The perception by the public, politicians or academics of the role of NGOs with regard to social policy in general, and social quality in particular, is often incoherent. Although these organisations are widely appreciated and supported, there are no clear views on their often contradictory role in the democratic process, and they are defined in narrow, yet widely differing ways. NGOs are usually not addressed in the analysis of broader approaches of social-policy arrangements, and their study is mainly concerned with organisational perspectives, sometimes viewing them as economic entities rather than as social actors. NGOs have also been largely ignored in the analysis of social quality. This is clearly shown in the first publications to come out of the 'Social Quality Initiative', in which most of the contributions fail to regard NGOs as a specific subject, and the few which do mostly look at organisational issues.
Reflections on the Perspectives of NGOs in the Process of European Intregration
Opening Individual Well-Being for a Social Perspective
The article presents the application of the Social Quality Approach in order to develop a clear understanding of the European Social Model. For this Social Quality is understood as both a normative approach and an analytical tool. The article allows an insight into the actual meaning of the statement frequently made that the course of European integration falls short when it comes to social policy. The problem, however, is not the lack of responsibility for social policy. Rather, the author emphasises that the real problem is the specific interpretation of the social.
The Core of Social Quality
Fundamentally, the Social Quality Approach (SQA) takes up a topic that runs like a thread through philosophy and social science, namely the tensions between two fields. The one field stretches between ‘individual and society’, the other stretches between ‘institutions and communities’. What the present approach distinguishes from these two is that it seriously goes beyond delivering a new interpretation of the world, aiming instead on delivering a – theoretically founded – instrument for political action. However, political action here aims on dealing with the fundamental challenge of a society as an integrated system, being based on the objective and subjective dimensions of socially acting individuals. To speak of ‘socially acting individuals’ means to acknowledge the interdependency of acting individuals, their independence and at the same time the dependence of the individuals from a society which they shape through their own action.
This article concerns challenges arising from the development of economic globalization as the so-called “creator of a new world order“ and its tendency to deteriorate the foundation of a global order in terms of social justice, solidarity, and human dignity. As main point of referral functions, the report of the "Commission Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi" on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress that refers to the European Commission's strategy of development, acknowledges the need for these values. On behalf of this reflection, this article is based on the recent outcomes of the exploration of these social quality issues in a recent published book by the Foundation on Social Quality. The article argues that indicators are needed in order to understand the effects of societal changes in response to the current economic globalization, which increases inequality and the fragmentation of the labor market.
Regaining Political Economy
A fundamental methodological problem is the relevance of an antagonism of capitalism. This needs to be classified in light of the developmental stage of the means of production: far too little attention is paid to the contradictory character of individualization and socialization. This brings us to Karl Polányi’s main argument of disembedding. He also deals with a shift from the socially integrated (and dependent) individual to the utilitarian market citizen. The French regulationist theory offers a major step toward understanding new forms of societal embedding linked to this “new personality.” It will also allow us to move beyond the misleading juxtaposition or dichotomization of individualization-socialization. Investigating five major tensions, it ventilates the possible meaning of the digital revolution and the challenges for monitoring development. The main aim of the article, however, is to bring the economy back in and to go beyond the traditional duality between economics and politics.
Changing the Reference for Accounting
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.
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.
Jan Berting, Denis Bouget, Peter Herrmann, Gábor Juhász, Ton Korver, Peter R. A. Oeij, David Phillips, and Paule Monique Vernes
Notes on Contributors
Wolfgang Beck, Jan Berting, Peter Herrmann, Thomas Lenk, Ota de Leonardis, Laurent J.G. van der Maesen, Iñigo Sagardoy de Simón, Ivan Svetlik, Zsusza Széman, Volkmar Teichmann, Göran Therborn, Christiane Villain-Gandossi, Alan Walker, and Sue Yeandle
Notes on contributors