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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.

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Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone

Alongside recent world-historical dates such as 11 September 2001, we would place 15 February 2003. On that day, around 10 million people—some estimates are much higher—demonstrated on the streets of the world's cities in opposition to the US war on Iraq, then being merely threatened. Sartre's study of the elements of history in Critique of Dialectical Reason and its unpublished ethical sequel, Morality and History, illuminate, and are illuminated by, the movements that contest today's global system. From the Critique, we'll engage his notions of negative universality as threat of death and the "fusing" of "series" into "groups" as response. From Morality and History, we'll take "integral humanity" as a goal and standard; it seems to us built into the global act of February 15 and into the wider movement of which that day was a moment. After comparing a Sartrean take on February 15 with the famous Habermas-Derrida appeal inspired by that day, we'll close with some reciprocal illuminations between Sartre's theories and Zapatista practice.

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Mika Vuori and Mika Gissler

The 1970s could be said to be the ‘golden age’ for social and well-being indicators. After a period of slow progress, new indicators were devised in Europe during the mid-1990s, however, improvements are still needed in the knowledge and scientific theories behind these indicators. New indicators need to be developed and comparable multinational statistics need to be collected. The purpose of this article is to present key findings on social quality in Finland. The situation will be described with data at national level with some international comparisons, derived from different resources of statistics and research. Furthermore, the underlying trends that affect the social quality of Finnish people will be described.

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Social Quality

The French Case

Denis Bouget and Frederic Salladarré

The objective of this study is to establish a set of indicators capable of forming the empirical basis of the concept of social quality for European citizens. Social quality is defined as the extent to which citizens are able to participate in the social and economic life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potential (Beck et al. 2001: 6). Before analysing the four social quality conditional factors, we will describe some facts surrounding the French situation. Firstly, the general social and economic situation will be described through characteristics which are particularly outstanding in France, i.e., in the first place unemployment and flexibility (in a negative sense comprising working poor, involuntary part-time workers, etc.). In the second place, certain striking features in the four conditional factors of social quality will be emphasised.

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Social Capital and Health

Research Findings and Questions on a Modern Public Health Perspective

Ota de Leonardis

This article aims at contributing to the discussion on the features of public health systems consistent with the broader definition of health – broader than the strictly bio-medical one – which is currently accepted in the related literature. The questions it raises are on how social capital influences well-being, and on whether and how it can be recognized and cultivated as a basic resource for health, and integrated into the health systems. In the first part, research literature on the ways health conditions are correlated with both poverty and social capital is briefly discussed. In the second part, several cases on health prevention and rehabilitation programs are analysed in some detail, as they appear to improve the health conditions of a community by investing in its 'social capital'. The main insights are on how to combine social protection with individual agency.

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The Effects of Elusive Knowledge

Census, Health Laws and Inconsistently Modern Subjects in Early Colonial Vanuatu

Alexandra Widmer

In this article, I discuss two roles of documents in the creation and enforcement of public health laws in early colonial Vanuatu and their implication in colonial attempts to transform ni-Vanuatu societies and subjectivities. Colonial officials of the British-French Condominium based their projects on their admittedly partial knowledge in reports generated by experts studying depopulation. This knowledge, I argue, produced a ‘population’ by categorizing people according to their relationship with a reified notion of culture. The Condominium enforced health laws by sending letters to people categorized as Christian who would, the Condominium hoped, adhere to the regulations as self governing subjects. Officials would engage in persuasive conversations when they enforced the regulations in ‘bush’ villages. I conclude by reflecting on ni- Vanuatu knowledge of well-being and illness that could not be represented or documented and its centrality for subjectivities that might elude, if not subvert, the modern subject presumed by colonial strategies of governance.

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"Ceremonies of Renewal"

Visits, Relationships, and Healing in the Museum Space

Laura Peers

Access to heritage objects in museum collections can play an important role in healing from colonial trauma for indigenous groups by facilitating strengthened connections to heritage, to ancestors, to kin and community members in the present, and to identity. This article analyzes how touch and other forms of sensory engagement with five historic Blackfoot shirts enabled Blackfoot people to address historical traumas and to engage in ‘ceremonies of renewal’, in which knowledge, relationships, and identity are strengthened and made the basis of well-being in the present. The project, which was a museum loan and exhibition with handling sessions before the shirts were placed on displays, implies the obligation of museums to provide culturally relevant forms of access to heritage objects for indigenous communities.

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The Editors

As we launch this journal, we think of the scene in Citizen Kane when Orson Welles, as the young Kane, reads the “Declarations of Principle” he has just written for his newspaper The New York Daily Enquirer. We do not claim the same aims—nor anticipate the same future—but we feel something of the same excitement. Journals are not easy to get started, but this one came into being in a short amount of time after we conceived its goals. A number of very fine journals are already published on film, but none, we feel, puts film (and the visual arts in general) into the dynamic and developing intellectual current of our time.

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Grey Gardens and the Problem of Objectivity

Notes on the Ethics of Observational Documentary

Mathew Abbott

This article turns to the Maysles brothers’ 1975 film Grey Gardens to problematize the philosophical assumptions at work in debates about objectivity and direct cinema. With a suitable picture of documentary objectivity we can avoid endorsing the claim that no film can be objective or the corollary that only documentaries that reflexively acknowledge the biases of their makers can succeed aesthetically or ethically. Against critics who have attacked Grey Gardens for its problematic claims to objectivity as well as theorists defending it for how it undermines objectivity, I argue that the film’s objective treatment of its subjects is part of its aesthetic and ethical achievement. In the context of observational documentary, being objective does not mean taking a purely dispassionate stance toward one’s subjects, but treating them without prejudice or moralism and letting them reveal themselves.

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Virtually a Historian

Blogs and the Recent History of Dispossessed Academic Labor

Claire Bond Potter

A contemporary history of higher education in the United States is being written on the Internet. Academic bloggers interrupt and circumvent the influence of professional associations over debates about unemployment, contingent labor, publishing, tenure review, and other aspects of creating and maintaining a scholarly career. On the Internet, limited status and prestige, as well as one's invisibility as a colleague, are no barrier to acquiring an audience within the profession or creating a contemporary archive of academic labor struggles. At a moment of financial and political crisis for universities, these virtual historians have increasingly turned their critical faculties to scrutinizing, critiquing, and documenting the neoliberal university. Although blogging has not displaced established sources of intellectual prestige, virtual historians are engaged in the project of constructing their own scholarly identities and expanding what counts as intellectual and political labor for scholars excluded from the world of full-time employment.