Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state – A Book Review

Just published:

BOOK REVIEW

Digitalization, immigration and the welfare state, by Mårten Blix, Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA, USA, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017, 186 pp., ISBN 978 1 78643 294 0 (hardback)

One may be grateful, seeing a title as the one of the books for review, that finally it is about some- thing that can well be perceived as a crossroads for the future, defined by: digitization as one of the main new hopes, and equally a major variable of insecurity; migration is seen by many as a major threat; and the welfare state as known centre and channel, allowing taming rough sea. …

It is published in the

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK

and can be accessed – if you have access via:

https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2018.1434267

Annunci

the wealthy continue to gain, for most of the others it remains pain

Or: fiscal policy as social policy may sound as provocation … though Robbie Pye and Owen Parker rightly state

A greater array of social and labour policy areas have been subsumed within macroeconomic coordination (as discussed further in the following section), wherein they are decided by economic and finance actors in DG ECFIN and the Economic and Finance Council (Copeland and James, 2014; Oberndorfer, 2015; Schellinger, 2015: 6). DG ECFIN has, moreover, repeatedly proposed increasing its own powers of oversight of member state ‘competitveness’ (EPSC, 2015) – conceived problematically in terms of ‘structural reform’ and labour market flexibility – in ways that critics have rightly asserted would amount to the Europe- anisation of the MoU approach and the significant further erosion of social rights (Oberndorfer, 2015: 199).
In this light it does not really matter “who” is delivering – as I stated myself in various contributions on social policy, EUropean integration and Social Quality: the problem is not about weighing social ad economic policies, the problem is what kind of economic policy do we ask for.
Anyway, for Germany it is now apparently getting even clearer what this subordination means – the Bundesbank reviving an old proposal and asking for retirement at 69 – though it still seems to be disputed. Anyway, one sentence from the article in French language
deserves special attention, so my translation follows:
Life expectancy in Germany is 78 years for men and 83 years for women, climbing stubbornly.  … – the legal age (for retirement) is already moving gradually from 65 to 67 years, though the effective age of end employment is approximately 62 years – that’s a lot of years to spend in retirement. Financed through contributions of those who work … and this is a a decreasing number, aging population is under pressure.
At least three questions remain on the table.
* If we are referring to an insurance principle, it is strange that people pay into the system …, and do not get the “premium” paid out
* If it is about solidarity between generations, it remains to be answered if solidarity is a matter killing pro rata temporis
* If it is about global justice and human rights, the most fundamental question remains why there is still this one percent that is allowed to expose the most parasite behaviour and even may fly in their jet for presidential candidature
– For those who like the more sober analysis, may read Branko Milanovic’s book on Global Inequality also showing some interesting global shifts behind this. Indeed, the wealthy continue to gain, for most of the others it remains pain.

Lectures

Two presentations coming up on the 19th of February 2016, another attempt to contribute to understanding a world (‘s development) that is apparently increasingly difficult to be comprehended – but perhaps it is easier than we think.

The one is on:

Space – A Category between Physical Extension, Economic, Re-Production and Understanding the Self

the other looks at

Precarity as Socio-Economic Transformation – New Perspectives on Social Policy

The video of the presentations will be published later.

Liberals

We frequently talk about neoliberalism – and the disastrous implication its proponents cause. Indeed, there is the need to criticise these policies. But preparing my presentation for Hungary, soon coming up under the title

Precarity as Part of Socio-Economic Transformation – New Perspectives

 , and of which the abstract can be found already here, I am getting another time aware of the fact how important it is, to overcome the danger not to block oneself by sohrt-termism. I pointed this frequently out, for instance when looking together with Marica Frangakis for The need for a radical ‘growth policy’ agenda for Europe at a time of crisis; or asking  if we face a Crisis and no end?, looking for the Re-embedding economy into life and nature. Already at an early stage I asked Crisis? Which Crisis? aiming on Assessing the Current Crisis in a More Fundamental Way. Ireland as a Case Study.

In empirical terms, some of this may be outdated – actually I am currently preparing also the report for the Max-Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich which I am going to visit during the upcoming weeks – it is the annual report on legal changes in Ireland.

There is one point, we may actually learn from the liberals, expressed by David Lloyd George.

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.

It may well be questioned if he, as liberal, would agree with proposals of today’s liberals – I have my doubts. But in any case, a radical shift in thinking and acting is needed, anything else will mean not more and not less than death, even if it may mean to Die Slowly:

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.
Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

There should be no place for it, for the Lentamente Muore.

Irelands social policy and law

Development of Social Policy in Ireland 2014-15. Report to the Max Planck Institute to Social Law and Social Policy. Department for foreign and international Social Law, Munich

Peter Herrmann

Rom, end of March 2015

Centrally dealing with the recent development in the area of social legislation, it focuses on poverty and exclusion and also the field of migration/asylum. In a more general perspective it provides a sound overview of the (supposed) post-austerity development, suggesting that the success is located within the tension between external pressures (Troika) and the suggested “opportunity” to restructure national policies (using the the pressure as excuse).
The price that had to be paid, had been divided between three “bearers”:

• Inequality
• re-structuraion
• externalisation

This analysis brings the analysis of legal perspectives in close connection with the political-economy and sociology of the country.

The report is written in German language.

Entwicklungen Irischer Sozialpolitik 2014-15. Bericht an das Max Planck Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik – Abteilung für Ausländisches und Internationales Sozialrecht, München,

Peter Herrmann

Rom, Ende Maerz 2015

Frühere Berichte wurden veroeffentlicht in der ZIAS

Entwicklungen Irischer Sozialpolitik 2012-13; in: Zeitschrift für  ausländisches und internationales Arbeits- und Sozialrecht (ZIAS). Institut für Arbeitsrecht und Arbeitsbeziehungen in der Europäischen Gemeinschaft; Ulrich Becker/Rolf Birk; Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik/Ulrich Becker; Heidelberg: C.F.Mueller Verlag, Huehtig Jehle Rehm; volume 28; 1/2014; Heidelberg 2014; 68-94

siehe auch:
Irish Social Policy – the Celtic Tiger without Soul (Irische Sozialpolitik – der keltische Tiger hat keine Seele); in: Zeitschrift fuer auslaendisches und internationales Arbeits- und Sozialrecht (ZIAS). Institut fuer Arbeitsrecht und Arbeitsbeziehungen in der Europaeischen Gemeinschaft/Rolf Birk; Max-Planck-Institut fuer auslaendisches und internationales Sozialrecht/Ulrich Becker; Heidelberg: C.F.Mueller Verlag, Huehtig Jehle Rehm; volume 18; 3/2004; Heidelberg 2004: 216-242 – immer nicht interessant als Hintergrund fuer die Krisenanalyse heute.

Strengthening the European Social Model by Going Beyond

The following are the notes of the closing remarks during the conference “Rafforzare il Modello Sociale Europeo. Il contributo della Qualità Sociale alla coesione del sistema comunitario”, Venerdì 31 Ottobre 2014 presso la Sala Polifuzionale, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Rome

********

I want to thank all participants for their contributions – they had been especially in their diversity a major challenge for me to think about the tasks ahead. The actual challenge is – another time – to overcome the contradiction between what we know and what we do. And it is probably correct to say that there is a general good will and acknowledgement of the virtues as we know them already since ancient times. And nevertheless we fail acting accordingly.

I will keep it short and will not develop the long story which we know from Pinocchio:

Pinocchio’s legs were so stiff that he could not move them, and Geppetto held his hand and showed him how to put out one foot after the other.

When his legs were limbered up, Pinocchio started walking by himself and ran all around the room. He came to the open door, and with one leap he was out into the street. Away he flew!

Of course, you may also refer to the work for instance of Max Weber, Niklas Luhmann and many others.

It seems today that we are facing a similar story: Europe had been established as system based on values as – amongst others – peace and justice. And now it seems to go entirely stray, following its own ways.

Already in the mid 1990s a large number of academics called for a focus on social quality as central parameter for future politics. In a declaration in Amsterdam it had been stated in 1997:

Respect for the fundamental human dignity of all citizens requires us to declare that we do not want to see growing numbers of beggars, tramps and homeless in the cities of Europe. Nor can we countenance a Europe with large numbers of unemployed, growing numbers of poor people and those who have only limited access to health care and social services. These and many other negative indicators demonstrate the current inadequacy of Europe to provide social quality for all its citizens. We want, in contrast, a European society that is economically successful, but which, at the same time, promotes social justice and participation for its citizens.

And actually there had been a very positive reception, the then commissioner for employment and social affairs highlighting the importance of focussing on social quality.

The two crucial points claimed had been the need to arrive at a policy design

  • that accepts the complexity and interdependencies of society. This meant to overcome a departmentalised approach, aiming on a new integrity which is not subordinated under rules of a de-socialised model economics
  • that goes beyond standard parameters of measuring economic success in quantitative terms, taking social quality as reference, and looking at peoples real and everyday’s life.

This merged in the claim concerned with politics, i.e. the need to develop policies beyond finding technical and short-term solutions.

I do not want to discuss the Lisbon strategy which stated in 2000

  1. The Union has today set itself a new strategic goal for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion

Leaving a structural analysis aside, THIS Europe had not been able to address the crisis, and actually it can be seen as part of a global political arena, leading straight into it, deepening and accelerating it. In actual fact we find today major challenges – most of them well-known and often discussed.

A major reason for the failing of the debates and analysis had been and is that the complexities and interdependencies had not been sufficiently considered: a matter of power, interests and of Pinocchio running his own way, even if they may have – or claim to have – the same vision.

Proposals for alternatives had been made from different sides, too often limited to models and dreams, simply based on abstract values. However, the reality needs to go beyond this. One of the major steps had been shown in November 2013, coming from an angle that had been perhaps unexpected by many, Pope Francis, writing about an economy that kills. More important than this statement had been another sentence in that paragraph, asking

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.[1]

Indeed,

  • exorbitant growth of capital and productive potentials is going hand in hand with decreasing GDP and an increasing inequality instead of socio-economic security for all
  • growth is translated into production of waste, speculation and privatisation of public goods – which translates into “values” equal “consumables” instead of providing a foundation for social cohesion
  • employment is loosing its productive dimension – and also its function of “making a living”. Precarity is the norm instead of suggesting a new take on socially meaningful activities and cooperation that secures social inclusion
  • migration is not a problem – though it is made being a problem as long as it is an answer to which individuals are forced by the externalisation of costs of production instead of seeing the major potential for social empowerment.

All this can be put into a nutshell – at least people living in Rome will understand immediately and others probably just have to replace the names of places and streets. And it is only a rephrasing of what Francis said:

How is it possible that we ignore the homeless people and “celebrate excessive consumerism”: go to Termini station at 4 o’clock in the morning – and in the afternoon have a look at excessive luxury on the Via dei Condotti and even the Via del Corso.

Indeed, all the answers will remain a torso as long as we do not manage to re-embed all policy areas into one guiding principle, that orient on

the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment. Its subject matter refers to people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships.[2]

The objective conditions of making use of the potentials will allow to translate social justice (equity), solidarity, equal valuation and human dignity, the normative factors presented in the framework of social quality, into meaningful parameters of an analytical tool and an instrument to systematically develop alternatives.

Urgently needed is in this light the confrontation of some major flaws of current politics:

Excessive cheap production and low fare trade, being a major feature of quantitative growth strategies are established on the strategies of sheep advertising and “low fair production”.

But we urgently need

  • planning
  • public responsibility
  • solidarity enshrined in rights
  • making people themselves the public

What else remains to be said? Since several years now there is a label on cigarette now: Smoking kills Perhaps we should think about this in connection with the words of Pope Francis and public responsibility.

Demands

EU

The EU has to refocus policies: instead of adjoining welfare policies to a growth oriented strategy of competitiveness, policies have to be focused on the social as people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships in everyday’s life as the true aim of policy making.

National Governments

National governments have to commit themselves to the same goal, strongly considering their action as part of their global responsibility.

Municipalities and Regional Bodies

It is necessary to orient local and regional policies on strategies that take overall sustainability into account, and allow for participative approaches that foster the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment.

Trade Unions

It is necessary to develop new understandings of syndicalism, thoroughly analysing the critical developments on labour markets and in society, putting more emphasis on the representation of men and women in atypical employment and the societal contributions made outside of labour markets.

Civil Society

The role of civil society is to provide a glue between the different levels and realms of society and to link particularistic interests into the wider context of an overall sustainable society

Academic World

Interdisciplinary orientation cannot be a catchword alone but has to be implemented and a permanent guideline of academic world – be it in teaching or research. For this the academic world has to be open for heterodox approaches, a truly open debate and a non-competitive working climate that is rooted in discourse and exchange.

Our Commitment

We as European Observatory on Social Quality commit ourselves

  • to further elaborate the theory and practice,
  • to contribute with concrete analysis of living conditions and daily life in a comprehensive understanding
  • to develop a network of and link between academics, politicians and civil society
  • to provide services that foster the overall aim of moving towards a society that is based in the orientation on overall sustainability and social cohesion.

The goal then will not be paradise – but a proper use of the resources we have.

 

[1]            Pope Francis, 2013: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, consecrated persons and the Lay Faithful on the proclamation of the gospel in today’s world; Città del Vaticano; Libreria Editrice Vaticana; http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html – 28/10/14

[2] van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan, 2012: Social Quality and Sustainability; in: Van der Maesen, Laurent J.G./Walker, Alan (eds.): Social Quality. From Theory to Indicators: Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; 250-274; here: 260

Reality – perversion, reversion, revision 

The discussion on privatisation, retrenchment, alteration, economisation, marketisation etc. is not new – nor is it a matter that can be easily access when looking at the figures. Actually we find contradicting figures, and it is frequently emphasised that the problem is not “less spending” but diverted spending.

Looking at the figures, and concisely analysing them as matter of facts and trends, is surely of utmost importance, finally we are talking about the future, and that means not least that we are talking about out children.

Apropos children: European societies claim, though in different ways, to be especially child friendly: indeed, nostri carini bambini; Children, our future; and even the notion that we only borrowed the world from them …
Here, social care and social security is also a crucially important issue. And as much as the state is still often represented in the figure of Leviathan, the Vater Staat (state as father), Uncle Sam, the personification of a sovereign that actually can only claim his sovereignty from the people as legal sovereigns, there is of course also a mother to all of this, and of course: the caring part, looking after the children and not only considering the blunt material aspects but reaching out with her TLC – the tender loving care.
Part of it is in Finland the Edelliset äitiyspakkaukset, i.e. Maternity Package. It is part of the Finish policy, nowadays seen as part of the national culture and surely there are many things that can be discussed (including the fact that the 2014 package contains condoms which may be misunderstood in this context). More serious, the point that it had been known for a ling time as MATERNITY package, instead of being seen as package for the children or Parental Package …
Now to globalisation: This package had never been free. Actually (terms and conditions apply) people could chose this package or a cash payment of 140 Euro, and trusting the figures, approximately 95 % chose the good value for money instead of the money pure – as said: there is the “cultural dimension” to it.
Anyway, that it is much appreciated can also be seen in the initiative by three young fathers: namely Anssi, dad of Otso, Anton, dad of Thilde and Max and Heikki, dad of Ronja and Joel.
Oh yes, we see, Finish men can also develop this TLC-attitudem, act as “mother state” to its citizens. And they offer it globally:

GET YOURS FOR $459 (limited time pre-order offer)

Much can be said – among the many things ultimately: there is a serpent creeping around Europe, filling every pore with he toxic venom of consumerism, commodification of everything … — and it will only be stopped by reviving the specter that had been haunting Europe in the middle of the middle of the 1800s.