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.
The 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21), December 2015, reached a consensus to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, including by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (UN 2015: 22). The agreement has to pave the way for rules, modalities, and procedures and all Parties have to “recognize the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches being available to Parties to assist in the implementation of their nationally determined contribution, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a coordinated and effective manner, including through, inter alia, mitigation adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building, as appropriate” (UN 2015: 24). Of interest to note is that sustainable development and poverty eradication seem to be presented as two sides of the same coin.
This issue of the International Journal of Social Quality looks at the socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability in social quality analysis. Some articles refer to the notion of sustainability, which stimulates transformative changes in society, and the consequences for the explicit or implicit integration with the sociopolitical dimension and the environmental dimension, as well as for the well-being of people all over the world, thus the socio-cultural dimension. Two interesting questions are, first, how can new forms of public participation and democratic practices and policies to stimulate environmental protection be developed, transforming the socio-political and legal context in order to contribute to the development of overall sustainability? Second, how can community involvement and new communication technologies be stimulated, which can be productive for the adequate transformation of the socio-cultural and welfare dimensions? Both issues were addressed in the Aarhus Convention of 1998, which highlighted information on environmental matters as a key right for citizens and a condition for effective public participation in decision-making processes. The concept of “social empowerment” connects the dimensions and – with reference to the four normative factors of social quality as well – delivers arguments for changing the dominant production, distribution and consumption systems and patterns.
Davydd J. Greenwood and Morten Levin
The core argument is that social science must re-examine its mission and praxis in order to be a significant player in future higher education. This article reviews the results and prospects arising from a four-year international project. Originating in Greenwood and Levin's concern about the social sciences, the project, funded by the Ford Foundation, was organised as an action research network of social scientists. Meeting several times over four years, the assembled group of scholars shifted focus from the future of the social sciences to broader questions of the future of higher education as a whole and the possible role of the social sciences. Four issues emerged as vital future challenges:
• Collective denial among academics that knowledge production (research and teaching) is a collaborative effort and that individual academics depend on and are responsible for contributing to the health of the academic collectivity.
• Academic freedom, conceived as an individual right is under siege and will have to be reconstructed to include both individual rights and collective and institutional responsibilities and rights in higher education.
• An appreciation of the multiplicity of teaching, research and organisational factors that interact to constitute healthy universities is lacking in most quarters.
• Technologies of accountability now drive the development of higher education towards a focus on an artificially narrow metrics of knowledge-generation and away from inquiry into what constitutes relevant and sustainable knowledge-generation practices.
Islamic Education, Secularities, and the Portuguese Muslim
This article examines the relation between secularities, technologies of the self, and citizenship through an ethnography of Islamic education in Portugal. For the Islamic Community of Lisbon, the main institutional representative of Islam in Portugal, religious education is about the formation of religious subjects and the creation of embodied dispositions in relation to Islam. But it is also about being able to explain to others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, what Islam is. This project for Islamic education has to be understood, I will argue, in the context of the production of a public Islam, secularized and liberal, that is tied to claims to citizenship made in Portuguese society for more than 60 years. While these discursive formations are partly a way to counteract stigma, it is also essential to understand them within the creation of a post-confessional Portuguese society. For members of the Islamic Community of Lisbon, supporting a project of secularization of the public sphere in such a historical context is a way to affirm their belonging.
Stefan Böschen, Jochen Gläser, Martin Meister, and Cornelius Schubert
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in materiality in social research. Some might say that materiality is now back on the agenda of social research. The challenges of bringing materiality back have spurred lively debates about material agency, most of which, however, are leveled at the largely dematerialized theories of the social in the social sciences, for example, in material culture studies (Appadurai 1986; Miller 1998) as well as science and technology studies (Latour 1988; Law/Mol 1995). Since the turn of the century, a marked shift towards the material has emerged (cf. Hicks 2010), ranging from questions concerning nature (Grundmann/Stehr 2000) and everyday objects (Molotch 2003; Costall/Dreier 2006; Miller 2010) to issues of cultural theory (Reckwitz 2002), post-phenomenology (Verbeek 2005), ethnography (Henare et al. 2007), distributed cognition (Hutchins 1995), and materiality in general (Dant 2005; Miller 2005; Knappett/Malafouris 2008). A perspective on materiality is now being developed in diverse fields such as archaeology (Meskell 2005), economic sociology (Pinch/Swedberg 2008), political science (Bennett 2010; Coole/Frost 2010), and organization studies (Carlile et al. 2013). Yet the status of the material remains debated in the evolving fields of various “new” materialisms (cf. Lemke 2015).
In this article I examine how long-term economic strategies in the Bronze Age of northern Europe between 2300 and 500 BCE transformed the environment and thus created and imposed new ecological constraints that finally led to a major social transformation and a "dark age" that became the start of the new long-term cycle of the Iron Age. During the last 30 years hundreds of well-excavated farmsteads and houses from south Scandinavia have made it possible to reconstruct the size and the structure of settlement and individual households through time. During the same period numerous pollen diagrams have established the history of vegetation and environmental changes. I will therefore use the size of individual households or farmsteads as a parameter of economic strength, and to this I add the role of metal as a triggering factor in the economy, especially after 1700 BCE when a full-scale bronze technology was adopted and after 500 BCE when it was replaced by iron as the dominant metal. A major theoretical concern is the relationships between micro- and macroeconomic changes and how they articulated in economic practices. Finally the nature of the "dark age" during the beginning of the Iron Age will be discussed, referring to Sing Chew's use of the concept (Chew 2006).
Jutta A. Helm
For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system
of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical
make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,
Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities
like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities
and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),
culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and
finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne
and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,
Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises
that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.
Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has
come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during
the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the
1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the
American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German
cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.
East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial
cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by
a rather creaky infrastructure.
From Practice to Mediation
Antonius C. G. M. Robben
more on mediating devices to control populations and detect suspects and enemies. The ethnographic study of violent social practices should not be abandoned, but new technologies require additional attention to processes of mediation. Media anthropology
Themselves , set in the late twenty-first century, Asimov assumed the voice of a fictional US senator at the head of a Committee on Technology and Environment. This senator is enjoined by an earnest junior scientist to take urgent action against a drastic