Issue December, 2009
Carmela Davì, Messina (Italy)
The call to the social professionals today changes on the basis of the incredible transformations of national welfare systems that kept communities in all ages. Changes of wide extent, coming mainly from the drawing economic sector (even if we should consider the recent crisis and the fall of GDP- Gross Domestic Product in occidental countries), generated the rise of a U-turn in interests moving the important social politics, creating a strong disorientation in the field of social justice, that, in our perspective of analysis, represents the first engine that works in the circuit of those professionalisms.
The long history of occidental Welfare States has always been scenery of intense ideological competitions between opposed views of “good society”, conservative, liberal, catholic, social-democratic. The variety of typologies of welfare governance today in Europe in an overview is, as a lot of people think, in short, the result of those strong and historical oppositions. The different kinds of welfare structures developed until now in Europe, in fact, reflect generally the evolution of the pluralistic traditions of occidental governments that contributed to create interpretation methods, still pluralistic, of the social citizenship notion.
This introduction permits us to analyze shortly the consequences of a transformation process that has strong effects on the social service system. Actually, just the organizations that offer public services will feel the effects of changes in act. The disorienting economic difference that opens with the globalization of markets is determining, into the government policies of European countries, anomalous effects coming not only from the neoliberal policies. Italy, for example, is combining neoliberal views and (so called) “federalist” policies, to justify authoritarian and penalizing economic measures that leave an impression on the most delicate parts of welfare system, including social services. The Italian case represents a way for interpreting the end of Italian welfare and the beginning of an anomalous governance, supported by government policies that make many sectors of social justice and solidarity weak.
The evolution of the Italian system followed, generally, the same route we can observe in other European States: in the view of the decentralization, principles of responsibility and social solidarity suffered a strong re-definition, starting from a citizenship concept that loses progressively its link with the constitutional pact.
Shortly we mention that the first scheme of obligatory insurance was introduced between 1898 and 1919 (completed then between the 1950’s and 1960’s), changing a kind of assistance that before was offered only on a local level, by charitable organizations, religious and not religious.
From the 1970’s started a growing process of regionalization that had more and more effects on the social policy sphere. But, protagonists of this new reform were the northern regions of Italy, able to use fruitfully this political program.
The 1980’s were important because the National government started to involve regions still more directly in the control of costs. But the concrete turn happened with the 1992 and 1993 reforms. These reforms decentralized to regions both the financial responsibility of own government funds and the determination of the managerial model to adopt. This process activated a strong policy of differentiation that was translated in strong oppositions, for example, between municipalities and regional government, also for the competition that developed with the welfare private structures.
A national reform, in 1999, encouraging the cooperation, tried to write “the end” on the page of these competitive dynamics. But the reform was successful only partially, mainly when, in 2001, with a policy of costs limitation, the Berlusconi government tended to both the regional autonomy and a market oriented management.
The effects were immediate, because in a context of growing competition, the matter of interregional solidarity became central.
It was with the “federalist” reform, made between 1990 and 2000, that a financial system was introduced based on three resources: the shared income, that brings every region to decide how much from the own budget will be used to finance the public assistance; the regional taxes, including the users contributions; the transfers from the rich regions to the poor regions through a central solidarity fund.
It is obvious that, in this context, the tension increases, between the northern region, generally self-sufficient, and the southern regions, that often cover the 80-90% of costs thanks to the external transfers.
But, the actual government, under the pressure of the “Lega Nord” Party, faction of federalist mark, submitted to the Parliament analysis a new constitutional reform project, that provides for the passage of the public health care from a shared level, to the exclusive responsibility of regions. In this perspective of devolution, with a strongly “secessionist” political advice (that means a productive North that cuts off the inefficient South), single regions will not take part anymore in a national health care service, creating an own management of systems, with the consequences that this measure will have, mainly for the poorest territories.
So, the 1990’s testified the presence, on the National territory, of numerous so called “mixed welfare”, that included different kind of not institutionalized solutions, as, for example, social cooperatives. Also in this sector, measures of decentralization still made worse the difference between North and South Italy. The faced challenge in different regions, has surely different importance and nature and so asks for different management strategies of relations between social actors, in particular by the political-administrative élites. This testifies the value of the link between the political and social participation, in all sectors of welfare.
As asserted in 2006 by Walter Lorenz in the book “Perspectives on European Social Work”, “without a fundamental change in the relationship between citizens and the state tinkering with administrative structures does not suffice. […] The Italian experience with decentralization always played into the hands of the old patronage system (clientelismo) which is deeply engrained as a pattern of dependence.” The approval of the bill 1117-B in matter of Fiscal Federalism, which happened the 29th of April 2009, will accentuate those anomalies. This decree, putting into effect the art. 119 of the Italian Constitution that wants that “Municipalities, provinces, metropolitan cities and regions have financial autonomy of earnings and expenses”, will deprive southern Italian regions of instruments for facing the challenge of an own economy, starting from a heavy deficit, already existent, compared with northern regions: the distribution of funding for social services does not happen anymore thanks to the central government, but it is given up exclusively to local institutions and authorities, that obtain a total autonomy in resources managing.
Obviously, in areas where the richness does not get to adequate levels for guaranteeing sufficient fiscal earnings, local authorities would be forced to adopt alternative policies in facing the emergency.
They would increase the fiscal pressure on the local population or make cuts in goods and staff, lowering the quality level of provided services and making worse the scourge of unemployment in territories where local authorities still represents one of the most significant resources.
Besides, in distribution of funding, the principle of “historical expense”, that allocates funds on the basis of expense levels got in the past year and so of the needs of the territorial context where the authority works, is replaced with the principle of “standard expense”, that makes equal all the local realities, giving them the same fund, to the detriment, obviously, of the ones more needy.
It can be added, then, the introduction of sanctioning mechanisms, by the central government, against the less “virtuous” authorities, that consists in the ban of making employment and of organizing the expenses for discretional activities.
It is easily predictable, at this point, the destiny of total collapse which the southern regions are subjected to, even still strangled by the scourge of the organized criminality and the irregular, and so not taxed, job.
The general look just outlined reveals a clear dynamic of regional decentralization in important political areas: health, social services and job policies relapse more and more in local governments competences, generating significant consequences in living choices of persons.
To justify those tendencies to change in neo-liberal perspective, on the basis of a presumed desirableness of the reduction of the individual dependence from the policies of Social State, that would give him freedom of action and decisional autonomy, the welfare state has been often interpreted as mortifying and weakening for the individual himself, hindering the achievement of his total emancipation. But the welfare state, in my point of view, will not have valuable perspectives if in European countries (and the Italian case testifies it) will prevail regionalist governmental policies that appear to move in the viewpoint of the decisional autonomy and instead contribute to take off moral value from the solidarity engagement, the base of the welfare system.
Thus, two positions concerning the reframing of welfare shall be proposed in conclusion of this contribution.
The first one comes from the work of prestigious thinkers such as Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, that have widely revealed the weakness of that perspective, testifying as the effective freedom and autonomy of the individual are possible only through the achievement of those fundamental conditions that permit to obtain means and instruments for being able to self-realize.
The second one concerns, instead, the processes of changing in governmental functions and that corresponds, in my opinion, to what the Marxist philosopher Etienne Balibar defines “privatization of the State”. It means that it is gradually disappearing that kind of State that represents the centrality of power, having political responsibility and the task of mediating between interests of social forces.
In general, what arises from these processes of reframing the welfare state, on the basis of neo-liberal principles, is a deep transformation of the concept of Social State, traditionally guided by the principle of “equality in need that ignores the inequality in the capacity to contribute”. With this transformation it is outlined the passage from a logic of public welfare, that measures the interventions on the basis of the needs of citizens, to a privatized logic, that rather measures the interventions on the basis of paid contributions.
The result of this tendency is that the access to a good quality of service is guaranteed only to people that are able to pay the private offer and, so, want to grow apart from a “common life” that imposes to contribute for financing public services that they do not use.
Who lives in poverty lives in that condition of dependence that the liberal tradition identifies as “degrading”, in front of a self-sufficiency that denotes the achievement of the full maturity.
To consider the individual in his personal condition is, so, the emergency of a theoretical fundament for a valuable criterion of social justice, that doesn’t think of welfare only in terms of resources and goods, but starts from the attribution of a worth to a human being in self.
It is fundamental the recognition and the common adhesion to a social justice criterion that can be at the same time universal and subjective, because founded on the prime principle of the goodness of the personal ethic choice, looking at the achievement of a “good life” and a spread wellness.
Alber J., 1983, L’espansione del welfare state nell’Europa occidentale, in Rivista italiana di Scienza politica, n. 2, Bologna: Il Mulino;
Balibar E., 1992, Les frontières de la démocratie, Paris: la Découverte;
Bauman Z., 2004, Lavoro, consumismo, nuove povertà, Troina: Città Aperta;
Esping-Andersen G., 1996, After the golden age? Welfare state dilemmas in a glolbal economy, in G. Esping-Andersen, Welfare state in transition. National adaptations in global economies, Londra: Sage;
Ferrera M., 1993, Modelli di solidarietà, politica e riforme sociali nelle democrazie, Bologna: Il Mulino;
Ferrera M., 2005, The Boundaries of Welfare: European Integration and the New Spatial Politics of Social Protection, Oxford: Oxford University Press;
Flora P., Heidenheimer A. J., 1981, The development of welfare state in Europe and America, New Brunswick;
Lorenz W., Perspectives on European Social Work – From the Birth of the Nation State to the Impact of Globalisation, Barbara Budrich Publishers, Opladen 2006;
Nussbaum M. C., Cultiving Humanity. A Classical Defence of Reform in Liberal Education, 1997;
Nussbaum M. C., Frontiers of Justice: disability, nationality, species membership, The Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2006;
Sen A., Commodities and Capabilities, North Holland, Amsterdam 1985;
Sen A., Equality of what?, in Choice Welfare and Measurement, Basil Blackwell-Mit Press, Oxford-Cambridge 1982;
Sen A., On Ethics and Economics, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1987;
Sen A., Gender Inequality and Theory of Justice, in M. Nussbaum J. Glover (eds.), Women Culture and Development, Calderon Press, Oxford 1995;
Sen A., Inequality Reexamined, Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1992;
Sen A., La libertà individuale come impegno sociale, Laterza, Bari 2007;
Sen A., Resources,Values and Development, Basil Blackwell-Mit Press, Oxford-Cambridge 1984;
Sen A., Wellbeing, Agency and Freedom. The Dewey Lectures 1984, in The Journal of Philosophy, 82, 1985.
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Verena Münch)
December 23rd, 2009
Heli Niemi, Rovaniemi (Finland)
Revised article, version May 25th 2010
In Finnish society, questions concerning immigration and asylum have been in a central position lately. The explosive growth of asylum seekers in 2008 has raised discussions and questions among citizens as well as actors working within immigrants and refugees. In the media, the growth of the number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers has been particularly emphasized for a reason that young asylum seekers coming mainly from Africa and Asia have very quickly become a visible group in Finnish municipalities. The present report will give a general review of the reception of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Finland on the basis of reports, statistics, and directions mentioned at the end of the text as well as the author’s personal experiences on working as an authorized representative for young asylum seekers. First, the report will give a picture of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum from Finland. Then, it will describe the process of reception and the related service system, in which the best interest of the child functions as a main principle. At the end the report highlights some common challenges pertaining to unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Finland and Europe.
Overview of Unaccompanied Minors
The concept unaccompanied minor asylum seeker doesn’t have an official definition in Finnish legislation. In practice, one is considered to be a minor asylum seeker when one says he or she is less than 18 years old, seeks for international protection, and arrives in the country totally alone or in nobody’s custody. The age declared by the applicant has been used as a basis for age estimation if there is any evidence of the person’s age of consent.
In Finland, the number of asylum seekers grew up drastically in 2008 compared to the previous years. The total number of asylum seekers was 4,035, and a record number (706 persons) of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers arrived in the country. The number was much larger than in 2007 (98 persons) or in the previous record year of 2005, when 220 unaccompanied asylum seekers came to Finland. Compared with the other Nordic countries the total number of asylum seekers is still small in Finland. In 2008, the amount of asylum seekers in Sweden was sixfold and in Norway threefold in comparison to Finland. Most of the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers moving to Finland are boys from 15 to 17 years of age. In 2008 the proportion of boys was 80%. The top three countries represented by the young unaccompanied asylum seekers were Somalia (50%), Iraq (30%), and Afghanistan (9%). Only a few young asylum seekers came from Russia (1%), Angola (2%), and other countries (8%).
The reasons for minors seeking asylum in Finland have been the following: the general security situation in the home country, belonging to a religious minority and the resultant persecution, the political activity of family members, and the threat of honour violence. Sometimes, unaccompanied minors have given individual reasons indicating domestic or sexual violence. Minor asylum seekers have mainly stayed in the Schengen area before their arrival in Finland, and usually they do not have any documents proving their identity.
Asylum Seeking Process
In Finland, all unaccompanied minor asylum seekers go through the asylum questioning regardless of their age. The process of asylum seeking involves many stages, and during the process many authorities require the children and young persons to talk about their life and experiences. After a young asylum seeker has left an application for asylum to the border authorities or police, the person will be placed in a reception centre. Later, the police or border authorities check the person’s identity and travel route. The Finnish Immigration Service then delves into why the person has left the home country and works out the other prerequisites for issuing the permit of residence. Finally, it makes the decision whether to grant the permit or not. At the moment, the whole process takes from five to eight months in the case of young asylum seekers. In addition, the Finnish Immigration Service is obliged to promote family reunification among unaccompanied minors by contacting their parents or persons having custody of them.
Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are rarely found as refugees entitled to legal asylum. Instead, many of them receive a permit of residence due to their need for international protection caused by the circumstances in their country of permanent residence. A few unaccompanied minors can stay in Finland for human reasons. Those persons who have got asylum or permit of residence for the reason of international protection or human reason are allowed to apply place of residence from a Finnish municipality. In 2008 there were 706 unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service issued totally 228 decisions for unaccompanied minors, of which 157 were positive. Only three young persons of them got asylum, and a permit of residence was given to 154 unaccompanied minors.Unaccompanied minors also get negative decisions when applying for a permit of residence in Finland. In 2008 the negative decisions a total of 63 were issued, of which 50 were Dublin decisions, which are based on the Dublin convention/Dublin II Regulation in the EU legislation. It means that a child will be returned from Finland to the country where he or she has sought asylum first. Dublin decisions might be problematic for children, and sometimes even against the best interest of the child because the reception of children is not organised well in all countries covered by the Dublin agreement.
For example, the Finnish Ministry of Interior made a decision in 2008 that in the Dublin cases the unaccompanied minors will not be returned to Greece for the reason of the inhuman treatment of unaccompanied minors and neglects of their rights. The situation of unaccompanied minors staying in Malta and Italy has also been worried in Finland. The situation of these countries is difficult because they are situated on the border regions for which reason their systems are under high pressure. Especially the returns of young people to Italy have been worried about among the Finnish legal representatives by minor asylum seekers. The young people who have lived in Italy have reported that they do not always have the dwelling place through they are living on the streets and railway stations. Necessarily they neither have always the possibility to go through the asylum questioning or to use interpreter in their own language during questioning. In the recent situation where the asylum seeking process takes five to eight months in Finland, the Dublin decision can cause lot of problems for the young people. During the long process they have already started to settle in Finland, but the Dublin decision change their life again by returning them to a country where they might not have any ties or familiar person and where they might not have human circumstances.
The Finnish service system provides accommodation, education, care and supervision as well as social and health care, spare time, legal, and interpretation services for minor asylum seekers. In addition, they are entitled to a supplementary benefit that covers food and necessary equipment. An individual plan of treatment and education is made for every minor asylum seeker. Housing for minor asylum seekers is organised in accordance with their age. Children in school age and younger live in family and group homes that have a home-like environment. Young people from 16 to 17 years of age are placed in sheltered homes aimed at supporting their independence and growth. In addition, some young people are placed in folk high schools for one school year.
Child’s Best Interest
“A child is always a child. Refugee children should first be seen as children and only after that as refugees. They have the right and need for particular protection and as good a childhood and youth as possible for the very reason that they are children. All people under the age of 18 are children, the small ones as well as the big ones.” (Hytinantti 2009, 54.) According to the quotation, the best interest of the child is a leading principle in the unaccompanied minors’ asylum seeking process in Finland.
The overall aim of the Finnish Government Migration Policy Programme (2006) is to define migration policy values with the aim of respecting human and fundamental rights, to reinforce a culture of good governance, and to combat migration-related threats. The programme, encompassing 34 policy definitions, recognises the best interest of the child as a cross-section principle in the asylum and immigration policy. In addition, the Aliens Act, section 6 (301/2004), pays particular attention to the best interest of the child and to issues related to a child’s development and health. This Act is applicable when making decisions concerning a child under 18.
All unaccompanied minors are appointed an authorized representative who makes sure that the best interest of the child is noticed in the asylum process. The representative has to be present in the asylum questioning using the right of action of the child’s parent or person having custody, and attending that the child seeking asylum gets the education and services in social and health care. At the moment there are no particular requirements for the representatives in Finnish legislation. Therefore the representatives are ordinary citizens who have an interest to work with young asylum seekers. In accordance with the Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers, Section 27 (493/1999), the representative can be a legally competent person who agrees to take on the task and who is able to attend to it flawlessly while adhering to the best interest of the child. In addition, the representative must have no criminal record involving children. In practice, the purpose has been to recruit especially representatives with work experience in the social sector, children’s welfare, or other related fields, and with expertise in questions concerning immigration.
Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are in the public gaze in Finland at the moment. This report has outlined the main facts related to the reception of young asylum seekers Finland. The system of reception regarding children and young people is organised with high quality in Finland when comparing it internationally. In Finland the unaccompanied minor asylum seekers have seen as the children who have right and need for particular protection, for the reason they are also treated well during the asylum seeking process. They are given a chance for new beginning and settling in new society, which seems not to happen in all European Union member states. Though the Finnish system is well-organised, there are still lots of challenges concerning unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. By reason of the fast growth of the number of young asylum seekers, the reception system has to be restructured, and still it involves a broad range of issues that needs further development. For example, we should aim to increase the territorial equality in providing services, to develop the system of legal representative and to shorten the time of hearing. In addition, we should aim to develop the execution of Dublin decisions by recognising the individual situations of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. Despite these challenges many European countries have lot to learn from the Finnish asylum seeking policy and system for unaccompanied minors. Though, Finland should also learn from those countries who are more experienced with the issues of asylum seeking. A considerable problem facing asylum seekers entering the European Union is the fact that the treatment of asylum seekers differs strongly between different countries. In spite of efforts to harmonise the refugee policy in the European Union, the member states interpret refugee conventions and EU directions in various kinds of ways. (Martiskainen 2009, 48). We should aim at developing more congruent European practices and policies to respond to the needs of unaccompanied minors. The reception system for them should be balanced between the EU member states to increase equality between asylum seekers, and to support the realization of the best interest of the child all over Europe. In addition, the European countries should increasingly join forces against human trafficking and illegal immigration. Regardless of the host country, an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker should have the right to a human life with one’s personal needs and individuality recognised.
Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum Seekers 493/1999. http://www.edilex.fi/saadokset/smur/19990493 6.11.2009
Aliens Act (301/2004). http://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2004/en20040301.pdf 6.11.2009
European Migration Network 2009. Annual Policy Report 2008. The Finnish Contact Point for the European Migration Network, Helsinki. http://www.emn.fi/files/46/Finland_EMN_Annual_Policy_Report_2008.pdf 6.11.2009
European Migration Network 2009. Yksintulleet – Näkökulmia ilman huoltajaa maahan saapuneiden lasten asemasta Suomessa. The Finnish Contact Point for the European Migration Network, Helsinki. http://www.emn.fi/files/44/Artikkeli_yksintulleet_24062009_FINAL.pdf 6.11.2009
Finnish Government Migration Policy Programme (2006)
Finnish Immigration Service 2009. http://www.migri.fi/netcomm/content.asp?path=8,2754,2762,2777&language=EN 6.11.2009
Hytinantti, Kirsi 2009. Turvapaikanhakijalasten edun toteutuminen turvapaikkamenettelyssä. Teoksessa Yksintulleet - Näkökulmia ilman huoltajaa maahan saapuneiden lasten asemasta Suomessa, 54 – 59. http://www.emn.fi/files/44/Artikkeli_yksintulleet_24062009_FINAL.pdf 6.11.2009
Martiskainen, Taina 2009. Lasten vastaanotto uusien haasteiden keskellä – minkä tien Suomi valitsee? Teoksessa Yksintulleet - Näkökulmia ilman huoltajaa maahan saapuneiden lasten asemasta Suomessa, 46 – 53. http://www.emn.fi/files/44/Artikkeli_yksintulleet_24062009_FINAL.pdf 6.11.2009
Sisäasiainministeriö 2009. Ohje kotouttamislain 5 luvussa tarkoitetun edustajan tehtävistä sekä edustajan palkkion ja kulujen korvaamisen perusteista. 1.7.2009.
Heli Niemi works as a PhD-student at SOSNET Finnish National Post-Graduate School for Social Work and Social Services at the University of Lapland, Department of Social Work in Rovaniemi.
Picture : www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Beata Wróbel)
December 23rd, 2009
Tatjana Shipunova, St. Petersburg (Russia)
T. Gobbs, an English philosopher, thinking about the problem of sociogenesis, had formulated a question: ‘How can a society exist if dog eats dog?’ He presumed that in an evolutionary process people had lost a programmed natural prohibition on killing representatives of their own kind (as opposed to animals). So, killing is a natural characteristic of human. That is why a society can exist only under a tight control of human behavior.
This theme has got a wide development in social-philosophical and sociological proceedings. Here we can name O. Kont, H. Spencer, W. Sumner, G. Tarde, E. Durkheim, E. Ross, R. Park, M. Weber, P. Sorokin, T. Parsons and others. Social philosophers sorted out basic institutions of social control that are responsible for human integration into society. First of all, they are: family, religion and a state. To the basic means of social control were related folk customs, traditions, manners, laws, social regulations. And amongst the maintenance mechanisms of social order were specially marked out imitation in a socialization process; obedience in two forms – personally-inofficial (based on consent and carried out as an inside control) and impersonally-official (by means of outer control); reactions on stable forms of social behavior (punishment or award) (1).
In the development of social control of deviant behavior that has been practiced in all Western countries we can sort out three periods.
The first period – until the end of XVIII century: The control had a repressive character. Measures of punishment were aimed at the human body (death penalty, mutilation, monstrous anguishes) and through this at external behavior. In this period there was no clear separation of control into formal and informal.
The second period – from the end of XVIII century: Ideas had particularly strengthened during the first decades of the XIX century. The human personality became the subject of control, his internal condition, “soul”. During several decades many countries refused to use corporal punishments. The meaning of formal institutions (schools (control over children), factories (control over workers), psychiatric clinics (control over mentally ill), army (control over military men)) that controlled humans’ behavior was understood. The origin of prisons dates from this period (the end of the XVIII century). Despite the fact that, with the imposition of prisons, the ideal aim of transition from repressive control to deterrence control was not reached, closed institutions remained legitimate and even strengthened. It lead to unwarranted widening and toughening of formal control, and, on the other hand, to the decrease of efficiency.
The third period has begun approximately since 1950s. Social, economical and cultural changes became its prerequisites: economical and social expansion of youth (liberation from conservatism), reduction of the role of family and church (as socialization institutions), increasing level of consumption with growing demands in the material sphere, broadening of possibilities for creative self-realization not only in a labour sphere, but also in leisure, too. This washed out the standards and stereotypes of behavior, strengthening internal control and weakening of the external one. Another important prerequisite was the declining belief in the ability of criminal law to secure the decrease of criminality – “crisis of punishment” (2).
In this phase offers of using alternative methods of punishment appeared (probation, intensive supervision, electronic oversight, community works, conciliation, conditional early discharge, tax, etc.), and also different patterns of social control started to be suggested. Social control became understood as a mechanism of establishing the social order, the mechanism that ensured the aspiration of the system (whole society and/or social groups) for self-preservation and functioning. It acts constantly and appears as a totality of technologies, means and methods of influence of all society and/or a social group upon undesirable forms, kinds of behavior and activity with a purpose of their total elimination or minimization of damage caused by their existence, bringing to the condition, that would afford them to exist without destroying the social order.
On the assumption of this, functions of social control are:
- Correction by means of awards and punishments (in Russian conditions it is rarely employed),
- Maintenance of conditions for the stability of the social system (of society),
- Preservation of an adaptive flexibility of the system by means of inclusion of some kinds of alternative behavior and activity into legitimate social practice,
- Integration of members of the society by the use of resocialization, readaptation, rehabilitation, treatment.
Punitive control (founded on realization of correcting function by means of punishment) is based on sorting out and on the consolidation of prohibitive and binding norms in law. In a process of codification of these norms in law we can see two regularities:
- Assessing the level of dangerousness of this or that kind of behavior and/or activity resp. legislatory issues not from damage or utility of an action for definite individuals but from the level of conjectural damage for society and state. It should be noted that with absence of civil service and mechanisms of social control over the state’s activity there appears a tendency to assessing damage/utility of an action in the first place for the state as a bureaucratic machinery, that tries to hold the power using all its efforts;
- In most cases (not including acts in political sphere) authorities are not interested in particular negative activities of people. The legislator pays attention only to arisen massive (mass) forms of deviation, yet again including not all of the deviations, but only those, which (from the authority’s point of view) may threaten the stability of the state’s existence and the existence of society ruled by it.
Though the legislator’s assessments may be not adequate (wrong) and enter the contradiction with the assessments of other social subject’s importance of actions. In medias res, exactly the differences in rating of the importance of these or those actions lie in the basis of the beginnings of different deviantological paradigms and all discussions about deviant phenomena.
It is clear that divergences of opinion in assessments of actions made by representatives of different social groups may be essential. These differences are conditioned by various experiences and, correspondingly, various definitions of the vital situation. Different determinations of situations and their assessments (discourses) may in some parts cross with each other, creating possibilities for shaping tolerance in society or intervals of norm operation, establishing measures of punishment and development of steps by controlling instances.
Divergences of opinion in assessments have particular consequences for the society’s life. So, if the social importance of an action is adequately reflected in total public opinion, but inadequately in law, then social-inadequately low norms emerge. And here official instances inevitably clash with mass inobservance of established directions, because “imposed on norms are associated in an individual’s mind with an external enemy, that causes hatred, animosity, while ‘homemade’ norms stimulate voluntary obeying to their directions, solidarity, absence of violence” (3).
The confrontation of assessments of the social importance of actions elapses difficultly. This process is connected with political and economical concerns of different social groups, which undertake all possible means (lobbying, bribing, blackmailing, corrupting and contract murders of officials, who apply to the creation of regulatory acts), to assign legislatively these concerns as law and order. This is how laws, which conflict with common sense, bring damage to society, but maintained by ruling top-down, are born. And this way, at the same time new kinds of “crimes” and other “deviations” are also born, the quantity of imprisoned people grows, the interference of law in the natural process of society’s development expands, inadequate lay policy forms, and methods of social control over deviant behavior change.
In terms of efficiency of social control over deviant behavior we should recognize the functions of the maintenance of conditions for a stable social system (society), the preservation of an adaptive flexibility of the system by means of including some kinds of alternative behavior and action in legitimate social practice, the integration of the members of society. The realization of these functions proposes the establishment of the priority of preventive control, which is targeted, from the one side, at creating conditions for human’s integration into society, and from the other side – at the protection of human rights to determine to live one’s life oneself and to carry responsibility for one’s own choice, in compliance with the principle of democratic society “everything that is not prohibited is allowed”.
The ideological and connecting basis for the realization of these functions could become the conception of social justice. Humanistic ideas which maintain people’s aspiration for a happy life on Earth, for freedom, have been born in democracy and liberalism. And the formula for justice in democratic relations had always required for an accurate definition. Modern democrats focus definitions of social justice, which were introduced by K. Popper and J. Rawls.
Karl Popper in his book “Open Society and its Enemies” gives a widespread understanding of justice: “… a) an equal distribution of civil duty’s burden (those restrictions of freedom, which are necessary in a public life); b) equality of citizens in the eye of law, surely on conditions that c) laws are not prejudiced towards or against definite citizens, groups or classes; d) fair trial and e) an equal distribution of privileges (not only burdens) which may signify a membership in a definite state for citizens” (4).
Another definition is given by J. Rawls. He argues that justice principles for the basic structure of a society are objects of an original agreement. On the basis of this statement he had sorted out two aspects of justice:
- Justice as an ideal social order (theory of strict agreement is in line with it);
- A real society’s condition, where there is injustice with which the society must somehow get on. But how should we treat injustice? The theory of partial agreement can be the answer. It includes two principles of justice: a) everyone has an equal right for freedom, compatible in a fundamental way with the same freedom of others; b) economical and social inequality (for example, authority and wealth) is fair only if it brings common utility and compensates the losses of the most unprotected members of society. Furthermore, social and economical inequality must presuppose: a) the highest utility for those who are in disadvantaged places and b) opened possibilities and equality of conditions for all in the same positions. The theory of partial agreement constantly demands the renewal of justice, searching of its new forms and formulas (for example by means of “forced measures”) (5).
Without entering the contradiction with supposed definitions of social justice, we can give its integrative definition: it is a measure of social utility (social adequacy) of laws and other normative prescriptions (formal and informal), which establishes and maintains (on the basis on an agreement) a special kind of vital activity of people, organizations, physical and judicial persons, that favours the society’s survival and development, and also ensures the integration and worthy existence of all members of a society.
Socially fair institutions, forms of government, norms and laws are those, which on the basis of an agreement between subjects of social interactions create and support bases of worthy life of people in society where the requital principle on merits is proclaimed, i.e. there is aspiration to provide everyone individual justice in his relations with the state and social institutions. In the given tool definition of social justice offers foreseeable reference points (or the purposes) – the establishment of such an order of ability to live for people and the organizations which promotes survival and development of society; the maintenance of integration and a worthy existence of members of society, and also the means of their achievement – utility measure, i.e. social adequacy of social norms. Here the definition «worthy existence» is a generalization of all those blessings which are proclaimed as those of modern society: a measure of freedom, equality, social security, an educational level, inclusiveness in social networks, wide opportunities of a choice of legal kinds of activity
Social justice infringement (social injustice) leads to the occurrence of various forms of protest, including deviant ways. The protest against injustice can be passive (short circuit in itself, alienation and leaving from the reality in fantastic dreams, in various kinds of mysticism, drunkenness and alcoholism, narcotism, virtual reality of the Internet etc.) or active (vandalism, hooliganism, thefts, robberies, murders, “shadow” enterprise activity etc.). Together they also form the uniform case of deviation.
Criterions of levels of justice/injustice and, accordingly, social adequacy/inadequacy of a system of standard instructions are: high level of infringement of norms (official and informal); narrowing of “a field of possibilities» for legal activity; low level of tolerance; protest reactions in the form of strikes or other forms of expression of disagreement; subjective feeling of citizens of injustice; low level of trust to official social institutions; indifference or abhorrence to the actions of the state; political apathy; conflicts between social groups; social exception of the social groups, etc. These phenomena are an actualization of the citizens’ feelings of the injustice. This feeling appears, when people in social interactions constantly face socially-inadequate norms interfering their high-grade participation in life of society, or the absence of socially-adequate
norms, capable to raise their integration in the social space and, therefore, to make life more productive, i.e. allowing most effectively (with smaller expenses and qualitatively) to satisfy requirements and to realize the potential. Social justice immanently includes also justice in relation to the person. Considering it, some researchers consider as indicators of measurement of social justice «the fact of presence of the legislation of human rights and citizen rights» (6). It is necessary to notice, that the simple presence of a legislation of human rights is insufficient. It is necessary to consider also all totality of legal maintenance of the legislation of human rights as blessing and as an indisputable display of justice in modern society.
The observance of human rights, however, is not a unique criterion of the estimation of justice in society. Here are also such indicators, as the level of quality of life, and also the development of human potential. These indicators are being discussed and worked out, which shows their utility and availability for measurement of level of social justice.
In the most general meaning the standard of living is understood as a level of satisfaction of material requirements of people in a quantitative expression when the available level is compared with a standard set or being counted. And the quality of life – the level of satisfaction with non-material requirements, reflecting the value judgment of social and cultural comfort (8, с. 100). Thus, elements of the quality of life in each state are separated depending on ideological and cultural orientations. The European economic commission of the United Nations systematized a set of social indicators, having emphasized eight groups: health; quality of a workplace; purchase of the goods and household services; possibility for spending free time; feeling of social confidence; chances of development of the person; quality of environment; possibilities of participation in public life (in the same place). The generalized indicators of the quality of life of people, represented in the international statistical data, are averaged and they can not always be used for practical needs of an increase of the level and quality of a life of members of a concrete society or its subsystems. Therefore it is necessary to form more operational rating scales of all elements of quality of life with the account social-cultural features of each concrete society which would give the chance to track dynamics of development of justice in attitude to the separate person in concrete society.
As one more criterion of a level of social justice in society is the index of development of human potential (IDHP), which can be considered as an integrated indicator of the development of the person. Among the leading indicators defining an index of development of human potential it emphasizes three: expected life expectancy; an educational level; real per capita gross internal product (gross national product). Taken together they reflect three main qualities: a healthy life, knowledge, a worthy human level. Representations of developers of the theory of development of human potential about a fair social system are harmoniously combined with the understanding of social justice meaning at an individual level the protection of rights and freedom of the person. Especially it concerns representations of integration, development and public blessing including also an indicator of adaptive flexibility of social system, supported mainly by the development of human potential.
Among the lacks of IDHP, first of all, are to be named the following: giving the exaggerated value of correlation between incomes of the population and well-being (health, life expectancy, education); difficulty of discovering qualitative parameters of well-being, the omissions connected with consideration of a social inequality and absence of differentiation on socially-age groups (7). Taking into account our theme, to lacks it is possible to add also the following: In IDHP only minimum parameters of level of social justice/injustice in society are fixed. But indicators of possibilities (for example, of level of income and education) are essentially differed within the limits of each society depending on the social status of people.
The social differentiation causes the presence of a big interval in possibilities in which representatives of different classes and social groups take a corresponding place. From the point of view of practical advantage for the increase of the level of social justice, it should, firstly, regularly count the IDHP of different classes and social groups (as well as indicators IDHP of different regions within one society), secondly, to develop a more differentiated rating scale of quality of already available indicators, and also those characteristics of human needs which yet do not get a tool reflection in the concept of development of human potential. Such specifications are necessary, because an overall objective of this concept is the establishment of social justice on the basis of «the thought over and real system of measures which is based on more fair distribution of industrial actives and incomes, focused on development of abilities and satisfaction of needs of person, his as much as possible active participation in economic, political and cultural life» (8). Some steps to this direction are already undertaken. So, an inequality of income is being tried to be considered at the calculation of IDHP «adjusted for distribution» or with other amendments. And a correction taking into account the problem of an inequality of sexes is suggested tobe carried out by the means of IDGF – «an index of development taking into account the gender factor» (9).
When the level of income, the possibilities of satisfaction of needs (primary and secondary) of the largest part of population ceases to correspond to representations of worthy life (cultural caused or built on social comparison with rich people), an actualization of the protest giving a large increase of different kinds of deviation begins. It is necessary to notice, that even in a more or less fairly organized society such protest based on social comparison, will always exist, as it is basically impossible to establish equality of all and about all. However it is possible to assume that it will have, most likely, the character of violence not against others, but against oneself as an expression of dissatisfaction by the abilities, talents, the competitiveness, not allowing to receive more an appreciation, wide recognition and to occupy a higher social status, or as the expression of the protest against safe, but too predicted and measured daily occurrence. Probably, a high level of suicides in some safe Scandinavian countries, for example in Sweden and Finland, or in the small countries of Europe – in Switzerland and Denmark, can be explained partly by that.
In existing explanatory concepts deviant behavior and deviation in general are considered through a prism of various social processes and the phenomena (anomie, stigmatizing, subcultural differentiation, conflicts, easing of social communications and control etc.). However, all of them inherently reflect this or that display of social injustice and correspond with a concept of «social injustice» as a separate and general, or as a part and whole. (It is necessary to consider also that the arisen kinds of deviation influence the further level of social injustice). We will show it in examples.
In rational-educational models of the formation of the person the formation of the criminal is caused by an existing unfair inequality in getting education and the means of providing a worthy existence. If to speak about modern society «worthy existence» - it is not the simple possibility of satisfaction of the most necessary requirements, but it is satisfaction at such a level which corresponds to the quality standards accepted in the given society at the given stage of its development. Such worthy existence directly depends on the received education and the social status corresponding to this education. Besides, numerous research shows that the educational level influences the various aspects of ability to live of people, for example, the state of health, political activity, tobacco consumption, perception of classical music, speed of distribution of the information, upbringing of children, catering services, health protection of members of a family and education of children. For example, «with the growth of an educational level of mother decrease also children’s death rate as irrespective of income level in a family quality of care of children and their food» becomes better (10).
There is also an inverse relationship in this kind of model. So, the connection between an educational level and some kinds of criminality is being established. The main kinds of crimes against the person (murder and attempt at murders, deliberate causing of heavy harm to health, rapes and attempts at rapes, robberies, robberies, thefts) are connected to people having a low educational level, not having a constant source of income.
As the evidence of education and not learning fundamental ethical standards lead to low level and the most refined and cynical physical violence, numerous facts of unmotivated cruelty of teenage criminal groupings, growth of extremism among youth, violence in colonies for minors are also connected with it. There is data that the most severe kinds of violence (beating, rape, mockery), made sometimes with no reasons and with a refined sadism, occur in correctional facilities for minor criminals institutions, and transfer to «an adult zone» of many minor prisoners is regarded as a blessing. Apparently, an explanation for this is not only social and economic trouble of Russian children (a low standard of living, absence of attention from outside parents, high level of violence in a family etc.), a high level of aggression and violence in the Russian society, but also the not full-value educational systems and formations, a low standard of living of many families, their social disorder and absence of prospects in life. These factors cannot promote a formation of empathy and moral maturing of the person. And if the person does not have moral internal control in extreme conditions it is said that he or she will inevitably show all wild instincts (11).
Social injustice in the sphere of education lies in the fact that society cannot provide a high-quality education for all citizens that would allow them to be competitive on the labour-market. This is caused by many problems of objective and subjective causes. As objective causes there should be labeled firstly great economical costs for schools, equipment, high pays for teachers and so on, and also the inability of some people to receive modern education in the full amount. Subjective causes are the unavailability and unwillingness of society to invest money in the education of those who cannot pay for this education by themselves.
From time to time in different countries there are attempts being undertaken to solve this problem. The conversation is lead towards the special social programs, in example, the Program of preschool education of Perry town in USA. The main aim of it was to lower the risk of unlawful behavior. In the group were gathered children at the age of three from families with low socio-economic status for the period of two years. Almost half of these families were composed from one-parent families, and almost all of the parents had a low coefficient of intellectual development, a low educational level, poor employment sheets and lived in overpopulated dwellings. The program of preschool education included the drawing of the children into the planning of the work in group for the purpose of the improvement of their intellectual and social development. Over the years it was found out that children who took part in the program of preschool education (in comparison with the control group) were better in school, as a rule they finished school and got a job. The level of teenager pregnancy was considerably lower (almost twice), and the level of arrests was lower by 40 percent. The analysis of financial costs of the project of Perry showed that it cost about 5000 dollars for one child in a year. Despite the great costs the program fully covers the expenses in the future. The USA special committee on matters of children, youth and family has calculated that there is an income of 4,75 dollars for every dollar invested in the programs of preschool education, which is a result of economy on the organization of special education, social assistance and combating crime (12). Despite the high effectiveness and recoupment in the future, these programs are probably the exception.
Uneducated or poorly educated people are imprisoned because of crimes more often than highly educated (it should be considered that in Russia high education diploma does not always correspond to the high level and quality of education). The reason for that could be on the one hand side that they get judged or imprisoned more often because of an unjust judicial system or on the other hand side – in an anomie explanation - because they are rather poor, belong to the lower stratum of society, so more often and acute feel their different displays of social injustice and accordingly more often protest against it. For people who haven’t got sufficient education, on the one hand it is much harder to fight such vices as restraints, envy, aggression, injustice and so on, and thus deviance seems more often successful.
In the ratio-ethic model the forming of the personality of a criminal and deviant person in whole is conditioned by such cases of injustice as deprivation of favourable development environment (?), the establishment of unequal possibilities to become familiar with cultural values, the deprivation of parents attention and absence of good human relationships in the closest surroundings.
Social injustice consists of absence or underdevelopment of a legislative basis (the totality of laws with according mechanisms of their realization, social projects and programs), that leads to react adequately to the changing situation and to protect the rights of children and teenagers, creating conditions for their integration in a legitimate social space. Talking about Russia, the situation on these issues became critical. Scientists created a method, which could objectively estimate the effectiveness of the whole totality or certain legislative acts, aimed on a family’s social protection. Researches took place according to this method to estimate the families’ social protection according to the law (proper documents) performed nowadays in Russia (49 documents totally).
The estimation was adjusted to the following indicators:
- the reflection in the act of the life cycle of the development of the subject of the legislative act: in terms of family it means the ability of usage of the acts on all or only on some phases of family existence, in the most crisis periods of its development
- targeting of legislative act: means indication in document the family or certain family categories, upon which its act is spread
- absence of objective obstacles for the document’s realization
- absence of unconformity with other legislative acts
- presence of elements, which initiate participation of non-government organizations in law’s realization
- the presence in the act of sanctions for non-compliance or impede of its compliance;
- the ability of the legislative act to provide satisfaction of material and spiritual needs of family members. The following needs were considered: material supply of vital functions and support of efficiency of adults and physical development of children; accommodation; medical service; education; self-actualization; legal protection.
The not very comforting results were obtained after carrying out the analysis: a) legislation foresees one or another protection level only for some categories of families; b) only for 30% of families that are definitely in need of social protection any legislative acts work; c) the Russian legislative system poorly foresees the social protection of the families that are in need of preventive social protection; d) the majority of families belong to the type of poorly and/or satisfactorily social protected on legislative basis.
The other shortcomings of the legislative system that is aimed at the social protection of population, are the abundance of declarative clauses and the absence of the mechanisms of its realization; the non-compliance of laws; the absence of a non-contradictory legislative system itself, connecting the legislative acts regulating financial, tax, economic, legal decisions and so on (13).
When there is no organized mechanism for the regulation of activities of people and social systems by the creation of a system of socially adequate norms in the society, it pays for this in the growth of number of crimes and other types of deviant behavior. So, from the end of 1980s the noticeable growth of number of crimes is registered in Russia. Against the background of an increase of the number of crimes in general the number of crimes among juveniles rises steadily.There are the rejuvenation and the rise of the number of grave crimes, the number of drug addicts is more than 6 million, the number of prostitutes composes 2% of the population.
And here are interesting facts given by foreign researchers and showing the connection between socialization in amoral environment with different displays of deviant behavior:
- about 65% of the children treated severely by family have a breach of behavior (39% in control group); these breaches often reveal as problems at school and also problems of integration to social environment
- emotional violence or sexual assault leads to refusal to eat (21% of questioned adults, subjected to these forms of violence in childhood, in control group – 8%), damaging themselves (34% and 1% in control group, respectively), theft (26% and 6% in control group);
- among the adults subjected to cruel treatment in childhood smoked 62% (16% - in control group), took alcoholic drinks 22% (5% - in control group), took drugs 18% (3% - in control group), attempted suicide – 16% (2% - in control group), had difficulties with sex 60% (15% - in control group);
- women subjected to sexual abuse in childhood later far more often become victims of new sexual assaults and start to engage in prostitution (14).
According to the anthropologic-biological model social injustice in the case of criminal identity becomes apparent in unequal ability of getting medical service for the treatment of some mental diseases (heightened excitability, depressions, impulsivity of actions, distrustfulness, heightened aggression and so on), that could be fully or partly cured. In addition, social injustice can show when the matter is that there is an undeveloped system of health service, an exposure of population to different epidemic diseases, the population’s lack of knowledge on matters of health support and so on.
Let’s cite some data characterizing the activity of the system of public health services and the state of health of Russian citizens:
- In the Russian Federation, in comparison with developed west-European countries, the indicator of maternal mortality is 5-10 times higher (50,2 for 100.000 newborn). The main causes in the structure of infant mortality are those related to maternal health. The number of children who died exceeded the number of the newborn by 1,6 times. The mortality of 1 year infants in Russia is 2-4 times higher than in other economically developed countries.
- The rise of the level of general morbidity is permanently seen.
- 400 thousand people get malignant diseases every year, 3.000 of them are children, and about 300 thousand people die from cancer.
- The situation with syphilis is close to epidemic. In the end of 90s the number of people fell ill risen by 77 times in comparison with 80s (10% of them are children under 14).
- Children’s psychosomatic diseases become more and more widely-spread. So, 40% of children in Saint-Petersburg have somatogenic psychic disorders; 20% - different somato-vegetative symptomatology, mainly of psychogenic origin; 10% of them are children with psychosomatic disorders, 14% are children of risk groups as they were in unfavorable family conditions or were inadequately grown-up. While studying data in one of St. Petersburg’s districts it was known that 16% children have a high level of affective intensity; 31% - middle level; 22% - low level. Basing on this data it can be concluded that children of this district have a high level of anxiety which means a liability to neurotic and psychosomatic disorders.
- In 1989 in the Russian Federation for the first time the attempt was undertaken to set the diagnosis of psychosomatic disorders among children under 15. Nowadays 8 million children get ill annually. Studying the teenage population (more than 5 thousand) showed clinical displays of dystonia (15).
A question can arise: “How are different population diseases and deviant behavior correlated with each other?”
- Some mercenary crimes are committed to get money for a close acquaintance’s operation, like in case of cancer or chronic diseases, especially if children have it.
- For instance, a higher level of anxiety can lead to spontaneous aggressive and/or violent behavior displays.
- Experts in narcomania point out that more often drug addicts are people whose course of life was accompanied with the following occurrences: mother’s pregnancy pathology (toxins, infections etc.); complicated birth; frequent, hard, chronic diseases in childhood; psychic diseases, psychical problems of one of the close relatives, etc. (16)
- Many violent crimes are committed by people, suffering from different types of mental diseases, which (given the normal functioning of public health services) could have been revealed and cured on the early stages.
“Normal functioning” of public health services means servicing as a system to people, creating the totality of such socially adequate regulations, which could help all members of the society to get qualified help right in time. Moreover, “normal functioning” means the creation of real protective mechanisms from negligent medics and the possibility of their punishment for unsatisfactory work.
From the above we can draw the following conclusion: without canceling the work with people with deviant behavior, it should be paid special attention to the reforming of social institutions, called to provide citizen’s rights in education (schools, universities, mass media), medical services, social protection and support and by that also to prevent deviant behavior. In Russia these institutions (mostly state) became dysfunctional subsystems, producing services that influence the forming of citizens morally, educationally and physically. Not in the last place the result of their activity is the decrease of quality of life of the young generation, a decrease of the level of morality and responsibility, leading towards the growth of different forms and types of deviant behavior. I’d like to underline that mostly guilty are not certain teachers, medical and social workers, but the ideological concept and organization of these institutions, that are characterized with the following features: a high level of bureaucracy and tough administrative hierarchy; creating people needing social help in future; guided to only informing people about establishing some standards instead of submitting support in complex situations or conflicts and helping with ways to solve it; based mostly on compulsion instead of voluntariness; in case of fault it uses punishment, provoking the fixation of stigma; through selection mechanisms the current power system is supported; human values are being frustrated. So, the whole system seems to be irrational and dysfunctional, because it basically increases the displaying of social injustice.
(1) For further information see: Gilinsky Y. Deviantology: sociology of criminality, narcotism, prostitution, suicides and other deviations. 2nd publication, corrected and added – SPb.: Publishing house of R. Aslanov ‘juridical center press’, 2007. P. 419-425.
(2) Christie N. Limits to Pain /translated from English – M. : Progress, 1985.
(3) Oleynik A. N. Prison Subculture in Russia: from daily life to state authority. – M., 2001. P. 24-25.
(4) Cited from: Gelich O. Ya. Justice and management //Management and marketing in social sphere: tutorial. – SPb.: “Knizhny Dom”, 2003. P. 123.
(5) Rawls J. Theory of Justice. – Novosibirsk, 1995. P. 19-29.
(6) Trotskovskaya V. A. Justice – as a value-standard basis of social interaction. //Actual problems of sociology, psychology and social work. – Barnaul, 1999. P.64.
(7) Human development: new measurement of social and economic progress. – M., 2000. P. 103-106.
(8) Human development: new measurement of social and economic progress. – M., 2000. P. 50.
(9) Human development: new measurement of social and economic progress. – M., 2000. P. 31.
(10) Human development: new measurement of social and economic progress. – M., 2000. P. 277-278.
(11) See in more details: Abramkin V. F. Seachers of exit. Criminality, the criminal policy, jails in the post-Soviet territory. – M., 1996.
(12) Graham John, Bennett Trevor. Crime Prevention Strategies in Europe and North America. - Helsinki, 1995, P. 9-10.
(13) See for ex.: Social policy and social work in changing Russia. – Moscow, 2002. P. 183; Theory of social work /red. by Cholostova E. I. – Moscow, 1998. P. 229-236.
(14) Kindermisshandlung. Erkennen und Helfen. Hg. Kinderschutz-Zentrum. – Berlin, Berlin 2000. P. 76-77.
(15) Boyko V.V., Oganesyan K.M., Kopytenkova O.I. Socially protected and not protected families in changing Russia. – SPb., 1999. P. 13-14.
(16) See for ex. Actual problems of organization of medical psycho social help to the juveniles, abusing psycho active substances, in the conditions of big city. – SPb., 2003. P. 14-24.
Tatjana Shipunova works as a professor at the Department of Social Work at the Faculty of Sociology at St.Petersburg State University (Russia).
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Valentina Villanueva)
December 23rd, 2009
Jesper Stage Petersen and Niels Rosendal Jensen, Aarhus/Helsinge (Denmark)
Our contribution aims at exploring possible ways out of what seems to be a dichotomy-trap for the professions of social pedagogy/social work. The intention is to present a number of arguments to overcome the dichotomy between “economisation of the social” (management) and “the social per se” (the values and hard core of social pedagogy/social work). Our examination seems to show that methodological relationism offers at least new reflections and a new platform for lifting up the level of the necessary discussion. Theoretically the approach of Norbert Elias appears to further strengthen our argumentation. In the article we look for theoretical ways to solve the puzzle, but still in an experimental way, hoping for comments and open disagreements. We understand social work/social pedagogy as a set of certain common contours within which theoretical, methodological and substantial disagreements are thriving (to paraphrase Thernborn, in Sztompka 1994: 283). Our intention is - simply put - to question whether we without loosing any substantial value and critical position can establish a counter-discourse in order to avoid the dichotomy-trap, at the level of local social work governance.
Why does social work/social pedagogy have to react?
On a European level we are nearly overwhelmed by a wave of welfare reforms marked by common contours. The goals of these reforms are drawing on a common vocabulary (accountability, privatization, documentation, effectiveness), and the social practices seem more or less to be children of the universe of governance – a governance directed at reform changes close to practice it self. Since the Mid-eighties the tools used have been ”imported” from the NPM-supermarket, implying that tools as well as strategies are similar to the ones used by private companies: marketisation, standardisation, accreditation, benchmarking and strengthened competition.
The relative uniformity of the reforms can be explained by the fact that they are rooted in similar macro-sociological processes (individualization and globalization), and that the processes show quite similar demands of reforming countermeasures (Dean 2008) – regardless of differences in the formation and function of the national states. Rising complexity is but one of the common traits, causing new needs of governance. Governance has become decentralized, decentred, governmentalised and more plural. Consequently networks of governance are to an increasing extent put in to practice in order to carry out goals of reforms as e.g. accountability and more focus on systematic documentation. Practice seems to be embedded in governance rather than government. Government means that A is commanding B to do something by means of regulation and aiming at eliminating possible resistance. Governance is defined by the application of networks and different kinds of adaptation and by focusing on connections and conditions of connections.
The above is not exactly breaking news. The changes are already reflected in the international scientific debate. Primarily, the scholars focus on outcomes of the reforms in the different sections of public service and the importance of such changes with regard to shifts of the relations between citizenship, civil society, state and profession (and the discipline of the profession under siege).
The academic debate on the influence of the welfare reforms with regard to delivery of public social services show some general contours. The majority of the contributions seems to point at a sort of inappropriate contradictory relationship between NPM and social work/social pedagogy as a profession or contributions interpret the implementations not only as a treat, but furthermore as a undermining activity which might eventually force the professionals to take a political standpoint against such tendencies (Ziegler 2006). The operation may also be called a neo-liberal reframing of the social which has been strongly emphasized notably by scholars like Walter Lorenz (Seibel, Otto, Friesenhahn 2007). The two opposite poles of the contradiction contain varied suggestions to what may be labelled legitimate focuses of reform. They contain opposite types of rationality as well as different knowledge bases. In brief: the understanding of quality from inside the professional identity feels compromised by the managerial ideology – first of all due to implementation of technical tools and means of governance, characterized by a rationality foreign to social work/social pedagogy. This alienation “provokes” very deep feelings of the professionals and their terms of understanding or even appreciating their professional work (Parton 2008; Duyvendak et al.2006, Satka et al. 2007).
To conclude this first part of the article: the debate is marked by a contradiction between ’economisation of the social’ and ‘the social self’, rooted in critical sociology. Therefore, we question whether the academic discussion is lacking a platform, representing another path that will not lead to the dichotomy mentioned above. On one hand the academic debate accepts the legitimacy of the need for reforms and on the other hand it lacks suggestions for solutions at a paradigmatic level, which is why we find it interesting and important to investigate. Whether an illusion or not, scientific honesty requires to examine the situation and to explore other approaches. Much debate is still circulating within the dichotomy, so perhaps we are looking for a position, which is not implicating that dichotomy eo ipse. We are – of course - not suggesting that the contradiction is non-existing. But we would like to emphasize the necessity of a ‘raison d’être’ or a ‘modus vivendi’ making it possible for a professional to maintain her professionalism in a constructive way despite the current reforms. If we are right in our assumption, then we have to design empirical solutions including a more efficient and less conflict-ridden thinking of governance, organisation, management and professionalism as a whole and this thinking has to be deployed on a lower level of generalization. Is this outline a naive ideal? We hope not, but are anxious to know what our colleagues think.
Are alternates available?
Where do we look for a base for inventing and developing an alternate platform, supposing this to be a constructive counter-discourse? Where do we look for theoretical viewpoints capable of providing tools which at the level of social work practice are able to dissolve the conflict or contradiction? If such a platform does exist, how will it in turn influence the conditions and possibilities for social work/social pedagogy, for the professional identity, and for implementing the new goals of the welfare reform in practice? Is it possible for such a new theoretical base to synthesize and overcome the tensions between managerial ideology and professional identity on lower levels of synthesis?
Of course we can stick to positions conserving the fundamental dichotomy. This position is known as a stronghold against neo-liberalism. But it seems necessary and even more fruitful to make an attempt to transcend or synthesize the basic polarity. F. e. Sztompka (1994) describes a modern theoretical current of sociology, which seems committed to developing synthetic theories. This means theories, possessing the potential to transcend dichotomies. He claims:
”They [synthetic theories] draw a map of the social terrain in extremely large relief. They allow us to see the overall picture from a distance. Other theories must take up some fragments, aspects or dimensions and render them in fine grained details. The vogue for synthetic theories does not diminish the importance of analytic theories. Synthetic theories try to account for the links, interconnections and bridges, but there must be more specific theories about what is being linked, connected or bridged: theories of structures and actions, personality and social organization, culture and personality, social roles and institutions, groups and movements, etc.”(Sztompka 1994: xiv).
Does the framework of synthetic theories of sociology make it possible to build a platform for a new counter-discourse or pragmatic discourse in the debate? The general idea behind this new platform is to emphasize the importance of practical solutions between managerial ideology and professional identity based on the point of view, that solutions are substantial and legitimate – particularly when constructed in a way which is sensitive to professional claims and the understanding of quality internal to the profession.
How do we go about constructing a new ‘platform’ which aims at transcending or synthesising the tensions between management and profession in practice? We try to answer this below by putting social work on the agenda as the case in question.
Following Sztompka the way forward seems to be finding a synthetic grand theory or if possible a more detached relational philosophy of science. Using this as a synthetic frame we need to find a set of middle range theories because ”it is precisely here, at this level, that the more specific, linear, explanatory and predictive hypotheses linked to empirical data and research results are to be found. And these are indispensable to answer more mundane, immediate, practical human concerns. The grand theories alone will not do”. (Sztompka 1994).
Which grand theories are able to deliver enough synthetic force? Again following Sztompka one will find a number of more detached attempts at synthesizing a relational ontology – including his own; but in looking for a thoroughbred radical relational (and therefore highly synthetic) grand theory with a distinct sociological interest, there is perhaps only one: Norbert Elias’ sociology of figurations. Sztompka remarks: ”In this sense Elias´ project of historical sociology is synthetic par excellence”, and he continues: ”Throughout his work runs a strong tendency to get beyond the customary polarities in thought, and avoid any position identified with these polarities” (Sztompka 1994).
Why is Elias synthetic, and how can this quality be utilized?
Looking exclusively at the position of Elias the synthetic quality stems from a radical transcendental (meta-)ontological unit of analysis – in the case of Elias ‘movement’. Descending one meta-level we find ourselves at the level where ontologies usually are to be found. At this level Elias builds a set of characteristics quite unique to his position (see Sztompka 1994). At this ‘normal’ level of ontology ‘movement’ is installed in a series of tools, which he calls ‘means of orientation’. Movement is installed in tools aimed at capturing illusive processes in flux, movements in interdependencies, figures in movement (figurations) or balances in flux. Because ‘movement’ can be seen as the unit of analysis the means of orientation as well as his whole position moves freely across disciplinary borders in general and all assumptions concerning time, space and culture. Using an Eliasian (meta-)ontology as a perspective, everything becomes movement (the universe is an expanding movement and so forth…….), implying that everything at lower levels of synthesis is dissolved into movement. This goes for the realm of physics, the bio/chemical realm and the social realm, which can not be differentiated or analysed in isolation. Only reason to think of three realms is a difference in the speed of the processes typical to the different realms. Simultaneously, all dichotomies on lower levels are dissolved – among others the dichotomy of ’economisation of the social’ and ‘the social self’. The idea of ‘the social’ as a reified category in time and space - although influencing the utmost majority of sociology (Latour 2008) - does not exist within Elias’ ontology. On the contrary Elias provides us with a universe consisting of ‘movement’ exclusively, dissolving time, space and any essential understanding. Because of the dissolution of time and space the Eliasian ontology functions definitively as an independent and overarching rationality. Is it possible to displace the ontology of Elias and its transcending rationality to lower levels of syntheses in order to dissolve a state of tension between social work and managerial ideology by making his rationality operate in the practical universe of governance?
Elias provides us with a relational philosophy which seems promising in this respect. He does not explain his ontological levels in many ‘words’, but rather in ‘movement’. He does not intend to express his philosophy in linguistic terms, but to a certain extent through procedures and exemplary figurations. In brief: Elias is not shaping a theory in a modern sense of that concept, rather he intends to develop an ‘orientation’ realized in means of orientation and figurations. Exactly here we are convinced to find his synthetic qualities. The whole ‘plot’ of this article is to introduce means of orientations and figurations as a kind of pillars supporting the transcending rationality within the universe of governance which arranges the organisational, governmental and managerial aspects of the ‘interface’ between social work and local government. Is it possible to re-configurate practical ‘interfaces’ in order to make the transcending qualities of his means of orientations and figurations operational – and thereby overcoming any hardship or trouble when managerial ideology and professional identity intersect?
Means of orientation and figurations can – we suppose – be used as a ‘vehicle’ in a Latourian sense (Latour 2008). Means of orientation can transport a transcending rationality. A means of orientation is philosophically speaking construed to cope with and work in very high degrees of complexity without process reduction and therefore they do not collapse under the weight of generative complexity in a particular field. Below we present a rough outline of some heuristic characteristics of a means of orientation typical for the realm of the social:
1. A means of orientation contains a movement, either between two phenomena (in an interdependence) or between many interwoven phenomena (a figuration). The movement is in itself the operational core message that improves orientation. The deliberate avoidance of static definitions allows for movement to be the core message and it avoids reifications and process reduction of the phenomena in question.
2. Means of orientation have a significant freedom of movement across time, space, habitus, culture and civilisation because ‘movement’ is a highly abstract entity and therefore it is movable. For instance Elias shows us how his established/outsider figuration is as applicable to Western cultures as it is to Indian/Asian cultures (Elias 1994).
3. Means of orientation are de-contextualized because of the ‘movement’ in itself, but at the same time the movement portrayed is a reflection of real empirical process patterns (figurations) occurring in a specific realm and historical period and thus highly contextualized. Movement, figure and context are not separable, but rather they constitute a unity of what we usually divide into and label as ‘form and content’. In brief: means of orientation defy static language, but simultaneously are expressed vividly in metaphors or exemplary tales using language.
4. The movement has no clear beginning or end and it is always unfinished – just as the position of Elias as a whole. One can take into account that a means of orientation which is used for governance purpose(s), will be in a kind of ongoing structuration process involving different materialities in the organisation, and we consider that this can be used strategically for governance purposes.
We believe a specific means of orientation will be used in practice both as an ideal and an analytic tool in the local context. It seems to us, that it may be the only form of orientation possible when the degree of complexity rises, as we are currently witnessing in local governance contexts where management ideologies need to merge with social work and the identity of social workers. By and large we guess that means of orientation in the Eliasian sense corresponds to the heuristic descriptions of the latest form of reflexive governance (Dean 2008), aiming at strengthening the governance effort by inscribing the ‘telos’ in the governance tools themselves – the tool is the telos. When using means of orientation for governance purposes the ‘telos’ would be the ‘movement’ which is also at the same time the figure, the context and the form and therefore Eliasian movement is inscribed in it self – as would be the case for reflexive governance tools according to Rose. So means of orientation may open a potential for significantly strengthening the governance efforts and at the same time overcoming any dichotomous tensions. This strengthening of the governance efforts could – in theory - be done by those means of orientation, which is already made by Elias and the reception or similar tools from other management-type or social work-type discourses or even tools, that are produced directly in the context where they are to be employed, e.g. in municipalities where management ideology and the identity of the professionals meet in the realm of governance.
Question is if it is possible in practice to export and direct the transcending Eliasian rationality, in which the conflict between ‘economisation of the social’ and ‘the social in itself’ no longer can be neither perceived nor proliferated. Can we find such means of orientation with movements and figurations relevant to the intersection between management ideology and the social work identity? Can the aims of the management ideology (enhanced focus on documentation, accountability, benchmarking etc.) be reached through the Eliasian rationality simultaneously with the legitimate claims of the profession being aptly considered? Are Eliasian rationality and ontology able to do the jobs, which we usually conceive of, as jobs best carried out by the technical rational rationality or reflection-in-action? Is it possible that the Eliasian rationality directly supports practice in social work?
Rationality experienced by the professions
Below we sketch some advantages of the Eliasian rationality seen from the standpoint of the profession of social work. They are preliminary, but reasonable hypotheses, meant to create debate as opposed to stating the truth.
1. Eliasian rationality does not process reduce social work, which means that the rationality will not affect or destroy the optimum frame requirements for social work practice – on the contrary. The cognitive pattern that underlies the Eliasian rationality (that phenomena are defined by their dynamic relations (interdependences) to other phenomena) supports the cognitive patterns, which seem ideal for practice and for the conception of the recipients of social work services. They, too, are perhaps best understood as ongoing processes, marked by their interdependences to other phenomena such as work life, education, family, recreational activities and so on. The task for social work in this view is to bring about changes in a person’s relations to work life, education, family, etc.
2. The Eliasian rationality is inclusive in a complete sense and in the spirit of Salamanca as well. There is no privileged point of departure or centre in Eliasian ontology, which will exclude or overshadow different angles, opinions, interests or types of people. The rationality cannot exclude, which is a quality, not even held by the established academic paradigms on inclusion. The inclusive paradigms are more or less mutually exclusive. One particular paradigm (the recent ‘dilemma-perspective’) defines itself around the impossibility of inclusion and thereby excludes the very idea of inclusion which is supposed to be its primary objective (Petersen 2007). In fact Eliasian rationality can be thought of as superior with regards to inclusion, and this is an advantage to the extent that inclusion can be regarded as a core value and primary target in social work. More orthodox readings of Elias may claim that Elias excludes language all together because all static elements (incl. words) must be rejected to leave room to dynamic movements. Others interpretations seem to think otherwise (Krieken undated). In general this rather philosophical discussion is not too relevant – in our view – seen from the pragmatic viewpoint of this article.
3. In a practice regime (e.g. local government, municipality) that is facing growing demands of accountability, documentation, benchmarking and performance governance in relation to social work, these reform targets can in theory be achieved through measuring quantitative improvements (in essence measuring ‘movements’) using a yardstick or benchmark found within the ‘generic social work’ – discourse, that describes good social work practice in generic statements. In this way we may be able to establish locally based quantitative performance governance directly into the core of the social work profession and at the same time utilize an understanding of professional quality that are already accepted in the discipline and recognizable to most practitioners. We find this possible only because the statements in the ‘generic social work’ discourse possess a certain amount of relational qualities resembling those of the Eliasian means of orientation. Both of them (means of orientations and statements from the ‘generic social work’-discourse) orient action, bring about reflection and provide clarity and mobility in extremely complex contexts by offering themselves as tools of ‘detachment’. As far as we can see the difference between the ‘generic social work’- statements and the Eliasian means of orientation (figurations), is that means of orientation combine an opportunity for both detachment and involvement in the same reflective tool whilst statements of ‘generic social work’ seem to be generally detached leaving little room for involvement. We wonder, if the opportunity for both involvement and detachment in the same governance tool can be most helpful for social work practice, since it should consist of both. At least local and therefore flexible performance governance using yardsticks developed on the basis of the ‘generic social work’ -discourse must be preferable to national accreditation schemes, that are currently being promoted with some force in Denmark, but not yet widely used. Governance tools resembling means of orientation will most likely preserve reflexivity, counteract rationalization and standardization and strengthen the professional identity, just as the ‘generic social work’-discourse originally was construed to do. This strengthening can be a significant advantage to the profession in times where NPM-discourses deliberately seek to minimize professional autonomy and in the process erode the necessary esteem of the profession and the professionals. Perhaps what we are setting out to present in this article may be called context-sensitive performance governance, in the sense that it will support already existing rationalities or patterns of thought in a particular profession, in this case social work. It may be called sensitive in the sense that it strengthens the relational and reflective elements of the practice, which is in need of strengthening (Parton 2008). The example above with the ‘generic social work’-discourse may seem trivial, but it points to a possible ‘movement’ across the tensions between managerial ideology and identity of social work, that seems to hold some interesting qualities. It is exactly this kind of ‘movements’ or tension transcending figurations that we need to look for when investigating the empirical meeting between managerial ideology and social work through an Eliasian lens. These figurations (movements) need to be identified in a research effort at different levels of synthesis and then re-entered in to the practice regime as reflexive governance tools resembling means of orientation as much as possible (or necessary) to overcome existing tensions and displacing conflicting rationalities.
4. Any relational ontology – in particular the thoroughbred relational ontology of Elias – differs radically from the ontology of liberal humanism, which is premised on individuality, autonomy, objective distance, and so on. In the relational ontology relations are prior to entities and thus power becomes a matter of ‘power to’ rather than ‘power over’, which can only exist in a logic that gives priority to entities. Therefore relational ontology is highly democratic because it excludes ‘power as property’, but without loosing attention to power relations or individuality. Because relational ontology constitutes such a profound break with liberal humanism we imagine it also constitutes an equally profound break with NPM as a governance paradigm. Instead we are apt to believe that radical relational ontology (at least in the Eliasian version) may hold the potential for a new governance paradigm or at least a new overarching governance form or rationality (if you wish) in addition to the existing forms; clan, marked, hierarchy and network. Maybe the Eliasian (meta-)ontology is a basis from which to articulate a fifth governance form which may be labelled process governance – but this is still just too much guess work. Not entirely without some justifications, though. A Danish scholar, observer and former architect of the Danish NPM-reform movement in the eighties has analysed the NPM shortcomings and wrongdoings, and based on this analysis he articulates, advocates and anticipates a break with NPM into a new governance-paradigm, which he calls ‘the contextual paradigm’, because of its sensitivity to the local context and indeed to the profession in question (Lerborg, forthcoming). We believe that the idea presented in this article may hold some promise as to how this future ‘contextual paradigm’ could be made operational on the basis of radical relational ontology. The contextual sensitivity in the case of Eliasian ontology rests on the idea of ‘movement’ being a common transcendent denominator of any context, profession or reform target and thus not harmful to the existing logics of neither the welfare professions nor the reform targets (at least at the level of pragmatics).
5. The Eliasian rationality is per definition innovative. By using means of orientation, new recognitions will arise because the perception of a phenomenon is brought to a higher synthetic level (in being translated into ‘movement’ ) as opposed to being kept in a process reducing rationality carried by a reifying and static language, that blurs the illusory contours of movement and thus of developmental possibilities in highly complex contexts. Put differently, there will always appear new possibilities for alternative goal directed actions where means of orientations are being put into use. This leaves room for innovative action. Innovation is actually a knowledge sociological demand build into the Eliasian sociology of knowledge and thus into the ethos, the rationality and its means of orientation (tools). The Eliasian ethos seems to be: without innovation in the process of knowledge production there no progress will start in terms of the civilizing process. Therefore means of orientation is a philosophical and empirically based form of transport designed for a specific knowledge type that brings about innovation. The content is a transcending movement (potentially innovative), and at the same time the form is designed for movement (potentially innovative) across time, space, habitus and culture. By and large means of orientation are movement (full stop!) – and therefore they are innovative tools (full stop!). It is an innovative tool/movement in the sense that all movements transcend the status quo into something new, which potentially is an added value to the practice regime in question. If we ‘choose’ the movement carried by a means of orientation (used for reflexive governance purposes) to be an ideal or desired ‘movement’ in a practice regime (e.g. a desired routine, that leads to systematic evaluation of social work practice) and then introduces it as a governance tool and developmental target, then an employee can orient and adapt his or her own physical movement (or movements of other materialities) according to the ideal, and thus create the added value or innovation relative to status quo. The added value is not something that would have been created anyway, if a centre (in the Latourian sense) had not deployed this governance tool in relation to a periphery (Latour 2008), because this particular sort of governance tool uses a rationality that is beyond language, and therefore seeks new recognitions, that per definition is “below the horizon” (to paraphrase Elias) and as such not accessible to any of the more common and language mediated rationalities that may thrive in the practice regime. This, we believe, could be a significant dynamic and developmental advantage for the social work profession as well as for local government, which is required to function innovatively according to national policies on innovation in welfare service delivery. We see the same set of exceptions and the same commitment to creating innovative service delivery systems in the EU.
All relational tools and relational methods of tool development that are roughly acceptable within Elias’ philosophy of science, is theoretically applicable transversal to different types of social services, target groups, practice regimes, national boarders, time, space and habitus. This implies that the research and developmental work needed to realize the idea in question in this article to a large extent can be re-cycled and reused. Tools and methods are simply moveable if they fall within the limits of this position. Research results, generated in a radical relational framework, can be picked up as figurations and redistributed, because they – seen from the point of Eliasian ontology – have a superior range and scope of power, if used as governance tools. From the perspective of the ontology the rationality is transcendental in an absolute sense, which means that the corresponding form of knowledge (the means of orientation) most likely is ideal in terms of enhancing the power distance (the distance from a centre in which power is effective) across types of barriers that otherwise obstruct power in its course. It is worth examining if this rationality can be applied built into method developments within welfare services delivery and then exported to other countries. If this export is possible it holds advantages for any globalized profession as well as to the European commitment to one unified welfare service marked within the EU.
Means of orientation or tools with roughly the same characteristics can be used as analytical or action directing tools, no matter what role or educational background a person may have. Social scientist, leader, administrator or practitioner – the need for orientation in highly complex contexts and for analytical tools that will result in goal directed actions is the same in a radical relational ontology. This means that the Eliasian rationality does not differentiate (in terms of his sociology and philosophy of knowledge) between the role of a scientist, a leader, an administrator or a practitioner, and this in turn supports existing social work discourses, that seeks to create a new role for the social work practitioners, in which he or she becomes a researcher in his or her own practice: the practice of producer of knowledge, who will be directly usable for management purposes – at least theoretically spoken. This, we consider, could be a significant advantage in relation to overcoming some quite serious problems of coordination in the governance networks and perhaps even offering some new perspectives on controlling highly complex networks by manipulating some key balances of tension in the way a specific and historically embedded figuration is orchestrated (Elias 1986). This cannot lead to any causal, direct or detailed control of a figuration (e.g. a local government supplying social service), but – in theory - it seems possible by means of Eliasian thinking to identify and manipulate the figuration in terms of maintaining or optimizing a certain tension balance central to the whole figuration. In the context of the clash between European management ideology and the social work profession the central balance of tension in a specific practice regime (figuration), which may be of interest to both management and profession, is perhaps the prize/quality balance. It seems to us that this line of thinking presented here may hold some potential for a more precise and deliberate governance effort aimed at optimizing the tension balance between prize and quality. Without the Eliasian rationality (or a different version of a radical relational ontology), it seems unlikely that the price/quality balance will ever be conceptualised in a way, that allows for simultaneous manipulations of prize and quality by means of governance. Perhaps the balance between prize and quality – if not engaged through relational means - will continue to be separate phenomena in more or less opposed rationalities. The prize/quality balance may be just yet another expression of the underlying dichotomy of ‘economization of the social’ vs. ‘the social it self’ and thus in need of a relational theory to be mobilized.
Middle range theories
Returning to Sztompka’s argument quoted at the beginning, there may be a need to find suitable middle range theories, if an attempt of utilizing or exploring the full synthetic qualities of e.g. Elias’ relational rationality is to be made with regard to the tensions between management ideology and social work. In the following we offer some thoughts on the matter of choosing relevant middle range positions as supplements to the Eliasian (meta-)ontology. In Elias’ reception there seems to be two wings: a) an orthodox wing rejecting the idea of combining Elias’ thinking with any other style of thinking, and b) an eclectic wing supporting the use of his position eclectically. The eclectic wing suggests to combine Eliasian and Latourian thinking. There is even some suggestions that a Latourian inspired reading and interpretation of Elias will overcome some deep rooted philosophical problems (the Hobbesian problem of order) and strengthen the position of Elias (Krieken undated). To quote a statement from the Eliasian net based discussion forum: ”Elias and ANT [Actor-Network Theory] have a lot to teach each other” (http://elias-i.nfshost.com/). Latour seems to distance himself from Elias (Latour 2008), but in the eyes of the Elias-reception this does not make much sense. Putting this dispute aside we want to point to Latour as a relevant middle range supplement for Elias’ meta-ontology. The point is that combining Elias and Latour seems at first glance to offer a full range of radical relational tools to explore if and how a radical relational approach to the tensions between management ideology and the professional identity of social work will transcend the tensions in an actual practice regime. The use of Latourian terminology at lower levels of synthesis will open for a research into the actor-network which is created by an Eliasian means of orientation (or any radical relational tool) that are being deployed as a reflexive governance tool in a specific practice regime. Perhaps it is possible – via Latour - to systematically evaluate the associative consequences (if not the effect) of Eliasian means of orientation (or tools with comparable qualities) by letting them circulate in a practice experiment. Other middle range theories with distinct relational characteristics could perhaps be used as a sort of interventionist framework for such an experiment that will test the idea of a tension transcending rationality in local governments. In particular Developmental Work Research and the notion of expansive learning by Yrjö Engeström springs to mind as a possible semi-relational and experimental framework. Through such an activity theoretical experiment it may be possible to co-configure new operational means of orientation which are targeted specific at different levels of the tensions in question. Primarily at levels close to practice (e.g. the level of the actual practice regime in local government), but in principle something similar should be possible at higher levels of synthesis (abstraction) using Elias’ tool-box.
We see a potential in combining relational positions at different levels of synthesis (abstraction) in relation to overcoming the tensions between management ideology and the professional identity. This assumption is worth examining closer, and the idea of a potential for particularly social work may find some support in a recent article by Parton (Parton 2008). After diagnosing changes over the last 30 years in the internal structures which produce and reproduce the forms of knowledge in social work, Parton points to the need for new theories in social work, that will not polarize ”the social and the technological, science and society, beings and things [because polarizing] is not helpful in opening up to explanation and understanding what is happening to social work and the impact and implications for its form of knowledge” (Parton 2008). Parton also mentions a broad tendency in social work theory ”which attempts to construct an approach which is both subjective and social and which prioritizes the relational nature of the work” (Parton 2008).
Parton´s article may be understood as an appeal for more relational theory. We propose to look for some sort of relational philosophical platform, able to organize efforts in the academic social work theory debates and help create a distinct position. For this purpose we suggest that it might be worth while looking closer at what Georg Ritzer calls ”methodological relationism” (Sztompka 1994) or what Sztompka calls ”the third sociology” (Sztompka 1994). Both concepts outline a philosophical stance, interpreted as radical relational and therefore transcending all polarizing dichotomies in an absolute sense. Perhaps these two concepts and their demarcations can be used as a set of heuristic criteria, by which to choose, judge and match relational positions (as in the example above with Elias, Latour and Engeström) in the search for new ways to transcend and overcome the empirical tensions between management ideology and the professional identity of social work. These two concepts and heuristics stemming from the history of their sociological and philosophical genesis (as found in Sztompka 1994) may be able to constitute a new and philosophically elevated platform for further discussion in the scientific community of theoretical social work. Certainly they promise to transcend the opposition between ‘economization of the social’ and the ’social-in-itself’ in theory. Whether this theoretical transcending quality can be transferred into practice and thereby assist in overcoming empirical tensions in the realm of social work governance, is a matter worth continued research.
As mentioned in the abstract we hope and wait for a debate and maybe even open disagreements in order to develop the above mentioned preliminary argument further. Thus all comments from any discipline are most welcome.
Duyvendak, J.W. et al. (2006). Policy, People and the New Professional: De-professionalisation and Re-professionalisation in Care and Welfare. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press
Elias, N. D., Eric (1986). Quest for Excitement - Sports and Leisure in the Civilizing Process. Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd.
Krieken, R. v. (unated). Beyond the `problem of order´: Elias, habit and modern sociology or Hobbes was right. Sydney.
Latour, B. (2008). En ny sociologi for et nyt samfund (Org. title: Reassembling the Social). København, Lindhardt & Ringhof Forlag A/S.
Parton, N. (2008). “Changes in the Form of Knowledge in Social Work: From the ‘Social’ to the ‘Informational’?” British Journal of Social Work 38: 253-269.
Petersen, Jesper Stage (2007). “Et essay til støtte for et ‘non-moderne’ inklusionsperspektiv”, a master thesis based on Elias and Latour in which the structural formations within the discipline of special needs education is analysed.
Satka, M. et al. The Diverse Impacts of the Neo-liberal Social Policies on Children’s Welfare and Social Work with Young People: The Finnish Perspective, in Seibel, W.F., Otto, H-U., Friesenhahn, G.J. (Editors) (2007). Reframing the Social: Social Work and Social Policy in Europe. Festschrift Walter Lorenz, pp.201-220. Ostrava: Ecspress-Edition 4
Seibel, W.F., Otto, H-U., Friesenhahn, G.J. (Editors) (2007). Reframing the Social: Social Work and Social Policy in Europe. Festschrift Walter Lorenz. Ostrava: Ecspress-Edition 4
Sztompka, P., Ed. (1994). Agency and structure - Reorienting Social Theory. International Studies in Global Change: 4. Amsterdam, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers S.A.
Ziegler, H. Evidenzbasierte Soziale Arbeit. Über managerielle PraktikerInnen in neo-bürokratischen Organisationen, in Schweppe, C., Sting, S. (2006). Sozialpädagogik im Übergang: Neue Herausforderungen für Disziplin, Profession und Ausbildung, pp. 139-155. Weinheim und München: Juventa
Niels Rosendal Jensen works as Associate Professor at the Danish School of Education, University of Aarhus, Denmark – email@example.com
Jesper Stage Petersen works as a consultant at Gribskov Kommune – firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Ute Pelz)
December 23rd, 2009
Olga I. Borodkina and Yulia S. Victorova, St. Petersburg (Russia)
According to official data there are more than 780 000 disabled people registered in St.Petersburg, representing about 17 % of the city’s total population; among them more than 80 % people at pension age (almost 645 000), about 16 % are people at working age (over 120 000) and less than 2 % are disabled children (almost 14 000).
Social protection of people with handicaps is one of the priority issues of social policy on the national and local level in Russia. However despite of the active measures undertaken by the Government of St.Petersburg, it is necessary to admit that many problems concerning the quality of the disabled people’s life remain unsolved. In this context it is extremely important to take into account the point of view of people with handicaps. These circumstances have determined the tasks and methods of the sociological research conducted in 2009 in St. Petersburg.
The main research method was interviewing of people with handicaps which was carried out based on semi-structured questionnaires with a significant number of open questions. The questions concerned different aspects of quality of life of people with handicaps (in particular education, employment, mobility, attitudes of the society towards disabled people etc.).
The research aims were to find out the most significant problems of three main groups of disabled people, namely people with disabilities such as limited motor skills, visually handicapped people and hearing impaired people. As a result the research sample consisted of 96 respondents, among them 60 respondents were people with limited motor skills, 15 respondents were visually handicapped people and 21 respondents were hearing impaired people.Also 14 expert interviews were carried out in the framework of the research: interviews with the heads of non-governmental organizations, specialists on rehabilitation, specialists in social work, psychologists and heads of departments, teachers and social pedagogues.
The analysis of the research results allows to argue that the medical model of disability is still dominating in the sphere of social support. Within this model a person with handicaps is considered as a person with stable physical, mental, intellectual or sensorial disabilities and due to this fact all efforts are directed to improve or maintain his/her physical and mental condition.
The modern approach to social support of people with handicaps has to be based on the socially oriented model of disability which considers disability as a social construction. Disability is not just the condition of a person, but also the result of his/her relations with the social environment.
Barriers of the existing environment including social, legal, cultural issues are the main reasons of the social exclusion of people with handicaps. They represent also the main barriers for full and effective participation of disabled people in social activities. Therefore from the position of the socially oriented model the basic efforts should be directed not only on the improvement or maintenance of a physical condition of disabled people, but also on overcoming environmental barriers, on stimulating the process of interaction between disabled and other people, on their inclusion to social life.
45,8 % of all respondents are male and 54,2 % are female. By the age structure of the respondents is divided: 7,2 % (7 persons) of the respondents were under 20 years old, 35,4 % (34 persons) were between 20 and 30 years old, 16,6 % (16 persons) were 30-40 years old, 13,4 % (13 persons) were 40-50 years old, 5,0 % (5 persons) were between 50 and 60 years old; 21,3 % (21 persons) were over 60. The majority of the respondents had high school education - 30,2 % (29 persons) - and technical school education - 32,3 % (31 persons); a large part of the respondents had higher education - 24,0 % (23 persons) - and undergraduate education 7,3 % (7 persons); 6,3 % of the respondents (6 persons) had middle school education. Thus people with a different educational background were interviewed within the research.
The main part of the respondents at the moment of interviewing were unmarried: 59,4 % of the respondents (57 persons) were single. 20,8 % of the respondents were married, 7,3 % of the respondents had a partner. A small percentage of the respondents was divorced (4,2 %, 4 persons) and 8,3 % (8 persons) were widows.
Thus, the main part of the respondents (35,4%) in the age of 20-30 years was in a phase of life when searching for a partner and planning a family is usually focussed. Also the interviews demonstrated that a lot of the respondents have many difficulties with family planning which allows to suppose that it is necessary to develop communicative skills and organize trainings for further family life for people with limited possibilities.
To make the situation clearer the respondents were asked more questions about people with whom they live and their satisfaction with housing conditions. Almost half of the respondents lived together with their parents (45,3 %) during the time of the research, 21,9 % of the respondents lived with husband/wife/partner, 17,9 % lived with relatives, 2,1 % lived with friends and 12,6 % of the respondents chose the option «other» i.e. ex-husband/wife or alone. It was predictable that 45,3 % of the respondents live with their parents, on the one hand because of their rather young age (under 30), but on the other hand, due to social economical conditions which are not good enough for disabled people to live independently.
It is necessary to notice that the number of respondents living with a husband/wife/partner is less than the number of respondents who have specified that they are married. These data also indirectly confirm that there is a problem of creation of a family and its sustaining.
It is interesting to observe how the answers were divided on the options «living conditions» and «level of satisfaction». The results are presented on the diagram:
Diagram 1: Level of satisfaction with living conditions
The data presented on the diagram show the low level of satisfaction by living conditions among the respondents. Especially respondents who live in a room in shared accommodation and people living in a dormitory and in a one-room apartment. Also respondents living in a four-room apartments were not satisfied. It is possible that this was caused by difficult relationships with relatives, as it is mostly respondents are under 25 living with parents, or not handicapped accessible equipped. It is necessary to notice that the significant majority of people with limited possibilities do not see any chance to improve their living conditions.
The essential indicator of quality of life for any person is income. The respondents were divided by the level of their monthly average income: 25,0 % of the respondents had a minimum subsistence income. The main part of the respondents (36,5 %, 35 people) had 5000- 10 00 rubles per month, 10,4 % (10 people) had 10 000 – 15 000 rubles, 5,2 % (5 people) had more that 15 000 rubles per month and 22,9 % (22 people) did not answer this question.
The data prove that the level of income of disabled people is usually very low. The main source of income for the majority is the disability pension (58,3 % or 56 people), another important source is the salary (21,9 % or 21 people) which is still rather low. Among other income sources the respondents have specified support from relatives, old-age pension and scholarship. It is illustrative that the large number of the respondents didnot answer the question about their monthly average income, just because they were not aware of it. First of all, it concerns the respondents living with parents who mainly solve all questions, including financial questions of their already grown up children. This fact confirms the widespread opinion about the passive life position of many people with handicaps and about their insufficient social competence.
The main prospects of increasing the quality of life of people with limited possibilities might be connected to their professional education (also increasing qualifications and retraining) and further employment. That is why the question of training and professional education is one of the key questions within the system of social protection of people with handicaps.
There are opportunities for disabled people in St. Petersburg to get qualified professional education in special professional rehabilitation centers. However, the main part of the state educational organizations of high and higher professional education is not equipped to provide access for disabled people and so despite legitimized equal opportunities for all people within the system of general and professional education it is still closed to them. Besides, the present system of professional education for disabled people offers a limited number of professional specialties and does not fully correspond to the demands of the labor market and as a result rather often the professional education does not increase the competitive ability of disabled people on the labor market.
It is necessary to notice that in St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole, nowadays there is not enough attention to problems of inclusive education which demand to create conditions and an infrastructure of education not only in specialized social organizations, but also in general educational institutions at different levels (high, vocational high education and higher education).
Professional education is a step to further occupational activities; the majority of the respondents, who were studying at the research time, were going to work on a chosen specialty after trainings. The municipal employment centers and specialized branches of employment services provide full information about vacancies in different organizations for disabled people and help them to find a job. But in reality it is still too difficult for disabled people to find a job. The respondents estimated their chances to be employed as follows (see Diagram 2: Opportunities to be employed):
As we can see the main part of the respondents supposed to search for the job by themselves without any help from employment centers. One of the experts sid: «Employment is the first problem. Some people try to be occupied and keep their disability in secret. Just to be occupied».
There are legal documents aiming at helping in terms of disability people’s employment, but this does not work in real life.
One of the key notions of social protection of disabled people in Russia is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation of disabled people is a system and a process of full or part restitution of abilities of people with limited possibilities to household, social and professional activities.
Rehabilitation of disabled people is directed at reduction or as full as possible compensation of activity limits caused by deterioration of health with stable body’s dysfunctions aiming at social adaptation of disabled people, increasing their financial independence and integration to society.
By the Russian legislation, rehabilitation of disabled people has to be realized in the framework of «the individual program of rehabilitation» (IPR) which is a complex of optimal rehabilitation measures for disabled person including certain kinds, forms, extent, time schedule and way of realization of medical, professional and other rehabilitation measures aiming at restitution, compensation of affected or lost body’s functions for certain activities. (Federal Law «About social protection of disabled people in RF, artc.11»).
The IPR of a disabled person has to include the following main aims:
- Medical rehabilitation is carried out by medical organizations at the medical service place and includes ambulant and/or hospital treatment, medical assessment and sanatorium-resort therapy.
- Social rehabilitation includes: social-environment, social-pedagogical, social-psychological and social-cultural rehabilitation, social and household adaptation.
- Professional rehabilitation includes: professional orientation, training and education, assistance in searching for a job, professional adaptation.
On the basis of the discussion with the respondents it is clear that a significant part of the people with limited possibilities has the opinion that the mechanism of «individual program of rehabilitation»’s realization very often is not corresponded to the goals of the program. 65,6 % (63 people) of the respondents use these programs, 21,9 % (21 people) do not participate in it, 12,5 % (12 people) could not answer.
Thus, a rather large part of the respondents with limited possibilities don’t use IPR, moreover many respondents explained it by lack of information. It is possible to suppose that the respondents who couldn’t answer either don’t use IPR or this program is not effective. The assessment of the IPR’s effectiveness by the respondents is presented in the diagram.
Diagram 3: Evaluation of the efficiency of IPR
As we can see about one third of the respondents who use IPR consider IPR as effective and very effective. The reasons for this low assessment of IPR’s effectiveness expressed one of the experts: «IPR should be developed taking into account the individual characteristics of the person. Only his/her needs. But we have the same kind of IPR for all people».
One of the main aims of social policy in the sphere of social support of people with limited possibilities is connected to the creation of an accessible environment, i.e. an environment which is equipped according to the special needs of a disabled person or groups.
The practical indicator of environment accessibility might be visiting public places and organizations. On the diagram the answers of the respondents who never visited such places or visited it not more than once per month are presented.
Diagram 4: Mobility in public places
The research data show that disabled people are limited in their social activity. One of the main reasons is not enough mobility in public places, but not the only one:
Diagram 5: Accessibility of public places/organizations
But it is necessary to note that the level of accessibility of many public places (especially modern buildings, i.e. shopping and recreation centers) is higher than the frequency of visiting it by people with limited possibilities. In the interviews many respondents demonstrated a passive position and lack of willing to be included to the social life, lack of motivation to have an active life.
This conclusion is proved by the experts’ opinion: «It is sure that they have fears and social phobia. As well as lack of communicative skills (only parents, relatives and close friends)». «They don’t know and are not able to interact with other people». Obviously, very often people with limited possibilities need psychological support and trainings for the development of their communicative and social skills.
Thus, the development of accessible environment demands not only creation of appropriate infrastructure (which is the key point), but also the development of social competence of people with limited possibilities. It is clear that this problem has another side, i.e. attitudes of the society to disabled people. In this connection it is impossible to overestimate the role of mass-media. The problems of people with limited possibilities recently has become discussed in mass media, but by the opinion of many disabled people it’s still not enough. 64,6 % of the respondents (62 people) believe that there is not enough information about problems of disabled people in mass media. Only 7,3 % of the respondents (7 people) think that it’s enough.
Answers to the questions about kinds of the information which is not enough can be divided into 2 groups. First, the respondents would like to have in mass media information addressed, first of all, to the people with limited possibilities. In particular respondents are suffering from lack of information about specialized social programs, legislative information, information about opportunities to be employed, about technical tools of rehabilitation, about sport for disabled etc.
The second direction of mass-media development is connected by the respondents to the information about disabled people addressed to all the population. In particular it was answered: «population has to know that these people exist and doesn’t stay away from them», «that they are the same people as others» etc.
Mass media, certainly, play a major role in the formation of the attitudes of a society to the people with limited possibilities. It is necessary to notice here that despite of the positive tendency, the society is still insufficiently tolerant to disabled people. In particular only 17,7 % of the respondents specify the attitudes of society to disabled people as well-intentioned, 10,4 % as tolerant, 30,2 % as indifferent, 16,7 % couldn’t answer. 25,0 % of the respondents chose the option «other» and answered this question they just specify it as negative, for instance like «disgust», «squeamish», «antagonism» etc.
In this case it is important to say that people with handicaps believe that mass media have to help not only to form tolerant attitudes, but also to develop «the positive image of the disabled person». That’s why mass media are expected to provide information about achievements of people with limited possibilities in different spheres of social activity.
Still the expectations from the Government activity on increasing the quality of life of disabled people are rather high. At present time the Government of St.-Petersburg makes concrete measures on social protection of people with limited possibilities. Many activities of the Government have received a positive estimation from disabled people, in particular the improvement of the transport service for disabled people was mentioned, positive shifts concerning environment accessibility (ramps for people with locomotor system’s disabilities), development of the system of rehabilitation services, etc., many respondents noticed that now there is more attention to the disabled people from the state.
However there were a lot of critical comments concerning following spheres: 1. lack of accessible environment, people with limited possibilities still feel extremely uncomfortable; 2. there is anevident lack of rehabilitation centers and recreation places available for people with t limited possibilities; 3. problems of getting professional education, higher education, not enough choice of occupations available for disabled people, lack of opportunities for inclusive education; 4. problems with employment; 5. not enough cooperation of public authorities with non-governmental organizations; 6. problems with getting technical tools of rehabilitation; 7. lack of the information; 8. very limited opportunities to organize leisure time for the disabled people.
The existing system of social support of people with limited possibilities in Russia causes a lot of critics from the disabled people and experts. At the same time it is necessary to highlight significant positive shifts initiated by the Government to improve the quality of social services for people with limited possibilities and activization of non-governmental organizations working with disabled people which play an important role in advocacy of disabled people’s interests. However, public authorities should in practice follow the conception of disability,which is a product of social relations and admit that disability is a reflection of social, technological and legal aspects of society. The main efforts of public authorities in the field of social protection of people with limited possibilities are directed to the creation of anaccessible environment, i.e. the environment creating with taking into account of disable people’s needs. But today the accessibility is estimated only from the technical infrastructure’s point of view, when the social model of disability demands to estimate it by the criteria of quality of life, level of social integration, observation of human rights. The significant changes in the field of social work are also needed. Social work besides the traditional social services has to aid the development of ability of people with limited possibilities to live independent and manage their own life.
Olga Borodkina is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Sociology of the St. Petersburg State University. Yulia Victorova is PhD student at the Faculty of Sociology of the St. Petersburg State University.
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Maria Lanznaster)
December 23rd, 2009
A range of new publications are to be announced:
Rozenberg publishers (http://www.rozenbergps.com/) just published a new book in the EUROPEAN DIVERSITY SERIES. The new publication is titled: SOCIAL POLICY IN CONTEXT. It brings together essays showing the applicability of the social quality approach in different areas. Both, very fundamental philosophical questions and topics of contemporary debates in politics and policies are looked at, applying the SQ-arguments in different perspectives.
New Publication at the William Thompson Working Papers: CSR - CSA - CSO: Responsibility, Accountability, Organisation or: On Regaining Political Economy. Find more at http://william-thompson.ucc.ie
A new book series “Studies in Comparative Social Pedagogies and International Social Work and Social Policies” has been launched.
Editors of the series are Peter Herrmann and Ming-Fang Chen, backed by a network of colleagues around the world. It is published at Europaeische Hochschulschriften, Bremen.
Please, find below information on the books that had been published up to now – they are available via the usual channels. Further information can be found on the website which is specifically dedicated to the book series: www.socialcomparison.com
Vol. I: Die Europäische Union als Programmgesellschaft
Vol. II: Social Quality-Looking for a Global Social Policy
Vol. III: The Fragilisation of Sociostructural Components
Vol. IV: Modernisierung und Sozialarbeit in Spanien
Vol. V: Innovation durch Grenzüberschreitung
Vol. VI: Jane Addams (1860 – 1935) – Sozialarbeit, Sozialpädagogik und Reformpolitik
Vol. VII: The Diversity of Social Pedagogy in Europe
Claire Dorrity/Peter Herrmann (Eds.): Social Professional Activity: The Search for a Minimum Common Denominator in Difference.
Table of contents:
Chapter 1 - Critic of Pure Individualism - Peter Herrmann and Claire Dorrity
Chapter 2 - Human Rights and Their Relevance for Social Work as Theory, Education and Practice - Silvia Staub-Bernasconi
Chapter 3 - The Construction of ‘Non-Nationals’ in the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum: An Insight from a Critical Discourse Analytical Perspective - Silvia Brandi
Chapter 4 - Identifying Youth Work -’The Battle for Hearts and Minds’ - Michael O’hAodain
Chapter 5 - Youth Work as Social Work - A Danish Way of Qualified Social-Pedagogy Working with Young People - Torben Bechmann Jensen
Chapter 6 - The Politics of Health Promotion in Ireland: Health and Smoking in Official Discourses - Eluska Fernández
Chapter 7 - Promoting Partnership and Empowerment through Groupwork: The Way Forward for Social Work Education’ - Mary Wilson and Deirdre Quirke
Chapter 8 - Creativity and Social Work - Working Towards Empowerment in Social Work Practice - Kerstin Walsh and Ivan Molloy
Chapter 9 - The Interface between Research and Policy in Ireland: The Case of Poverty - Jonathan Healy
Chapter 10 - Human Security, Gender and Globalized Interconnectivity - Thanh-Dam Truong
The book can be ordered on the website of Nova-science publishers or in any bookshops etc.
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: BirgitH)
December 23rd, 2009
Olga I. Borodkina ,St. Petersburg (Russia)
According to official data on 30.06.2009 494 074 HIV-infected people have been registered in Russia, including 4165 children. In St.Petersburg 40822 people with HIV, including 168 children, have been registered on the same date. St. Petersburg belongs to a group of Russian regions with a very high level of prevalence of HIV-infections that means that there are more than 300 HIV-infected persons among a population of 100 thousand. In the last years in Russia as well as in many other countries the epidemic of HIV was stabilized, but the growth of a cumulative number of registered HIV-infected persons continued which is connected first of all with the increasing life expectancy of people living with HIV as a result of modern antiretroviral therapy. In this situation the question of quality of life of people living with HIV becomes more and more important and the problem of developing an effective system of social help for this target group becomes one of the priorities of social policy.
It is necessary to recognize that now both academic community and practical workers in the field of social work pay attention to the problems of social work from HIV-infected clients; however in this area there is still a set of unresolved problems and questions, including the development of a public system of social services for families involved in the HIV epidemic. The marked problems were in the focus of the scientific-practical conference «Development of system of social services in the field of HIV prevention» which took place in St.-Petersburg on the 12th of November.
The conference also was the final action of the project “S krasnoi stroki” (“Since new line”) on the creation and development of the system of social and psychological support of the families with HIV problems. The project has been realized by the non-profit organization «Social services of Bethany», the governmental organization “Center of social support for families and children in the Krasnogvardejsky district of St. Petersburg” with the participation of the committee of social policy of St. Petersburg with support from USAID and IREX (USA).
At the conference the different issues connected with HIV prevention and social work in this sphere were discussed. Olga Borodkinа (St. Petersburg State University) explained in her presentation that social work with people living with HIV has to be a part of social prevention, which should be realized on individual, community and social policy levels. Individual-focused preventive strategies are directed on correction, regulation of the attitudes, life purposes and actions of the client in a direction of social norms and standards dominating in the society. Socio-political prevention is directed on the formation of structures which could help to involve the individuals in constructive, independent interaction with and within their social environment. The research data demonstrate strong paternalistic expectations among HIV-infected people. People with HIV need help to get an allowance, to get a place for a child in kindergartens, to organize the summer holiday for the children and etc. They also demonstrate the requirements for specialized services, i.e. connected with HIV status: psychological support, legal consultations, help to find and get job. Besides, people living with HIV are not informed enough about social programs addressed to people with HIV. But the new models of social work with people with HIV should not only correspond to these expectations, but also take in account the key tendencies of the development in contemporary social work that connect the strengthening of individual responsibility including the responsibility of individuals for decision-making concerning risks.
The presentation by Julia Ivashkina, head of the department of the Regional Center “Family”, who presented results of the project “S krasnoi stroki” (“Since new line”), which she supervised, showed that in this project 26 families have got social support. A technique of efficiency evaluation of social support for families with problems connected with HIV was developed and approved. As a result of the project a book with a collection of scientific and practical materials under the title «Practice of social work with the families impacted by a HIV-infection» was prepared and published. The book was also presented in details by J. Ivashkina at the conference.
The important part of the conference were the round tables. The first round table dealt with the organizational and legal aspects of activities of social services, organizations on social support to the families having HIV-connected problems. The following aspects were considered: standards of social services provided to the population of St.-Petersburg, problems of confidentiality of information about clients with HIV-infection, measures of social support for HIV-positive junior clients. According to experts the following forms of social work are necessary to develop: groups of support and mutual aid, motivational work, formation of treatment compliance and case management.
During the discussion on the second round table the problems of interdepartmental, interdisciplinary, intersectoral interaction in the sphere of social work with the families impacted by a HIV-infection were considered. The participants emphasized the complexity in interaction between public health and social work services particularly concerning HIV-positive pregnant women and women with children. To the city administration the committee of public health offered to develop standards and rules for the regulation of this sphere and to provide the special training of employees of public health organizations concerning social services, organizations working with HIV positive clients.
The main conclusion of the discussion on the third round table «Problems of professional competence of social workers in the field of HIV prevention» was connected with the necessity to develop a new interdisciplinary program on social work with HIV infected people involving academic staff and managers of social agencies on the base of best Russian, American and European practice.
The dissemination of the results of the project “S krasnoi stroki” as well as the adapted models of case work with HIV-infected clients should lead to the new directions of practical social work and social prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Olga Borodkina is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Sociology of the St. Petersburg State University.
December 23rd, 2009