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The "Social"

The Global Career of an Idea

Lutz Leisering

This special issue assembles contributions from the global North and South to inquire into the future of the “social” from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on sociology, political science and law. What does “social” mean, and do social policy and the welfare state have a future in a global age? The issue is published on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Franz-Xaver Kaufmann, who is considered the doyen of the sociology of social policy in Germany (see his recent books, translated into English, Kaufmann 2012, 2013a, 2013b).

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Four Dimensions of Societal Transformation

An Introduction to the Problematique of Ukraine

Zuzana Novakova

Four years after the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian society is passing through multiple parallel transitions. More often than not, the problematique of Ukraine is framed as a discussion of the speed and extent of reforms’ adoption. This article highlights the need to look in a more organic, interrelated manner, with attention to the sociospatial context that embeds all of the potential institutional change targeted by reforms. Using interviews and group discussions with public servants and civil society actors actively involved in the ongoing reform processes, this article zooms out from the rather fragmented reforms discussion to embed it in a broader societal context. It highlights crucial developments in the four quadrants of the social quality debate: the socioeconomic, the sociopolitical, the sociocultural/welfare, and the socioenvironmental dimension of societal life in postrevolution Ukraine.

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Michele Friedner

Through engaging with this collection of articles devoted to cognitive disability, I offer concluding remarks concerned specifically with the heuristic and experiential value of the concept of ‘the social’. I argue that an exploration of cognitive disability opens up a space for anthropologists to consider their own language and semiotic ideologies and to consider how to attend to and produce knowledge with nonlinguistic subjects. Beyond this, how might anthropologists also consider how to make their own works cognitively accessible?

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Reassembling The Social Organization

Collaboration and Digital Media in (Re)making Boas’s 1897 Book

Aaron Glass, Judith Berman and Rainer Hatoum

Franz Boas’s 1897 monograph The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians was a landmark in anthropology for its integrative approach to ethnography, the use of multiple media, and the collaborative role of Boas’s Indigenous partner, George Hunt. Not only did the volume draw on existing museum collections from around the world, but the two men also left behind a vast and now widely distributed archive of unpublished materials relevant to the creation and afterlife of this seminal text. This article discusses an international and intercultural project to create a new, annotated critical edition of the book that reassembles the dispersed materials and reembeds them within Kwakwaka’wakw ontologies of both persons and things. The project mobilizes digital media to link together disparate collections, scholars, and Indigenous communities in order to recuperate long-dormant ethnographic records for use in current and future cultural revitalization.

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The Human and the Social

A Comparison of the Discourses of Human Development, Human Security and Social Quality

Des Gasper

This paper presents a structured comparison of the social quality approach with the UNDP-led 'human development' approach and its sister work (especially in the UN system and Japan) on 'human security'. Through clarification of their respective foci, roles and underlying theoretical and value assumptions, the paper suggests that partnership of the social quality approach with these 'human' approaches appears possible and relevant for each side.

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The Individual and the Social

A Comparative Study of Quality of Life, Social Quality and Human Development Approaches

David Phillips

The overall aim of this paper is to compare the human development (HD) and social quality (SQ) approaches in the context of quality of life in general and in relation to development in particular. It commences with a broad overview of several perspectives including: prudential values; Sen's capability approach; Berger-Schmitt and Noll's overarching quality of life construct; Phillips' quality of life construct; and Doyal and Gough's theory of Human Needs. en HD and SQ are introduced. HD emphasises well-being, enlarging people's choices, living a long and healthy life, being educated and enjoying a decent standard of living. All this is predicated on the UNDP's insistence that it is people who comprise the real wealth of nations: HD emphasises the well-being of individuals. Two sets of tensions are then discussed: first between the ability to exercise individual freedom and the constraints upon freedom imposed by the provision of compulsory education of children which facilitates that freedom (an institutional threshold to 'the social'); and secondly, the relationship between personhood, social relationships and collective capabilities (an interactive threshold to the social). This is followed by an exploration of whether HD's individualistic orientation is a weakness or whether its explicit incompleteness is a strength. The paper concludes with a discussion of possible ways forward in developing the HD construct, either by incorporating the notion of 'the social' within its framework or else via strategies of using it in partnership with the social quality theory that can both extend it and provide it with a richer theoretical justification.

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Lei Delsen

On 1 January 1999, the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) was created. The currencies of 12 member countries of the European Union (EU) were first irrevocably fixed and then replaced by one European currency, the euro, earlier than the deadline of 1 July 2002. According to Article 2 of the Maastricht Treaty the aim of EMU is to promote ‘sustainable and non-inflationary growth respecting the environment, a high degree of convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and of social protection, the raising of the standard of living and quality of life, and economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member States.’ From this one may expect a positive relationship between EMU and the social environment.

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Rethinking the Human and the Social

Towards a Multiverse of Transformations

Ananta Kumar Giri

Our understanding of the human and the social, as well as our realization of these, are in need of fundamental transformations, as our present day use of these are deeply anthropocentric, Eurocentric and dualistic. Human development discourse looks at the human in an adjectival way, so does the social quality approach to the category of the social: neither reflects the profound rethinking both the categories have gone through even in the Western theoretical imagination (for example, the critique of humanism in philosophy and the critique of socio-centrism in sociology). In this context, the present essay explores the ways these two categories are being rethought in Western theoretical imagination and discusses the non-anthropocentric and post-anthropocentric conceptualization and realization of the human, which resonates with non-socio-centric and post-social conceptions of society. The essay also opens these two categories to cross-cultural and planetary conversations and on the way rethinks subjectivity, sovereignty, temporality and spatiality. It pleads for a foundational rethinking of human security and social quality and for creative intertwining between the two with visions and practices of practical spirituality.

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Maria Petmesidou and Periklis Polyzoidis

The subject matter of the ‘social’, defined as the realisation of the self in the context of collective identity, provides the central premise of the social quality perspective. On the basis of this premise the ENIQ (European Network on Indicators of Social Quality) project explored the four conditional factors of social quality, namely the extent to which social structures, patterns of interaction and policy processes, in European societies, promote (or hinder) socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion and empowerment. These are key factors for gauging ‘the extent to which people are able to participate in the social and economic life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potential’ (ENIQ 2004: 2; also Beck et al., 2001). In this article we will briefly examine the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic structures, policies and daily experience in Greece. In the first part we highlight some distinctive features of Greek society that are relevant to our analysis. We then proceed to a short discussion of each of the four conditional factors and their constitutive domains (and indicators). We conclude with some brief remarks on good practices and policy implications.

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The Social Life of Fighting Words

The Case of Political Correctness

Ronald S. Stade

Political correctness has become a fighting word used to dismiss and discredit political opponents. The article traces the conceptual history of this fighting word. In anthropological terms, it describes the social life of the concept of political correctness and its negation, political incorrectness. It does so by adopting a concept-in-motion methodology, which involves tracking the concept through various cultural and political regimes. It represents an attempt to synthesize well-established historiographic and anthropological approaches. A Swedish case is introduced that reveals the kind of large-scale historical movements and deep-seated political conflicts that provide the contemporary context for political correctness and its negation. Thereupon follows an account of the conceptual history of political correctness from the eighteenth century up to the present. Instead of a conventional conclusion, the article ends with a political analysis of the current rise of fascism around the world and how the denunciation of political correctness is both indicative of and instrumental in this process.