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Xu Yanhui and Gong Ziyu

Abstract

Poverty is generally viewed in traditional understandings as merely lowness of income, so its noneconomic aspects and dynamic characteristics are neglected. Conversely, Amartya Sen has argued that poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities—the substantive freedoms a person enjoys to lead the kind of life they have reason to value. Based on Sen’s capability poverty theory, this article examines the influence of social quality and community capacity on Chinese urban residents’ capability poverty. The social quality perspective assesses societal progress and refers to four conditional factors: socioeconomic security, social inclusion, social cohesion, and social empowerment. Our data analysis from a survey undertaken in Shenzhen indicates that socioeconomic security, social cohesion, and social empowerment can effectively alleviate capability poverty. Community capacity was also an influential factor for capability poverty of urban residents. According to these findings, future anti-poverty projects should focus on improving social quality and community capacity.

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Toward Comprehensive Conceptualizations of Contemporary Public Health

Participation as the Cornerstone of Appropriate Methodologies

Harry Nijhuis

Abstract

This article explores the development of appropriate conceptualizations of public health, and, more importantly, adequate practices and methodologies to be applied in today’s societal context. Popular concepts like “positive health,” “comprehensive approaches,” and “participation” represent only specific components of larger complexities. My intention is to come up with useful notions for a more holistic comprehension of public health. First, two strands of reasoning, on which my argument is based, are discussed: (1) interpretations regarding major public health discourses of the past two centuries; (2) critical appraisal of influential societal tendencies (to be able to identify what today is “appropriate”). Then, based on these interpretations, notions are developed regarding ontological, epistemological, and societal aspects of public health. This leads us to the discussion of adequate methodologies for today’s practice of public health. I argue that emancipated participation of citizen communities—organized as cooperatives—ought to be a cornerstone in elaborations of contemporary public health.

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The Limits to Cheating History

Changing the Reference for Accounting

Peter Herrmann

Abstract

The article outlines some challenges for accounting, which is increasingly under pressure. Accounting tries to enhance its meaning by widening its approach, including issues that fall under headings like environmental or social corporate responsibility. However, the article aims to make clear that such strategies are not sufficient to answer challenges that emerge from social quality thinking. The two main challenges are (1) to merge accounting on the micro- and the macro-level and (2) to introduce a thorough qualitative perspective.

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Rolf Dieter Hepp

Abstract

In our society, the relationship between periphery and center is changing. Questions discussed under the conditions of outsiders and suspended social groups penetrate the center of society and systematically determine the social correlations. Inequality, poverty, social insecurity, and precariousness are equated with changes in social change when the risk of social exclusion is undermined by unskilled activities. This is, for example, very much the case in the German discussion so that outsider groups are defined in Germany, which have themselves maneuvered into a corresponding social situation through wrong biographical decisions. The French approach of Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Castel, and Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello differed decisively in this respect, since they reoriented social uncertainties and precariousness in a reorganization of the work structure. This article shows how precariousness is shifted to the center of society and how qualified work develops into unsafe and precarious working conditions within the framework of the reorganization in project activity.

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Ananta Kumar Giri

Abstract

Mainstream discourse and practice of development mainly focus on what can be called the prose of development: the hard-core and hardware issues of economics, politics, and infrastructure. There is very little poetics in the mood and methods of its advocates. This article, referring among others to Indian philosophers, argues that we should turn this approach around in a transformative way, by putting what is usually considered the lowest at the top. Poetics of development builds upon inner and shared transformations in prose and poetics, as it seeks to express the suffering and joys of souls and societies. It offers a new dimension to the social quality idea about “the social” as the outcome of the dialectic between processes of self-realization of human beings and the formation of collective identities. The article argues that this shift in focus is essential to meaningful development.

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Ming-Lun Chung

Abstract

This article explores the formation of school anti-bullying policy in Taiwan with the development of democratization, and draws on critical realism to explain how generative mechanisms activate policy making under the operation of party politics within the Taiwanese school system. The article describes the planning and practice of Taiwanese anti-bullying policy, and argues how critical realism can help bridge the gap between empirical analysis and generative mechanisms in critical policy analysis. Light is shed on an empirical inquiry into anti-bullying policy, which analyzes different ideological debates over the policy and power struggles between different policy stakeholders. A crucial attempt is to identify the generative mechanisms behind the anti-bullying policy making and elaborate on how the “generative mechanisms” embedded in Taiwanese top-down governance make social control possible in the schooling system. The conclusion reflects on the possibility of democratic schooling through the critical realist approach and praxis of collective agency for social change and human emancipation between political governance, policy research, and school practice.

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Searching for a New Way of Thinking about Society

A Noospheric Social Quality Orientation for Development toward Sustainability

Vyacheslav Nikolayevitch Bobkov and Nikolay Vyacheslavovich Bobkov

Abstract

The currently accepted global wisdom holds that the most important and decisive challenge for humankind is to reach sustainable circumstances; societal, geophysical, and biophysical. However, there is little readiness to go beyond the inherited fundamental assumptions of a “modern industrial capitalist market society.” This is oriented on the commodification and marketization of natural and cultural resources for making profit. Seen from a Russian perspective, this article argues that this approach causes a destruction of sustainable living conditions. The social quality approach, the Russian interpretation of quality of life approach, and the noosphere paradigm of global societal development offer space for considerations that questions the dominant socioeconomic and financial societal practices not only on the phenomenological level. Instead, the authors name gnoseological, ontological, and axiological prerequisites of sustainable global societal development. This will contribute to the wider and diverse debates on what can be called people’s humanistic socialism.

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Antipoverty Measures

The Potential for Shaming and Dignity Building through Delivery Interactions

Erika Gubrium and Sony Pellissery

Abstract

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.

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Building Dignity?

Tracing Rights, Discretion, and Negotiation within a Norwegian Labor Activation Program

Erika Gubrium, Leah Johnstone, and Ivar Lødemel

Abstract

Within a Norwegian labor activation program for social assistance, we explore how the presence of a work-oriented ethos shapes and changes the balance of rights, discretion, and negotiation available to and marking the interactions between service providers and program participants. We trace connections between changed delivery interactions and heightened shame or enhanced dignity for participants. Two themes emerge, the first related to an imagined institutional trajectory of progress attached to labor activation in which participants were offered “more” and the second to whether participants and caseworkers had a meaningful voice in co-negotiating the terms of activation. Unrealistic optimism and an institutional focus placed on individual participants’ new responsibilities fueled a longer-term negative impact. Descriptions of enhanced rights, new possibilities for negotiation, and reported feelings of shame and frustration depended both on the participant’s distance to the labor market and on the point at which respondents were interviewed.