Which is more important responsibility or justice

Social policy

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Benz

Born 1973, graduate social worker (FH) / political scientist. 2007 to 2011 Professor of Political Science at the Evangelical University of Freiburg, since 2011 in the same position at the Evangelical University of Applied Sciences Rhineland-Westphalia-Lippe, Bochum. Professional focus: Poverty policy in the political multi-level system and political interest representation in social work. Contact: [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Ernst-Ulrich Huster

Prof. Dr. Ernst-Ulrich Huster

Born 1945, teaches political science at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences RWL in Bochum and at the Justus Liebig University in Gießen. From 2001 to 2010, together with the other authors of this issue, member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Social Inclusion of the European Commission. Main areas of work are general social policy, distribution policy - including poverty and wealth research - and social ethics. Contact: [email protected]

Dr. Johannes D. Schütte

Born 1982, qualified social pedagogue, qualified social worker (FH) / political scientist. Research assistant at the Institute for Social Work Münster e. V. in the state model project “Leave no child behind! Municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia take precautions ". Lecturer at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences RWL in Bochum and at the University of Osnabrück. From 2008 to 2010, together with the other authors of this issue, member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Social Inclusion of the European Commission. Specialist focus: Theory of the “social” inheritance of poverty, strategies of inclusion and social exclusion in Germany. Contact: [email protected]

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Boeckh

Born in 1966, graduate social worker (FH) / political scientist, has been teaching social policy at the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in Wolfenbüttel at the Faculty of Social Work since 2007. Professional focus: general social policy, distribution policy, poverty and social exclusion in Germany and Europe, political representation of interests in social work and development of social services.

Depending on the underlying principle of justice, social policy measures can look very different: Do everyone get what they need (needs-based justice) or what they deserve (performance-based justice)? Concepts of the essence of human beings, the role of the state and the question of a good life also have an influence on what is considered fair.

What is fair - Isn't it clear: Which is of use to me!

There is hardly a term that is as controversial in private and public discussions as that of justice: no break-in conversation, no conversation between work colleagues, no discussion group in family circles that are not directly or indirectly about justice. Newspapers and news broadcasts are also repeatedly concerned with this question.

The term justice refers to the comparison of the living situation of an individual or a group with the social environment. Is the grade of a student's class work fair compared to the performance of other classmates? Is an employee's remuneration fair compared to the performance of other employees? Is the appreciation that an individual receives fair when compared to the preference given to others? How is wealth distributed in the world today - is that fair? These examples could be continued - everyday conversations, everyday evaluations, expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Personal and / or social interests are satisfied or not.

The question of what is fair runs through the entire Western theoretical discussion. At the same time, it was and is carried and driven by different, sometimes very contradicting social movements. The opposite of justice - namely injustice - is discussed and highlighted as something that needs to be fought: through radical resistance to revolutionary overthrow or through reforms, for example in the form of social policy.
Caricature: Fortune (& copy Burkhard Mohr / Baaske Cartoons)

Basic norms in conflict

Social policy aims to create justice. But opinions differ widely about what this term means. Each society determines what justice should be and how it is to be established. This is linked to two things: On the one hand, ideas of justice change over time (social change). On the other hand, they are very much dependent on the majority opinion in a society. And, as a rule, it is precisely the groups that we are most likely to perceive as victims of injustice that are most weakly involved in decision-making. Three basic concepts of justice can be derived from the theoretical principles of social policy, personal responsibility, solidarity and subsidiarity, which have been developed over the course of history and which are outlined above: fairness of achievement, fairness based on solidarity, and fairness based on advance payments.

The idea of ​​fair performance, which stems from the bourgeois emancipation movement, has meanwhile been adopted by the majority of dependent employees beyond the reference to bourgeois interests. In addition to wage and income differentiation, it is also reflected in expectations of tiered wage replacement benefits such as pensions, sickness and unemployment benefits.

Conversely, ideas of fairness based on solidarity have also flowed into the middle classes beyond the narrow range of the former industrial workers. They increasingly need socio-political benefits because they are exposed to social risks in the same way as the workers used to be, without being able to absorb these risks solely through personal provision.

The idea of ​​justice without advance payments is strongly influenced by Christianity. Those who benefit from this can hardly assert themselves socially or politically, they tend to belong to the so-called socially disadvantaged groups of people and therefore need the interests of social lawyers to be reinforced. The minimum social security benefits are hardly controversial among the population. There is, however, a dispute about how comprehensive they should be.

Equality or inequality as a path to justice

But these three basic norms of fairness - fairness of achievement, fairness based on solidarity and fairness free of advance payments - say nothing about how they should be implemented. More precisely: Is existing social inequality more conducive to creating more equitable conditions, or is it more of a hindrance? What motivates the individual to perform? How is solidarity justice organized? And how and under what conditions is a society prepared to provide services for those in need free of advance payments? The economic and social science discourse deals extensively with these questions. Different images of people and their being are expressed in it.

At the same time, state action is addressed. Even the early theorists of the market economy system, starting with Adam Smith (1723–1790), asked whether government action (social policy benefits, taxes) would lead to more justice or more injustice. This tension has persisted to the present day. If some demand more socio-political aid for individual social groups, for example for the poor, and higher taxes for the rich, for example, others warn of an excessive welfare state and the expropriation of high performers in society. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the concept of the social market economy has established itself as a broad basic consensus. Developed primarily by economists such as Walter Eucken (1891–1950), Alexander Rüstow (1885–1963), Ludwig Erhard (1897–1977) and Alfred Müller-Armack (1901–1978) in the period after the Second World War, it is looking for one Balance between market economy structures - for example strengthening the investing powers of the economy - with simultaneous restriction of market power and the (active / state) promotion of social equilibrium.

Source text

Düsseldorf guiding principles of the CDU from 1949

The "social market economy" is the socially bound constitution of the commercial economy, in which the performance of free and able people is brought into an order that produces the highest degree of economic benefit and social justice for all. This order is created through freedom and commitment, which are expressed in the "social market economy" through genuine competition for performance and independent monopoly control. Real performance competition exists when it is ensured by a competition regime that with equal opportunities and fair competition conditions in free competition, the better performance is rewarded. The interaction of all those involved is controlled by prices in line with the market. [...]

Prices in line with the market are the motor and means of controlling the market economy. Fair market prices are created by balancing purchasing power and the quantity of goods offered on the markets. The most important prerequisite for bringing about this balance is an orderly monetary system. [...]

Conscious of Christian responsibility, the CDU is committed to a new social order on the basis of social justice, community-based freedom and genuine human dignity.

It strives for a comprehensive social policy for all economically and socially dependent social classes.

These principles require the state to eliminate the prevailing economic and social emergencies and to bring about a healthy relationship between the social classes. The natural rights and freedoms of the individual and of all social groups must be protected.

The most important state and society preserving community is the family. Your rights and obligations must be deepened and protected by law. The spiritual and material prerequisites for their natural existence and the fulfillment of their tasks are to be established and secured. [...]

Düsseldorf guiding principles of the CDU of July 15, 1949, p. 1 ff.; http://www.kas.de/upload/ACDP/CDU/Programme_Bundestag/1949_Duesseldorfer-Leitsaetze.pdf



The enormous financial policy benefits after the currency reform of 1948 with the introduction of the Deutsche Mark and the major pension reform in 1957 are examples of the concrete implementation of this concept. On the one hand, the economic forces were released through tax relief ("economic miracle"), and on the other hand, people who, as pensioners, were no longer actively employed and were excluded from wage increases, participated in the economic growth.

But this concept of the social market economy was and is still subject to numerous changes: Should the state only stimulate the economy by waiving taxes, or should other forms such as subsidies, labor law interventions or international agreements on the liberalization of world trade promote economic growth? And: Where is the limit for compensatory measures for those who are no longer or not yet or only under very poor working conditions? One should think of the discussion about the introduction of a low-wage sector through state policy ("Hartz IV") with or without a minimum wage.

With the names Friedrich August von Hayek (1899–1992) and Milton Friedman (1912–2006) an opposing position to the concept of the social market economy is connected: According to these economists, the market is never unfair, state intervention in the market - also through social policy - on the other hand, promoted injustice: According to Hayek, it was an erroneous belief, similar to that of "witches and ghosts", to be able to imagine something specific under "social justice" in a spontaneously forming order, i.e. the market. Such an idea could only come up to a "compulsory organization", as it - obviously - the welfare state represents. Hayek does indeed provide for a "minimum income", but this must be completely outside the market for people in need who cannot earn a living on the market. This means charitable aid such as soup kitchens and clothing stores, carried out by civil society actors such as churches or voluntary welfare organizations. Under certain conditions, he also sees an obligation on the state to provide a corresponding minimum level of protection. But the private or state aid should by no means be available to people who can offer a service on the market, even if it is not asked for there. He justifies this minimum income for obviously no more able to work than in the interests of those "who demand protection against acts of desperation by the needy", that is, citizens with a strong market position. Freedom from state restrictions and regulation is the highest goal here, without critical discussion: Freedom from what, freedom for what, freedom for whom? Freedom is equated here with the realization of justice.

Attempts at syntheses

How should strong and weak social interests be related (personal responsibility), how should mutual consideration be organized (solidarity), and who or what should not be allowed to get "under the wheels" (subsidiarity)? Theoreticians try to avoid the dilemma that values ​​diverge further and further and partially neutralize one another by formulating procedural principles with the help of which ideas of justice can be jointly developed within a society. In doing so, it is important to ensure that imbalances in the articulation of interests and the enforcement of interests are eliminated. From this point of view, a dialogue free of domination, which takes into account all voices and interests of a society equally, is considered to be the ideal, non-power-based procedure for determining common values.

John Rawls (1921-2002), an American philosopher, developed such a procedural principle. According to this, social and economic inequalities are to be regulated in such a way "that they both a) bring the least beneficiaries the best possible prospects and b) are associated with offices and positions that are open to all in accordance with fair equality of opportunity". Justice here means a relationship between all members of a society that is viewed as fair by all involved. Fairness stands for non-disadvantage and satisfactory participation of all in increasing prosperity, without this meaning equality.