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Global Social Policy

by Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009 at 6:52 AM

The problem is not understanding but ideology. Market fundamentalists insist government jobs are not jobs. Those working government jobs under FDR are sometimes classified as unemployed to belittle FDR's great achievement in reducing unemployment from 25% to 10%.


Call for Papers


[This article published December 2008 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

In most states of the North, social benefits and achievements of the welfare state negotiated in the phase of Fordist (assembly line) or Rhine capitalism by strong unions and social-democratic forces are systematically dismantled to improve the competitiveness of the location. In view of growing social inequality and new forms of poverty like the “working poor,” development moves in the opposite direction. While neoliberal (neoclassical) doctrine criticized social security systems since the 1980s as market-distorting, the ILO (International Labor Organization) and prominent voices even from the World Bank urge a new security policy. In the past, however, there was no reduction of privatizations. The relation of these new social-political efforts to privatization- and liberalization-policy should be defined and critically questioned.

The principle of target-group orientation and neediness (targeting) is increasingly replaced by recalling universalist principles in social-political measures in development policy. Broad overall social security is an increasing answer to the new social polarization and poverty in the South and no longer emergency-relief for extreme cases. In their new bilateral free trade agreement, the EU and the US try to include minimum social standards, above all the core labor norms of the ILO. Some already envision a post-neoliberal scenario. In the “Post-Washington Consensus,” faith in the market’s optimal power of allocation has been shaken. The state must be seen as a strong regulator in questions of social security. Pilot socio-political programs should be launched. Across-the-board employment- and basic insurance systems reflect a rethinking in the political practice in several countries of the South on the nation-state plane. Critics see the expansion of the Washington Consensus through regulating state actions primarily as support- and relief measures for the crisis-prone markets and in no way as revision of basic neoliberal principles. Introduction of minimum socio-political standards is criticized as abandonment of the principle of redistribution through measures of social cushioning. From this perspective, global social policy appears as a policy of social peace to maintain the dominant order economically and politically.

The new paradigm of “global social policy” discussed for several years could help answer these questions. In the spirit of human rights, social policy – in the wider sense – guarantees the universal access of all members of society to the necessities like education, health care, water and energy supply etc. Social security – in the narrower sense – ensures individuals against life risks like sickness, accident, old age, death of relatives etc. Social policy is understood as an internal affair of sovereign nation states and no longer a stepchild of development cooperation. The discussion about development of social-political standards and global social political interventions raises the question whether a breach with the neoliberal dogma and a reformulation of international responsibility are necessary. This breach is now demanded by experts, international organizations, think tanks and members of government from countries of the North and not only by social movements like the World Social Forum and the global justice movement.

This is certainly reason for critical analysis, not for euphoria. What social-political orientations are propagated with what underlying philosophy? Is introduction of social security for female employees, basic state social security programs or strengthening community-oriented programs for local self-help the priority? Investments in basic social security are vital in education, human capital and lower follow-up costs. Social policy should not be seen as an overall social obligation or in the new paradigm as a global-moral obligation to help the poor. Social policy is part of other political initiatives and therefore cannot be grasped quantitatively by indicator groups. Historical classification of social struggles is needed for reconstructing the causalities. In relation to global social policy, we should ask who are the central actors and strategic planners implementing global social policy? How do global, national and local relate to one another? The big question of all social policy, the financial question, involves the readiness for redistribution and its limits. The contradiction between far-reaching goals and norms (millennium development goals: economic and social human rights) and the very limited readiness of the North to forego privileges and make available financial resources is increasingly clear.

We seek contributions on the following themes:

- General articles on paradigms of “global social policy,” on the systematic of the term, on changes and developments in discussions and institutions and analysis of actors

- Is global social policy a breach with neoliberalism? What are the characteristics of a post-neoliberalism? Is post-neoliberalism the last attempt at ensuring global domination (“fireworks”)? How is social policy classified in the general ensemble of national and international politics and in financial-, economic-, internal-, security- and foreign-, development-connections?

- Do universalist principles of social policy (for example, in pension systems) imply a breach with the past efficiency criterion of targeting, a breach with targeted promotion of women and reduction of gender mainstreaming?

- Case studies on sociopolitical initiatives in different areas (legal protection for expectant mothers, social assistance, health care, education, basic security, pension systems, unemployment, industrial safety and so forth)

- Inclusion of sex-specific division of labor and informal and poorly paid work (working poor) in sociopolitical initiatives

- The relation of informal (so-called “traditional”) and formal security systems

- Transformations and building social security systems in countries of the South (in LLDC and threshold countries)

- The relation of nation-state welfare policy and global efforts

- Global social policy as an attempt at international integration (for example, international law) and regulation (for example, migration).

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