The chapter provides an overview of the debates on social services, a key component of both the service sector and the welfare state, highlighting the different socioeconomic underpinnings of these activities and proposing a number of analytical tools. In the first section, social services are positioned within the contemporary discussion about the service economy, the welfare state, social and territorial cohesion, as well as the post-Keynesian restructuring process. The specificities and key social and economic implications of these activities are stressed. In the second section, the importance of a time- and space-sensitive approach to analysing changes and understanding the great variety of national and regional restructuring trajectories is emphasised, and the notions of welfare ‘regimes’ and ‘models’ are reviewed. In the third section, the main restructuring trends at work since the 1980s and the effects of the 2008 financial crisis are ‘unpacked’, highlighting their key features and socio-economic implications and identifying relevant analytical dimensions. The importance of the ‘vertical’ division of authority within the state and of the ‘horizontal’ division of responsibility among providers is discussed, stressing the need to distinguish among the main ‘functions’ involved in delivering public social services: regulation, funding, coordination, production.
Despite the great diversity observed in the restructuring of different social services, across countries and regions throughout the book, a number of common trends do emerge, which in turn point to a set of similar consequences, albeit with different intensities depending on context. Drawing on the wealth of empirical evidence and critical assessments presented in the preceding contributions, this last chapter summarises some key findings. First, the main changes experienced in the public provision of social services in Europe over the last thirty years are recapitulated, stressing continuities and discontinuities in national trajectories, as well as convergence and divergence among countries and regions. Subsequently, the main impacts of such changes and their ‘disruptive’ features are highlighted. Finally, different policy ‘options’ are examined, critically assessing their implications and challenges for the goal of a prosperous and socially inclusive Europe.
Learning from case studies of social innovation in the field of social services: creatively balancing top-down universalism with bottom-up democracy
Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research
Kevin Morgan and Flavia Martinelli
The convergence of innovation studies and regional development theory has generated some of the most stimulating debates in the social sciences about the rise of territorial innovation systems. But the literature that emerged from this convergence, while it acknowledged the role of institutional factors, also came at a cost. It privileged economic competitiveness at the expense of social solidarity and empowerment. It also neglected the broader capitalist forces that condition interregional dynamics. To redress these problems, this chapter pursues two aims. First, it contends that the work of Frank Moulaert and colleagues helped to remedy the first shortcoming by asserting the political role of social innovation in development. Second, it offers a critical reading of social innovation models – many of which are caught in the “local” trap – and suggests that the Foundational Economy can provide a multi-scalar strategy for overcoming the localist limits of mainstream territorial innovation models.
Flavia Martinelli, Anneli Anttonen and Margitta Mätzke
Publicly provided in-kind social services are a key component of the welfare state in most of Europe, albeit their development trajectories, coverage and legal status still vary considerably among countries. The way such services are provided and made available to people bears significantly on social and territorial cohesion, on the gender balance and, ultimately, on the wealth of any society. On the other hand, while much is discussed and written about social policy and welfare systems, social services are somewhat neglected. Although they have progressively gained a stronger foothold in national legislations and social policy agendas, their status remains weaker compared to health or education services. Moreover, because of the austerity measures brought about by the 2008 financial crisis, they have been the primary object of cuts and reorganisation. And yet, from a social capital and social investment perspective social services should earn much more attention. Cuts in the social service systems have, in fact, very severe consequences on older people and people with disabilities, as well as on households – women – with small children or living in poverty, i.e. on people whose labour market position is weak. The public provision of in-kind services, more than monetary transfers and benefits, represents a social investment that not only generates welfare, social inclusion and jobs, but also reduces future social risks. The theoretical debate on social policy and welfare states needs thus to be enriched by comparatively informed research on the restructuring of social services. This is also a field where national, regional and local variations are large and greater empirical evidence is needed.