According to Leisering in his editorial in this journal, the idea of the “social” not only concerns social services as found in textbooks on social policy, it also “reflects a culturally entrenched notion of the relationship between state and society – a recognition of the tension between the ideal of political equality and socio-economic inequality, and of a collective responsibility by the state for identifying and redressing social problems” (Leisering 2013: 12). Theorizing “social quality” began in Europe at the end of the 1990s, in reaction to the increasing tendency to reduce the European Union’s operation to an “economic project.” In an ideological sense this reduction was legitimated by decoupling the economic dimension from the socio-political and sociocultural dimensions and leaving the latter two to the authority of the EU member states. The presupposition on the part of neoclassical economics and mainstream political and sociological studies of a duality between “the economic” and “the social” paved the way for this move. Therefore social quality scholars started to theorise ‘the social’ anew to go beyond the duality of the economic and the social In practice, nation-based policies became subordinated to the European-oriented financial and economic politics and policies that were being used to address the globalization of production and reproduction relationships (Beck et al. 1997). This shift became seriously strengthened by the revolutionary development and application of new communication technologies.
Theorizing the Social
Methodology for Setting a Mexican User Satisfaction Index for Social Programs
Odette Lobato-Calleros, Humberto Rivera, Hugo Serrato, María Elena Gómez, and Ignacio Méndez Ramírez
This article reports on the methodology for setting the Mexican User Satisfaction Index for Social Programs (MUSI-SP) as tested in seven national social programs. The evaluation is based on Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). How satisfaction takes the central place of the SEM, which postulates its causes and effects, contributes to the increased validity and reliability of satisfaction indicators that allow benchmarking between social programs. The MUSI model is an adaptation of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) model. The MUSI methodology includes qualitative and quantitative techniques. The estimation model is by the Partial Least Squares (PLS). In each of the seven social programs, no statistical evidence was found to reject the main relationships postulated by the ACSI’s model: that Perceived Quality impacts Satisfaction, and Satisfaction impacts Trust. The improvement opportunity areas were also identified for each program. These results give valid and reliable feedback to public policies.
Mind the Gap
Seventeen Sightings of the “Social” in Economic Development Policy Writing
Semantic codes constitute the world (or parts of it), not in a mechanistic “cause-and-effect” sense but through another type of linkage. This article explores some of the semantic code, the “semantic DNA,” of mainstream neoclassical economic development policy thinking and writing and looks at what that mode of thinking incorporates into its discourse as “social.” The various forms of the “social” in economics discourse add up, from a sociologist’s viewpoint, to disappointingly little: they mainly consist of a miscellaneous set of noneconomic aspects that mainstream economic thinking can use to blame for the policy-performance gap between what such thinking promises and what it often actually delivers.
The Moral Economy of Digital Gifts
The significance of giving as a contemporary socio-economic practice has been obscured both by mainstream economics and by the influence of the anthropological tradition. Andrew Sayer’s concept of moral economy offers a more fruitful framework for an economic sociology of contemporary giving, and one that appears to be largely consistent with social quality approaches. This article analyzes giving from the perspective of moral economy, questioning the view that giving is a form of exchange, and opening up the prospect of seeing it as the outcome of a more complex constellation of causal factors. It uses examples from the digital economy, in particular the phenomenon of open-source software, which nicely illustrates both the progressive potential of digital gifts and the ways in which they can be absorbed into the commercial economy.
People, Planet, Power
Toward a New Social Settlement
This article presents proposals for a new social settlement – a framework for deciding how people live together and what they expect from government, now and for the future. The proposed settlement has three goals: social justice, environmental sustainability, and a more equal distribution of power. To achieve these goals we have identified a set of objectives too often ignored in mainstream debates: achieving prosperity without depending on economic growth; shifting investment and action upstream to prevent harm rather than coping with the consequences; strengthening the “core economy” of unpaid work, everyday wisdom, and social connections; and fostering solidarity and an understanding of how individuals depend on each other to achieve shared goals. The article draws on a report from the New Economics Foundation, which focuses on the United Kingdom but offers a framework for developing policy and practice that may be useful in other countries, especially in the developed world.
The ambitions of this journal include the goal of stimulating a debate about the similarities and differences between various approaches dedicated to current major societal challenges. As well as social quality thinking, the human security approach and the related human development/capability approach aim to understand changes in daily circumstances and to contribute in one or another way to new politics and policies. General questions regarding all these approaches include: What is the scientific quality of their conceptual framework? Which instruments do they apply to analyze changes in people’s daily circumstances? To what policies do they contribute in order to further their normative ideals? What are those ideals? Answers to these questions will help one recognise the similarities of and differences between the approaches and what they can offer each other.
From Entitlements to Provisions--and Back
Why would eligible people decline an offer of welfare services? In regard to this question and in the context of changes in the welfare state, this paper discusses the shift 'from entitlements to provisions'. After sketching the size of non-take-up and the social composition of those declining the offer of services, some tentative reasons or motives for non-take-up are presented. The discussion is derived from various approaches including the capability approach, Dahrendorf's approach of the “modern social conflict”, and social quality theory (SQT). These approaches are placed in the perspective of the “person,” as in the group/grid scheme developed by anthropologist Mary Douglas. The paper concludes that, in order to understand the phenomenon of non-take-up, a differentiated conception of the person, for which SQT is a prime inspiration, is a condition sine qua non.
Human Security Analysis as a Framework for Value-Oriented Governance
The Example of Climate Change
“Good governance” may be viewed as governance that effectively promotes human rights, human security and human development. This article discusses human security analysis, which in certain ways offers an integration of these “human” perspectives together with a “social” orientation, by combining a person-focus with systematic investigation of the environing systems of all sorts: physical, cultural, organizational. The importance of such analysis is illustrated through the example of climate change impacts and adaptation. The article presents applications of a human security framework in governance, for policy analysis, planning and evaluation issues in climate change and other fields. The concluding section suggests that human security analysis may provide a way to apply insights from social quality analysis to detailed case investigation and policy analysis, while reducing macro-sociological abstraction and neglect of the natural environment.
Investing in Workplace Innovation Pays Off for SMEs
A Regional Innovation Initiative from the Netherlands
Peter Oeij, Ernest de Vroome, Astrid Bolland, Rob Gründemann, and Lex van Teeffelen
From 2009 to 2013 the workplace innovation project “My Enterprise 2.0” was carried out in the region of Utrecht in the Netherlands in order to strengthen the workplace innovation capability of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Participating enterprises completed a questionnaire regarding the “workplace innovativeness” of their company. A workplace innovation intervention was then implemented by some of the companies, while other companies chose not to take part. At the end of the project, a second questionnaire indicated that those companies that implemented interventions had a significantly higher score with regard to overall workplace innovativeness. The companies without such interventions reported a small decrease. While the companies in the region had higher workplace innovativeness scores relative to a national reference group both before and after the project, the increase in the “workplace innovativeness” of the regional SMEs that experienced interventions suggests that the project proved beneficial to their continued “workplace innovativeness.” Moreover, these companies also reported positive effects on company performance, achieving company goals and improving labor productivity.
Social Quality Indicators in Times of Crisis
The Case of Greece
Konstantinos G. Kougias
Chronic deficiencies of the Greek welfare state and the introduction of austerity measures as part of the international financial bailout agreements have created an explosive cocktail of poverty and social exclusion that severely tested the resilience of the frail social safety net and the demands of equity. The score on the indicators of social quality has worsened considerably as the Greek welfare system was overhauled. This article examines the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic policies and everyday experiences in Greece during the crisis.