and highlights the impacts that metropolises and megacities have on climate change and the effects on them produced by COVID-19. It then looks at the role that minor cities and towns play and the coming opportunity to revamp them using new technologies and connectivity corridors and to mitigate urbanization. It concludes by observing how complex urban problems must be faced with a comprehensive vision that is driven by the social quality approach and an engagement with the BRICS countries.
Editorial: Actual politics and the need of conceptual clarity
Laurent J.G. van der Maesen
The challenge of sustainability of all forms of life on this planet concerns directly the actors, agencies, and other forms of the sociopolitical/legal dimension of societies. This has been confirmed by all members of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in the past decade, who said to follow the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN (2015). As argued by Marco Ricceri (2019), with the Paris Agreement in mind, these member states presented a self-imposed and relevant assignment, which will or should function as their frame of reference. His analysis of the recent history of this platform was also based on the current characteristics of the social quality approach which also are relevant for this editorial (IASQ 2019).
Governing the Sun
The Challenges of Geoengineering
Klaus Radunsky and Tim Cadman
Governments have previously sought to reduce climate-change-inducing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere through mitigation and adaptation activities, with limited success. New approaches are being explored, such as negative emissions technologies, including carbon dioxide removal, as well as solar geoengineering, also known as solar radiation management, or modification. This article outlines these emerging technologies focusing on bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, and stratospheric aerosol injection, and explores some of the challenges they pose. Prevention of emissions and their reliable, safe, and environmentally benign removal remain the best options. Robust governance systems and a careful, unbiased, and knowledge-driven assessment of the risks of these emerging technologies are required before they are implemented any further.
Human Connection in the Light of the Writings of Karl Marx and Amartya Sen
An Investigation Using Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Manik Bandyopadhyay's Ekannoborti
This article uses Karl Marx's notions of alienation and antagonism to understand human connection, defined as the interrelationship between human beings that helps transcend self-interest and fosters the sense of solidarity. The Marxian notions are revisited using the works of Amartya Sen, particularly those on identity and violence. Sen's critique of rationality is discussed, invoking his notions of sympathy, antipathy, and commitment. The article uses two texts, Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Manik Bandyopadhyay's Ekannoborti, as vantage points to understand the key concepts of Marx and Sen. It then discusses the backgrounds of the authors and the political interpretations of their work and shows how the overriding importance ascribed to a particular identity may convolute the literary motivation of an author.
The Search for a Future Global Human Rights Agenda
Human rights debates seem to be a little bit in a dead end: on the one hand, taken for granted is defined diffusion of human rights; on the other there seems to be in permanent confrontation two incompatible positions, each of them suggesting the other side is in breach of the rules. One is the position that emphasizes the societal dimension of rights; on the other camp, we find those striving for what may be seen as a civic liberty interpretation This article shows that both positions miss a crucial challenge: both human rights theory and practice must be refocused and consider human rights as part of the process of society building, maintenance, and change.
The Socio-analytical Approach
Differences in International Scientific Discourses
The debate on precarization in Germany is, on the one hand, based on the French discussion, it is, on the other hand, oriented toward German models of discourse, which leads to different focuses and objectives. Even if in German contexts the poverty situation and unqualified workers are the main topics of discussion, the French debate on precarization with or following Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Castel, and Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello focuses on precarization as a restructuring of labor relations. In this respect, a change of vectors is taking place here, which sets different priorities. Differences in the classifications result from the different “theoretical localizations,” which are investigated based on the German-French understanding of sociology and are concretized in relation to the problem of precarization.
The Wall, the Ban, and the Objectification of Women
Has “Uncle Sam” Learned any Lessons from “Typhoid Mary?”
Amani Othman and William W. Darrow
Discrimination against women and other vulnerable groups prevailed throughout the twentieth century; it persists today. This historical case study analyzes the life and times of “Typhoid Mary,” an unmarried, Irish Catholic, immigrant woman who was persecuted as an intransigent carrier of a deadly infectious disease. Being a Mexican immigrant, Muslim, or unattractive woman could condemn someone for similar mistreatment today. The failure to overcome prejudice impedes the effectiveness of public health to protect infected patients and susceptible persons from harm and to interrupt disease transmission in communities; it jeopardizes the realization of social quality. Social justice, solidarity, equal valuation, and human dignity will be achieved through resistance to the human rights violations of the Trump administration and the resilience of strong women like Mary Mallon.