THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY (SQ)

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CHAPTER 17
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
Wolfgang Beck, Laurent J.G. van der Maesen and Alan Walker

Introduction
In the Sala Della Pace of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, Italy, visitors can
marvel at three of the most famous frescos in European art. Their
inspiration is totally profane, indeed political, which was unique in
medieval times. The room was used by the city government (dei Nove) and
it is to them that Ambrogio Lorenzetti dedicated the three large allegorical
compositions he painted between 1335 and 1340. They illustrate in a
detailed narrative style good government, the effects of good government
and bad government. With unequivocal moral intentions Lorenzetti
portrays the social quality of good governance. Despite the lasting beauty
of his creation Lorenzetti would have great difficulty in trying to show this
connection today. Coherence between the criteria of good government – the
virtues of ’hope, belief and love’, ’harmony’, and ’justice’ and the guarantee
of security – seems to be obsolete in modern times. If we think about social
quality in our time we have to address the connection between good and
bad government and social quality. Unlike Lorenzetti’s 14th century
frescos, the crude sketches of contemporary scientists who will try to
assess this question cannot obscure ambiguities and antinomies. To cope
with this problem we have to discover criteria with which to distinguish
between the effects of good and bad government. The required yardstick
will be provided by clarity about social quality and knowledge about what
to measure with this yardstick. This is the subject matter of this chapter.
It builds on the previous two syntheses in Chapters 9 and 16. Chapter
9 addressed the theoretically oriented comments on the first book on social
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quality. These comments open the way for the preliminary ideas
concerning indicators of social quality with which to develop the concept’s
practical applicability. Chapter 16 looked at the economic, social and
political changes in the EU which are confronted by the social quality
approach. In the light of this preparatory work we are compelled to address
four themes in this chapter. First there is a discussion of three socialphilosophical
characteristics of social quality – ontological,
epistemological and ideological – which will enable us to reflect upon the
essential meaning of the social. This entails an assessment of some of the
main points of Part One. Following from this, secondly, we revise one
aspect of the concept’s framework, namely the ratio, nature and
consequences of the axes of the social quality quadrant. Thirdly, we will
continue the theoretical exploration by renewing our presentation of the
four components of the quadrant and Part Two provides the inspiration for
that. Finally, the chapter ends with some tentative conclusions concerning
the status of the quality of the social. This theoretical work is a condition
for the development of the applicability of the social quality concept, the
challenge for Chapter 18.
The Social-Philosophical Context of Social Quality
An Expressivist Vision of Man: our overture
The first challenge is to reflect upon the meaning of the social. If we
promote social quality as a point of reference for analyzing and
commenting on structural changes in European societies we should know
what we mean by the social. In the 1960s and 1970s social movements,
concerned with environmental questions, gender, social relations in urban
settings and societal health put this theme high on the public agenda.
Nevertheless its meaning and scope remained implicit. Some antithetical
political answers were formulated in the 1980s and 1990s. The new goals
were cost-effectiveness, productivity, and efficiency. These neo-liberal
prescriptions – labelled Thatcherism in Britain and Reaganism in the US –
valued freedom from taxation and public spending on welfare above the
need for large sections of the population to be freed from poverty and
social marginalization. Thus, in Britain ’rather than seeing inequality as
potentially damaging to the social fabric, the Thatcher governments saw it


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as an engine of enterprise, providing incentives for those at the bottom as
well as those at the top’.1 In this doctrine, ’the social’ has no heuristic value,
on the contrary it is dysfunctional. Mrs Thatcher said, famously in the UK,
that there is ’no such thing as society’.
We do not agree with this point of view. As Taylor has noted, these
views concern the objectified and neutral world and stimulated an
associationist psychology, utilitarian ethics, atomistic politics of social
engineering, and ultimately a mechanistic science of man.2 Referring to
Hegel he proposes an expressivist perspective. According to Bhaskar, this
call for an expressive unity, lost since the idealized Greek world, ’paid due
heed to diversity, which would be in effect a unity-in-diversity, and to the
constitutive role of subjectivity¼ and that was firmly predicated on the
achievements of the critical philosophy’3 The call for an expressive unity
rejects the view of human life as merely an external association of
elements without intrinsic connection.4 In order to reflect upon the social,
we have to discuss at least three social-philosophical aspects. The first one
concerns ontology: what is its subject matter? Second there is the
epistemological aspect: how can we analyze and understand this subject
matter? Third is the ideological aspect: which normative points of view
should be connected with the social? It is important to note that we have
changed our central question in comparison with the first book on social
quality. We do not ask what is the subject matter of social policy?5 Instead
1. A. Walker, C. Walker (eds), Britain Divided. The Growth of Social Exclusion in the
1980s and 1990s (London, CPAG Ltd., 1997), p.5.
2. C. Taylor, Hegel (London/New York, Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp.10-50. He
says, ‘the expressivist anthropology… rejects the dichotomy of meaning against
being… it incorporates the idea of a self-defining subjectivity. The realization of his
essence is a subject’s self-realization; so that what he defines himself in relation to is
not an ideal order beyond, but rather something which unfolds from himself, is his own
realization, and is first made determinate in that realization. This is one of the key ideas
underlying the revolution of the late eighteenth century… it is one of the major idéesforces
which has shaped the contemporary world.’, p.18.
3. R. Bhaskar, Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom (London, Verso, 1993), p.18.
4. C. Taylor, see note 2, pp.539-40
5. W. Beck, L. van der Maesen, A. Walker (eds), The Social Quality of Europe (The
Hague, London, Boston, Kluwer Law International, 1997), p.267. Nevertheless, the
first book’s original question seems to be more correct: ’What we are proposing is a
new standard by which to assess both economic and social policies, a standard that
might be used at all levels in the EU to measure the extent to which daily lives of
citizens have attained an acceptable European level and the direction in which any
changes are heading’, p.2.
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we ask what is the subject matter of the social as an essential point of
reference for social policies, as well as economic and cultural policies. The
answer will create a basis for the authenticity of these different policies as
well as for their interrelationships.
Ontological Considerations
Discussing the Social
Our endeavour is to develop a scientific framework and a political
programme which assume the social as an authentic entity. It is regarded as
the source for determining the social quality of the outcomes of political
decisions. In our opinion the social is not existing as such but it is the
expression of constantly changing aspects of processes by which
individuals realize themselves (verwirklichen) as interacting social beings.
This assumption refers to our main proposition that interacting individual
subjects should be perceived of as social beings and not as atomized or
isolated entities. In other words, it is not the psychology of individuals
which holds the secret of human affairs, but the ensemble of relations of
human subjects as social beings.6 This proposition differs from the
utilitarian’s main one and this is where our lines diverge.
In recent debates the social appears both as a loss and as a resource.
The former is the post-modernist position. According to Honneth, in this
perspective the loss of the social is diminishing as a consequence of
growing technologically-based relationships and the erosion of
normatively oriented connections. It is assumed that the communicative
capacities of modern human subjects is decreasing. But at the root of this
notion lies the idea that the human subject is not involved in the process of
realizing itself in societal circumstances. This reflects the idea of the
individual experiment as an aesthetical concept of life. But, according to
Honneth, this concept is missing the fact that the self-realization of human
subjects is dependent upon social recognition.7 The loss of the social also
6. L. Sève, Man in Marxist Theory and the Psychology of Personality (Sussex, The
Harvester Press, 1978), p.139.
7. A. Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition. The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts
(Cambridge, Polity Press, 1995). Honneth says, ‘a conception of ethical life in terms of
a theory of recognition proceeds from the premise that the social integration of a
political community can only fully succeed to the degree to which it is supported, on
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appears in recent sociological analyses. It is presented in the form of the
neutralizing or splitting of the social as a demonstration of disintegration
and anomie. According to Ferge, this causes, in the Central European case,
the individualization of the social and leads to a decline in solidarity
between people.8 Perhaps these approaches are focused too much on the
destruction of existing expressions of the social, without keeping an eye on
its new expressions. For example, in the process of globalization new
social relationships are growing and an accentuation of the loss of old ones
is only a partial interpretation. According to Beck, individualization means
the dis-embedding of industrial society’s ways of life; but at the same time,
industrial society will be transformed into a reflexive modernity. Human
subjects will find new forms of embedding, new modes of conducting and
arranging life.9 In the light of our argument his conclusion is quite logical
because individual human subjects are intrinsically social beings.
The social appears as a resource as well. For example, Bourdieu’s
analysis of ’social capital’ distinguishes between two aspects, the first of
which is the relational aspect of social capital. It is related to networks of
human subjects as their conditions for existence. The second is the
substantive aspect. In order to exist in these networks the human subject
has to be interrelated by a minimum of togetherness, homogeneity and
recognition.10 In other words, social capital refers to the principle of mutual
interdependency, based on equity and a minimum of conflict concerning
collective priorities, ethical values, opinions and the principle of justice. In
recent debates of the European Commission the social also appears as a
resource in the meaning of social capital. In the Austrian Presidency
conclusions of 1998, the role of human and especially social capital in
regional development is emphasized.11 At the same time the European
the part of members of society, by cultural customs that have to do with the way in
which they deal with each other reciprocally. For this reason, the basic concepts with
which the ethical preconditions for such community-formation are described must be
tailored to the normative characteristics of communicative relations.’ pp.58-59.
8. Z.A. Ferge, ’Central European Perspective on the Social Quality of Europe’, in W.
Beck, L. van der Maesen, A. Walker, see note 5, pp.165-179.
9. U. Beck, The Reinvention of Politics. Rethinking Modernity in the Global Social Order
(Cambridge, Polity Press, 1997), p.95.
10. P. Bourdieu, ’Okonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital’, in R.
Kreckel (ed.), Soziale Ungleichheiten (Göttingen, Verlag Otto Schwarz and Co, 1983),
pp.183-198.
11. European Council, Presidency Conclusions (Vienna, European Union, 11 and 12
December 1998).
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Commission uses the social as a resource in a completely different way. It
is presented as an instrumentalist and functionalist resource, by
contributing to regional development in combating unemployment and as a
stimulus for economic growth. Of course capabilities, instruments and
competencies are important; but are they enough to address current
processes of societal change in order to create a basis for the selfrealization
of interacting human subjects?
We do not believe they are and that is the reason we have chosen
another point of view. It is our view that the social refers to configurations
of interacting people as social beings. There are historically determined
conditions before these interactions take place at a specific place on a
specific time. But when they take place they once again change the
conditions. As Bhaskar has argued, we have to distinguish between
structural aspects and human practice. These configurations are:
both the ever-present condition (material cause) and the continually
reproduced outcome of human agency. And praxis is both work, that is
conscious production, and (normally unconscious) reproduction of the
conditions of production, that is society. One can refer to the former as
the duality of structure, and the latter as the duality of praxis.12
This perspective emphasizes the transformational nature of societies and
communities. It is quite different to the Durkheimian one which sees social
facts as entities sui generis, with an intrinsic explanatory power,
independent of the constitutive position of interacting subjects.13 But,
according to Vanberg, this specific transformational perspective refers to
the a priori thesis of an ontological reality leap. This means that, due to the
association and interweaving of individuals, new configurations and related
phenomena come into being. In the case of a reality leap these cannot be
understood through an explanation of the nature and the actions of these
interacting individuals.14 This last theme needs to be explored because the
12. R. Bhaskar, The Possibility of Naturalism: a Philosophical Critique of the
Contemporary Human Sciences (Brighton, The Harvester Press, 1979), pp.43-4.
13. R. König, ‘Einleitung’, in E. Durkheim, Regeln der soziologischen Methode (Berlin,
Luchterhand, 1965), p.57.
14. V. Vanberg, Die zwei Soziologien: Individualismus und Kollektivismus in der
Sozialtheorie (Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1974), p.159. This ontological
leap or the application of the ’Emergenz Doctrin’ is also the case in Marxian analyses.
Vanberg distinguishes the Durkheimian and Marxian patterns of thought from the
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313
relation between interacting social beings and collectivities is an essential
aspect for reasoning about the social.
Three Theses
Honneth has analyzed the specific characteristics of the dialectic between
human subjects who interact and social wholes creating institutionally
mediated communicative based relationships.15 With Honneth’s approach in
mind we present three theses concerning the social in an ontological sense.
Our first thesis is that the social will be realized (verwirklicht sich) thanks
to the interdependencies between the self-realization of individual people
as social beings and the formation of collective identities, based on the
outcomes or consequences of these interactions. This will be true as both
get form and content and create their (new) common context. In other
words the context is the result of the constitutive interdependency and this
will stimulate new contexts as well. Notwithstanding this, self-realization
and the formation of social wholes will also happen, thanks to past
determined constitutions. Thus historically determined contexts facilitate
new constitutive inter-dependencies and, therefore, allow new
demonstrations of the social as an expression of new contexts. Due to the
transformational nature of the outcomes of these processes, the social is a
changing entity.
These interdependencies seem to be based upon equivalent and
symmetrical relationships. But, in reality, these relationships are
characterized by huge differences in power, positions and perspectives.
Daily life is marked by extensive and deep-seated inequalities.
Notwithstanding that our second thesis is that four basic conditions will
determine the opportunities of the social. These conditions are that (i)
people have capabilities to interact (empowerment), (ii) the institutional
and infrastructural context is accessible for these people (inclusion), (iii)
methodological individualism of the Paretoian and Weberian patterns of thought. In
this chapter neither the ontological leap, nor methodo-logical individualism, are chosen
as points of reference.
15. A. Honneth, see note 7. In this study Honneth explains the source of the ontological
supposition referring to Hegel in contradistinction to Hobbes. This contradistinction is
essential for understanding the recent debate between social democrats and liberals. See
A. Honneth, The Critique of Power. Reflective Stages in a Critical Social Theory
(London, The MIT Press, 1997).
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314
the necessary material and other resources are available for the existence of
the interacting people (socio-economic security) and (iv) the necessary
collectively accepted values and norms will enable community building
(cohesion). These four basic conditions can be connected with the first
thesis regarding constitutive interdependency as shown in Figure 17.1.
Figure 17.1. Constitutional and Conditional Factors of Social
Quality
Thesis 2 Four conditions
resource context
Thesis 1
consti- individual empowerment inclusion
tutive self-realisation
interde- formation of socio-economic cohesion
pendency collective identity security
Our third thesis is that the nature, the content, the range and the
morphological structure of the social will be concretized – positively or
negatively – by the interrelated dynamics between two main tensions: the
horizontal one and the vertical one. The horizontal axis mirrors the tension
between systems, institutions and organizations on the left pole and
communities, configurations and groups on the right pole. The vertical axis
mirrors the tension between societal processes on the top pole and
biographical processes on the bottom pole. These tensions function as
sources for dynamics which influence the nature of the self-realization of
the individual and the formation of collective identities.
The connection between the three theses enables us to analyze the
ontological contours of the social. Thesis 1 concerns the constitution of the
social, namely its coming into being. Thesis 2 concerns the opportunities
of the social, based upon four necessary conditions for this process. Thesis
3 concerns the concretization of the social, namely the determination of its
specific quality. For the scientific framework of the concept of social
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315
quality the development of knowledge concerning this ontological
perspective is a condition sine qua non. The three theses may be visualized
in Figure 17.2.
Figure 17.2. Constitution, Opportunities and Concretization of
the Social
societal
development
formation of
individual collective
self-realisation identities
systems communities
institutions configurations
organisations groups
individual formation of
self-realisation collective
identities
biographical
development
socioeconomicsecurit
y
cohesion
inclusion
empower-ment
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316
Epistemological Considerations
A concept which is premised on the dialectical relationship between
individual self-realization and the formation of collective identities is
likely to have a very difficult and complex nature to define. First, both selfrealization
and the forming of collective identities are open processes with
unforeseen interactions, intentions and effects. Due to the intrinsically
transformational nature of the outcomes of these processes we do not have
an ideologically determined comprehensive idea of people and society.
Never ending changes cause cognitive and reflexive indeterminacy.
Second, a concept which is oriented towards daily life, with its extensive
pragmatic and participatory impacts should mirror the complexity of social
reality. Third, a concept that focuses on material processes, non-material
processes, and socio-economic, cultural and political relationships has to
address changes, new forms of contradictions and unacceptable inequalities
as well as new opportunities and challenges. This means that the system of
consultation, negotiation and agreement should be studied as processes of
communication.16 But what is the content of a concept the subject matter of
which is to be analyzed by processes of communication?
There are two arguments for subscribing to Habermas’ point of view.
First a theoretical argument. The three ontological theses outlined above
refer to a very complex and qualitatively diverse configuration of
relationships. The self of human subjects, their networks, related processes,
structures, and resources, strategies, problems and perspectives cause
multi-layered and multi-dimensional contexts. Citizens are consciously and
unconsciously involved in these processes. Therefore, their sensitive
commitment to analyzing these processes is a condition sine qua non.
Because of the high level of complexity, at the same time, human
understanding and resulting rational actions are sooner or later confronted
with boundaries. The idealized concept of ’rational choice’ – the human
subject looking for its own optimal profit as homo economicus – is onesided,
because affective, motivational and cognitive dimensions influence
its understanding of daily reality. The cognitive perspective on interacting
human subjects is also limited for similar reasons. Therefore in Habermas’
communicative action the concept of understanding (Verständigung) is a
process which enables an understanding of reality by the achievement of
16. J. Habermas, Theorie des Kommunikativen Handelns. Band 1 (Frankfurt am Main,
Suhrkamp, 1981). See furthermore: A. Honneth in ’The Critique of Power’, see note 15.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
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commonly accepted definitions, interpretations of circumstances, relations,
ideas and values. This is the foundation for the highest possible rational
actions. It opens the way for agreements, as its outcomes, without
instrumental impositions or strategic policy influences. Both would prevent
agreements based on commonly shared convictions and consensus as
conditions for understanding reality.17
Second, there is an empirical argument for subscribing to Habermas’
point of view. Realizing the process of understanding implies a minimal
balance in power, positions and information, in other words a specific level
of equity; but this condition is not institutional, nor a social reality, on the
contrary. By analyzing the transformation of capitalism Castells provides
an elucidation of this conclusion. He explains the mechanisms responsible
for the breaking up of relationships on an individual level, the social level
and with regard to the environmental aspects we have referred to. The
nature of the recent social transformation stimulates ’a fundamental split
between abstract, universal instrumentalism, and historically rooted,
particularistic identities¼ In this condition of structural schizophrenia
between function and meaning, patterns of social communication become
increasingly under stress’.18 Nevertheless, because of the consequences of
this transformation, the necessity to create a process of understanding
(Verständigung) will be a condition to cope with this coming structural
schizophrenia.
The epistemological aspects of the social quality approach demand
that we make two decisions. The first one regards the acceptance or
rejection of the supposition regarding the epistemic fallacy put forward by
Bhaskar. This fallacy means that, if a proposition is not empirically
verifiable, then it is meaningless. In other words, that ontology is
dependent upon epistemology since what we can know to exist is merely a
part of what we can know. In order to explore our proposition Bhaskar’s
warning should be taken seriously: we should avoid the epistemic fallacy,
namely the reduction of ontology to epistemology. In his words:
this consists in the view that statements about being can be reduced to
or analysed in terms of statements about knowledge¼ the epistemic
[fallacy] prevents us from saying what is epistemically significant¼
17. J. Habermas, see note 16, p.387.
18. M. Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Volume 1: The Rise
of the Network Society (Oxford, Blackwell Publishers, 1997), p.3.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
318
[according to this view] the logical positivists committed it when
arguing, in the spirit of Hume, that if a proposition was not empirically
verifiable (or falsifiable) or a tautology, it was meaningless.19
If we do not reject this then the following subsections are meaningless as
well. Bhaskar has put the case for rejection. The dependence of ontology
’trades upon a tacit conflation of philosophical and scientific ontologies¼
a philosophical ontology is developed by reflection upon what must be the
case for science to be possible; and this is independent of any actual
scientific knowledge¼ to be is not to be the value of a variable’.20
Rejection embraces society with our social quality theme at its heart, while
acceptance opens the door for the neo-liberal pronunciation that there is no
society at all.
The second decision is the acceptance or rejection of Habermas’
assumption concerning communicative action as an epistemological
pathway for knowing the ontological basis of the social. In his study on
law and democracy Habermas says, that:
without the backing of religious or metaphysical worldviews that are
immune to criticism, practical orientations can in the final analysis be
gained only from rational discourse, that is, from the reflexive forms
of communicative action itself. The rationalisation of a lifeworld is
measured by the extent to which the rationality potentials built into
communicative action and released in discourse penetrate lifeworld
structures and set them aflow. Processes of individual formation and
cultural knowledge-systems offer less resistance to this whirlpool of
problematization than does the institutional framework.21
Theorizing social quality demands that we develop both themes in order to
19. R. Bhaskar R, A Realist Theory of Science (Sussex, The Harvester Press, 1978), p.36.
In his recent and remarkable study Friedman demonstrates that also Bhaskar (in 1978)
brought the logical positivists of the Vienna circle into line with their followers,
namely the empiricist positivists. That seems not to be correct. The first did not present
a new version of empiricism. They offered a new conception of a priori knowledge and
its role in empirical knowledge. See M. Friedman, Reconsidering Logical Positivism
(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999), p.19.
20. R. Bhaskar, see note 19, p.39.
21. J. Habermas, Between Facts and Norms. Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law
and Democracy (Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 1996), p.98.
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319
demonstrate that those ideal conditions for communicative actions do not
exist. Past and contemporary societies are characterized by deep-seated
inequalities. From the social quality approach new reference points are
created to combat these inequalities, processes of exclusion and misuses of
power.
Ideological and Ethical Considerations
Because the social is related to real motivational resources of the self and
culturally determined aspects of collective identities, its concretization
does not occur in an objectified context. The outcomes of the dialectical
process can have ambiguous consequences. Self-realization can stimulate
more autonomy, individual independence as well as egocentrism. New
collective identities lead to open and inspiring social wholes, as well as
closed and authoritative group relations. To steer the interaction of people
as social beings a presumption is required concerning desirable societal
projects. That is the reason we need some fundamental benchmarks to
distinguish between acceptable and non-acceptable outcomes. In other
words we need ethical guidelines. In Taylor’s terms, people need some
qualitative discriminations with which to distinguish between the good and
the bad. These qualitative discriminations do not refer to ontological or
epistemological forms of reasoning. They refer instead to ethics and they
provide the basis for the nature of ideological interpretations of our daily
life as well as for the unmasking of these interpretations.22 With this in
mind we fully agree with Bauman’s criticism of those, who are proud of
what we, perhaps, should be ashamed of, ’living in the post-ideological or
post-utopian age, of not concerning ourselves with any coherent vision of
the good society and of having traded off the worry about the public good
for the freedom to pursue private satisfaction’.23
Here it is important to refer to the debate on ideology. In the 1970s
22. C. Taylor, Sources of The Self. The Making of the Modern Identity (New York,
Cambridge University Press, 1994), p.47. He says, that much of naturalist philosophy
strives to do away with these distinctions altogether, to give no place in moral life to a
sense of the incomparably higher good or hypergoods. This may be called the
naturalistic fallacy. In his opinion, ’utilitarianism is the most striking case. A good
happiness is recognised. But this is characterised by a polemical refusal of any
qualitative discrimination’, p.78.
23. Z. Bauman, In Search of Politics (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999), p.8.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
320
Hall explained that the concept of ideology in English means simply a
systematic body of ideas. The concept originated during the French
Revolution. Hall demonstrated that a group of savants developed a new
centre of revolutionary thought and used this concept. But later Marx
proclaimed that ’relations are the motor of history and ideas are simply
projections of the essential human nature and human praxis which they
reflect’.24 Bauman also addresses this question and refers to Mannheim,
who modernized the Marxian position. He defined ideology as distorted
knowledge conceived within a limited cognitive perspective. Bauman calls
for a positive concept of ideology:
The name of ’ideology’ has been assigned to the cognitive frames,
which allow various bits of human experience to fall into place and
form a recognisable, meaningful pattern. The frames are conditions of
knowledge, but themselves are not its parts… it is akin to the Kantian
idea of transcendental conditions of knowledge, that is the idea that
were not the knowing subject armed beforehand with a sensationordering
capacity, no cognition could and would conceivably occur.25
We agree and therefore we have to make a distinction between
epistemological arguments concerning the theory of social quality and
ideological arguments.
One of the main motives for theorizing social quality is to develop
new starting points from which to build consensus, with the help of modern
forms of communication, and, thereby, to influence democratic norms and
values. According to Therborn (Chapter 2), this means that social quality
has to be a goal, or a moving target, offering something positive to all the
major forces of Europe. Something relating to the major ideological
currents of contemporary Europe. One of the main elements of these
democratic norms is the defence of human dignity, explicated in the four
24. S. Hall, ’The Hinterland of Science: Ideology and the ’Sociology of Knowledge’, On
Ideology (London, Hutchinson, 1977), pp.9-13.
25. Z. Bauman, see note 23, pp.118-119. In this context he refers to Castells and his thesis
concerning structural schizophrenia. For Bauman, globalization means, among other
things, the progressive separation of power (related with global network systems) and
politics (related with local based communities). The flow of information systems,
capital is no longer bound by the limitations of space and distance, while politics stays
as before local and territorial. Therefore locality becomes devalued and capital
becomes exterritorial.
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ontological conditions of the social: (i) socio-economic security and the
creation of a fairer distribution of wealth refer to social justice; (ii)
inclusion in political and economic systems refers to the enhancement of
the rights of citizens; (iii) cohesion implies an interdependent moral
contract and solidarity; (iv) empowerment refers to equity in life chances.
Social quality concerns the dignity of citizens as social beings.
In this context it is impossible to respond to infinite truths and
limitless individualism. Individualism and also pluralism demand borders
which will provide the social quality approach with a real base. This is the
reason that the relationship between the self-realization of the individual
person and the formation of collective identities is not only constitutive for
the social but, also, it defines the position of the individual as a social
being in the tensions between autonomy and togetherness, between
responsibility and sovereignty. The basic idea of pluralism concerns the
interrelationship between diversity and convergence, between difference
and integration, between biography and society. In this magnetic field of
interrelationships between individualism and pluralism decisions are made
concerning acceptable dissidence and acceptable consensus. Following
from this, social quality, as a democratic concept, cannot be limited to
formal institutions of the political system. This limitation causes the recent
one-sided structural solution to the democratic deficit of the EU.26
A similar point has been made by Showstack Sassoon: ’what is made
necessary is a process in which differences and differentiated needs are
addressed in their specificity and peculiarity, in which it is recognized that
the universal can be as misleading as the specific, in which the need for
rethinking the democratic process and democratic institutions derives from
the very development of the modern period.’27 Also, according to Offe,
rethinking democratic institutions should take on board two dimensions in
order to arrive at criteria with which to determine the capacity and viability
of democratic institutions: the nature of internal socialization and their
external effectiveness:
or the consolidation of beliefs on the one hand and the implementation
of goals or the control of resources on the other… we might also say
26. W. Beck, L. van der Maesen, ’Who is Europe for?’, European Journal of Social
Quality, 2000, 1, 1 /2, 45-61.
27. A. Showstack Sassoon, Equality and Difference: the Emergence of a New Concept of
Citizenship (London, Macmillan, 1991) p.102.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
322
that an institution in the strict sense of the concept does survive the
dual test of ’making sense’ and ’being fit’ for its mission. Institutions in
this sense can be located somewhere in between social norms and
norm-oriented action, on the one hand, and purposive rational or
strategic action, on the other.28
In sum we may say that the social quality approach is, first, an aspect of
the pluralist tradition and founded on the basic pattern of communication
in order to enhance the process of understanding (Verständigung).
Therefore, the social quality approach reflects democratic norms and
values. Second, the social quality approach emphasizes the inadequacy of
focusing only on formal democratic institutions. This is only one side of
the coin with regard to responses to the process of understanding. Citizens
themselves have to accept and to incorporate definitions of problems, goals
and strategies for solutions. Third, to respond to the internal socialization
and consolidation of beliefs, as the other side of the coin, social quality
invites reflection upon multiple identities, plural citizenship based on
cosmopolitan assumptions such as human rights, humanitarian solidarity
and social justice, and local circumstances and perspectives (see Chapter
5).
28. C. Offe, ’Designing Institutions in East European Transition’, in R.E. Goodin (ed.), The
Theory of Institutional Design (Cambridge, University Press, 1996) p.201.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
323
The Ratio, Nature and Consequences of the Axes of the
Social Quality Quadrant
Social Quality at the Intersection of Two Axes
We perceive the concretization of social quality as the outcome of
processes which may be described as the ceaseless confrontation between
the tensions of two axes, the horizontal and the vertical ones. The
horizontal axis represents the tension between institutional processes and
interventions on the left side and collective and individual actions on the
right side.29 The presentation of this tension corresponds with Lockwood’s
interpretation of the distinction between system integration (of parts and
aspects of social systems) and social integration (of interacting subjects).30
In a scientific sense our assumption is also connected with Habermas’
distinction between the world of systems and the lifeworld.31 It is important
that we do not accept subordination of the one side to the other. Both
aspects are dependent on each other, notwithstanding the fact that both are
not equivalent. Furthermore this tension is situated in the dialectic between
the self-realization of citizens as social beings and the formation of
collective identities, which diminishes the one-dimensional character of
this tension. In other words, social quality will be realized (verwirklicht) by
dynamic processes between the world of systems and the world of human
practices in the context of this dialectic.
The vertical axis represents the tension between societal development
and biographical development. The concept of social quality is only
conceivable by analyzing the acting subject in a changing societal context.
As a result biographical aspirations (interests, relations, preferences),
actions, orientations, continuities and discontinuities are also changing.
The content and form of aspirations are continuously moving. With regards
to the methodological analyses of life courses Heinz observes that:
29. This theme is developed in the context of the Sonderforschungsbereich of the
University of Bremen. See also W.R Heinz, Statuspassagen und Risikolagen in
Lebenslauf. Arbeits- und Ergebnisbericht (Bremen. University Bremen/SFB 186, 1991)
and other documents in the context of this SFB-program.
30. D. Lockwood, ’Social Integration and System Integration’ in G.K. Zollschan and
W.Hirsch (eds), Explorations in Social Change (London, Routledge, 1964).
31. J. Habermas, see note 16.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
324
modern societies at the end of the 20th century are modernising
themselves in an unknown speed. They create contingencies for the
life course, which force individuals to a flexible response in the sense
of self-reflexive decision-making and risk-taking. Biographies do not
follow pre-determined course patterns anymore, they rather evolve by
coping with changes in public and private time and space. Hence,
biography becomes both a project and a reflexive product of individual
performances in the life course. In modern societies the life course is
an institution and a system of social order, which is based on temporal
sequences of social participation and status-related rights and duties.32
Both tensions are different. The horizontal axis represents the field of
interactions between unequal actors with different outcomes on both poles.
The vertical axis represents the field of contingencies. It concerns the
manifestation of symbols, meaning, constructions, norms, traditions, and
cognition on both a biographical and a societal level. In other words it
concerns values as points for orientation. Thus both tensions are neither
identical nor complementary. Nevertheless, the outcomes of the horizontal
tensions influence the outcomes of the vertical ones and vice versa. But we
do not speak of causal relationships, these mutual influences deliver
conditional relationships. Thanks to this they create together the quadrant
of social quality and the nature of its four components. This quadrant
should be appreciated as a heuristic device, not as an exclusive
classification because both tensions refer to different processes.
32. A. Weyman, W.R. Heinz (eds), Society and Biography. Interrelationships Between
Social Structure, Institutions and the Life Course (Weinheim, Deutscher Studien
Verlag, 1996).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
325
Figure 17.3. Intersection of the Axes
societal
development
fi
el
d
o
systems f communities
institutions f i e l d of i n t e r a c t i o n s configurations
organisations groups
c
onti
nge
nci
es
biographical
development
The Horizontal Axis
The left pole of the horizontal axis refers to Vergesellschaftung and the
right pole to Vergemeinschaftung. Tönnies first formulated this concept
which had a great influence on sociology.33 According to Weber,
Vergesellschaftung refers to processes leading to social constructions,
which are based on interactions characterized by rationally motivated
exchanges of interests. Vergemeinschaftung refers to processes of social
construction, which are based on subjective and affective feelings of
33. F. Tönnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundbegriffe der reinen Soziologie
(Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1963).
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
326
togetherness.34 According to Martindale, Tönnies’ distinction presents
respectively the Hobbesian concept of society and the romantic concept of
community.35 This corresponds with another distinction, which is also
embedded in both poles of the horizontal axis: Lepsius’ distinction between
demos on the left side and ethnos on the right side. In simplified terms,
demos refers to relationships between the formal world of systems,
institutions and organization and citizens, thus to processes of
Vergesellschaftung. Ethnos refers to relationships between the world of
communities, configurations and groups and the individual subject, thus to
processes of Vergemeinschaftung.36
On the left side, system integration as a process of Vergesellschaftung
is concerned mainly with the relationship between the individual and the
world of systems and institutions.37 The essence of this relation is the
nature of participation in these systems and institutions. Showstack
Sassoon argues that the nature of this relation is always changing. It is
dependent on situation, space, life course, gender and so on. That is why
we have to conceive this relationship in a highly differentiated way. The
rights and duties of citizens will get their meaning in the context of their
needs.38 Therefore citizenship or the process of becoming a citizen are
complicated issues. There are a lot of difficulties in gaining access to the
world of systems and institutions. That is especially the case for women,
immigrants, those from ethnic minorities, disabled people and for many
older people. Also the conditions for participation cause problems: there
may be language barriers, discrimination, bad housing or insufficient work.
But, at the same time, the socio-economic dynamic influences the
distribution of life chances and risks. Mechanisms of social administration
determine which groups will be confronted with what type of risks, as well
34. M. Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Tübingen, J.C.C. Mohr, 1992), p.21.
35. D. Martindale, The Nature and Types of Sociological Theory (Boston, Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1960), p.83. In his view ‘a society or total complex of social
relationships which embodies the rational will is called a Gesellschaft; a complex
embodying the natural will is a Gemeinschaft’.
36. M.R. Lepsius, ‘Ethnos oder Demos? Zur Anwendung zweier Kategorien von Emerich
Francis auf das nationale Selbstverständis der Bundesrepublik und auf die Europaische
Einigung’ in M.R. Lepsius, Interessen, Ideen und Institutionen (Opladen,
Westdeutscher Verlag, 1999), pp.211-231.
37. In our opinion system integration has two components. The first concerns the
integration of subsystems and the second concerns the integration of individuals. The
second refers to inclusion, see p.346.
38. A. Showstack Sassoon, see note 27.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
327
as the nature, time and structure of risks. This means that social quality is
dependent on the outcomes of system integration.
On the right side social integration, as a process of
Vergemeinschaftung, concerns the relation between individuals and
societal wholes, configurations and communities, as they cope with daily
affairs. To have access and to belong to are, in this context, questions of
social recognition and appreciation. Honneth distinguishes between three
forms of social recognition, namely (i) the emotional turning towards
intimate relations, (ii) juridical equalization and treatment, and (iii) the
social recognition and appreciation of individual performances, merits,
talents and abilities.39 Here we are confronted with a paradox. The
individual is totally dependent on the social appreciation of his/her social
environment and, at the same time, his/her subjective judgement
determines if such an appreciation is a reality. Daily injuries in word and
gesture – for example, on the street, during an interview, at a police station,
in shops, between generations – have a negative impact on this
determination.
We assume that political participation and social recognition are the
points of gravitation for the processes creating the tension on the horizontal
axis. This raises many conceptual and analytical questions. We are
confronted with a highly differentiated as well as interdependent analytical
frame of reference. The individual appears at the same time as citizen, as
wife, as neighbour, as Roman Catholic and so on. There are individual and
collective frames of reference, and formal and informal worlds.
Furthermore, there is a tension between concentric thinking concerning the
domain of social integration (my room, house, street, quarter, city, region)
and multi-levelled thinking concerning the world of systems (local,
regional, national, European, global). The main problem is to connect
action theories and system theories, political and social theories, the
application of concentric and multi-level frames of interpretation, as well
as the combination of different disciplinary perspectives. These points of
gravitation provide the code for analyzing the processes taking place in the
field of interactions. In the case of the horizontal axis this code takes the
form of interactive communication about interests, power, needs and
conflicts.
39. A. Honneth, ’Die soziale Dynamik von Missachtung’, Leviathan, 1994, 1, 90.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
328
The Vertical Axis
The tension on the vertical axis represents the world of societal and
biographical developments. By referring to this tension we have to connect
ourselves with a longstanding scientific tradition. According to Weyman
the idea of the creation of modern society based on discourse and the
notion of harmonious interrelations between society and biography goes
back to Comte. With our chosen social-philosophical context for the
concept of social quality, we will connect our political-theoretical
orientation with discourse theories. Weyman formulates our position
exactly: ’Discourse theories describe the social process that links human
biographies with societal forms as a process of the creation of social reality
through interaction.’40 This quotation can be translated into our terms.
Interactive communication (the horizontal axis) will create the reality of
the social, which is connected to the processes which link biographical and
societal developments (the vertical axis). Discourse theories analyze the
creation as well as the processes involved. In this perspective social reality
is more than the visible world of appearances. Kosik, for example, speaks
of the world of ’pseudo concretisation’. That is the world of external
phenomena on the surface of the reality and substantial processes. There is
also the world of projections and manipulations of reality41 in the form of
emergencies and contingencies. We have to decode this hidden world.
On the vertical axis, values, norms, principles, codes, rights and
conventions provide the essential ingredients. They are embedded in
societal and biographical developments. This is the field of contingencies
or non-actualized possibilities. In a theoretical sense everything may be
contingent but this statement is meaningless. We have to explore the range
of non-actualized possibilities and the related processes of actualization.
On the top half of the axis is the collectivization of norms while, on the
bottom is the growth of sensitivity of values. Both represent points of
gravitation and we need a code which enables their exploration.
In the case of the horizontal tension, or the field of interactions, the
code is – as we explained – interactive communication. We can analyze the
points of gravitation, namely participation and social recognition. These
were logically derived from the assumptions concerning
40. A. Weyman,’ Interrelating Society and Biography. Discourse, Markets and the Welfare
State’s Life Course Policy’, in A. Weyman, W.R. Heinz (eds), Society and Biography
(Weinheim, Deutscher Studien Verlag, 1999), pp.241-254.
41. K. Kosik, Dialektiek des Konkreten (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1976), p.9.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
329
Vergesellschaftung and Vergemeinschaftung. With regard to the vertical
axis, however, we need another point of orientation. To conceptualize it we
first have to address three methodological questions; how to analyze the
difference between both levels; how to analyze the nature of contingencies,
and how to analyze their actualization.
Reflecting the vertical axis we have to analyze the macro-level of
societal development (above) and the micro-level of biographical
development or life-courses (below). To theorize social quality we need
therefore, first, a methodologically based link between the macro-level and
the micro-level. For example in the international debate on studying
history this theme is articulated from two points of view. One regards
macro-oriented social history with its accent on the role of structures,
global and universally interpreted processes. The other is the microoriented
daily life history with its accent on the role of individual subjects,
the primary role of events, the individually based interpretation of power
and a more differentiated idea of historical development.42 If we have to
address both points of view at the same time – and for social quality
research we have to – we need a multi-perspective orientation. Thus, the
question is how to move from case (below) to norm (above) and, vice
versa, from the unique and the particularistic to the universal; from
localism to cosmopolitanism; from differentiation to standardization? In
other words, we need a synthetic approach to link societal and biographical
processes. In our terms we need such a connecting code in order to fathom
these processes in such a way that we will be able to connect the world of
contingencies with the world of interactions.
The second methodological question refers to the evidence that the
world of contingencies (i.e. values and norms) is meaningful for the main
processes concerning social quality. All actors playing a role in systems
and groups, and institutions and communities have incorporated norms and
values. That is the reason individual and collective concepts of the self are
coloured by these values. In other words, it is not only that
systems/institutions and communities/groups have incorporated norms and
values, they also produce the cognitive starting point for the perception of
situations and the definition of problems and plans for action in a field of
mutual infiltration. The difficulty is that the genesis and the development
42. H. Medick, ’Makro-Historie’, in W. Schulze, Sozialgeschichte, Alltagsgeschichte,
Mikro-Historie: Eine Diskussion (Göttingen, Vandenhoek und Rupprecht, 1994),
pp.40-53.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
330
of individual and collective values cannot be separated from these related
processes. Processes in the field of contingencies are highly influenced by
processes in the field of interactions. Namely, systems, institutions and
organizations represent, produce and mutate collective values. To put it
another way, communities, configurations and groups produce, adapt and
change conditions and perspectives for these values. In this context
patterns of values and self-concepts will elaborate, as well as determine,
the nature of this context in a given time and at a given place.
The third methodological question is the issue of how to analyze the
actualization of contingencies. This means that this analysis should be
oriented towards the confrontation between the field of contingencies and
the field of interactions, between the hidden aspects and the visible aspects
of human realities, between the supposed and the empirical events.
Following the approach of the three methodological questions we are
able to construct the analytical frame to reflect the vertical axis. The
subject matter of the field of contingencies concerns values, norms,
principles, rights and conventions. To anatomize the field of contingencies
of values and norms and to operationalize the outcomes we need a code.
This code concerns the transformation of values and, with its help, we will
be able to fathom the growth of sensitivity of values in biographical
development and the transformation to norms in societal development.
Both concern the points of gravitation of the vertical axis. According to
Bouget (Chapter 4), values are embedded in power relations and their
genesis, development and transformation should be analyzed in the context
of the field of interactive communication.
A Comprehensive View of Both Axes
We explained that between both axes and their four points of gravitation
exists a complex of mutually conditioning interdependencies. In the field
of interactions on the horizontal axis we are confronted with a
diversification of interests, needs, power relations and related conflicts.
This implies the necessity to bargain, to form coalitions in order to cope
with divergences. In order to be enabled to act the development of
compromise has to reach a sufficient level. In the case of the vertical axis
this assumes the development of ’consensus’, or continuously changing
agreements which obtain sufficient levels of harmony, as a condition for
action. The points of gravitation are essential for both developments. It is
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
331
impossible to obtain compromise in the context of power relations and
related inequalities without minimally sufficient standards of sensitivity of
values and collectivization of norms. Both open the way for the
indispensable political participation and social recognition. Also, in
reverse, the outcomes of interactive communication are a condition to
obtain consensus in the context of the far reaching transformation of values
and especially the growing differentiation of values in recent processes of
modernization. This assumes a minimally sufficient standard of
participation and social acceptance. With this in mind we can present
Figure 17.4.
Figure 17.4. A Comprehensive View of Both Axes
horizontal axis vertical axis
subject matter actors in their values, norms, principles,
empirical context rights, conventions
characteristic interaction contigencies
of the field
points of political participation collectivisation of norms and
gravitation and social recognition sensitivity of values
code for interactive communication transformation of
analysis about: values from:
* interests, power * case to norm and vice versa
needs, conflicts * specific to universal
* local to cosmopolitan
orientation integration of acceptance of
for action divergences ethical maxims
(= compromise) ( = consensus)
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
332
With these characteristics of the two different axes we can mark out the
fields between the two tensions which are responsible for the
concretization of the social, as shown in Figure 17.5.
Figure 17.5. Points of Gravitation
societal
development
t
r
a
n
s
f
o
r
m
a
t
i
o
systems n communities
institutions configurations
organizations i n t e r a c t i v e c o m m u n i c a t i o n groups
o
f
v
a
l
u
e
s
biographical
development
sensitivity towards values
social
recognition
collectivization
of norms
participation
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
333
The Four Components of Social Quality
About Concepts
An important comment made on the first book concerned the nature of the
components of the social quality quadrant. For example Bouget (in Chapter
4) asks why we chose social cohesion instead of solidarity and why do we
consider the latter as an element of social cohesion? Before developing the
basic ideas concerning the four components we will refer to actual
European political debates on social policies. This is because, first of all, in
these debates we discover an interesting evolution regarding themes on
social protection, social security, inclusion/ exclusion and cohesion. This
evolution is important in unfolding our basic ideas. Secondly, we have to
explicate the theoretical backgrounds to our ideas. In the many documents
from the European Commission these theoretical foundations are
conspicuous by their absence.
Over the last 20 years there have been two themes and two related
policy shifts in the European discussion on the social dimension. The first
theme was launched with the early 1980s studies on poverty. The notion of
poverty addressed the heart of the social dimension. At that time the
concept of social exclusion did not play a role. The Centre d’Etude des
Revues et des Couts (CERC) and the Observatoire Sociologique du
Changement (OSC) studied poverty from the perspective of social
disqualification. The next step was to study poverty from the perspective of
social exclusion. The question was not anymore ’who is poor?’, but ’how
people become poor?’ The shift from disqualification to social exclusion
was connected with two very important aspects, namely the introduction of
non-monetary indicators of poverty and a synthetic index of risk. This was
related to the multi-dimensionality of disadvantages, which have led to a
broader perception of social problems.43
The second theme was initiated in the context of the completion of the
internal market. In 1992 the Commission launched the initiative for a
convergence strategy regarding the diversity of social protection systems
and similar problems in the Member States.44 These problems refer to the
43. EUROSTAT, Non-monetary Indicators of Poverty and Social Exclusion: Final Report
(Brussels, European Commission, 1998).
44. European Council, Recommendations on the Convergence of Social Protection
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
334
growing phenomenon of social exclusion, the emergence of a large fringe
population working in atypical jobs, increasing numbers of isolated people
and one-parent families and growing health care outcasts. These problems
stimulated the Commission to promote the ideas of a convergence of social
protection objectives and policies and the creation of a framework for a
European debate on social protection.45 The central objectives in 1992
concerned basic principles for cooperation in order to address a lot of
problems, while in 1995, the objectives concerned a wide range of issues,
including the labour market, demography, gender and mobility. In 1997 the
Commission referred to the emerging consensus, ’that social protection
systems, far from being an economic burden, can act as a productive factor
which contributes to economic and political stability and helps European
economies to be more efficient and flexible and, ultimately, to perform
better.’ 46
Of interest here is, first, the shift from security in order to protect
inhabitants against social risks to a broadly defined protection with which
to contribute to economic and political stability and social progress.
Second, the shift from a strategy of convergence between national policies
to a concerted strategy to deepen the cooperation between the Member
States and the EU based upon the exchange of experience, policy
discussions and the monitoring of best practices. The Commission says
that ’it is now time to deepen the existing cooperation on the European
level in order… to formulate a common political vision of Social
Protection in the European Union.’47 The pillars for this objective are
prepared in the poverty and the security themes. Both themes come
together – in a theoretical sense – in the objective of inclusion. 48 In our
opinion they follow the same pattern of development, namely: (i) a
growing broadening of the observation window, (ii) applying indicators to
contribute to a comprehensive and integrated approach to fight social
exclusion involving all relevant policies and actors, (iii) a growing
sensitivity towards qualitative data and non-monetary indicators, (iii) a
tendency for more attention to be given to preventive orientations, (iv) a
Objectives and Policies, 92/442/EEC (Brussels, European Commission, 27 July 1992).
45. European Commission, The Future of Social Protection. A Framework for a European
Debate (Brussels, COM (95)466 Final, 31 October 1995).
46. European Commission, Modernising and Improving Social Protection in the European
Union (Brussels, COM (97)102, 1997)
47. European Commission, see note 46, p.6.
48. European Commission, see note 46, p.14.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
335
tendency for more integrated policies and more cross-cutting themes and
concerted strategies.49 Notwithstanding the same patterns of development
there are interesting differences between these themes. In a conceptual
sense, poverty is related to social exclusion. Combating poverty changed
into combating social exclusion, more or less oriented towards labour
relations (see Chapter 10). Creating social security to stimulate economic
performance is connected to exclusion with a broad range of symbolic
references and new indicators. This connection led to the recent policy
orientation towards social protection as a productive factor. Both themes
are related to that of inclusion.50 Figure 17.6 explains our interpretation:
Figure 17.6. An Interpretation of Two Policy Themes
poverty disqualification social exclusion
Inclusion
social security exclusion social protection
In developing the social quality approach we use similar concepts. To
understand the social quality initiative it is important to explain the
differences between these applications, both theoretical and practical. We
will focus upon the concept of social protection because of its recently
important position in the discourse of the European Commission.
Social Protection as a Productive Factor
In this section in preparation for the elucidation of the four components of
social quality, we will try to explain the difference between the conceptual
49. European Council mandated during the Portuguese Presidency a High-level Working
Party on social protection. European Council, Preparation for the Council Meeting:
Employment and Social Policy (Brussels, European Commission, 6 June 2000).
50. It is difficult to find any theoretically based argument about the nature of the applied
concepts as well as their interrelationships. In the Member States there are completely
different connotations and, therefore, different policy consequences of the application
of these concepts.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
336
schemes, as points of departure for social protection applied in the context
of the European Commission as well as of social quality. First, the core
point of reference in the concept of social protection is income. With this
in mind the complexities of the employment-welfare nexus can be
unravelled. Two new important European objectives for social protection
regard (i) making work pay and providing secure income, and (ii) making
pensions safe and the pension systems sustainable. The basic objectives of
social protection – the hidden part of the social protection building – remain
the same.51 These concern occupational, fiscal, and statutory social
protection schemes. They are by definition income oriented as well. The
incorporation of the goal of combating unemployment into social
protection is the basic element of the modernization of social protection.
According to the dominant assumption of the European Commission this
may contribute actively to the social and economic reintegration of the
unemployed.52 But the core reference point of social quality is the social.
The employment-welfare nexus is an essential aspect of only one of the
four components of social quality.
Secondly, social protection is very recently presented by the
Commission as one side of the policy triangle, with macro-economic
policy and employment policy as the other sides.53 This reflects the macrotheoretical
orientation of the concept of social protection. Implicitly it is
primarily related to institutional networks, systems, regimes, market
relations, and European policy domains. It is essentially product oriented,
based on the principles of ’caring for’ (see Chapter 11). The social quality
concept is primarily oriented towards the reciprocity between, on the one
hand, systems and institutions and, on the other hand, individuals and
communities. It is also essentially focused on processes and conditions
with which citizens themselves will be enabled to create acceptable
circumstances in their daily life. Furthermore, the core elements of social
quality are socio-economic security, inclusion, cohesion and
empowerment. The core elements of social protection are income,
employment, living conditions, comfort, and consumption. These are
different dimensions of human praxis. In this chapter our main purpose is
to analyze the interrelationship between the core elements of social quality.
Where can we find an analysis of the interrelationships of the core
51. J. Berghman (ed.), Social Protection as a Productive Factor (Leuven, EISS, 1998).
52. European Council, see note 49.
53. European Council, see note 49.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
337
elements of social protection?54 Finally, the components of social quality as
core concepts are not only embedded in the conceptual scheme of social
quality but also, in Kosik’s terms, in each component the same structural
determinants exist.55 In other words, the dialectic between the selfrealization
of the individual subject and the formation of collective
identities determine the essence of each component. This also determines
their intrinsic relationship and is a condition for their reciprocity which
may be understood by a coherent theoretical approach.
We will explore the nature of this reciprocity and the outcomes (i.e.
their intrinsic connection) by the application of the ’first-order-starmethod’.
This method explains how from one point of view – for example
with regard to inclusion – relationships with the three other components
may be explored. Then we can ask which essential demands are to be
addressed with regard to socio-economic security, cohesion and
empowerment in order to facilitate inclusion and to develop social quality
in this respect. The answer could be that the world of systems, responsible
for the production of conditions for socio-economic security, should create
a responsive culture, transparency and accessibility. With regard to
cohesion we need minimal support to develop aspects of inclusion. With
regard to empowerment individual subjects need adequate knowledge and
capacities to respond to forms of inclusion. In other words, for each case,
issue, problem, situation and theme we need a perfect research design,
derived from universal and specific criteria. Figure 17.7 illustrates this
issue:
54. European Council, see note 49. In this report we read, that ’these core factors of social
protection need to be further considered, studied and supplemented where appropriate
with regard to their main aspects and should allow qualitative and, where possible,
quantitative readings’, p.7.
55. K. Kosik, see note 41.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
338
Figure 17.7. Approaches to the Interrelationship Between the Four
Components
First approach Second approach Third approach
1st 3rd 1st 3rd 1st 3rd
2nd 4th 2nd 4th 2nd 4th
The first approach analyzes all relations at the same time. This would be
impossible. The second approach is the complete first-order-star-method.
Nevertheless, the two-sided orientation is too complex for this phase of
theorizing social quality. We prefer the third approach, namely the reduced
first-order-star-method. It analyzes the nature – in this case inclusion – of
the second component or the consequences of its intrinsic determinants. It
also analyzes the influences of the other components on the second one.
This may be possible because the same determinants exist in the other
components.
Thirdly, the concept of social protection operates on the border of a
’causal loop’. In many EU documents about social protection we see the
presentation of assumed causal relationships. For example, social
protection should ’provide people with income in times of need and allow
them to accept and embrace economic and social change. In this way they
promote both social cohesion and economic dynamism.’56 Furthermore ’the
challenge is not only to provide a better assistance to those excluded (or at
risk of exclusion), but also to actively address the structural barriers to
social inclusion thus reducing the incidences of social exclusion’.57 The
vulnerable part of such arguments is, that – in van Kersbergen’s terms
(Chapter 6) – events are explained by their consequences to the extent that
an effect does not so much become a cause but is a cause. That social
protection provides people with income and, at the same time, promotes
both social cohesion and economic dynamism is a doubtful proposition. A
study by EUROSTAT demonstrates clearly that social transfers – excluding
56. European Commission, COM 1999/347 (Brussels, DGV, 1999), p.5.
57. European Commission, COM 2000/79 (Brussels, DGV, 2000).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
339
pensions – significantly reduce the percentage of people under the poverty
threshold.58 The Economic and Social Committee admits in this context
’that current economic change is likely to generate uneven redistributive
effects and that new categories of people may find themselves at risk (for
instance, workers with fixed-term or temporary contract, women, poorlyqualified
older workers, single-parent families, single-income families and
people with disabilities).’59 The Committee argues that policies and
decisions on modernization must be based on clear forecasts regarding the
social effects of future economic trends. Economic dynamism and social
cohesion should not be described in terms of mono-causal mechanisms. By
developing the concept of social quality we should beware of this
functional fallacy. In a logical sense this fallacy may be prevented because
of the essential focus upon the highly complex interrelations between the
four components of social quality. Yet this concept has as its starting point
the field of actions and not the results of actions.
The most significant difference between the concepts of social
protection and social quality will be, fourthly, demonstrated by analyzing
the component of empowerment. It is the most crucial component for the
social quality approach. Indeed, across many EU documents the recent
focus on ’investing in people’ is remarkable. This concerns the call for
education and training geared towards living and working in the so-called
knowledge society. It is, undoubtedly, the logical consequence and a
functional demand of policies, taking into account the digital and
knowledge-based economies as well as policies to stimulate employment.
With this in mind providing learning and training opportunities within a
concept of life-long learning seems to be right. In the concept of social
quality there is a quite different and crucial accent. Empowerment is
oriented towards people’s social power. In contrast to the many EU
documents about modernizing social protection, the social quality
approach is focused upon the social skills necessary to develop capacities
for active participation in public affairs.60 This is a logical consequence of
58. E. Marlier, Social Benefits and their Redistributive Effect in the EU (Brussels,
EUROSTAT, 1999).
59. Economic and Social Committee, A Concerted Strategy for Modernising Social
Protection; Opinion (Brussels, SOC/024, 2000), p.5.
60. European Council, Presidency Conclusions (Lisbon, Press Release, SN 100/00 EN, 20
March 2000). There are few references here to social skills: ’a European framework
should define the new basic skills to be provided through lifelong learning: IT skills,
foreign languages, technological culture, entrepreneurship and social skills; a European
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
340
the assumptions about the horizontal axis of the quadrant. Learning has a
strong connection with institutions. Participation in public affairs presupposes
learning institutions. As De Leonardis (in Chapter 11) says, a
continuous interaction and confrontation between partners must be
developed on projects, choices, practices and a space for discourse on
purposes, values and collective responsibilities must be created.
In summarizing the four differences between the concepts of social
protection and social quality we accentuated – in contradistinction to social
protection – that the principle of reciprocity is the basic pattern of social
quality. Essential here are relationships, interactions, mutual dependencies
and mechanisms of learning through experiences. The social quality
concept will be both a concept of interaction and a concept for activation.61
Notwithstanding the various similarities between both concepts, the
essential difference concerns the subject matter of social quality, its core
objectives and its multi-tiered approach. With this in mind we will present
our considerations of the four components of social quality. Before that we
have to refer to its definition. In the first book it is defined as the extent to
which citizens are able to participate in the social and economic lives of
their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and
individual potential. Two basic assumptions are connected with this
definition. First, this concept concerns individual well-being. Second, the
people’s own potential plays the decisive role. As argued in our second
thesis above, this role is dependent on four conditions. They emphasize the
concept’s comprehensive character. The related difficulty refers to the
differences between the subject matter of the components, their theoretical
references, as well as the open relationships between the components. In
other words, we have to ask ourselves (i) what is the subject matter of the
components? (ii) what is the theoretical impact of this subject matter? and
iii) how to conceive the mutual relationships between the components?
diploma for basic IT skills, with decentralised certification procedures, should be
established in order to promote digital literacy throughout the union’, p.6.
61. European Commission, see note 56. With regard to the concept of social protection this
aspect is also present in this report’s notion of ’activation measures’. It says, ’activation
measures must focus on the needs of individuals and will therefore require the forging
of strong links between benefit administrations and the public employment systems… it
may also require a review of conditions governing benefits to ensure that the
appropriate balance is struck between an individual’s entitlement to benefit and their
availability for training or other measures’, p.9.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
341
The Social Quality Quadrant’s Four Components
The subject matter of socio-economic security has two aspects. First, it
concerns all welfare provisions with which to guarantee the primary
existential security of citizens (income, social protection, health), basic
security of daily life (food safety, environmental issues, safety at work),
and the area of internal freedom, security and justice.62 The central focus is
coping with people’s social risks. The second aspect concerns people’s life
chances. Its mission is to enlarge the realm of options between which
people can choose. Social risks and life chances refer to different
theoretical schemes. With regard to the first, the discussions and research
about social inequality provide the most famous point of orientation. At the
moment there are many forms of destabilization (biographical loss of
perspectives and insecurities regarding life planning) and obvious ones are
societal processes of exclusion and discrimination against individuals and
groups. Widening the observation window causes a revival of the theme of
inequality as a societal problem. It is not only access to monetary and
power resources that is relevant; symbolic references concerning identity,
cognitive and behavioural abilities, anti-social and self-destructive
behaviours are increasingly important. Social inequality as a key point of
reference is highly connected with the integration/disintegration debate.
Thus, Nassehi argues for theorizing the connection between theories about
disintegration and about social inequality.63
The role of the state is especially important. As a consequence of
increasing crime and violence the question of the monopoly of violence is
crucial for the policy domain of security. Since Hobbes’ Leviathan this
monopoly, according to political theorists, is the primary foundation for the
centralization of political power in the state. It cannot be delegated and it is
indivisible, but this monopoly should be controlled. This concerns the
question of the separation of legality and legitimacy, between state and
society, public and private.64 Recent shifts from the public to the private
62. European Council, Presidency Conclusions (Tampere, Press Release, European
Commission 10 and 11 December 1999). In these conclusions combating organized
crime and stimulating security and justice played an important role.
63. A. Nassehi, ’Inklusion, Exklusion, Integration, Desintegration’, in W. Heitmeyer, Was
hält die Gesellschaft zusammen? (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1997), pp.113-148.
64. G. Vobruba, ’Actors in Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion. Towards a Dynamic
Approach’, Social Policy and Administration, 2000, 34, 4. He says, ’the growing gap
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
342
control of violence reflect a significant and ambiguous tendency.
Privatization of these tasks of the state in order to realize greater economic
efficiency may cause a loss of legitimacy of political institutions.65 Thus
the role of the state is crucial for the definition of the subject matter of
socio-economic security.
With regard to the second aspect of this component, life chances, the
role of the state is also crucial. In the creation of real chances individuals
are dependent on the world of institutions, their norms, forms of
standardization and regimes. The state has to play a role in enabling
people’s interpretation of their circumstances to have a serious impact on
policy and actions. It has to enable, to stimulate, to furnish people with the
tools and knowledge for self-support, self-actualization, self-help and selforganization.
Individuals, communities and configurations of groups may
be appreciated as essential resources for assessing existential problems, the
core of socio-economic security. In this context, calls to consider notions
of welfare pluralism (Chapter 12), third sector organizations,66 and the
enabling state are growing. They create interesting frameworks for
orientation. Such calls originate in the struggle against the deficits of the
capitalist system. Some negative consequences of market strategies have to
be addressed more effectively. But in modern Western Europe the call for
compensation became one-sided. In the past two or three decades of
Northern European societies welfare provisions were lumped together in
one box of state provisions with a growing underestimation of other
sources. The role of citizens cannot be reduced to the role of consumers. In
other words, a reconsideration of the concept of ’social capital’ can
stimulate ideas about new forms of cooperation between citizens in order
to cope with their circumstances. This is one of the most crucial points of
difference between social quality and social security. Socio-economic
security is more complex and more extensive than social security, the latter
being characterized by top-down approaches and interpretations. In
contrast, socio-economic security responds to new social relations,
production systems and conditions as the consequences of processes of
between institutionalised standards of normality and real living conditions leads to
increasing informality. Thus people’s strategies to come to terms with reality collide
with the official offers of inclusion. Legality and legitimacy differ more and more.’
65. K. Schlichte, ’Editorial: Wer kontrolliert die Gewalt?’, Leviathan, 2000, 2, 161-172.
66. P. Herrmann, ’The Third Sector and the Process of Modernisation – Reflections on the
Perspectives of NGOs in the Process of European Integration’, European Journal of
Social Quality, 2000, 1, 1 /2, 128-147.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
343
modernization with active citizens, productive communities, configurations
and groups. This means that we have to rethink this component in order to
understand its real source of social quality.
Defining the subject matter of social cohesion is a delicate matter.
Because of its long scientific and political history this concept has been, up
to now, connected with a wide range of other concepts and related
connotations, such as inclusion, exclusion, integration, disintegration, and
social dissolution. According to Lockwood, the dominant definition of its
subject matter is the strength or weakness of primary social relationships.67
According to this definition friends, families, neighbours, and local
communities are the most important expressions of social relationships.
We do not agree with Lockwood that social cohesion refers only to the
communal and micro levels. Because of the explosive development of
communication technologies the pace and place of social relationships are
changing. Locke has shown the impact of this electronic technology on
personal well-being, social life, work, civility and politics.68 We disagree
also with Albrow’s notion that, with this development, the central
conditions for social acting are disappearing: that family and communities,
friends and other face-to-face contacts are losing their relevance.69 Indeed,
place and independent networks are playing an increasing role. It may be
true that, in the near future, the locality for the constitution of the social
will be less relevant and that human beings live in transnational, global,
world-wide socio-spheres.70 Nevertheless, in that scenario people will be
living in urban ’sink’ estates with a spatial concentration of cumulative
inequalities. In Hirst and Thomson’s terms, despite the rhetoric of
globalization the bulk of the world’s population will live in closed worlds
and will be trapped by the lottery of their birth.71
Cohesion in the above-mentioned sense is challenged. There are
67. D. Lockwood, ’Civic Integration and Social Cohesion’, in I. Gough, G. Olofsson (eds),
Capitalism and Social Cohesion: Essays on Exclusion and Integration (London,
Macmillan Press Ltd, 1999), pp.63-85.
68. J.L. Locke, Kuala Lumpur Syndrome: Personal, Social and Political Effects of
Communication Technologies (Cambridge, University of Cambridge: manuscript,
2000).
69. M. Albrow, Abschied von Nationalstaat (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1998).
70. U. Beck, ‘Wie wird Demokratie im Zeitalter der Globalisierung möglich? Eine
Einleitung’, in U. Beck (ed.), Politik der Globalisierung (Frankfurt am Main,
Suhrkamp, 1998), p.51.
71. P. Hirst, G. Thompson, Globalization in Question (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1996),
p.181.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
344
different causes for the impairment of social cohesion, such as
unemployment, entrenchment of the long-term unemployed, changes in
family and demographic structures, unmanageable streams of migrants,
and urban riots. New types of social inequality have been grafted onto
already existing inequalities thus aggravating problems at the levels of the
nuclear family and society.72 These aspects are extensively analyzed in the
context of disintegration theory.73 Disintegration as a theoretical framework
for cohesion is worthwhile if the point of integration is added. But the
conceptual scheme of integration/ disintegration is not enough to enable us
to tackle the social cohesion theme. According to Nassehi, the theory of the
functional differentiation of societies is an indispensable aspect.74 As we
will see below, this point concerns theories of inclusion and exclusion.
Lockwood presents a different line of approach. With respect to social
integration he distinguishes between civic integration and social
cohesion/social dissolution. Civic integration plays a role at macro level
and tackles the main areas of political, civil and social rights. The related
issues are discussed in the context of the consequences for social cohesion.
For example, could the concept of social cohesion be extended to the
theme of political participation? Social cohesion/social dissolution is
located at the communal level and tackles primary relationships between
actors. Both, civic integration and social cohesion are part of social
integration.75 Lockwood’s approach is represented in Figure 17.8.
Figure 17.8. Lockwood’s Approach
social integration
72. J. Berting, C. Villain-Gandossi, ’The Impact of Economic Restructuring on social life:
Fate or Choice’, European Journal of Social Quality, 2000, 1, 1 /2, 61-74.
73. Heitmeyer is one of the main exponents of this subject, see W. Heitmeyer, ’Das
Desintegrations-Theorem. Eine Erklärungsversuch zu fremdenfeindlich motivierter,
rechtsextremistischer Gewalt und zur Lähmung gesellschaftlicher Institutionen’, in W.
Heitmeyer (ed.), Das Gewaltdilemma (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1994), pp.29-72.
See also W. Heitmeyer, Was treibt die Gesellschaft auseinander? (Frankfurt am Main,
Suhrkamp, 1997).
74. A. Nassehi, see note 63; see also I. Gough, G. Olofsson, ‘Introduction: new thinking on
Exclusion and Integration’, in I. Gough, G. Olofsson, see note 67, pp.1-13.
75. D. Lockwood, see note 67.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
345
Civic integration social cohesion
Lockwood’s classic distinction between social integration and system
integration – an important aspect of social quality – stimulates us to propose
two additions to this model. First, we will relate his social cohesion/social
dissolution distinction to the theme of social integration. Furthermore, we
will relate inclusion/exclusion to his theme of system integration. Both
social cohesion and inclusion are essential parts of the discourse on
integration/disintegration. Lockwood focuses on orderly or conflictual
relationships between actors in the case of social integration. But, contrary
to Lockwood, we then focus on the case of system integration on orderly or
conflictual relationships between actors and systems or subsystems, not
only those between systems. The consequences of these two changes can
be seen in Figure 17.9.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
346
Figure 17.9. The Theoretical Position of Social Cohesion and
Inclusion
Differentiation/Integration
Social cohesion/ Inclusion/
Social dissolution Exclusion
Social integration System integration
The third component, inclusion, is closely related to exclusion. Again we
have to ask ourselves what is the theoretical basis of this connection? To
answer this question we have to explain the subject matter of this
component. In the context of social quality its subject matter is citizenship,
which was emphatically introduced into the European debate by the
Comité des Sages.76 Citizenship refers to the possibility of participation in
economic, political, social and cultural systems and institutions.
Participating in public affairs has three dimensions. First, there is the
possibility to articulate and defend specific interests (material aspects),
Second, the assurance that the private and public autonomy of citizens are
guaranteed (procedural aspect). Thirdly, it refers to voluntary participation
(personal aspect). Modern democratic societies do not need more powerful
leadership but real opportunities for citizens to address their circumstances,
to develop their own visions, to enable themselves to contribute to an
equitable and fair society. In order to allow civil society (as a society of
democratic citizenship) to reach its full potential certain conditions must be
fulfilled. To illustrate this we will refer to the recent EU focus on building
an inclusive Europe through a range of community policies. According to
the European Commission, ‘on the one hand, to take better account of the
social and societal impact of policies and projects and, on the other hand,
76. Comité des Sages, For a Europe of Civic and Social Rights (Brussels, European
Commission, 1996).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
347
to strengthen civil society participation in policy making and development
activity. The aim is to promote participatory societies and social dialogue,
not only participatory projects.’77
But what is the theoretical point of departure of this perspective? To
answer this question we have to consider three aspects.78 First, in the social
sciences the assumption is accepted that processes of functional societal
differentiation create different subsystems which lack a common symbolic
frame of reference. The separated subsystems – economic, political, legal,
education, science, art, religion, medicine – operate within their own
specific perspectives and logic. Subsystems generate their own scripts for
the observation of the ’world’. The economist interprets the world from an
economic point of view and so on. The consequence is that modern
societies are missing a common framework with regard to the social
contract, normative codes, common experiences and cultural identities.
The primary consequence of differentiation is diversity and not unity.
This means, secondly, that the logic of inclusion in the context of
differentiated societies is fundamentally different from the logic of social
structures such as families, households and associations. In extremely
differentiated societies subsystems will fulfil one societal function. The
individual subject is forced to react in a multi-inclusive way. Participation
in public affairs assumes participation in different functionally determined
subsystems without a common medium and without links. The integration
of sometimes contradictory perspectives, logic, antagonisms and
orientations is in the performance of the individual subject.
Thirdly, the consequence is that the world of daily life stands
crosswise to the world of systems. According to Luhmann, nobody is only
educated, nobody participates only in monetary actions, nobody leads a
specific political, scientific, familial or religious life. In other words, the
principle of inclusion is based on partial incorporation into specific,
functional appointed communication and action contexts. Participation –
77. European Commission, Human & Social Development (HSD). Working Paper from the
Commission, Part 111: EU Policy Priorities for HSD, vol 2, 06/95-11/97 (Brussels,
DGV, 1996).
78. Our presentations of the three aspects refer to Nassehi’s propositions, see note 63. See
also A.Nassehi, Inklusion oder Integration? Zeitdiagnostische Konsequenzen einer
Theorie von Exklusions- und Desintegrationsphänomenen’, in K. S. Rehberg (ed,),
Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie 1996; Differenz und Integration.
Die Zukunft moderner Gesellschaften (Opladen, Westdeutscher Verlag, 1997), pp.619-
623.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
348
the core of citizenship – is not only a question of multi-inclusiveness, it
also has to cope with the complex mechanisms which determine this multiinclusiveness.
This refers to the real problematique of civil society.
The social quality concept is essentially an actor-oriented concept.
Therefore, the component empowerment has a special position. It has a
general attractiveness – witness the popularity of slogans such as ’investing
in people’. Furthermore, empowerment seems easy to instrumentalize and
has been applied in many policy fields. It is an integral part of the overall
objectives of the European Commission, demonstrated by Article 130 of
the Treaty of Maastricht. Nevertheless, attention to the potential spillover
effects of this component is not evident and, according to Pierson and
Leibfried, functional spillover generates political spillover.79
According to the European Commission the subject matter of
empowerment may be defined as increasing the range of human choice80
and the earlier basic needs approach tended to be of a top-down character.
Thus the concept of empowerment implies human beings as subjects of
development processes rather than as objects for benevolent development
interventions from outsiders. People’s capabilities are the focus of
attention. Their social relations are the most valuable resource. With
respect to the Commission’s intention, the principle of development – not
for but through the people – is not really visible in various policy fields (see
Chapter 12).
Theoretical inspirations for exploring empowerment are very different.
First of all there is the debate about ’social capital’, introduced by Jacobs in
her 1961 study The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She referred
to the many little networks in a city as their social capital.81 Since the 1970s
many other scientists have taken this perspective on board.82 In these
studies two elements play a prominent role, namely the positive attitude
concerning human capacities and the special role of their networks.83 These
79. P. Pierson, S. Leibfried, ’The Dynamics of Social Policy Integration’, in S. Leibried, P.
Pierson (eds), European Social Policy. Between Fragmentation and Integration
(Washingon D.C.,The Brookings Institution, 1995), p.442.
80. European Commission, see note 77, Chapter 3.
81. F. W. Graf, A. Plathaus, S. Schleissing, Soziales Kapital in der Bürgergesellschaft
(Stuttgart, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1999), p.10.
82. See for example, J.S. Coleman, M. Granovetter, R.D. Putman, F. Fukuyama, P.
Bourdieu.
83. In the policy analyses the network approach is very important, see for example F.
Urban Pappi, Policy-Netze. Erscheinungsform moderner Politiksteuerung oder
methodischer Ansatz?, in A. Heritier (ed.), Policy-Analyse-Kritik und Neuorientierung
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
349
two elements of empowerment are crucial for the social quality approach.
The objective is to equip the individual subject with knowledge and skills
with which to aim to maximize their opportunities for participation in
public affairs. Trust in people’s own knowledge and abilities, people’s
social power and their control over their existence, self-respect,
competence and capacity building are the core components of
empowerment (see Chapter 2). Therefore the scope of empowerment is
very broad. Knowledge, skills, experience, and inventiveness are
undoubtedly some of society’s most valuable resources, nevertheless, their
contents are diffuse. In order to be fruitful for the social quality approach
we have to elucidate what should be empowered.
According to Friedman, we may distinguish between three types of
empowerment, personal, social and political.84 The personal aspect
concerns the whole range of knowledge, skills and experiences which leads
to more self-respect, self-development and self-thematization.85 The social
aspect is connected with the interpersonal, intermediary and formalized
relationships of individual subjects. Political empowerment concerns
access to processes of decision making, information and resources. In other
words, capacity building is context specific and depends on the cognitive
self-concept of the individual subjects. It also goes to the heart of the
gender debate.86
In his cross-cultural analysis of major social, economic and political
transformations – the information age and the network paradigm – Castells
argues that networks constitute the new social morphology of society. The
networking logic substantially modifies actions and results in processes of
production, experience, power and culture. He says, ’While the networking
form of social organization has existed in other times and spaces, the new
information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its
(Opladen, Westdeutscher Verlag, 1993), pp.84-96.
84. J. Friedman, Empowerment. The Politics of Alternative Development (Cambridge,
Blackwell, 1992), p.33.
85. F. Dittmann-Kohli, Psychogerontology and the Meaning of Life (Nijmegen,
Universiteit van Nijmegen, 1993). She says, ’the term self-thematization is used when
we verbalize internally or externally toward others what we think and feel about
ourselves and our lives. Identity and self-thematization involve mental activity that
goes on in everyday types of social interaction as well as in self-dialogue or private
talk, in reading and watching TV’, p.11.
86. European Commission, Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European
Union (Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications, 1997), p.12.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
350
pervasive expansion throughout the entire social structure’.87 This network
logic induces a social determination at a higher level and form, namely in
Castells’ words, ’the pre-eminence of social morphology over social
action’.88 According to van Dijk, networks are indeed the prime mode of
organization and may provide the most important structures of modern
society. Nevertheless, they are not determining the content of society.
Society still consists of individuals, groups, associations and organizations.
He says, ’their organic and material properties and their rules and resources
should not be cut out of society to bring it back to its supposed bare
essence of relationship’.89
With respect to the component of empowerment, Castells’ suggestion
of a technological determinism causes suppositions about the onedimensional
network society and eliminates ideas about the subjective
character of human beings. Nevertheless, the question is obvious: if the
logic of the network society pervades all spheres of social, economic and
cultural life we have to ask ourselves what roles social actors have and can
play? What is their position in these new types of networks? Is stimulating
digital literacy an instrument to promote opposition against the inevitable
marginalization of social movements with respect to the rising network
logic? Therefore the debate about citizenship and civil society has to assess
quite new challenges.
The above preliminary reflections on the subject matter of the four
components and the related theoretical framework are summarized in
Figure 17.10.
87. M. Castells, The Rise of the Network Society. The Information Age: Economy, Society
and Culture. Volume 1 (Cornwall, Blackwell Publishers, 1998), p.469.
88. M. Castells, see note 87, p.469.
89. J.A.G.M. van Dijk, The One-dimensional Network Society of Manuel Castells. A
review essay (http:/www.thechronicle.demon.co.uk/archive/Castells.htm, 2000).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
351
Figure 17.10. The Four Components of Social Quality
Subject matter Theoretical impact
Socio-economic social risks social inequality
Security life-chances welfare pluralism
enabling state
third sector
Social cohesion strength or social cohesion/
weakness of social dissolution
primary relations differentiation/
integration
Inclusion citizenship inclusion/exclusion
differentiation/
integration
Empowerment increasing range social capital
of human choice network theories
civil society
The final question concerns the mutual relationship between the four
components. This is not a linear or strict causal affair. It is impossible to
mark the concrete and simultaneous active mechanisms by which the
components influence each other, but there are influences. For example,
between socio-economic security and empowerment, there is learning how
to organize groups to represent themselves in a welfare-mix configuration.
We should apply the reduced first-order-star-method to analyze the nature
and consequences of these influences, in order to identify the factors which
are relevant in a specific situation, for a specific issue and with regard to
specific problems. In the controversial case of immigrants usually the
emphasis is given to the provision of security. But according to the social
quality approach, we have also to stimulate measures to develop
immigrants’ self-support, new skills and capabilities. This should enable a
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
352
range of institutions to contribute to this challenge. Thus the relationship
between one component and another depends on the issue under
consideration. The consequence is that relevant indicators of social quality
should be very flexible and should be connected with the context under
discussion.
With the help of our discourse on the four components of social
quality, and reconsidering the contributions of Bouget, Phillips and
Berman in Part One of this book and Svetlik in the European Journal of
Social Quality, we may reintroduce the social quality quadrant by
developing figure 17.4, as shown in Figure 17.11.
Figure 17.11. The New Quadrant of Social Quality
societal processes
socio-economic social cohesion
security
[maintenance of health: employment [public safety; intergeneratand
labour market security; material ional solidarity; social status
(income) security; housing market and economic cohesion;
and living security, food safety, social capital, networks and
environmental issues, life chances] trust; altruism]
systems communities
institutions social quality configurations
organizations groups
inclusion and equal empowerment,
opportunities in competence and
institutions capabilities
[employment and labour market [social and cultural empowerinclusions;
health service coverage; ment; social mobility;
inclusion in education systems and economic empowerment;
services; housing market inclusion social psychological
inclusion in social security systems; empowerment; political
inclusion in community services; empowerment]
political inclusion and social dialogue]
biographical processes
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
353
Quality as a Conceptual Problem
This chapter’s function is to conceptualize the social in such a way that we
will be able to develop conclusions about its quality. But what do we mean
by quality? What are its characteristics? How do we decide what quality
is? What are the related methodological and empirical impacts of the social
quality approach? In previous chapters Calloni, Bouget, Phillips, and
Berman demonstrate that the concept of quality can be applied to different
domains: the workplace, health, environment, family, the gender and
consumer perspectives, telecommunications, manage-ment and so on.
Evers analyzed the quality of caring as an aspect of social services.
Depending on the domain in question, quality refers to different aims,
roles, and functions. In other words, this dependency causes a close
relationship between the field and context of quality and the interpretation
of quality. This has far-reaching consequences, in methodological and
operational terms, for a definition of quality. In other words we need a
constructive approach to defining quality. Because of the complexity of the
social and, because of the range of domains, aims, roles and functions of
quality, a simple measuring rod for quality does not make sense. Also
indicators alone are not sufficient. At least six points have to be rethought
in order to discuss the methodological and operational aspects of defining
quality.
The first concerns a logical conclusion. Because the heart of the social
concerns the self-realization of citizens as social beings, we have to choose
the circumstances of daily life as the main points of reference. This takes
us to the essence of the social quality approach. We agree with Balbo that
research and debate on issues of women and employment, family and work
opportunity have to be addressed from the perspective of daily life instead
of abstract and top-down approaches.90 That must be the intention of the
European Commission’s emphasis on the social dimension as an aspect of
Agenda 2000: ’as far as promoting a society based on the integration
principle is concerned, the focus will be on developing policies designed to
modernize and improve social protection, promote social inclusion and
combat discrimination and inequality’.91 Where else to combat
90. L. Balbo, A future-looking research and debate agenda; the hypothesis of Europe as a
’learning organisation’ (Ferrare, University of Ferrare, 1998).
91. European Commission, Work Programme for 1999: The Objectives of this Commission
(Brussels, COM 604, 1999), p.6.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
354
discrimination and inequality than in the circumstances of daily life? These
circumstances determine what quality can or cannot be.
The second point is derived from the first one. Quality is a function of
permanently changing and flexible configurations among actors in
everyday life. It cannot be reduced to processes between systems or
institutions and communities or groups. It refers also to interactions
between actors in institutions or parts of systems. Furthermore, it refers to
interactions between citizens and their communities and groups. Therefore
quality is also dependent on the forming of wills, needs and meanings
before real actions can find their expressions.
The historically and situationally determined nature of the context of
these interactions is connected with imminent conditions. This is our third
point. In the world of systems, institutions, communities and groups we
will be confronted with questions of transparency, accessibility,
competition, styles of cooperation and management, norms and values.
With regard to actors in these systems or communities we have to reflect
questions of continuity, delegation, legitimation and information, as well as
related questions referring to complicated networks of interests, different
rationales, and positions. Because of this differentiation we continuously
have to reach conclusions about what can be appreciated as quality.
These points indicate that quality does not have a one-dimensional
nature. There are no standards for quality independent of the very dynamic
circumstances, flexible configurations and highly complex differentiation
we have referred to. These conclusions lead to our fourth point. The
interpretation of quality in terms of minimum standards of basic services
for everybody is not an option. According to Therborn (Chapter 2), we
have to choose an ’open horizon’, rather than a ’social-floor’ formulation:
’social quality as an ever higher well-being among the peoples of Europe
used both as the set of empirical indicators and as the goal of solemn
declarations and their festive occasions’. This is also the logical basis for
the justification for mainstreaming cross-sectional policies from the social
quality point of view and the justification for developing specific research
designs and observational techniques.
Our fifth point regards the narrow relationship between quality and
capacity. According to Sen, the significance of human capacities is
dependent in as much as they are enabled to reach acceptable
circumstances and living conditions.92 With regard to social quality this
92. A.K. Sen, Commodities and Capabilities (Cambridge, University Press, 1985).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
355
means that a capacity is functional if these conditions are created with the
help of communicatively-based actions. In other words, quality will come
into being if people are enabled to develop communicative capacities in
order to exist under complex conditions. From role theories concerning
interactions we can learn that people therefore have to command
techniques of languages, an emphatic attitude, role destination, and
tolerance for ambiguity with which to address everyday life. Furthermore,
they should be enabled to defend their identity under highly contradictory
circumstances. According to van Cleve, in order to develop metacommunicative
agreements (i.e. to have a meaningful discourse)
communicative competence is a primary condition. The main purpose is to
negotiate justified claims within a normatively based context.93 This presupposes
the acceptance of heterogeneous interests, the acceptance of
preliminary consensus, the appreciation of conflicts as productive factors
instead of social defects, and coping with major insecurities. This is the
secret drama and dialectic of modernity. Quality refers to the disposition of
capacities to respond to these demands. The opportunity for selfdetermination
should be paid for by the ending of past securities. The
composition of new forms of security is related to social quality.
Sixthly, quality is not only a question of outcomes but of processes as
well. The nature of interventions, the choices of strategies for action, and
the type of organization are also determining factors for the quality of the
process. These factors influence the degree of openness to signals, the
sensitivity to changes, and the roles of actors. This point is immediately
derived from the conclusion that the social quality approach is intrinsically
connected with the argument for a consensual and participatory
democracy. The processes are conditional for the communicative
interactions necessary to develop the social quality of aspects of daily life
as outcomes.
Notwithstanding the methodological consequences of the social
quality approach (see Chapter 18) the debate about the subject of quality
should be embedded in a reflection on the logic of quality and the political
reality within which this logic is expected to function. The logic of quality
(regarding social quality) depends on the functional demands connected
with the goal of social quality. In this case the logic is connected with
processes concerning the daily life of citizens, based upon human
93. B. van Cleve, Erwachsenenbildung und Europa: Der Beitrag Politischer Bildung zur
Europaischen Integration (Weinheim: Deutscher Studien Verlag, 1995), p.230.
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
356
capacities and is functioning in flexible configurations of actors. The
nature of their institutional context is fragmented. An open horizon,
processes, daily life, capacities, permanently changing context, these are
the ingredients that miss, according to van Kersbergen, a clear point of
reference. In order to find a point of reference, we have to reflect upon the
political context of this logic.
The European Council and the European Commission have presented
their plans for this political context. The long-term strategic goal is to
make the EU ’the world’s most dynamic and competitive area, based on
innovation and knowledge, able to boost economic growth levels with
more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’.94 According to the
Commission, our goals must be the stimulation of long-term growth and
competitiveness in order to respond to major economic, political and
cultural transformations as well as the digital revolution and the process of
globalization.95
The dominant logic of this perspective, and it is not new, concerns the
logic of competitiveness, the logic of rivalry, the logic of struggle. It was
the Group of Lisbon which analyzed the limits of competition in a
trenchant study about the radical changes which are taking place worldwide.
96 The group refers to the dangerous obsession of the imperative of
competitiveness, which is dominant in discussions about societal problems.
In spite of its popularity it cannot give effective answers to problems in the
new global world. The consequences of unlimited competitiveness are
disastrous. According to the Lisbon Group, the logic of competitiveness
gives priority to technological systems and to the costs of instruments for
addressing human needs and relationships. It is a demonstration of shortterm
considerations, reinforcing regional and social inequalities and
causing unmanageable ecological problems. It also undermines democratic
structures at all levels of representative democracy. Unlimited
competitiveness is not the answer to the challenges facing Europe.
Indeed, in the many EU documents there is not an over-emphasis on
94. European Council (Portuguese Presidency), Employment, Economic Reform and Social
Cohesion: Towards a Europe based on Innovation and Knowledge (Lisbon, EC,
5256/00, January 2000), p.4.
95. European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European
Parliament, The Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of
the Regions: Strategic Objectives 2000-2005: Shaping the New Europe (Brussels,
COM 154, 9 February 2000).
96. Group of Lisbon, Limits of Competition (Cambridge Mass, MIT Press, 1995).
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
357
the ideology of competitiveness. Nevertheless, a concept of Europe in the
future where competitiveness plays a very prominent role is a danger.
There is a risk that reality will be reduced to this perspective and,
therefore, that other resources, possibilities and chances will be
undervalued or ignored. Opportunities for new forms of solidarity and
responsibilities become inferior in the context of the perspective of
competitiveness because it refers to a strategy for survival based upon
rivalry and indifference to marginal and excluded groups.
In the Europe of the Commission economic growth is both a main goal
and a condition sine qua non for a competitive and knowledge-based unity
among Member States. From this perspective economic dynamism is
intended to provide full employment. Reducing unem-ployment is, at the
same time, reducing social exclusion and poverty. This opens the way for
an inclusive society. Establishing a European area of research, creating a
friendly environment for innovative business, a fully operational internal
market, the modernizing of the European social model, education and
training, partnerships, collective visions, all of these driving forces have
mainly an instrumental meaning. In van Kersbergen’s terms, they
demonstrate an implicit functional demand. But an explanation of the
supposed causal mechanisms producing this functional response is
conspicuous by its absence.
The logic of quality with regard to social quality has a fundamentally
different point of reference. Instead of competitiveness and economic
growth as guidelines for new perspectives, strategies and actions, social
quality emphasizes interaction. It is governed by principles of cooperation
and social processes rather than market mechanisms. These principles,
reflecting partnership based upon mutual dependency, assume quite
different connotations; they refer to other interests, rules, mechanisms, and
patterns of behaviour. The Commission aims at partnership, dialogue and
consultation as well, but this aim is not the real point of reference. It is a
functional necessity to organize input from specific groups of citizens
concerning information, representation of interests, and contributions to
managing, monitoring and evaluating projects in the context of its
dominant perspective. The Commission says, ’the decision making process
in the EU is first and foremost legitimized by the elected representatives of
the European people. However, NGOs can make a contribution to fostering
a more participatory democracy both within the European Union and
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
358
beyond.’97
Cooperation and co-production are the points of reference in the logic
of quality and are based on principles of equivalence and relative
autonomy. This corresponds with Herrmann’s conclusion concerning the
third sector: ’what is needed instead is the organic emergence of a new
structure. Simply amalgamating various modes of organizational
procedures should not shape this new structure. The main challenge is that
it should be developed in awareness of the changed social framework.’98
This supposes an incremental strategy for amalgamating various modes of
procedures. This option will undermine national competencies. This may
be efficient but it is politically counter-productive. A second option is to
resolve institutional questions in the way of the ongoing Intergovernmental
Conference. This pragmatic strategy is a consequence of the institutional
implications of the enlargement of the EU. This third option may be the
most provocative. It concerns the transition from a Union of states to a
federation. This seems to be a utopian option.
These options – the incremental, the pragmatic and the utopian – show
that the process of European unification necessitates a more substantial
reform. Indeed the functional requirement has different causes. But in line
with the logic of quality one causal mechanism has an extraordinary
importance and can explain this functional requirement, namely the
growing necessity of sustainable and functional open agoras, where the
inventive potential, the organizational capacity and the creative power of
participants can be realized.
The reasons are evident. The key challenges with which Europe is
confronted stimulate a competitive situation. But the overall processes,
such as the liberalization of world trade, the rapid progress concerning the
information and communication technologies, and the inter-nationalization
of financial markets, also create new social problems with regard to
inequalities, insecurities, disqualifications, exclusions and so on. These
negative effects assume that there are new forms of problem solving.
During the Austrian presidency the Europe Forum in Vienna published the
following basic principles for assessing these new forms of problem
solving: (i) achieving consensus, (ii) aggregating competence, (iii)
establishing partnerships, (iv) consolidating co-determination processes (v)
97. European Commission, The Commission and Non-Governmental Organisations
building a stronger Partnership (Brussels, DGV, 16 March 2000).
98. P. Herrmann, see note 66, p.129.
THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY: THE CONCEPT’S VALIDITY
359
encouraging network-formations, (vi) creating public awareness.99
These principles concerning highly comprehensive and interactionoriented
approaches are appropriate for the social quality approach as well.
Encouraging cooperation for a balance of interests and advantages must
create a win-win situation by stimulating the potential of men and women.
In this context the development of local and regional authorities may be an
intrinsic part of the building of democratic institutions and processes. This
was the outcome of the Baltic Sea States conference: ’well functioning
local and regional authorities have great importance for the participation of
the population in democratic processes and for the social and political
stability of society as a whole.’100
The creation of a learning environment with exchange of knowledge,
experience, views, opinions concerning the present and future local and
regional development demand as functional requirement a specific focus
and working conditions for a cross-border-cooperation and co-production
between local, regional, national and European actors. Furthermore the
delimination of competencies and responsibilities between these different
levels causes a problem. The shift from a competitiveness oriented
approach to a problem oriented approach, with respect to the needs and
capacities of the regions and their structures and institutions, is a question
of functional demand. Are there any pressures that encourage this shift as a
condition sine qua non for social quality? We will refer to some tendencies
which beg answers to this question.
First, an economically dominated process of European unification
forces economic reforms to encourage competitiveness and innovation.
This will lead to priorities defined at a European level and initiatives
launched by the European Commission. This strengthens the trend of
centralization of competencies and the weakening of the position of the
nation state. In other words, competencies shift more from Member States
to the Commission than vice versa. The principle of subsidiarity no longer
constitutes a new form of European governance. At its best, it is a weak
complementary instrument and, in the case of real politics, it is ineffective.
In the process of the regauging of competencies and responsibilities,
secondly, the nation state is only reluctantly disposed to decentralize
power. But at the same time, the local and regional associations and
99. Vienna Forum, Urban Policy as a European Task (Vienna, Vienna City
Administration, 1998).
100. Resolution by the 7th Conference on Kaunas (Baltic Sea States Subregional Cooperation,
BSSSC, October 1999).
WOLFGANG BECK, LAURENT VAN DER MAESEN AND ALAN WALKER
360
organizations are gaining strength. Therefore, the connection between the
European level and the regional as well local level is becoming stronger.
One third of the European budget is invested in regional and local affairs
(for example the structural funds and the social funds). Beside the official
forms of regionalism we may also discover other forms such as assemblies
of regional and local governments. There are forms of specific regionalism
based on natural units, the so-called eco-regionalism and bio-regionalism.
There is urban regionalism or the Europe of neighbourhoods. In other
words there are different tendencies, namely the weakening of the national
level and the strengthening of regional and local level with new forms of
cooperation with the European level.
Thirdly, the EU concentrates more power over and responsibilities for
policy areas. To realize these policies, however, the EU is becoming more
dependent on the regional and local levels. This suggests the possibility of
a coalition of extremities, between a more centralized European entity and
the diversity of regional and local entities. The nation state then has a
mediating function but is in a weaker position. The Baltic Sea
Commission, the European Digital Cities, the River-basin Campaigns and
Projects and the Eurregio Meuse-Rhin are examples of new bottom-up
influences and forms of collaboration with the Commission.
Social quality as a concept of interaction and cooperation embodies a
bottom-up approach to coping with the questions of daily life. For citizens
it is important to have access to the processes of decision making which
influence aspects of their daily life. The above tendencies create a new
problem of governance: the political distance between the new regional
and local instruments and those at a European level. This gulf between the
people and power provides a theoretical and methodological problem for
the concept of social quality.

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~ by blombladivinden on July 28, 2011.

One Response to “THEORIZING SOCIAL QUALITY (SQ)”

  1. President Barack Obama’s Commission For The Study of Bioethial Issues July 27, 2011
    Pass the buck, the buck stops in a divided house!

    http://www.linearism.org/

    https://blombladivinden.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/theorizing-social-quality-sq/

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