The concept of public action is a magnifying lens for shedding light on the plurality of institutional and social actors interacting in policies. Taking into account a changing social world that is redefining the State and its instruments, it is well suited for picking out transformations that have been affecting European social policies for some twenty years or so now: the territorial reorganization of powers; the spread of a public-private mix in the provision of services; the rise of new forms of collaborative governance; the institutionalization of the European agenda on social investment.
This book examines social policies as normative and cognitive devices that contribute to organizing social life and are themselves moulded and redefined by it. The perspective of public action is located where it is possible to observe how these devices come into action, the powers and interests they help mobilize and the dynamics they generate. Policies thus appear as a tangle of rather diverse processes in which the erosion of the ‘social’ coexists with the emergence of innovative forms of social organization.
Public action is the key tool that helps to deal with this tangle by posing the following questions. What vocabularies, significances and practices are set in motion by the ‘social’ today? What are the resources that fuel it? What powers are deployed in it?
Table of Contents
Introduction: Social policies and public action: What is the ‘social’?
Dimensions of analysis
What is the ‘social’ in social policies?
Part I: The framework
1. Concepts and issues
Agency and capabilities
2. What is social in Europe?
A common heritage
The European social model
Facing the crisis
Part II: Public action and social policies: Dynamics
3. The Changing Architecture
Institutional changes: New public management and governance
Problems and opportunities in changing public action
4. The social investment
Common but not shared perspectives
What sort of agency? Problems
What sort of agency? Opportunities
A few distinctions
Dimensions, questions, factors
Voice and capacity to aspire
Part III: Public action and social policies: a changing social domain
7. Young school-to-work transitions
Problems and solutions
The informational bases of justice: Merit
Beyond employability: The Workable research
Young people’s transitions and capacitations
8. Care and choice: The position of the recipients
Freedom of choice and its instruments
Instruments in action
9. Inclusion and the city
The agenda of the inclusive city in Europe
Diversity, participation, social innovation
Part IV: Conclusions
10. Back to the ‘social’?
Between market and the self-organized community
Possibilities of the ‘social’
Lavinia Bifulco is Professor of Sociology at the University of Milan-Bicocca in Italy.
‘Lavinia Bifulco presents a rich and subtle analysis of the changing fortunes of the social dimensions of Europe. She combines attention to the complex trajectories of social welfare, in their variations across place and time, with a clear grasp of the forces that have been subordinating the social to the economic.’ - John Clarke, The Open University, UK