Workshop: Rethinking social justice and the public realm: what can relational approaches offer?
Rethinking social justice and the public realm: what can relational approaches offer?
On Thu 1st and Fri 2nd November ESID will host a workshop on Rethinking social justice and the public realm: what can relational approaches offer? This will bring together an international group of scholars who are all interested in engaging with the emerging relational turn in theorising and researching problems of social injustice, inequality, and poverty. It also includes a plenary lecture open to the public, from Prof. Victoria Lawson (University of Washington, Seattle).
The ‘relational turn’ has become increasingly influential within efforts to theorise social justice and the types of progressive public action required to challenge injustice. This has included moves to re-understand justice, the state, egalitarianism, and poverty, and to promote alternative approaches within public policy debates in both the global north and south.
Part of a broader shift within the social sciences, relational approaches have the potential to be highly significant, moving beyond resourcist or institutionalist accounts to investigate the social relations that may underpin particular resource distributions or institutional configurations, and which amount to forms of social injustice in themselves. Influential contributions of this type have been made concerning, for instance, social justice and egalitarianism (Young 1990; Fraser 1995, 2009; Anderson 1999; Schemmel 2012; Wolff 2015), the state (Jessop 2007; Cottam 2011; Cooke and Muir 2012), and poverty and underdevelopment (Hickey and du Toit 2007; Mosse 2010; Elwood, Lawson, and Sheppard 2017). This and other work suggests the possibility of an exciting shared agenda bridging a number of related fields.
What these diverse contributions converge upon is a sense that social relations – for instance of power, identity, socio-economic class, recognition, and between citizen and state – are key to understanding problems of social injustice, inequality, poverty, and state performance. This contrasts with views that assume that such problems can be understood entirely in terms of the distribution of goods, or that poverty and deprivation are isolated phenomena caused simply by the relevant populations being residual to or excluded from otherwise benign processes of development.
Meanwhile, the idea of social justice seems to be moving into the discourse of global policy actors (World Bank 2017; United Nations 2017), as well as gaining prominence across international media with ever-more astonishing accounts of wealth inequality, and with globally attention-grabbing movements, such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘#MeToo’ anti-racism and -sexism campaigns. Activists and academics alike have sought in their pursuit of social justice to reimagine and reclaim the ‘public realm’, a space undermined not only by successive waves of neoliberalism and austerity, but also the aggressive resurfacing of old inequality-generating ideas and discourses around ethnic origins and gender. This suggests that the current moment is opportune for research contributions that can inform a critical and sophisticated understanding of social justice.
The workshop, over two days, is aimed at critically exploring what a relational approach can do to advance scholarly debates and progressive public action with regards to social justice and the public realm, with the latter conceived as encompassing, for instance, the state, the ‘public sphere’, and civil society, without foreclosing the possibility of questioning the implicit public/private divide itself. The workshop brings together a diverse and international mix of scholars, and will feature paper presentations and discussion on these themes. Presenters are drawn from a variety of discipline areas, including political philosophy/theory, public policy, sociology, anthropology, and development studies. Part of the aim of the workshop is to organise a journal special issue.
The underlying theme will be the question of what a relational approach brings to these topics, and, indeed, what the defining features of such an approach actually are, or should be. This latter question is important, given that within existing accounts it is possible to perceive different slants on the core idea of relationality. For instance, some approaches are ‘relational’ in the sense of focusing primarily on the nature or quality of interpersonal relations, whereas the relationality involved in other accounts is more ontological, looking to structural relations between social groups – while some emphasise epistemic relationality, such as questions of situated knowledge and standpoint theory. Others, meanwhile, have argued that relational approaches overplay the opposition with distributive accounts of social justice and argue for hybrid accounts that bring together relational and distributive notions of egalitarianism (Moles and Parr 2018).
All are warmly invited to the plenary public lecture with Victoria Lawson on Thursday 1st November at 16.30, in room G7 in Humanities Bridgeford St. Building. (Click image to enlarge.)
The papers to be presented at the workshop are as follows:
Session 1: Thursday 13.00-14.30
RELATIONAL APPROACHES: FOUNDATIONAL QUESTIONS
Chris Lyon – University of Manchester, UK
Relational approaches to social justice: what, why, which kind?
The word ‘relational’ has become associated with contemporary thought about social justice in a number of ways; explicitly, in the case of relational egalitarianism, and implicitly, in the case of a variety of other approaches to poverty and injustice which are in important ways relational. Meanwhile, recent publications across an array of practice- and policy-related social science fields have called for a relational approach. The implication, in both the theoretical and practical literatures, tends to be that such an approach is more deeply insightful and more practically useful than mainstream understandings of social justice and injustice.
This sounds promising – but the notion of relationality figures in a number of different ways in the relevant literature. In this paper I aim (1) to perform a tidying service for the conversation by taking stock of and distinguishing between a number of different modes of relational thought; (2) to clarify the motivations for relational theory; and (3) to propose, as an agenda for further theory-building, some core elements that would make up a compelling version of the relational approach to social justice.
Amadeus Ulrich – University of Frankfurt, Germany
Critical realism: how relations matter
There is a general anxiety within contemporary political philosophy about how realistic and utopian a conception of justice ought to be. Questions concerning the appropriate method to ground, justify and restrict the scope of normative principles with regards to the facts as we know them have received renewed attention in recent years. Obviously, this methodological and meta-ethical debate is extremely relevant for relational approaches: What is the appropriate degree of realism that a relational conception of social justice should invoke that aims to criticize actual practices and conditions of arbitrary rule and domination? I will argue that negative relational approaches that interpret existing power relations are attractive for several reasons: They could offer feasible ideas for progressive policies, do not fall prey to the “distributive dogma” that has dominated much of contemporary political philosophy, and are superior to accounts that offer perverse framings of the “who” of justice by focusing on positive relations such as cooperation, lawful coercion or reciprocity and wrongly proclaim them to be appropriate “existence conditions” for a context of justice. Also, relational approaches that constructively interpret existing practices and conditions might have epistemic benefits. Since theorists work under conditions of descriptive uncertainty, a thorough interpretation of relationships of arbitrary rule and domination might give us better knowledge of the possible behavior of people and the consequences of applying directives. They might also provide us with a greater value certainty, if we do not rely on higher-order principles too vague for determinate prescriptions. However, I will argue that relational accounts cannot get rid of context-transcending principles without falling prey to a pernicious relativism and positivism. Justice must not mirror the actual. A critical interpretation of relations as well as their identification must always be guided by first principles of political morality, which cannot be derived out of the relations themselves, but must be directed at them. Negative relational accounts should be alive to the distinction between the grounding and justification of fundamental, mediating and applied principles to be realistic in the right way.
Sarah White – University of Bath, UK
Thinking Relationally about Policy and Wellbeing
Thinking relationally about policy means crucially to acknowledge fluidity. The world in which policy is forged and into which it enters is a world of moving parts, where objects of intervention are always already engaged with multiple others. Rather than policy introducing the impetus for change into an otherwise static situation, this recognises that contexts of intervention are always already complex and dynamic, less a landscape of fixed locations than a seascape of multiple currents and flows, where what appears at the surface reveals only a small part of what is occurring at the depths below. This paper explores something of what this means when thinking about wellbeing. Drawing on fieldwork in rural Zambia and India, 2010-14, it describes a relational approach to wellbeing. Relationships are not only critical to the experience of wellbeing, but also figure as the means through which people secure their welfare, in both material and psychological terms. More theoretically, taking a relational approach allows us to see wellbeing as emerging through the dynamic interplay of personal, societal and environmental factors. The implications for working with such an approach to wellbeing in the context of policies to advance social justice are discussed.
Session 2: Thursday 14.45-16.15
RELATIONAL DYNAMICS IN THE PUBLIC REALM
Helen Brown Coverdale – University College London, UK
Interactions, Institutions, and Interdependence: What can relational methods offer public policy?
This paper offers a methodological consideration of three alternative approaches to the relational turn in theorising social justice. Two influential understandings of relationality are as markers of the quality of interactions between individuals (eg Anderson 2014); and as ways of understanding the combined impacts of state institutions (eg Young 2013). Both are important, since social and political institutions inform the context within which interactions take place. Interactions between individuals and state agents merit particular attention since the state speaks with a distinct power and authority in relation to individuals, and controls some levers of institutional change. While individuals and institutions are important for understanding and identifying social injustice, these are only parts of the relational story. Interdependence– between individuals and between individuals and institutions – also contributes to the context for interactions, crossing the public/private divide. Care ethics emphasises the unavoidable interdependence between individuals, who both rely on and support others. Likewise, individuals depend on state institutions, yet these structures require reproduction by individuals acting together. These three relational approaches, interactions, institutions, and interdependence, provide pieces of the relational puzzle, but the fit is imperfect. Tensions arise which must be managed, but which will not always be resolvable. While care ethics offers no rules for managing tensions, it helps identify which set of principles might be most salient in a given situation by directing attention to individual and institutional context; often focusing guidance on how an interaction should be approached (quality), over exactly what must be done (substantive content). Understanding the relationship between individual interactions, institutions, and interdependence helps clarify the relational turn, which can be used to identify injustice in practice; yet, how we respond is a political question. The paper is illustrated with examples of disadvantaged group marginalisation.
Kevin Ip – Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Relational Equality in the Age of Analytics: Should Egalitarians Worry about Big Data?
This essay aims to analyze why certain applications of big data analytics should be considered problematic from the perspective of relational equality and to explore some general strategies for addressing the resulting social inequalities. Big data is a socio-technical phenomenon which is about a capacity to search, aggregate, and cross-reference large data sets with social, economic, and technological implications. (Boyd and Crawford 2012) On the one hand, big data is a source of innovation and has a great potential for advancing public goods. (Mayer-Schonberger and Ramge 2018; McNeely and Hahm 2014) On the other, some applications of big data present a distinctive challenge to the ideal of relational equality as they change the nature of the relationship between individuals whose data is harvested and organizations which analyze and operate on such data. (Anderjevic 2014)
In this essay I argue that there are at least two applications of big data analytics which give rise to unequal social relations. The first is the use of predictive analysis with stark implications for individuals. Data mining aims to “discover” unanticipated correlations between different factors, and allows private companies or government agencies to predict individual behaviors—ranging from the probability of credit default to the risk of committing crimes. These predictions will feed into the decision-making processes of these organizations. (Eubanks 2018; Grandy 2009; O’Neil 2016) The second is personalized political marketing in which groups of like-minded potential voters are identified through data analysis and then targeted for tailor-made messages to influence their votes. (Cadwalladr and Graham-Harrison, 2018)
I focus on these applications of big data analytics because they are connected to issues that relational egalitarians are especially concerned with, such as domination (Pettit 1997; Lovett 2010), nonconsensual vulnerability (Goodin 1985), and social oppression (Anderson 1999; Cudd 2006; Young 2013).
Finally, I will consider four general strategies for addressing harmful social inequalities: (1) exit; (2) procedural constraints; (3) substantive rights; and (4) voice. (Anderson 2017) There are limits, however, to how far these strategies can protect individuals from subjugation in the context of big data. To conclude, this essay shows that the relational approach offers us a tool to understand the implications of big data technologies for social justice and the public realm.
Temidayo Eseonu – University of Manchester, UK
Deliberative participation as a relational approach to the inclusion of marginalised groups in public policy.
Theories of social justice can be grouped into two broad approaches; procedural/contractarian approaches and outcomes-based approaches (McArthur, 2014). Of the outcomes-based approaches, Sen’s capability approach (CA) to addressing inequalities and moving towards social justice is of interest given that It has influenced the UK government’s approach to addressing inequalities. It is worth noting that CA allows for consideration to be given to real or substantive freedoms (capabilities) and rather than focusing just on outcomes; achieved functionings (Robeyns, 2005).
CA seems to be congruent with a relational approach, it takes into account social factors that can cause inequalities. Sen stresses the role of agency, the process of choice and the freedom to reason in the selection of relevant capabilities. He argues that what should be selected should be left to democratic processes and social choice procedures. In other words, when the capability approach is used, it is the people who will be affected who should decide on what will count as valuable capabilities which therefore engages with theories of deliberative democracies and participation (Robeyns, 2005).
Young (1990) discusses marginalisation as one of the faces of oppression where a whole category of people is unable to usefully participate in social life and consequently a social injustice issue. As CA engages with deliberative democracies and participation, it can provide the opportunity for presence and voice of marginalised groups to be included in discussions on how inequalities resulting from social factors can be addressed (Smith, 2009).
In the context of collaborative governance in public policy, purposive selection of citizens from marginalised groups in collaborative governance frameworks ensures that they are involved and can contribute to agenda setting and shape priorities in the search for social justice.
Federica Duca – University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa
The city seen relationally: different elitist spaces talk to each other about segregation, worth and belonging
Debates on social justice, fairness or how to build a just society have been more and more present in academic agendas. Linked to these concerns, the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor and the increasing concern over the 1% triggered a greater amount of research on elites, both globally and locally. From a sociological perspective, a first important step was that of contributing to a better knowledge of elites with ethnographic studies. Spatially, the epitome of segregation and exclusion in contemporary cities has been associated to the presence of gated community, typically studied as spaces of retreat of the elites.
In this paper I explore the ways in which a relational approach, and more specifically “relational ethnography”, are extremely relevant tools to understand and unpack meanings of segregation, citizenship, retreat and belonging in the city.
Building on extensive research in Johannesburg, South Africa, I show how studying gated communities relationally brings to the fore a much firmer focus on relations between the residents of gated communities and residents of other spaces of the city. Particular attention will be devoted to other forms of elite spaces, not necessarily organized in gated communities. Indeed, via the relational gesture, we are able to delve into the processes that lead to separation and exclusion, to the understanding of oneself as more of a worthy citizen than people residing in different spaces (though equally elitist), without losing sight of the dynamics of privilege and of the importance of the institutional and physical setup of such spaces.
The paper shows that a relational perspective, yet maintaining the rigour of comparison, is crucial in going beyond studies of a particular sites and particular groups as if they were self-explanatory.
More specifically, by providing both a phenomenological and critical excursus of how residents of elite spaces institutionally organized in different ways (in gated community or open suburb) acquire confidence and ownership of their worth and belonging to the nation, it shows the shortcomings of studying phenomena of segregation and exclusion in contemporary cities as linked to specific spaces, such as that of the gated community.
Plenary: Thursday 16.30-18.00
Victoria Lawson – University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Reimagining Poverty Action by Repoliticizing Poverty
A relational analysis of poverty refuses conventional measuring, benchmarking and incorporation of impoverished people and communities into the status quo. By contrast, relational analysis explores how poverty is produced in the interplay of post(settler)colonial governance, neoliberal political economy, meaning-making and institutional rules and practices. I draw on the work by scholars and activists within the Relational Poverty Network to pose questions that cut across conventional divides of poverty knowledge produced in North Atlantic States from ideas in global development work. Because persistent poverty contradicts the promises of modernity and progress in all spaces, it is a contradiction that must be depoliticized. And so, I argue for repoliticizing poverty to understand the political possibilities that this raises – even though, perhaps, this appears to be so obvious(!). Repoliticizing poverty entails two moves: First, recognizing that neoliberal governance and identity projects that individualize poverty are deeply political. These thinkable poverty politics produce both knowledge and actions that solidify neoliberal claims about who is poor and why. Second, repoliticizing poverty is a project of recognition of multiple transgressive and rebellious politics that lie outside the hegemonic liberal social order and its imaginaries – that are ‘unthinkable’. This talk traces thinkable and unthinkable poverty politics in order to find ways for subaltern demands to be heard, learned and politically engaged. Ultimately, I argue that ‘unthinkable’ poverty politics offer new narrations of the current economic, moral and political crisis and offer possibilities for new solidarities.
Session 3: Friday 9.30-11.00
RELATIONALITY IN THEORISING SOCIAL JUSTICE
Katarina Pitasse Fragoso – Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium
What, if any, is the relational problem around poverty?
Poverty is an extreme deprivation suffered by an individual or a group or by an individual within a group. The definition of what is an extreme deprivation is a moral and political criteria involving dimensions which allow us to set a threshold. Most concepts of poverty are focused on monetary threshold, which establish absolute or relative criteria of access to resources holdings (income and wealth) below which a person is considered poor. Thus, a state of poverty exists when a person falls absolutely below a certain fixed level of income. The monetary threshold can also be relative meaning poverty can be said to exist if a person’s income level is significantly below the general population. Amartya Sen shifts from this so-called monetary threshold to a multidimensional one based on individuals’ capacity to convert material resources into opportunities and freedoms. Sen takes into consideration both absolute and relative criteria of poverty because having lower access to resources in comparison to others can generate an absolute deprivation of basic capacities. The monetary threshold asks what an individual has in absolute or relative terms; while the capability approach is focused on what an individual can achieve absolutely by herself/himself with the resources at his or her disposal. Both thresholds are based on individual assessment. However, our understanding of what it means to be poor also must take into account the individuals’ interaction vis a vis others. By that I mean, poverty has a relational aspect: that is, interpersonal relationships affect whether or not people stand in relation of equality with respect to one another, e.g. social norms, cultural attitudes. This suggests that interpersonal aspects of poverty may be part of or criteria of poverty in itself. If it is so, what is the relational turn in poverty studies? What sorts of social interactions affect negatively the life of a person living in poverty? My objectives in this article are theoretical. As a philosopher, I intend to clarify the concept of poverty and expand upon our understanding of poverty by adding the interpersonal aspects.
Oana Crusmac – University of Bucharest, Romania
Justice is always a relational matter: on Rainer Forst’s critical theory of justice
The recent developments on social justice revolve around two main disputes: distributive versus relational accounts of justice, and ideal versus non-ideal theories of justice. As Wolff (2015) stresses, in fact this represents a cross-cutting issue, as distributive theories of justice are the ones conceived in an ideal theory framework, whereas relational accounts of justice often follow a non-ideal methodology. In a similar fashion, Forst (2012; 2014) distinguishes between “two pictures of justice”: the first picture is a misleading and apolitical one, and it is represented by the distributive paradigm, while the second picture (for which he advocates) views justice in a relational manner.
Rainer Forst’s critical theory of justice represents one of the richest relational accounts of justice. However, his work is often disregarded by the mainstream political theory. Forst’s critical theory of justice can be defined as a normative, relational, non-ideal, practice-oriented, Kantian, and discourse-theoretical constructivist theory of justice. Like Anderson (1999) and many other relational political theorists, Forst relies his concept of justice on the Kantian idea that people should be treated as equals, and as such a proper notion of justice should “concern who determines who receives what and not only who should receive what” (Forst 2017b, 236). Moreover, he does not consider that the site of justice should be neither the state nor a global government. Rather he advocates what he calls a transnational site as the locus of justice.
My main scope in this paper is to investigate whether Forst’s critical theory of justice represents a better alternative on how political philosophers should theorize on the complex topic of social justice. The structure of the paper follows three main parts: in the first part I will deconstruct Forst’s theory of the two pictures of justice as well as his theory of the basic right to justification as an alternative to the original position. In the second part I will analyze whether his critical theory of justice manages to overcome the critiques of unfeasible idealism, exclusionary theorizing biased in favour of the while, middle class males, and of irrelevance to our current unjust world. In the third part I will investigate two urgent questions that are to be addressed to any theory of justice: first, how can we make use of the insights provided by Forst’s critical theory in our real world, and, second, how would a just distribution look like according to Forst’s theory?
I draw my answer to the first question starting from Laden’s (2014) proposal of viewing schools as the primary site of justice. The answer to the second question relies on and expands Forst’s view of distributive justice as a result of a just form of cooperation. Since cooperation is always relational, it follows that even material goods derive from relations. Contrary to theorists (e.g. Caney 2014) which consider that the distributive and the relational accounts of justice can be viewed as the two parts of full conception of justice, Forst (2017a) rejects this interpretation. However, he does not reject the relevance of distribution within a theory of justice. Distributive justice is an important part of a full conception of justice, but it has to be a (reciprocally and generally) justified distributive account of justice.
Marie Garrau – Pantheon Sorbonne University Paris, France
From domination to relational equality: on the inevitability of perfectionism
In this paper, we would like to question the ability of the concept of relational equality to provide a satisfying normative framework for the critic and transformation of social relations of domination. At first sight, relational equality as theorized especially by Elizabeth Anderson (1999), Samuel Scheffler (2015) or Jonathan Wolff (1998, 2015), seems well equipped to capture the wrongs of domination and provide us with reasons to transform them. It can even be argued that, in this respect, it does paradoxically better than the neo-republican concept of non-domination offered by Philip Pettit (1997). Indeed, because it aims at criticizing all the social relations and processes that prevent people from considering and treating each other as equals, it can lead to a more substantial and sociologically plausible concept of domination.
However, for social equality to constitute a relevant answer to domination, it may be necessary for those who champion it to embrace a form of perfectionism. If this is so, it is for two connected reasons, that contemporary sociology of domination helps documenting. First, structural domination goes hand in hand with a form of “moral pluralism” that endangers the possibility of egalitarian relationships; sociological studies which focus on dominant groups (Bourdieu, 1989; Khan, 2010; Lorenzi-Cioldi, 2009; Paugam, 2017; Pinçon & Pinçon-Charlot, 2007, 2016) show that their members produce discourses and visions of themselves, of the dominated groups and of the “right social order” that justify inequality of wealth and status and reproduce habits of paternalism, arrogance and contempt among the dominants. These discourses, representations and habits constitute obstacles on the way to social equality; at least, we can suppose that they will render a substantial interpretation of this ideal unappealing for dominant groups. Consequently – and it is the second reason why perfectionism seems difficult to avoid for social egalitarians – the promotion of egalitarian relationships in a non-egalitarian context may not be possible without the public endorsement of egalitarian values and a politics of virtue aiming at promoting them among citizens.
Session 4: Friday 11.15-12.45
IMPLICATIONS AND CHALLENGES FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
Nazneen Shifa – Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
In between the debate of politicization and de-politicization of women’s movement: Women’s subjectivity and victimhood in VAW discourse
Since the 1990s violence against women (hereafter VAW) has become a central theme of women’s movement in Bangladesh. After the coming of transnational legal framework of the United Nations (i.e. CEDAW), women’s movement has taken shape in a direction which we can term as a juridical way of understanding rights (Menon 2004, Merry 2006). In the last two decades, several laws have been passed in regard to VAW in Bangladesh. As a result many law centered interventions and activisms from the state and from the NGOs are now in place. But often women’s rights activists in Bangladesh voice a concern that after many years of efforts, VAW is still on the rise in the country. There is a growing debate among the scholars especially in the post colonial countries (i.e. India, Egypt) that the UN centric organizing and activisms of women’s movement depoliticize the movement, which was not the case earlier (Menon, 2004). The questions I address in this paper are situated in the above backdrop of law writing for women’s rights. The paper will deal with two sets of questions: Does the juridical turns of women’s movement depoliticize the nature of women’s movement in Bangladesh? In other words, what is the effect of juridical turn of VAW in the context of Bangladesh? This paper is an attempt to understand the above questions by historicizing the VAW discourse in Bangladesh. It will examine whether the juridical way of redressing violence is effective. Finally, it will exemplify how the juridical discourse limits the conceptualizing and response to VAW.
Martina Street – University of Manchester, UK
Education and young children: integrating primary goods, capabilities, and relational approaches to social justice
Education is often cast as one of the primary means by which to either potentiate social justice or reproduce societies’ status quo. Yet there is now a well-established evidence base suggesting children’s educational outcomes and life chances are strongly influenced before they even start school; and successive recent governments in many countries have invested increasing amounts in Early Childhood Education and Care provision drawing on much of this evidence under the ruse of ‘social mobility’.
In this paper I argue that re-thinking social justice, rather than just being pitched within ‘scholarly debates’ or at those with the means to engage in ‘progressive public action’ needs to include the views of those often among societies’ most oppressed i.e. young children (Alderson, 2016). I do so by drawing on prominent well-being theories and approaches to social justice previously applied only to adults (i.e. primary goods theory, the capability approach and relational approaches. In so doing I describe the social constructions of children facilitated by these theories and consequences for their well-being. These are integrated with evidence derived with children aged three and four years in a small qualitative study conducted in an area of a city in the north of England characterised as ‘disadvantaged’. These views are, in turn, contextualised by the views of early years’ educators and parents, often working-class women socialised into and/or responsibilised by childcare duties and similarly disenfranchised from debates.
I present a new conceptual framework which integrates these different conceptualisations, suggesting that a hybrid model marrying relational and distributive approaches are necessary to begin to redress social injustices perpetrated against young children and those most closely associated with their care.
Marleen Dekker – University of Leiden, Netherlands (Paper co-authored with Mayke Kaag, also Leiden)
Rethinking social justice: the value of relational analysis for understanding strategic action for inclusive development in Africa.
Inclusive development is not only an ‘outcome’ but also a ‘process’ that implies challenging existing power structures. Power is a relational concept, as power is exercised over others, defined and pursued in social relations, and furthered by coalitions (‘the power of numbers’). It follows, that power, and politics, are importantly linked to interests. Although the importance of power and politics for inclusive development are increasingly acknowledged, the relational analysis of strategic (transformative) action for inclusive development and the subsequent translation of an improved political understanding into politically driven interventions remains difficult.
This paper contributes to the relational analysis of inclusive development in Africa. Specifically, we argue that incentives, (mis) trust and accountability are useful relational mechanisms that help to understand why initiatives for furthering inclusive development may (or may not) succeed. The data for our analysis is derived from five research projects covering a diverse set of strategic actors aimed at (i) the economic empowerment of sex workers in Kenya and Ethiopia (ii) the implementation of inclusive Business strategies in East Africa (iii) increasing the political leverage of informal sector workers in Ghana and Benin (iv) supporting the inclusion of the Batwa in Rwanda and (v) promoting agricultural partnerships in Ghana.
The paper discusses why and how particular strategic actors have promoted/inhibited inclusiveness of marginalized and/or vulnerable groups by addressing the following questions: What has been the role of the ‘marginalised’ or ‘excluded’group? What local traction was observed? What has been the role of incentives and trust in realising or resisting transformation? What alliances and strategies are used (or not) to hold strategic actors to account and why?
Based on these findings, the paper will also reflect on how to formulate policy recommendations that take the political and the relational as a point of departure.
Shauna Mackinnon – University of Winnipeg, Canada
A Relational Poverty Approach: Beyond research to Action for Structural Change
While our scholarly efforts to understand the complexities of poverty are essential and informative, statistics show us that we have failed to make an impact.
In Canada, the general acceptance of the notion that the state is ultimately responsible for the social and economic well-being of its citizens is a sentiment of the past. While there is significant public acknowledgment that poverty is ‘a problem’, charitable approaches are favoured over public interventions. Explanations of poverty focused on individual failings have become mainstream in the age of neoliberalism.
Aligned with neoliberalism, private sector ‘solutions’ to poverty are ubiquitous. Governments have shamelessly abandoned their responsibility – deferring to multi-sector collaborations, public-private partnerships, “collective impact” models and social enterprise schemes to solve structurally created inequities. These neoliberal inspired interventions take the responsibility out of the hands of democratically elected officials, calling on the public to trust in the market to solve the problems it creates.
Relational approaches to understanding poverty provide an opportunity for researchers and activists to join forces, moving beyond research to action. While research is essential, structural change will not come from the ‘Ivory Tower’. Researchers and activists in Winnipeg, Canada have made some progress through cross-class alliances. However, we continue to grapple with how to scale up our efforts to build a movement of support for the level of structural change that is needed. My interest is to explore further: How do we convince the public, in language that people understand, that a fundamental change is in its best interests? How do we ‘win over’ the elusive middle class? What can we learn from the successes and failures of 21st century resistance efforts? How do we reach out to disenfranchised voters whose disillusion has led them to hatred of ‘the other’? How do we convince these voters that they have much in common with ‘the other’? How do we bring civil society groups together to challenge the power and privilege of the wealthy philanthropists who they are beholden to and join in a movement toward structural change? These are some of the questions that relational poverty theorists must grapple with if we are to move forward from theory to action.
CLOSING PLENARY AND PANEL: Michael Woolcock, Victoria Lawson, Sam Hickey
Plenary address (Michael Woolcock, Harvard University and World Bank) and panel discussion with Victoria Lawson (University of Washington) and Sam Hickey (University of Manchester), reflecting on themes and further questions arising from the workshop discussions, and drawing out the implications for theory and practice.
We will finish by considering options for publication of the papers presented, for instance as a journal special issue. Suggestions of potential journals and approaches are welcome.