Editorial Introduction

The Cases of Pakistan and the United States

in The International Journal of Social Quality
Author:
Harry G. J. NijhuisUniversity of Nijmegen, The Netherlands and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, USA hgjnijhuis@gmail.com

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Laurent J.G. van der MaesenInternational Association on Social Quality, The Netherlands vandermaesen@planet.nl

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The two case studies of Part IV are based on interviews with poor, disadvantaged families in Lahore (Pakistan) and Cincinnati (United States). These analyses in the sociocultural and welfare dimension address the subjective experiences of how the lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 impacted the quality of the circumstances of their daily lives. The analyses of Part III primarily also were oriented around the sociocultural and welfare dimension. They, among others, regarded the impact of the pandemic on community resilience and agency in the United Kingdom and Germany to sustain supportive networks in their respective “civil societies.” By also exploring political “civic activism” and the impact on “democratic resilience,” the observations and discussions here though have become primarily focused on the sociopolitical and legal dimension.

The two case studies of Part IV are based on interviews with poor, disadvantaged families in Lahore (Pakistan) and Cincinnati (United States). These analyses in the sociocultural and welfare dimension address the subjective experiences of how the lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 impacted the quality of the circumstances of their daily lives. The analyses of Part III primarily also were oriented around the sociocultural and welfare dimension. They, among others, regarded the impact of the pandemic on community resilience and agency in the United Kingdom and Germany to sustain supportive networks in their respective “civil societies.” By also exploring political “civic activism” and the impact on “democratic resilience,” the observations and discussions here though have become primarily focused on the sociopolitical and legal dimension.

In the cases of Pakistan and the United States, families were interviewed regarding their experiences concerning the building blocks of “social quality.” They were asked to express their perceptions of constitutional factors regarding their own potentialities. In addition, their perceptions concerning their conditional factors (social inclusion, socioeconomic security, social cohesion, and social empowerment) were explored. In the United States study, the core concept of “social connectedness” was defined by the interviewees themselves. This approach in particular demonstrates the focus on social quality theory's constitutional factors on a personal level.

Considering the outcomes of the two studies, of course there are large differences related to the dramatic differences in the levels of income and welfare conditions in the two countries. The impacts of the lockdown in particular on socioeconomic security impacted the Pakistan families harder, since they were expelled from their houses in Lahore and living in extremely poor conditions. The poor access to proper health services also hit the Pakistan families harder. And the striking differences in vaccination coverage predict little good will to the Pakistan families when new epidemic waves arrive.

However, there is a lot of similarity with regard to how both sets of families experienced feelings of loneliness, isolation, and social exclusion, in spite of their diverging societal situations. The same holds true for the availability and accessibility of health services. In the welfare state of the United States, the interviewed family members felt seriously disadvantaged in this respect.

Both studies to a limited extent did include analyses, interpretations, and discussions in the socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and socioenvironmental dimensions of societal life. The Pakistan study though rightly concludes with a cry for more and better attention from the government for the displaced and other disadvantaged families. The state, at the federal and regional levels, apparently was too weak or not prepared to act effectively for people who were expelled from their houses and living in informal settlements along a railway. The living conditions of these families certainly were and still are not unique. Displacement has become a ubiquitous issue, especially in Asia. It is closely connected to the blind and violent capitalist urbanization processes that are taking place in many parts of the world. Each year in the world, 10 million people are forcefully displaced due to mega-construction projects, including infrastructure facilities, such as dams and reservoirs, urban renewal schemes, and fossil energy mining (Aboda et al. 2019). To put this societal phenomenon in terms of the contributions from Brazil, India, and South Africa, Pakistan also implicitly seems to be faced with the features of necropolitics. Its Land Acquisition Act dating from 1894—a product of British rule—still is the legal framework regarding compulsory acquisition. It indeed is a relic of devastating colonial patterns where landowners’ land was acquired by force for “public purpose” against their will and without proper compensation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown, and still shows, the disadvantaged living situation of displaced families, who have suffered disproportionally in an unacceptable way. Throwing people into such displaced miserable living conditions, not allowing them to have a chance to receive proper health services in hazardous socioenvironmental epidemic situations, also constitutes a serious threat to public health on a regional and even a global scale. Considering the societal complexity of forceful displacement, the cry for government action should therefore not only receive treatment from the socioeconomic and financial and sociocultural and welfare dimensions, but also from the socioenvironmental and ecological dimension. The exposed maltreatment of these families raises basic questions related to the distinctions often made between so-called “collective traditions” (the primacy of “the we”) and so-called “individual traditions” (primacy of “the I”). The Chinese contribution in this issue was concluded with interesting suggestions regarding this intriguing theme, which in our contemporary globalizing world deserves full attention.

The conclusions concerning the case study from the United States on the subjective experiences of families accentuate some interesting promises for the future:

With the increased awareness of societal-based political strife in the United States came an increased sense of social empowerment, as well as social inclusion. Ultimately, navigating the pandemic taught them not only how capable and resilient they are but also how much social connectedness means to them and isolation affects them. On reflection, some participants noted that “tomorrow isn't granted” and that they hope this experience “would have woke us up to how necessary kindness, compassion, and empathy are for the future.”

Caregivers do express here the notion that, in the sociocultural and welfare dimension, in addition to adverse also positive impacts are perceived, which hold potential for the future. The feelings of increased social empowerment and an awareness of political strife do expose most interesting productive interrelationships between sociocultural and sociopolitical dimensions, ones that were also exposed in the studies from the United Kingdom and Germany. The hermeneutic (qualitative) approaches, deployed in these studies, are most interesting from a social quality perspective. Most studies, conducted based on the social quality frameworks, are one-sidedly focused on objective analyses of the conditional factors. In a recent study by Judith Wolf and Irene Jonker (2020), it was argued that precisely the dialectical processes between the personal constitutional factors and the societal conditional factors reveals essential aspects concerning the realization of social quality. The approaches applied in this study may serve as an interesting guide to studies aiming at the exposure of the interrelationships between persons and the conditions prevailing in their daily lives.

References

  • Aboda, C. F. Mugagga, P. Byakagabaand, and G. Nabanoga. 2019. “Development-Induced Displacement: A Review of Risks Faced by Communities in Developing Countries.” Sociology and Anthropology 7 (2): 100110. doi:10.13189/sa.2019.070205.

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  • Wolf, J. L. R. M., and I. E. Jonker. 2020. “Pathways to Empowerment: The Social Quality Approach as a Foundation for Person-Centered Interventions.” International Journal of Social Quality 10 (1): 2954. doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2020.100103.

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The International Journal of Social Quality

(formerly The European Journal of Social Quality)

  • Aboda, C. F. Mugagga, P. Byakagabaand, and G. Nabanoga. 2019. “Development-Induced Displacement: A Review of Risks Faced by Communities in Developing Countries.” Sociology and Anthropology 7 (2): 100110. doi:10.13189/sa.2019.070205.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wolf, J. L. R. M., and I. E. Jonker. 2020. “Pathways to Empowerment: The Social Quality Approach as a Foundation for Person-Centered Interventions.” International Journal of Social Quality 10 (1): 2954. doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2020.100103.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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