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
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.
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.
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).
Laurent J.G. van der Maesen
This issue is dedicated to two general topics that play a central role in social quality thinking and its policy application. The first is how to sharpen the social quality approach (SQA) as an intellectual instrument to understand the nature and rationale of political/legal, economic, cultural, and environmental processes in societies that aim to cope with their interpretations of mainstream contemporary challenges. The distinction between these processes concerns the main subject of the procedural framework of the SQA (IASQ 2019). The second is how to use social quality indicators for conceiving of the consequences of these processes in communities and cities. This concerns a main subject of the analytical framework of SQA. The connection of these main themes of the SQA is increasingly becoming the crucial challenge for, in particular, the theoretical reflection on thinking and acting for the increase of social quality in communities, cities, and countries. Instead of old and new ideas about individual happiness, the crucial challenge is inspired by ideas about “a good society,” as discussed by antique Greek philosophers.
Social Quality, Environmental Challenges, and Indicators
Laurent J. G. van der Maesen
The first three articles of this issue are dedicated to aspects of the current debate about and the praxis of environmental questions, and thus of the ecosystems. The fourth article concerns the application of social quality indicators in China. The gaining hypothesis is that a disconnection of the social quality approach of daily circumstances in Japan, Russia, China, Europe, the Americas, Africa, or India from environmental processes results into anachronisms. Without a global consciousness of the unequal consequences of these environmental processes, people in rich countries may be tempted to positively judge the nature of the social quality of their localities or country “as such.” Unknown remains that, seen from a global perspective, macrodetermined reasons for the positive outcomes in rich countries may go at the expense of ecosystems. They may cause, also because of the exportation of substantial elements of problematic (and partly environmental) aspects of the dominant production and reproduction relationships, serious forms of exploitation. Under the same conditions (ceteris paribus), this attack on ecosystems, as well as this exportation and exploitation cause increasingly declining social quality of daily circumstances in poor countries and regions. This will also result into an increase of “climate refugees.” Because of advancing technologically driven transformations—especially regarding communications systems—the interdependencies of countries between the West and the East, as well as between the North and the South, accelerate. Autarkic situations are becoming, or have already been for a long time, a myth.
The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions
Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery
The special issue focuses on the impact of antipoverty measures—accounting for social and structural dimensions in the poverty experience and moving beyond an income-only focus—in five country cases: China, India, Norway, Uganda, and the United States. Particularly, we focus on the implications of shame in the delivery of antipoverty measures, as an individual and social phenomenon that relates to feelings of self-inadequacy, as well to a lack of dignity and recognition. We analyze delivery interactions through an analytic framework of rights, discretion and negotiation, as this enables us to parse out how policy delivery interactions presumed or enabled individual choice, ability, control, and voice. We suggest social citizenship can structure the relationships between welfare recipients and administrators. As a concept, it expands the objects of social rights beyond the materiality of human life (e.g., housing, pensions) to include intangible processual elements (e.g., dignity) in the construct of rights.