Managing Social Issues
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Managing Social Issues

A Public Values Perspective

Edited by Peter Leisink, Paul Boselie, Maarten van Bottenburg and Dian Marie Hosking

Western societies face complex social issues and a growing diversity of views on how these should be addressed. The traditional view focuses on government and public policy but neglects the initiatives that non-profit and private organizations and local networks take. This book presents a broader variety of viewpoints and theories. Looking at various cases, the authors analyse conflicting values and interests, actors’ understandings of the public values related to social issues, and their action to create what they regard as public value. Drawing together these perspectives the authors point the way to how government and the private and voluntary sectors can work in tandem to resolve social issues.
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Chapter 4: Academia: habitat of contesting public values?

Henk J. van Rinsum and Arie de Ruijter


This quotation from the leftist anchorman of critical pedagogy, Henri Giroux, contains all the key elements of our chapter (although we do not entirely share his opinion). Universities – ‘citadels of democratic learning’ – can be viewed as knowledge institutions that have the capacity to address social issues from various angles and different disciplines and, as such, as institutions that offer public goods. Universities as public organizations embody public values that relate to education and research as part of, and for the benefit of, the public sphere. It is through their public values that universities formulate their corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, the university does not exist: the ‘idea of the university’ comes in many guises. Before we proceed to the issue of CSR and the public values of the university, we will first elaborate on the different social constructions surrounding the concept of the ‘university’, the different ideas about what a university is supposed to be. It is logical to expect different visions of CSR and public values to be connected to the different concepts of the university. Nowadays, economic imperatives increasingly determine the position of higher education, introducing into the system a set of public values that embody those economic imperatives and subsequently end up marginalizing other contrasting sets of public values.

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