Open access documents

Executive Summary

IPSP 2 Booklets

Report chapters - second drafts

Introductory Chapters

Chapter 1 : Social Trends and New Geographies

This opening chapter sets the scene for subsequent more detailed analysis of many of the issues raised here. We start by discussing in Section 1 the tension in the current era between humanity’s simultaneously standing at “the peak of possibilities” while also, possibly, facing an abyss due to growing inequalities, political conflict and the ever-present danger of climate catastrophe. We turn in Sections 2 and 3 to the main social and spatial transformations that have characterised the last twenty five years. Again we see advances and regressions, above all uneven and fragile development. These sections set the scene for a consideration of three specific challenges: the tension between capitalism and democracy (Section 4); that between production and reproduction with an emphasis on gender relations (Section 5); and that between demographic change and sustainability (Section 6). We then conclude with a sober appraisal of the prospects for the emergence of viable agents for social transformation (Section 7) before making some general remarks on the challenges and possibilities for social progress (Section 8).

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Chapter 2 : Social progress: A compass

This chapter sets out the main normative dimensions that should be used in assessing whether societies have made social progress and whether a given set of proposals is likely to bring progress. Some of these dimensions are values, bearing in the first instance on the evaluation of states of affairs; others are action-guiding principles. Values can inspire and in that sense also guide actions. Principles aim to offer more specific guidance on how to rank, distribute and realize values. Recognizing a multiplicity of values and principles is important not only to being respectful of the variety of reasonable views about what matters but also because it is difficult to reduce the list of dimensions that ultimately matter to a shorter one in a way that reflects all aspects of the phenomena in question. Many of the chapters that follow will explicitly address only a subset of these values and principles: the ones most salient for their issues or areas; but in principle, all remain relevant.

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Volume 1 : Socio-Economic Transformations

Chapter 3 : Economic Inequality and Social Progress

Inequality and its effects on societies have received increasing prominence in debates among economists and social scientists and in policy circles over the past thirty years. There are many, often interacting inequalities and different forms of inequality. Wide income and wealth inequality has harmful consequences for the economic welfare of societies, social cohesion, and other factors that intrinsically and instrumentally diminish social progress. While between-country income inequality has been falling recently, within-country inequality has been rising to varying degrees in most industrialized and many developing countries, though the experience of declining inequality in Latin America is a notable exception. Globalization and technological change have contributed to widening inequality in many contexts, but country-specific explanations and policies have often played a more important role. They include the role of economic conditions, levels and trends in the distribution of physical assets and human resources, the functioning and regulation of labor markets, regional and sectoral disparities, and macroeconomic, tax, transfer, and social policies that affect inequality directly or indirectly. Many of the trends in inequality are related to deep-rooted and self-reinforcing factors such as strong social stratification, well-established norms, political inequality, governance, demographic factors, and the role of social movements. National policies and, to a lesser extent, international supporting actions can have a powerful impact on inequality.

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Chapter 4 : Economic growth, human development and welfare

The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate the compatibility of human development and planetary welfare with economic growth. It does so by reviewing the theoretical and empirical literature on the two-way interface between economic growth on the one hand, and human development and planetary welfare on the other. The Chapter begins by introducing different narratives of economic growth (Section 1), discussing different definitions and determinants of economic growth and providing historical context (Section 2). Section 3 then examines the various normative criteria that can be used to evaluate economic growth, showing that growth matters in that it contributes to other goods. Section 4 examines the effects of economic growth in the framework of social and natural wealth. The Chapter concludes by discussing how the global commons may be governed in order to prevent the adverse effects economic growth has had in the past. (Section 5).

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Chapter 5 : Cities and Social Progress

The urbanizing of people and of societies has become one of the major trends of the last few decades. This urbanizing has long generated a diversity of formats. Besides the familiar formats we have known across time and place, there is now a proliferation of novel formats — private cities, gated communities, office parks that pretend to be cities and are experienced by many as such, and more. This proliferation of diverse ‘urban’ types ranges from cities occupying a territory so vast it is barely governed to small and fully managed towns. This chapter focuses on the diverse dynamics shaping urbanization across the world in order to understand how cities can become more just. In today’s world justice denotes environmental sustainability, well-being, access to basic services, cultural autonomy, gainful employment, and more. Given the massive budget deficits in most countries, especially in the global South, achieving justice demands a radical shift in the patterns of economic development. Cities can and must play a central role in this urgent.
socio-technical process

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Chapter 6 : Markets, Finance, and Corporations: Does Capitalism Have a Future?

This chapter provides an overview and a critique of modern capitalism focusing on the core institutions of finance and the corporation. It considers the degree to which they foster or inhibit social progress. For the purposes of this chapter we see social progress as the removal of inequalities in wealth and power and the facilitation of innovation and technological progress from which all people can benefit. The chapter acknowledges that capitalism, corporations and finance have developed over time, within nation states and in relation to institutions in other nation states. Their contribution to social progress, or in the alternative, social regression, varies according to historical, political and geographical context. We show that while globalization has significantly impacted capitalism, corporations and finance, making them global as well as national in scope, they continue to be grounded within nation states. Throughout the chapter we aim to show the integration of the state and the capitalist economy and the dependence of the institutions of capitalism on the state.

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Chapter 7 : The future of work - good jobs for all

Work and employment are core activities for individuals and society. Participation in the labour market determines a wide range of life chances that are mediated through earned income. Employment also confers differential social status through the occupational hierarchical arrangements of society. Under favourable conditions these experiences contribute to working people’s health and wellbeing, strengthening their sense of social identity and their motivation towards striving for purpose in life. Yet, exclusion from paid work and poor quality employment are powerful threats to human health and wellbeing. These opportunities and threats are unequally distributed across the globe, between and within societies, leaving poor people, those with less education, skills and capabilities in more disadvantaged conditions. This chapter suggests some policy principle and concrete policy options that might further those objectives, not ignoring some tensions that might exist between flexibility and security in the different labor markets. We argue that distinct productive policy options are available that can be implemented more globally in order to achieve these goals simultaneously.

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Chapter 8 (online appendix) : Social justice, well-being, and economic organization

Volume 2: Political Regulation, Governance, and Societal Transformations

Chapter 9 : The paradoxes of democracy and the rule of law

Our concern in this chapter is democracy and the rule of law as conditions for social progress. Democracy is at its most basic, rule by the people This encompasses universal suffrage, free competitive elections, alternation in government and the absence of obstacles to participation in public life. Conceptions of democracy, however, have beenl extended to other sites, including the workplace and the community, and even theinternational order. The idea of democracy has been expanded beyond representative democracy and passive participation through elections, towards new forms of participative democracy. Democracy requires an institutional framework for its own protection to secure civil equality, without which it would be meaningless in practice. It has to protect against arbitrary government and the tyranny of majorities; to protect minority rights; to sustain opposition; to provide predictability and security; and to safeguard against corruption. This is where the rule of law comes in. This requires an impartial legal system, free from political coercion, and the equality of all citizens before it. In the past some conceptions of the rule of law were quite conservative, focused on defending existing privileges and property rights against the spread of democracy and demands for equality. The political left in some countries (such as the United Kingdom) were wary of charters of rights and legal limitations on the scope of government, fearing the rule of lawyers and of private interests. This opposition has largely disappeared. Yet in our day, there remains the danger that the law will be captured by private power holders.

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Chapter 10 : Violence, Wars, Peace, Security

The issues of conflict, violence and social progress and their interrelations have long been topics of philosophical discussion. Underling this chapter is the necessity to achieve social change and social progress through public action. Violence, especially in its more intense and extreme forms, often serves as a major impediment to social progress; it leads to or catalyzes a range of direct physical and humanitarian harms for the population (such as human losses and displacement), as well as socio-economic, environmental and other damage. However, social change may itself imply popular protest against repressive conditions such as repressive governments, foreign occupation or colonial rule. This protest may be exercised through non-violent means, but sometimes through violence.

This chapter invites the readers to come with suggestions for conclusions building, for instance, on notions such as resilience, human security and human rights.

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Chapter 11 : International Organizations and the Technologies of Governance

This chapter describes how international and global governance operates through varieties of governance technologies. These technologies vary in how fully they engage transnational, national and local actors, state and non-state, in their design and implementation. Technologies of governance have been criticized because they have few mechanisms for tapping into creativity and tacit knowledge at local levels and they implicitly vest expertise and normative authority in the Global North and centers of geopolitics or finance. In so doing, they mute the voices of many domestic actors. Our case studies demonstrate both the promise and problems of international organizations in enhancing human flourishing. They reveal the complexities of the engagement between the Global North and Global South and local and global processes. For transnational governance to produce social progress it will need to resolve difficulties of coordination, funding, accountability, and adaptability of governance technologies.

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Chapter 12 : Governing Capital, Labor and Nature in a Changing World

This chapter attempts a broad analytical compass for surveying the main actors, institutions and instruments governing our world. Despite its seeming ubiquity, governance is a relatively new expression in this context suggestive both of new modes of exercising power, and an enhanced focus on ordering a world undergoing rapid change. Speaking generally governance may be understood as the exercise of power organized around multiple dispersed sites operating through transnational networks of actors, public as well as private, and national, regional as well as local. This chapter maps a rather more fluid and differentiated landscape of governance across the five areas it surveys, i.e. finance, investment, trade, labor and environment.

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Chapter 13 : Media and Communications

This chapter tells two stories. On the one hand, the vast and varied media landscape we have depicted offers a complex set of resources for daily life and social movements. On the other, this landscape is marked by processes of power both old and radically new: new power processes include an emerging logic of data extraction tied to an imperative of data stimulation via increased message circulation. Through this transformation, unfamiliar forms of domination and exclusion are emerging, while public discourse and practices of government are subject to surprising new pressures. The long history of communications, and specifically media technologies, is now joining up with capitalism’s development in striking new ways. The resulting global information environment requires urgent attention, if our understanding of social progress’ dynamics is not to be dangerously oversimplified.

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Chapter 14 : Challenges of Inequality to Democracy

This chapter is structured along the fundamental challenges democracy is facing in the twenty-first century. The first part explores the challenges of socioeconomic inequality, gender inequality, religious inequality, racial inequality, generational inequality, and racial inequality. It then turns to globalization as an external threat to public equality, populism as an increasingly powerful internal threat within the OECD world, and the challenge science and technology pose to democracy. Though these single sections focus particularly on the challenges to democracy, they also provide some responses to them. The second part of the chapter changes the focus insofar as it deals mainly with responses, such as some proposals for reestablishing the demos and renationalizing democracy, democratic innovations in Europe and Latin America, and the democratic norms that should guide the procedures of supranational governance. We conclude with suggestions for limiting the effects of inequality of wealth on democratic decision making and some different ways of organizing electoral systems for increasing minority participation.

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Volume 3: Transformations in Values, Norms, Cultures

Chapter 15 : Social Progress and Cultural Change

In this chapter, we take on the challenge of how to assess social progress while taking full account of the particularities that characterize cultures (and religions, ethnicities, national belonging). Drawing on the example of modernization theory in the postwar period, we discuss some common pitfalls in the ways in which culture and processes of cultural change are perceived and understood. We focus on two issues that are of particular relevance to the IPSP: the need to nurture an ethos of solidarity and citizenship; and the need to address risks of cultural exclusions and stigmatization.

We argue that (1) individuals by their very nature draw on social ties and cultural orientations to create fulfilling lives, however individualistically they may see themselves; (2) the dis-embedding of individuals from inherited social roles and communities can take both emancipatory and pathological forms; and, conversely, (3) the embedding of individuals within strong community identities can also take multiple forms, some progressive and same pathological.

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Chapter 16 : Religions and social progress - Critical assessments and creative partnerships

This chapter starts from the premise that some 80 percent of the world’s population affirms some kind of religious identification, a percentage that is growing rather than declining. Emphasizing the significance of belief and practice in everyday lives and local contexts, we analyze the impact of religion and its relevance to social progress in a wide variety of fields: family, gender, and sexuality; diversity and democracy; conflict and peace; everyday wellbeing; and care for the earth. We also identify a series of cross-cutting themes that establish a foundation for policy-making.

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Chapter 17 : Pluralization of Families

The vast majority of the world’s population lives the majority of their lives within family units, of all shapes and sizes. The driving question of the chapter is how can societies support conditions for the 21st century that allow families to flourish, and at the same time, promote individual agency, equality and dignity. Two interlocking questions follow from this: first, how can societies support families’ important functions — caregiving, human development, and belonging – in order to promote the dignity, life opportunities, and risk protection of family members? Second, as they support these functions, how can societies minimize socioeconomic and other inequalities and domination that families often reproduce, within and between them? The first part provides the context for discussing families, including boundaries between families and other institutions; historical trends; contemporary challenges; legal recognition of; and socio-economic context of, families. Part two focuses on relations within families: between partners; adult-child relations; aging family members; and other adults. Part three provides policy recommendations. We recommend, in addition to equitable laws, a two-fold state role to ensure flourishing families: first, transfers that ensure an income floor for families with dependents; and second, publicly funded services to ensure a healthy balance between production and reproduction.

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Chapter 18 : Global health and the changing contours of human life

The contours of human life – birth, childhood, maturity, reproduction, the experiences of health, illness, and disability, and death – have been and will remain nearly universal; but their duration and texture are undergoing great changes. In this chapter, we chart the transformations and make projections into the near future. Many of the trends are favorable: fewer children are dying, and many enjoy greater longevity. But these advances are not distributed uniformly among and within countries and regions. Furthermore, the value of longevity is compromised by an increasing number of people living with diminished health under inequitable systems of health and social care. A more just future can be achieved by a continuing emphasis on equity in global health systems even as human lives continue to be extended and enhanced.

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Chapter 19 : The contribution of education to social progres

Education is the process of learning and expanding culture, and, as it contributes to the improvement of the human condition through better knowledge, health, living conditions, social equity and productivity, is a central tool for social progress. Education is expected to foster social progress through four different but interrelated purposes: humanistic, through the development of individual and collective human virtues to their full extent; civic, by the enhancement of public life and active participation in a democratic society; economic, by providing individuals with intellectual and practical skills that make them productive and enhance their and society’s living conditions; and through fostering social equity and justice. The chapter presents the main dilemmas and actions needed to allow education to fulfill its promises. Education policies, informed by the knowledge created by social research, should lead to more equity and productivity, while giving more emphasis to its civic and humanistic purposes, with special attention to teacher education. Governance structures should be flexible, participatory, accountable and aware of their social and cultural context.

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Chapter 20 : Belonging and solidarity

This chapter consists, first, of an extended theoretical analysis of the concept of belonging in three dimensions: belonging as ‘identity’, belonging as ‘solidarity’, and belonging as ‘the unalienated life’. And second, there is an extended empirical survey of different regions of the world where belonging in one or other of its analytical dimensions has surfaced in certain socially, politically, and economically situated contexts. Throughout the chapter, there is a sustained and sturdy conviction in a methodological stance that the ideal of belonging (in these aspects of the unalienated life and solidarity and inclusive identity) is what most deeply underlies the other great ideals of modern political thought, the ideals of liberty and equality, and that if we lost sight of this more fundamental underlying ideal, then the pursuit of liberty and equality would be in danger of being reduced to an exercise in social engineering.

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Concluding Chapters

Chapter 21 : The Multiple Directions of Social Progress - Ways Forward

This chapter engages with three important themes of the larger report: the meaning of progress, its uneven nature, and obstacles to future progress. It also considers a number of political and economic alternatives aimed to overcome these obstacles, emphasizing the need for diverse strategies, open-minded experimentation, and scientific assessment. While it may be impossible to ever reach agreement, the effort to calibrate different interpretations of progress remains an important exercise for political deliberation about how to make the world a better place. The very hope of moving forward implies some agreement on a destination. All of us must take responsibility for the future. Our discussion emphasizes the complexity and multidimensionality of the interpretive debate, but also calls attention to its ideological character. Social actors—individuals, groups, and even academic disciplines–tend to define progress in ways that serve their own interests. In a way, distributional conflict undermines our very efforts to better understand and mediate such conflict.

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Chapter 22 : The Contribution of the Social Sciences to Policy and Institutional Change

This chapter engages the contributions of the social sciences to policy and institutional change. The chapter is organized as follows. The first six sections of the chapter cover six policy domains: Economics (section 1); Education (2); Environmental Protection (3); Health Care (4); Development (5); and Science and Technology (6). A concluding section (7) offers an overarching historical perspective on the societal role of the social sciences, and then outlines some critical challenges that must be met if the social sciences are, in the future, to function as a force for progress. It would be absurd to aim here at a comprehensive accounting of the social science/policy nexus. However, in selecting six distinct and important policy domains, to be reviewed by the chapter, we have tried to achieve a coverage sufficiently wide that the emerging themes and lessons will not be seen as idiosyncratic to a particular area of policy choice.

Each of the six sections addresses the social science/policy nexus by addressing one or both of the following questions. First, how does social science help explain the process of policy development in the covered domain? Second, how has social science influenced policy development there?

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"Symposium on the Report of the International Panel on Social Progress 2018" in Economics and Philosophy, 2018

Other publications