Concept Document on Alternative Social Policy

The need to rethink Social Policy in the Periphery

In his acclaimed Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas, S Kuhn makes the following observation on how conceptual paradigms change in scientific work:

“Sometimes a normal problem, one that ought to be solvable by known rules and procedures, resists the reiterated onslaught of the ablest members of the group within whose competence it falls. On other occasions a piece of equipment designed and constructed for the purposes of normal research fails to perform in the anticipated manner, revealing an anomaly that cannot, despite repeated effort, be aligned with professional expectation. In these and other ways, normal science repeatedly goes astray. And when it does-when, that is, the profession can no longer evade anomalies that subvert the existing tradition of scientific practice- then begin the extraordinary investigations that lead the profession at last to a new set of commitments, a new basis for the practice of science – the extraordinary episodes in which that shift of professional commitments occurs are the one known as scientific revolutions. They are the tradition – shattering complements to the tradition- bound activity of normal science…. Such changes, together with the controversies that almost always accompany them, are the defining characteristics of scientific revolutions” (Kuhn, Thomas S, 1962;p 6).

My work on social policy can broadly be described as drawn from the lens and the imperative of to promote a paradigm shift with regard to thinking about this subject. It is my humble aspiration to contribute in some small measure to developing an alternative and transformative framework on how we can and should think about social policy in the underdeveloped world.

In normal discourse social policy is seen as state intervention in social reproduction with the sole aim of assisting the excluded to reproduce themselves in such a way that they are able to survive. In its heyday social policy was seen as a protective measure to facilitate either protection or adjustment to a market economy that is understood to be working and which was perceived to have the wherewithal to draw in the conjecturally excluded (Marshall, TH; 1950). Tying up the quotes would help the reader identify what the argument is.

In other words, it was seen as a development that is coterminous with the capitalist system. It is my view that this framework was true and relevant to capitalism from the beginning of the twentieth century  all the way up until 1973 when the coordinates of the system began to burst asunder (Gorz, A; 1999)

It is also important to note that this view of social policy was conceived as important and achievable in the context of the developed world.

In his book Maldevelopment, Samir Amin offers an empirical contrast of economic activity between the centre, (the developed world) and the periphery, (his description of the underdeveloped world). He observes that in most cases:

  • “25% of the population receives 10% of the income in the centre and 5% in the periphery.
  • 50 % of the population receives 25% of the income in the centre and 10% in the periphery.
  • 75% of the population receives 50% of the income in the centre and 33% in the periphery”

(1990, p.153)

It is therefore in confronting this reality that we are bound to rethink everything in the underdeveloped world including the design and the concept of social policy. Here social policy is called upon to attend not just to fissures that attend to 5 % of the unemployed as in the north. Here we have to talk about 40% of the unemployed and sometimes even more.

In the work that I have done in this regard, the aim has been to talk to this reality of 40% unemployment and to rethink what social policy means in this context and how it can be done. It is my hope that the essays that I have written in this regard can be published into a book to deepen thinking on social policy in general and to contribute to a new momentum towards an alternative approach to social development in the underdeveloped word.

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