1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events | Event: UNRISD Conference on Social Knowledge and International Policy Making: Exploring the Linkages


UNRISD Conference on Social Knowledge and International Policy Making: Exploring the Linkages


The Politics of Global Social Policy


by Bob Deacon

The focus of the paper is social policy or more particularly global social policy. Social policy within one (capitalist or market-based) country may be understood as those mechanisms, policies and procedures used by governments, working with other actors, to alter the ab-initio distributive and social outcomes of economic activity. These mechanisms and policies may be conceptualised as being constituted of three strands. Redistribution mechanisms alter, usually in a way as to make more equal the distributive outcomes of economic activity. Regulatory activity frames and limits the activities of business and other private actors normally so that they take more account of the social consequences of their activities. The articulation and legislation of Rights leads to some more or less effective mechanisms to ensure citizens might access their rights. Social Policy within one country is made up then of Social Redistribution, Social Regulation and the promulgation of Social Rights.

Global Social Policy is by extension the mechanisms, policies and procedures used by intergovernmental and international organisations, working with other actors to do TWO things: first influence and guide NATIONAL social policy and second provide for a supranational or GLOBAL social policy. Within this second sense Global Social Policy is about global social redistribution, global social regulation and global social rights. Global social policy in this sense embraces the emerging mechanisms of global social transfer (Funds for AIDS/TB/Malaria, differential drug pricing, the projected Global Social Trust Network), global social regulation (The UN global compact, core labour standards, international food quality regulation) and global social rights (the advancement up the UN agenda of social rights and their monitoring and enforcement through soft law). One of the questions in this paper is whether this concept of “global social policy” has taken root among scholars and international organisations as a way of thinking about the international policy that is necessary to re-embed free floating global capital in a set of international institutions which might ensure that the global economy had a social or public purpose.

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