Inequality and Social Policy
Modern societies are being characterized by a high, possibly rising degree of manifestations of heterogeneity and heterogeneity experiences which are not being mitigated or compensated by natural mechanisms. As an example, the varying composition and the varying, but in the historical comparison rather small, number of household members as a prerequisite for capitalistic mobility and flexibility should be mentioned. Households are therefore capable only to a very unequal degree to offer these market-applicable services which are necessary to gain access to their needed or desired commodities (varying performance capability). Some households will proportionally include fewer people in employable age than others. Some will include no members in employable age at all. Generally, this leads to a number of connecting factors regarding socio-political regulation and redistribution.
For a long time, the pertinent economic-political-sociological literature has been examining the forms and effects of pluralization of living and family structures, which are being induced for instance through changes in the gender-specific employment patterns, as well as the subjective demands on intimate relationships. According to the common opinion, migration and asynchronous demographic transitions worldwide are going to induce an additional boost of heterogeneity. In the field of working life, a tendency to abandon normal working relationships and normal careers in favor of “atypical working relationships”, which may also lead to a new form of dehomogenization of interests, has long been observed
Our working hypothesis is that heterogeneity has profound implications, especially on the architecture of political composed social regulation and particularly on social policies. These implications are located on various levels: on the functional role, the systemic relevance and normative foundation of social policy, on questions regarding the practical implementation of social policy, and eventually also on the way how modern discourse about social policy and social equity may be conducted in a “rational” way.
In the following, we will outline some of these levels and issues which are being examined in the context of the thematic cluster of inequality and social policy:
- Collective decisions, subjectivity of welfare and the boundaries of individual autonomy: The concept of meritorious goods and its socio-political applications.
- System relevance of politically reshaped distribution regulation in the capitalistic process (education policy, “automatic stabilizers”). Neo-Hobbesian welfare state critique and the outreach of the insurance concept as socio-political heuristics in the edge case of minimalistic public welfare expectations.
- “Dynamic Social Policy”: dynamics, heterogeneity, and the differentiation/dynamization of regulation design. Problem of simple designs: criticism of the basic income as a monetarized “socio-political general purpose technology”. Connection between outreach and structure of socio-political designs with the requirements/the sustainability of the respective normative discourse and collective decision mechanisms.
- Global regulation problems and polycentric governance, especially with focus on the issue of global warming.
- Heterogeneous family forms and the design of family policies: the issue of static and “life form-neutral” conceptions of family policy.
Margareta Kreimer margareta.kreimer(at)uni-graz.at