JOURNAL ISSUE 12
THE AMBIGUOUS ‘DOUBLE MANDATE’ OF SOCIAL WORK
IUC DUBROVNIK, 19-25 JUNE 2005
Horst Sing, PhD (PolSc), Professor emeritus
University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
The ‘double mandate’, which means to be on the side of the client and on the side of the welfare state simultaneously, is supposed to be the core value of social work. This means amongst other things to help the client by advocacy, empowerment and money in order to mobilize their self-reliance in the prevention of/overcoming social exclusion. Also it means to contribute by respecting the norms of democratic society and to maintain the social peace (sozialer Friede). In more sophisticated terms, it means the specific responsibility of professional social work as a particular system of a democratic society to prevent or to overcome social exclusion in ‘special cases’ (nicht generalisierbare resp. nicht generalisierte Fälle; Bommes & Scherr 2000, 140) under the best possible protection for the autonomy of the affected individuals.
However, this double mandate of social work is ambiguous in more than one respect. For instance, many social workers take satisfaction from this since it includes the mandate to work with their specific professional knowledge as the ultimate functional system of a democratic society with special groups in the field of prevention/overcoming of social exclusion, and thereby to be members of a profession which requires a high degree of altruistic commitment. Yet often this double mandate includes accepting a Sisyphean task not only in the sense that – on the whole – it is endless and vain, but in the sense that it is a job which produces a certain affinity between professionals who are overburdened (the helpless helper) and clients who are not able to manage their lives (Modernisierungsverlierer).
In short, the double mandate is often connected with an exaggerated feeling of moral self-estimation which leads to unrealistic assessments of politics and a feeling of self-exploitation, which in turn leads to the well-known ‘burnt out’ syndrome. Furthermore, it often leads to simplifying the analysis of complicated social processes and the evaluation of the social reality by viewing these from the perspective of a naive double mandate. Such simplification or reductionism suggests that it would be sufficient to deal with social exclusion in complex situations and polycontextural societies by harmonizing two fundamentally different issues based on strategies and methods of individual case work without reference to the main social causes of the problems.
Such an understanding of the double mandate as the core value of professional social work would be at best an alibi to hide a shameful existence or to destroy a suspicion of ideology (Ideologieverdacht) of social work: as a value it has the function to serve – by comparison and reflection – a subject acceptable as a value (Baecker pp17). It is not sufficient, to position oneself on the side of the victims of history and at the same time work in the name of the democratic state (which has to be a welfare state) without describing the embeddedness of the core value within its empirical and theoretical environment (Umwelt). For the core value of social work, this is the global society.
In order to avoid a long discussion of the question of whether (or why) this is true for all phenomena or whether (or why) this is valid for all phenomena, and whether (or why) only for certain phenomena. I would like to mention just two examples concerning social work – for instance in the wake of Anthony Giddens’ renowned thesis that any process in the global society may be influenced by any others – and these are examples which prove a tremendous increase of the globalization of such phenomena. The first example is the globalization of unemployment and in this context the globalization of illegal migrations and the production of modern slave trades (prostitution), etc., which confront social workers and social work with fundamentally new phenomena and new challenges in their own countries, for instance with forgotten individuals (vergessene Existenzen). The second is the theoretical control of the social worker and of the intervention of the welfare state by a globalizing science of social work, for instance by intercultural issues leading to very different scientific and applied theories which are used for the analysis of the same issues. In this respect, I will mention only the difference between the more pragmatic theories of social work in the Anglo Saxon countries and the more abstract theories in Germany.
If we admit the thesis of the embeddedness of the practice and theory of social work in such contexts, it becomes necessary to analyse also its core value – the double mandate – under these conditions. I aim to do this in three steps, by describing it: first, under the conditions of the expanding welfare state in Europe, especially in the two or three decades after World War II; second, under the conditions of an increasing general dissent of orientation beginning at the latest in the last decade of the 20th century, and third, under the conditions of its reconstruction, which in turn are under the conditions of the necessity to create new strategies of social integration.
1. The ‘double mandate’ of social work under the conditions of the expanding welfare state
1.1. Social work as a consequence of the ‘collective self-binding’ of the democratic society to prevent (abolish) social exclusion
If we take a short historical overview back to the roots of modern professional social work we have start in the pre-modern period: the roots are embedded in the Christian ethical instruction ‘thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself’. At that time, as there was no alternative to such theological instructions; there was no need to construct a double mandate in the sense that there would be another fundamental or metaphysically legitimated source or obligation to prevent/overcome (what we define today as) social exclusion outside the frame of faith-based social commitment. Such secular obligations emerged and functioned during these periods only in the frame of the feudal system and through feudal duties, and they concerned only those who were included in this system. The people of the ‘unmarked space’ of the society were the Harijans (Kinder Gottes), comparable – as Mahatma Gandhi said some hundred years later – to people in Indian society, and by using this name he intended to imply that there was no specific social system to regard them as human beings or as clients.
A double mandate in the field of prevention/overcoming social exclusion – and the theoretical reflection of it – emerged only when the ideas of the Enlightenment convinced more and more people that all human beings are born with equal fundamental rights and when – in the wake of the nation building beginning with the civic revolutions of the 18th century – every citizen of a nation was to be regarded as a citizen who has the right to participate in using these natural (i.e. human) rights. Thus, in the rising democratic nations, formally and legally no citizen could be politically excluded, and by this time this had led to the realization that this political participation had as a pre-condition that people should have the possibility to enjoy certain standards of basic needs because they were supposed to be necessary to use their political rights.
With these human rights a new and a fundamentally different philosophical or moral approach to deal with problems emerged, which we call today ‘problems of social exclusion’; not only has the individual become principally autonomous, but at the same time he or she has inalienable rights and these rights are not owed to something outside or above the human society but to democracy. Furthermore, these rights were more and more connected with social rights: society (democratic society) has an obligation with respect to the individual, not only the individual with respect to society, and at the same time this mutual obligation does not only concern the right of political participation but also the right to have a subsistence level under conditions of human dignity.
In the wake of the First Industrial Revolution these social rights began to preoccupy tremendously not only the people concerned by the huge changes in almost all fields of the conditions of life, but also the political class and the intellectuals. The discussion is endless and no longer comprehensible in its details.
Further, it is important to recognize that the origin of the double mandate of social work took place earlier than the emergence of professional social work at the beginning of the 20th century, and that it reaches as far back as even the birth of the modern democracy itself. It could be said that the double mandate of social work is principally a system-immanent value of democracy and not a secondary or peripheral phenomenon that emerged when the human collateral damages of industrialization became more and more obvious, and when – in the second half of the 20th century – there was enough money to finance some useful systems to prevent/overcome social exclusion or to improve the lives of ordinary people.
The assessment of the problem of social exclusion depends to a high degree on the point of view held regarding the responsibility of the individual for his or her self, not simply with respect to their individual pursuit of happiness, but fundamentally with respect to their rights and duties as a citizen. Therefore, generally speaking, at least one double mandate represented by an institution, a profession or an organization becomes inevitable in the field of prevention of/overcoming social exclusion, when autonomous individuals and democratic social systems become involved. This double mandate represents the difference between the autonomous individuals and the institutions as respective agents of the community, and at the same time the bridge between them. Only in a theocracy or in a totalitarian system is this not necessary, because within totalitarian systems there is no difference and no liberty to choose.
1.2. The building of the welfare state as a consequence of the First Industrial Revolution and as a consequence of the development of democracy
The history of the welfare state is recognized as being very complicated and that the attempts to realize its fundamental norms and aims have led to very different models of organizations, institutions, professional identifications, and even theoretical constructions of social security systems with respect to social work. For our purpose, however, it is not necessary to describe or to analyse in detail the whole development of the development of the welfare state from the beginning in the 19th century until today. It is sufficient to describe and analyse a fundamental change of the paradigm, model or scenario of the welfare state in Europe which began to take place with the 1980s and which is currently in full swing. This change does not take place in the same way, nor in the same intensity, and not at the same speed in all countries. There are tremendous differences, for example, between some of the Nordic countries such as Finland and Norway, with an almost continuous improvement or at least with an almost continuous maintaining of a social balance on a high level on the one hand, and the countries of transformation of the former People’s Republics on the other hand, which did not have the experience of the decades of an almost continuous boom of the welfare regimes between the 1950s and the 1980s.
However, despite these differences between the European welfare regimes it is possible or even necessary to realize that there is a common context of change within which it is possible to analyse the actual conditions of the double mandate of social work. In Germany this period of change is often referred to as ‘the end of the utopia of the welfare state’ (Willke 2001), and I will use this assessment of the situation as a starting point for the following arguments.
The ‘utopia of the welfare state’ – which in many people’s opinion is not expected to return again – took place in the first decades after World War II, especially in the welfare regimes of the Western democracies. In short, the welfare regimes of this period were facilitated by a rapidly growing economy, positive terms of trade, full employment, by effective functional systems of society, etc. At the same time, the social balance of the interaction of the actors was facilitated by a limitation of the self-centred codes of the different functional systems of society in favour of the bonum commune – property obliges, the economy is necessary for the welfare of the people – and last but not least, by moderate and widespread reasonable individual behaviour in the field of the demand for social benefits.
‘Miracle of economy’ (Wirtschaftswunder) and ‘social market economy’ (Soziale Marktwirtschaft) were the keyword phrases to describe this period of economic boom which helped to forget the deprivations of both World War I and of the first decade of the post-war regions. For example, the mezzogiorno of Italy or Spain, which were backward regions, were expected to be directly heading towards the prosperity experienced by the advanced regions.
On the whole, the gap between the performances requested from the welfare state and its interventions (including social work) became smaller – at least in terms of basic needs and fundamentals, and in comparison to former periods. In the field of prevention/overcoming social exclusion of special cases, the development in social work was not too satisfactory – at least from the point of view of many social workers and from the increasing number of studies on the consequences of and for social work – though the criticism was often vague and ambiguous.
Thus, even if the fact that in a developing pluralistic society individual problems to prevent/overcome social exclusion have no or hardly clear limits is neutralized, the balance of the double mandate of social work – to help the individual achieve their best and at the same time to be a profession which performs this help within the rationality of the welfare state – was not very successful precisely because of its inexactness of the effects of social work interventions. In this period, where the gap between the requirements and the possibilities to help in special cases was still not too big and where the range of possible phenomena of deviant behaviour was still not too wide, it was neglected – at least in many welfare regimes – to develop clear standards of defining the double mandate and methods for measuring them.
1.3. The end of the utopia of the expanding welfare state
When, in the wake of the collapse of the Eastern Block, the descriptions and prognostics of Luhmann, Willke, Beck, Giddens, and others concerning the ‘risk society’ (Beck 1986) turned out to be realistic, it became more and more evident that the summit of the expanding welfare state had been exceeded. There were two levels at which this had taken place.
The first level was the empirical one. The increase in the gap between the financial and personal claims to the functional systems and the performances of the systems of social security on the one hand, and how the resources of the public budgets met these demands on the other hand, became more and more notorious and irreversible. The response was mostly to improve the methods of lean management and to stop the increase in expenses. However, for several reasons these were not very useful in the field of the double mandate of social work. It became more and more obvious that the special cases of social work were increasingly cases which had primarily structural causes, e.g. unemployment, migrations, etc., and only secondly had individual causes, such as incompetence or incapacity to organize daily life. The question became virulent:‘if the welfare state is able to observe the effects of the interventions of the functional systems of society and if it is able to evaluate somewhat solidly its own interventions’1 (Willke), and ‘if the society is indeed too complex to get a feed-back and conclusions from the social excluded individuals to the causes and from there to measures’ (Luhmann 1981).
If we recognize the challenges which are addressed by such questions and issues, we have to admit that the double mandate of social work is embedded in a context which is fundamentally different from the context of the period of the utopia of the welfare state. This new context is characterized – besides being characterized by the lack of resources and instruments to prevent/overcome social exclusion – to a high degree by a general dissent in terms of orientation on the theoretical level, e.g. in the scientific community, which is not able to generate sufficient new knowledge to make transparent the complicated contexts of the polycontextural globalizing society.
2. The double mandate of social work under conditions of a general dissent of orientation
2.1. An instrument to explain the problem of the general dissent of orientation in the current phase of social evolution: The parable of the Bedouin
In order to avoid a long description of a complicated discussion concerning the general dissent of orientation in which the welfare regimes and the double mandate of social work are (currently) embedded, I will refer to an old Arabian parable which has been used in similar discussions and which I have modified and shortened for the purpose of this article.
A prosperous Bedouin had settled his estate consisting of 12 camels for his 3 sons in the following manner: the eldest should receive half of the camels, the second eldest one-third, and the youngest only one-sixth. When the father died, there were only 11 camels to share out. The eldest son claimed 6 camels as half of the heritage and the other two sons complained. They went to a judge to claim justice. After having given the matter considerable thought, the judge made an offer, saying: ‘I'll put at your disposal one of my camels. Give it back to me – if it is the will of Allah – as soon as possible’.
Thus the sharing out was not difficult: the eldest son received 6 camels, the second son received 4 camels, and the third son had 2 camels. Thereby the letter of the testament was fulfilled. Each son had received his portion according to age, namely one-half, one-third, and one-sixth of the heritage respectively. However there remained the problem of the camel which the judge had given to them for the purpose of completing the legal procedure in accordance with the regulations of the testament: this had been done on the condition that they were to return his camel to him as soon as possible, if it was the will of Allah.
It is not necessary for our purpose, to discuss the question of how the three sons interpreted the will of Allah and whether or when they gave the twelfth camel back to the judge, or under what circumstances. Regardless, we have to suppose that the judge wanted to have his camel back and that he referred to a third authority, to the will of Allah. Furthermore, we suppose that even if the sons had wanted to fulfil the will of Allah they did not find the same constellation as that at the moment when their father had had twelve camels to share out. Further, as there is no indication as to the possibility of a specific message on the part of Allah, there is only the possibility that there was a kind of re-entry of a similar constellation.
Returning to the issue under which the conditions the double mandate of social work takes place today, the situation of the welfare state at the peak of its development during the 1960s,1970s and 1980s might be accepted as the point of departure for a comparison. If we set aside the critique of the different Marxist positions, the vast majority of the populations in the Western democracies shared the opinion, that all in all – at least in comparison with other models of society – this model of the Western welfare state would be able to provide something like just opportunities for the greatest possible number of the members of a nation (Rawls 1971). The German sociologist Schelsky called this society a nivellierte Mittelstandgesellschaft.
In the parable presented above, the nivellierte Mittelstandgesellschaft of the1960s, 1970s and 1980s is similar to the regulations of the testament: the inheritance of the European welfare states – the material as well as the theoretical goods – seemed to be sufficiently balanced or at least capable of further development in this sense. Yet – similar to the parable – the further development of the welfare state was not the same as expected. While it is true that the inheritance as a whole did not diminish – unlike in the parable – the balance did become out of order, or at least it deviated from the order of the ideology of the welfare state.
Thus, the situation at the beginning of the 21st century can be compared to the situation when the father in the parable died; instead of 12 there were 11 camels – or 13 or more – but it was not possible to divide them in a logical way. In spite of the increase of the CNP, and in spite of the increase – or because of the increase – of options there are winners or losers, who are not able or willing to reach a consensus on how to deal with the heritage: emancipation and autonomy of individuals, specific rationalities of the functional systems of society, complicated and non-transparent causalities, etc. are against a logically balanced consensus. Contrary to the norms of the ideology of the welfare state, the sharing out of the performances and goods of society is to a high degree asymmetric. Further, it is not only a problem of asymmetries from an academic point of view, but for many people it is existential: 1.3 billion in the world, 100 million in the so-called First World are socially excluded.
Furthermore, this situation is more complicated than the situation in the parable, as there are not only three individuals who are involved but millions. Also, there is more than one judge, for the evident reason that the welfare state, the social policy and even the political system do not have the same legal power or authority as the judge in the parable.
If, however, we maintain the assumption that the collective self-binding of democracy to prevent/overcome social exclusion is on the whole still valid – and that the model of the welfare state is not entirely an error of the development of democracy – there is an analogy to the parable which might be instructive for our purpose. Namely, if the democratic society does not want to relinquish the mandate to be wholly responsible for the organization of the general conditions of people’s lives, it has to do the same as the judge in the parable who accepted the mandate to settle the procedure of the testament. He did not relinquish the mandate, although he knew that it was not possible to find an acceptable solution for all – except by ‘cheating’. So the fundamental question in the general dissent of orientation regarding the issue of the transformation of the welfare state is what if we do not accept a naturwüchsige Entwicklung – a possibility of ‘cheating’ – as a general starting point to deal with the problem of the general dissent of orientation? In other words, what is our twelfth camel? It is, to make differences.
2.2. The consequence of the general dissent of orientation: The lack of a system for general inclusion
If we accept the thesis of the general dissent of orientation in the field of social exclusion we accept the thesis that there is no system for general inclusion (Generalinklusion; Bardmann 2000) to prevent/overcome at a whole. Also, we accept the thesis that – in the field of theory as well as in the field of practice – there is no common absolute fundamental basis for a common approach, except that there is none. Instead of the (probably) vain search for an absolute general ontological one, we could take – since we have to choose or have options if we want to avoid a naturwüchsige Entwicklung or Beliebigkeit – as our twelfth camel the strategy of making differences. This means that in any case there will be a process of deconstruction of the status quo and it means that processes of reconstruction are necessary if one does not want to give up the intention to influence the development, and it also means that the processes of reconstruction are new starting points for new processes of deconstruction, and so forth.
If we refer these issues on our theme the question is: Where are the (new) starting points for the strategy of making differences processes of reconstruction of the double mandate of an impossible profession (Wendt) like social work in the context of a general dissent of orientation?
With this strategy the situation of a general dissent of orientation can be understood as a part of a general performativer Selbstwiderspruch with the prospect to mark spaces in the endless unmarked space. As the number and the variety of the empirical as well as practical and the theoretical starting points are principally endless too, it is necessary to define the beginnings. Similarly, it is also necessary to define the limits. Especially, the latter are often more important in issues relating to welfare systems than the starting points.
2.3. The consequences of the lack of a system for general inclusion for social work
If we now accept the thesis that social work is primarily a profession of the welfare state and not a profession that refers primarily to faith-based fundaments, and that therefore it has to accept in a certain way the empirical and theoretical conditions of the welfare state, it is – as the welfare state itself – fully involved in the conditions of the general dissent of orientation of society. Further, when social work has to be distinguished from other professions or functional systems of society, this process of making differences too has to take place under the conditions of the general dissent of orientation.
For many social workers as well as for many people who are acquainted in one way or another with social work there may still be ‘much noise about nothing’ to discuss the embeddedness of a profession in a general dissent of orientation that deals with special cases of social exclusion, and of which the impact on the society – especially on the media – is only very limited. However, if it is taken into account that social work is the ultimate profession of a democratic society that marks the limits of the marked space to the unmarked space in the field of the existence, the prevention and the overcoming of social exclusion social work acquires a function which is still almost unknown: it is a kind of seismograph for a democratic society and it is a ‘scene’ (locus; Ort) where not only the practical but also the scientific community might realize what happens on the fringes of the included parts of society or its peripheries – or even beyond.
If we take into account that the collective self-binding of the democratic society is valid for the inclusion of all its members, and if we take into account that the not-included individuals exist beyond the range of professional social work nevertheless, social work is not only an important social actor as a professional system of the welfare state but also a kind of ‘boundary stone’ for the unmarked spaces of the collective obligation of the democratic institutions to provide conditions for all people to live in dignity (menschenwürdige Existenz).
If we further take into account that the global society and the processes of globalization do not only include the established function systems such as economy, medicine, science, etc., and the formally included individuals , i.e. those who are able to participate in these systems and to profit from the increase of their profits (Wertschöpfung), but also the excluded individuals, regions and systems, then we have to realize that the globalization as a challenge for democracy has entered a new period. The welfare state of the developed countries will not remain a reliable ‘bulwark’ against social exclusion and foreign aid from developed countries, since underdeveloped countries will not remain a unilateral strategy in the fight against social exclusion in the global society. Social exclusion as well as the socially excluded are challenges for the global society as a whole, especially in the sense that – in the wake of Giddens – everybody may be concerned, some earlier and some later. The discussion about unemployment is only one example to explain this thesis.
If we accept this scenario, social work and its core value – the double mandate – is accorded a new relevance. However it is doubtful whether the double mandate – in the shape which has been formed during the period of the utopia of the welfare state – is still a sufficient instrument to focus the scope of the practical and theoretical efforts in such a neuralgic and difficult field of the fight against social exclusion as it is represented by social work. In other words, we have to verify whether the double mandate of social work is still the reliable ultimate unit, brick or module of the democratic society to fulfil in the context of a general dissent of orientation the obligations resulting from the still valid collective self-binding of the democratic society to prevent its members from inhuman conditions in life. We have to verify whether the double mandate of social work is to contribute to the construction (reconstruction) of new methods, forms or structures of social integration in the field of preventing/overcoming social exclusion.
3. The double mandate of social work as a chance for social work to use new methods of production and reproduction of social integration under conditions of a general dissent of orientation
3.1. The dissent of orientation as a chance for the building of new intersystemic interests to avoid or reduce social exclusion
In order to avoid describing a long discussion in the field of processes of social integration, I will refer to a proposition which Uwe Schimank made in the wake of Luhmann’s system theory. Since there are other propositions relating to this issue, I will treat it as only one example amongst others. The starting thesis is that we want to use in a positive way the general dissent of orientation and that we do not want to escape. In other words,the aim is to make social work able to contribute by production and reproduction of social integration to a better prevention/overcoming of social exclusion in the fields where until now it was not possible to see things or to do things that it was not able to see and to do with the traditional strategies and methods.
One of the conditions of successful attempts of a productive exploitation of the abundantly existing dissent of orientation is that there are actors who are – for whatever reasons is not relevant for our purpose – willing or obliged to formulate ‘reflexive interests’ (Schimank 1992, 236–275) concerning their self-understanding and their interventions, and that other actors are in the same situation. I believe that social work, social policy, education, applied sciences, etc. are in this situation.
Reflexive interests are interests which refer to the general conditions of the possibility in order to realize the own specific substantial system-specific interests, which have been developed during the previous course of history. These substantial interests are, for example, corporate identity, political preferences, special relationships with other functional systems, etc. As the evolution does not stop, the substantial interests are developing too. The question is in what way are they changing?
If we want to construct new ways for social integration in the field of prevention/overcoming social exclusion, and especially if we want to enable social work to do it successfully, it is necessary to build up consents of intersystemic specific interests by the reciprocal projection of the own interests into the horizons of the interests of the other systems of society. If we accept as the general conditions of the possibility to realize the own specific substantial systems in a global society with structures to prevent/overcome social exclusion, we have an ideological universal starting point for our strategy, which at the same time enables particular and different starting points in the social reality.
An important step in this direction is the verification of the substantial interests which are the empirical and theoretical starting points for the implementation of this strategy. This verification is necessary for the sake of the own system as well as for the sake of the development of a climate of confidence between the partners: the substantial interests have to be formulated and defined as exactly as possible, because otherwise already at the beginning of the process there is no confidence.
In the case of social work the system-specific substantial interests might be the optimal fulfilling of the double mandate – to represent the interests of the welfare state as well as those of the clients. During the expansion of the welfare regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, the general conditions might have been the model of the European welfare state which I have described above. The current general conditions might be those of the erosion of the classical welfare state, the emergence of new unmarked spaces of social exclusion, even in highly developed countries, or the old semi-marked spaces of social exclusion which are the field of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the grass roots level in the so-called Third World, etc. In short, I have tried to outline this general dissent of orientation in a few sentences too.
3.2. The relevance of social work and its double mandate in the production of new intersystemic interests to avoid or reduce social exclusion
As the double mandate is a product of history it is necessary to accept that it really is a product of history. As such, we have to describe its genesis as exactly as possible. If we look more intensively at its history we will realize that this double mandate – as a product of history – was empirically not always the same. Furthermore, if we use the strategy of making differences we will realize that even the norms in which this mandate was and is embedded are and were not always the same. The form of the double mandate varies according to, for example, nation, period, culture, and also the discussion in the scientific and practical communities. I will refer to the two mandates of the double mandate of social work as the mandate to help the clients and the mandate to represent the welfare state. I will begin with the embeddedness of social work within the welfare state and – to avoid a complex discussion – I will limit my remarks to its relationship to social policy.
The definition of social work as a specific functional system of society in the wake of the system theory implies – contrary to still widespread opinions – that the difference between social work and social policy is not accidental, but fundamental. They see and they do things in a different way although they might still be linked closely together as important actors of the welfare regimes. At least the kind of linkage has changed.
With the increase of economic difficulties in the wake of the rapidly increasing competition (market state), especially with the new wave of globalization since 1989, it became more and more apparent that social policy is not a sacrosanct, self-sufficient part of the political system which could decide more or less independently within the amount of its inputs. Its budgets might in a certain sense and in comparison to other budgets still be high and its relevance in the public meaning – especially in times of election campaigns – considerable, but just because of this relevance and just because of its embedding in the political discussions and conflicts it may become more and more dependent on other interests than those of the welfare regimes: economization, cuts, and lean budgets, etc., are only some of the most commonly used concepts in this discussion. In other words, social policy might still prove the presence of the political class in the fight against social exclusion, but without doubt it is embedded in the competition between the political actors to loose or to gain the next elections: the codes of social work and those of politics are not the same.
One of the most spectacular examples to illustrate this difference would be (if we already had the faculty to see this difference by better methods) the recent abuses of allowances of visas, especially by the ambassador of Germany in Kiev. The committee of the Parliament in Berlion which officially and formally has the task to clear up the course of the events, and which is composed of members of the political parties in accordance of the composition of the deputies, is ‘making politics’. By this is meant that the members of the committee will try to make their ‘clients’ appear guilty or ‘not guilty’, depending on their political membership. The aim is not so much to clear up abuses in the field of illegal migrations in order to prevent further forced prostitution. Thus the members of the political class do something which is contrary to their daily declarations to fight for human rights and against the abuse of them.
To make differences is also necessary if we include in our focus the group of socially excluded people or those who are at risk of becoming excluded – and this represents the other mandate of the double mandate of social work. If we define the mandate of social work in special cases as the assessment of help or care under conditions of the respect of the autonomy of the individual concerned (Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe), this means that we have to include its possibility to mobilize its self-reliance. The inclusion of the mobilization of self-reliance is not an unreasonable demand, but a question of human dignity: The grass roots work in the so-called Third World would not be possible without this approach. Europe is not the Third World, but if we admit some of the fundamentals that I have tried to explain then there are similar perspectives. If we have do realize that the blind spots and the unmarked spaces in the field of social exclusion do not simply diminish, we have in some regards similar issues in the global society.
One of the possibilities linked to some of the blind spots is that social work tries to make differences between rent-seekers and clients who are willing and able to mobilize their self-reliance – and to make differences within their own institutions. Rent-seeking by people who take advantage of the achievements of the welfare regimes as instruments to have a better life than, for example, that of the working poor on the one hand and even unemployment of skilled individuals on the other hand are phenomena which make the understanding of the links between social work and its clients in the traditional sense of Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe and subsidiarity more and more obsolete. This is unquestionably a very difficult issue, as we have actually had the opportunity to realize in Germany: Fördern und Fordern – Fordern und Fördern – what is the sequence, what is the weighting and what is the evaluation? Regardless, after the end of the utopia of the welfare state the focus of the welfare state will shift increasingly from the care for egality (Gleichheitsfürsorge) to the care for liberty (Freiheitsfürsorge) (Kersting 2005, 13).
If we do not want that this process will take off in the direction of the so-called neo-liberalism, we should – among other things – realize that the scope and the methods of the double mandate developed under the conditions of the utopia of the welfare state are obsolete; they are too cloudy and too trivial to enable social work to see things which it should see and to enable it to do things it should do in the actual situation.
Thus, with respect to the construction of a double mandate which is suited to the actual situation and which is able to satisfy the demands of the actual and future fight against social exclusion, I propose that a preliminary stage is introduced: using the strategy of making differences as our ‘twelfth camel’ to interrupt the endless process of (permanenter Selbstwiderpruch), the production of knowledge we make differs, for example between rent-seekers and those who rely on themselves as intensively as possible, between rent-seeking and self-reliance, and between dependency and autonomy – not only with respect to the clients but also with respect to the institutions, the strategies and the projects.
If we still respect the fundamental norm of a democratic society that no one should be socially excluded and that it is its system-immanent self-made postulate to do all for the prevention of/overcoming social exclusion then we have to find a strategy by which we are able to generalize the special cases, or in other words, the ‘not generalized cases’. As individuals are ‘black boxes’ for each other and as functional systems of society are guided by their specific codes, a system of general social inclusion (Bardmann 2000) is a utopia. However, we can try to build up a scheme (even global) of differentiation which is able to include more and more excluded individuals, regions or groups of the globalizing society. When we realize that there is a scarcity of knowledge – and not only a scarcity of solidarity or ethics – and when we know that beyond the limits of knowledge, solidarity and ethics is the unmarked space, we should try to differentiate and to expand the range of our possibilities. One of the possibilities is the strategy of making differences.
However, if we have regained the ‘twelfth camel’ by accepting this option, how do we become able to give it back? I think it is by accepting the Sisyphean task and by accepting it with the purpose that it is not vain but a system-immanent consequence of liberty and democracy.
Bardmann, Heodor, M. (2000) Soziale Arbeit im Licht der Systemtheorie Niklas Luhmanns, in: Helga Gripp – Hagelstange (HG,), Niklas Luhmanns Denken. Interdisziplinäre Einflüsse und Wirkungen. Konstanz, UVK Universitätsverlag.pp 75–103, quotation p. 92 ff.
Bommes, Michael & Scherr, Albert (2000) Soziologie der Sozialen Arbeit. Weinheim/ München, Juventa.
Kersting, Wolfgang (2005) Kritik der Glleichheit. Über die granzen der Gerechtigkeit und der Moral. Weilerswist, Velbrück Wissenscaft, p.13.
Luhmann, Niklas (1981) Politische Theorie im Wohlfahrtsstaat. München/Wien, Olzog.
Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice.
Schimank, Uwe (1992) Spezifische Interessenkonsense trotz generellem Orientierungsdissens. Ein Integrationsmechanismus polyzentrischer Gesellschaften, in: Giegel, Hans-Joachim (ed.) Kommunikation und Konsens in modernen Gesellschaften. Frankfurt a.M, suhrkamp, pp.13–66.
Stichweh, Helmut (2000) Die Weltgesellschaft. Frankfurt a.M., suhrkamp.
1Helmut Stichweh: Die Weltgesellschaft, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 2000, p. 93
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