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Beyond SDG’s and SPF’s: social commons as a strategy tool for social justice and systemic change

When The Economist puts universal health care on its cover we should welcome this ‘social turn’ but we should also reflect very seriously on what is happening and why.

For almost thirty years now, right-wing and neoliberal forces have been dominating and shaping the discourse – and consequently the practice – on social policies. They do not talk about social justice, obviously, since justice is far away from their objectives, but they have been dominating and shaping the new thinking on poverty, social protection, health care and education.

The tragedy in all this is that the left has grossly abandoned its social ambition. For the radical left, social protection is counter-revolutionary and something for dummies and sissies. After the revolution, social justice will fall out of the sky. The moderate left is happy with the existing international initiatives. It means that this once high priority topic for all progressive forces is being neglected. We are now paying the price for this. Social protection has been taken out of our hands.

What I want to explain in this presentation is, one, why we have to reclaim our economic and social rights and go beyond the currently existing international initiatives, such as the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and SPFs (Social Protection Floors), and, secondly, how social commons can be a strategic tool for striving towards social justice. Continue…

Social Justice and Systemic Change (3)

Strategies for social justice and beyond

If social protection is now back on the international agenda and more or less actively promoted by most international organisations, it is not necessarily also on the agenda of social movements. There is, or has been, more particularly within the radical left, quite some resistance to the promotion of this ‘reformist’ policy. Initiatives like those of Global Social Justice and the Asia Europe People’s Forum to broaden the agenda in order to include public services and labour right and to directly link it to a social justice agenda geared towards systemic change, might hopefully change this state of affairs.

However, it is not enough to demonstrate the need to broaden the agenda and to show how very connected different policy areas are. It is most useful if there can also be some indications on how to make this social justice into reality, even if we know it necessarily will be a long term agenda.

In this article, I want to emphasize two possible ways of shaping a strategy: a commons approach and what I would call an obstinate coherence approach. There is no need to choose between one or the other. Moreover, these strategies concern the improvements of social policies within the system and within the existing institutional frame as well as those that are ‘out of the box’ and look into the future in order to build a better world. Continue…

Social Justice and Systemic Change (2)

Social protection and its allies

Social protection is high on the international agenda today. Even the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have admitted it should be promoted. Global initiatives such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and most of all the Social Protection Floors from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have to be welcomed and supported. Their achievement would mean a tremendous progress for people all over the world.

However, a more ambitious and long term horizon is also necessary, as the ILO itself is indicating. Not only because social protection can and should be more than a correction mechanism to the current austerity policies that continue to follow the neoliberal philosophy of structural adjustment, but also because protective policies imply so much more than cash transfers and basic social policies (see previous article).

In this article, I want to point to some of the necessary connections to make if we want social protection to be a major element of social justice and to contribute to systemic change and the shaping of a better world for all. Continue…

Social Justice and Systemic Change (1)

Social Protection Floors: The Case for going Beyond

End of April 2018 The Economist published a special report on universal health care and put the topic on its cover. We should welcome this ‘social turn’ but we should also reflect very seriously on what is happening and why.

Also in spring 2018, José Antonio Ocampo and Joseph Stiglitz, two famous economists, published a book on ‘Re-visiting the Welfare State’ with a purely economic perspective on social policies.

What this means and confirms is that for almost forty years now, right-wing and neoliberal forces have been dominating and shaping the discourse – and consequently the practice – on social policies. They do not talk about social justice, obviously, since justice is far away from their objectives, but they have been dominating and shaping the new thinking on poverty, social protection, health and education. Continue…

The movement of the commons: On the role of citizens in reclaiming public services

At the most recent World Economic Forum in Davos, its founder, Klaus Schwab, make a remarkable statement. The overall focus of the WEF this year was on the ‘fractured world’ we are living in. Schwab declared we need a new social contract, our societies have to rebuild their foundations, our world needs ‘qualitative easing’ and so we have to look beyond GDP in order to work at inclusive development… While such a statement might have come from the left, Schwab added something very WEF-like. This timed, he said, I think that business should take the lead to make the recovery efforts through the social crisis, and of course business can work with governments and civil society… Continue…

Fighting neoliberalism and the privatisation of public services: The struggle for social commons

  1. Our public services, education, health care, public transport … all belong to our systems of social protection, systems that we need and have to promote because they are essential for our individual and collective survival. Individuals are not self-sufficient, they are interdependent.

This is an easy statement,  but the question is how we try to achieve the existence of universal quality public services for all. We know that the current neoliberal philosophy wants governments to cut public spending, and, in general, social expenditures are severely limited. Continue…