Differentiating between growth regimes and the management of social reproduction - Discussion Paper Series - No. 3|
| MANAGEMENT OF SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS -
Discussion Paper Series - No. 3
Differentiating between growth regimes and the management of social reproductionIf the globalisation of the economic crisis has confirmed the extent of the interdependence of States, as had been highlighted previously by periods of growth, new forms of globalisation qualified as " postfordism " to eclucidate what appears as a major phenomenon in itself, i.e. the differentiation of growth regimes and social dynamics, were not sufficient.
It would be inadequate to describe these phenomena as simple economic or social dysfunctions centred around " circumstances beyond one's control " which would represent the progress or retreat of international economies. It would be simplistic to regard these differentiations as only the ability to use - or governments' inability to escape from - constraints arising from the globalisation of economies or the diffusion of political or cultural hegemonies. It would be equally illusory to believe - as shown by the impotence of the international community to resolve conflicts by declaring that they act in the general interest - that the consensual agreements states have adopted to manage the planet or resolve conflicts are operational because they have been decided, when in fact they disregard the realities of social diversity.
This reality, the product of long history and of repeated iterations between the global and the local, remains more or less recognised rather than explained by the social sciences. Hence the aim of this topic is to contribute to elucidating the foundations and the transformations of these social diversities so that they are mobilised for development policies and strategies.
In order to achieve this objective, we shall pay special attention to the observation and understanding of situations and times when this diversity is most clearly generated and expressed, by stressing the comparative and long-term method. In this way the emphasis will be placed on the painstaking description of the iterative and progressive phenomena which lead to the creation of new development paths.
Although the economic and social differentiations seem easy to identify, they are however, much more difficult to interpret. Just as modern genetic instrumentation is capable of an increasing number of grafts and genetic modifications but less often capable of controlling the surrounding factors , the social sciences have demonstrated their ability to identify and describe particular situations - to the point of minimising the " extent of the repercussions of world processes on local and regional situations " - and at the same time have revealed the difficulty of incorporating this knowledge into the global models.
Making sciences of action from these sciences of observation means first stepping back so as not to be dazzled by the diversity but rather to understand its origin and meaning; it also means selecting certain particular fields of observation that constitute real social issues. Understanding the processes of industrialisation, comprehending the extent of States' autonomy or dependence with regard to their own development and highlighting the reasons for particular orientations in the management of natural resources and social production are three major issues that are either too globalised to be explained or too detailed to be used.
The social sciences - fully mobilised and undeterred in their ambitions - should be capable of participating in the strategic choices governing industrialisation policies, technological options or economic alternatives. They should make it possible, on a common experimental basis aimed at grasping their expressions in contemporary issues, to articulate a theorization of the singularity and concrete implementation of development policies. A prerequisite for such action is a comparative and multidisciplinary approach to analyse the times and situations where the realities of differentiation are expressed.
A quick interpretation of these contrasting realities could lead one to say that the second movement, at a more localised level, is only an image, transferred in time, of the first movement. Just as cold generates heat or the strong swell between two waves gives an impression of calm, growth regimes would diversify but remain closely linked. Differentiations in industrialisation matters would then be no more than the product of the same phenomenon noted at different times in history. In terms of industrialisation, the choice would come down to estimating the moment in history of the long-term transformation of the productive systems where the country was localised.
The countries which first experienced industrial growth should get their second wind as they discover the resilience of a post-industrial society and a new international division of labour. The countries which came latest to the growth race would follow the same path with a few years or even a few centuries delay: destroying their agriculture to build their industry (or the first to accept industrial delocalisation), and rationalising their industry to enter the service society. International trade could be utilised to slow down the overall process or to skip stages but there would be a degree of inevitability in the movement as a whole, an inevitability which the theories of Rostov represent most completely.
In this approach, history is used to determine the distance travelled or to be travelled on the time scale, to measure the difference between countries. The formulas to follow are easy to imagine. Given that there is a single path for all to travel, which coach should be put on the rails to cover the maximum distance in the minimum time? A simplistic view, of course, on which it might be useful to collect material for reviewing industrialisation strategies. Recourse to long-term observation should serve to identify the basic variables which, as time goes by, persist and mark the development process.
In addition, although their place in social dynamics is now recognised, their presence is still often regarded as being less an expression of the specific dynamics of societies in flux or as the illustration of 'another path to growth' - according to Hernando de Soto - than a simple step on the way towards concentration in industry, commerce and banking. Put another way, many observers see the concentration of productive acitivities as inevitable, with other forms of organisation merely preceding or following it.
An analysis of the part played by SMEs at different stages of the industrialisation process would throw light on the foundations and relationships that unite these forms of organisation to the special mechanisms of local growth.
Does the mobility of capital and information simply oppose the inertia of productive investment by enhancing only the power of those who managed the former to the detriment of those who implement the latter? Are they merely the new vehicles of the cultural and political hegemony, or are they based upon new forms of societal organisation? Do they simply lead to greater concentration and uniformity, or are they, on the contrary, the essential tools of decentralised development? Finally, can they be designed in a different way in order to satisfy objectives different from those of globalisation?
Analysis of the international dissemination of computerised management systems or of the consequences of structural adjustment policies could be applied; conversely, so could analysis of the failures of these uniforming systems in particular multi-cultural situations; the informal economy or where there is a strong political will for self-contained development.
There is absolutely no doubt that a far-reaching and comparative analysis of these social models is the way in which the models of interpreting global dynamics can be renewed by enriching them with observations on diversity; it is also the way in which the capability of local and sectoral policies to integrate these new ways to growth can be questioned. As an example, one might concentrate on development and on the meaning of the following phenomena.
More progressive owing to being partially tempered by social regulation policies, the social shocks resulting first from bankruptcies, redundancies and industrial delocations and secondly, from the growing marginalisation of entire sections of urban populations, have also affected these countries in the same way as their most advanced neighbours. The globalisation of economies, by enhancing competition, accelerating the destruction of national value systems, and encouraging the migration of people and ideas, has accentuated the negative effects stemming from localised crises. Some point to these events as the forerunners of serious social disaster threatening the very organisation of democratic societies: social explosion in the suburbs, revolt of the unemployed, collapse of social regimes, destabilisation of the financial systems of the Western democracies, worsening of malnutrition, development of organised crime, ethnic tensions and violence of all kinds resulting in a greater number of insecure areas.
But, as the destructuring effects of instability and growing uncertainty become more marked around the world, there seems to be a wide variety of new behaviour patterns and adjustments taking place and acting as 'social shock absorbers' with respect to the events listed above. Although often neglected in global analyses, these new developments are undoubtedly at the root of the economies affected by the economic crisis. They could also constitute the precursors of new organisations. Three of them deserve further analysis:
The objective of this part could be initially to gather the necessary materials for a detailed treatment of the relations existing between economic development and ethnic and cultural specificities. The time already seems ripe to depart from routine economics in order to evaluate the contribution of:
The rehabilitation of conservation techniques such as organic farming, improved management of natural resources, for example through recycling, or the new energy-saving or less-polluting technologies are a reaction of modernity to the changes in industrial societies. These reactions often merely restore the productive practices inherited from tradition or autarchy. These practices could be qualified as conservative without suggesting that they do not evolve. There are many examples in all the practices of abstracting from the environment: the management of woodlands, fishing and hunting preserves, cropping schedules and the management of water and land. These practices all have in common the concern for reproduction and attempt to reconcile abstraction and restitution through usage or social rules. However, they are not static, and this is demonstrated by the selection of animal or plant varieties, the modification of cropping practices, the extension of cultivated land and irrigated areas. One of the valuable aspects of the analysis that could be based on the many inventories made in these different areas would be to show under which influences and in what conditions these conservation techniques change with time. How are they handed on from generation to generation? What are their boundaries and their situations today in the range of available techniques? Perhaps finally they can be 'reactivated' in the context of new sets of techniques that respect nature and the environment.
Stress should perhaps be placed on the relative permanence and inertia of consumption models rather than on the changes related to urbanisation and monetarisation in particular on which a great deal of research has been done. The objective of so doing would be twofold: first of all these behaviour patterns are rehabilitated or reinvented when a number of countries experience situations of crisis or economic difficulty. As persistent behaviour patterns, they may even sometimes appear as an extreme expression of modernity. Secondly, precise knowledge of these behaviour patterns is a great asset for redefining alternative policies for obtaining essential goods or services; finally for the economic operators in the private sector, they are a way of diversifying their commercial or industrial strategies.
One might attempt for example to evaluate the permanence of traditional foodstuff consumption habits and models in order better to reconcile the objectives of global policies - agricultural policy, agro-food product import policies or food security policies - with the requirements induced by population growth or the increase in urban incomes. More generally, and in the same line of thinking one might - while remaining vigilant about the regional, historical and cultural specificities - try to identify the variables which underlie these relative inertias in the behaviour of consumers.
For example, the criteria adopted for defining the quality of foodstuffs play an undoubted role in the emergence of certain processes at the expense of others regarded as dangerous for human health; they contribute to redirecting manufacturing processes to safer and more healthy foodstuffs but are also invoked to reinforce monopolist strategies and protectionist regimes. In the same way one can refer to measures aimed at ensuring that what was hitherto regarded as the common good of humanity - pure air, pure water and the diversity of genetic species - should be paid for at their true price. In industry, the growing need for recycling or destroying wastes is in line with new constraints but also opens the way to new areas of diversification.
Apart from specific cases, it would be useful - on the basis of new inventories and typologies - to further analyse the differentiations in development induced by these rules and regulations.
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Pascal Byé is Research Director at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique- Station d'Economie et de Sociologie Rurales. He has worked for several years on the analysis of technological change as a result of modifying relations between agriculture and industry. Pascal Byé focuses on comparative approaches toward the processes of differentiation between growth regimes.
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