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Bojan Radej, Slovenian Evaluation Society, Ljubljana, email@example.com Mojca Golobič, Biotechnical faculty, Department for Landscape Architecture, Ljubljana Mirna Macur, Faculty for Applied Social Science, Nova Gorica Ljubljana, May 2013 Abstract: Society is complex because it is composed of irreconcilable constituents which are socially incommensurable to each other. This raises concern for the possibility of holistic evaluation of complex social matters. Five experiments are undertaken to illustrate the problem and search for the solution. Our proposal is to evaluate complex social issues in the mesoscopic way. Meso evaluation logic is framed here with the introduction of a set of hybrid categories which are bimodal so they can intermediate between classical binaries (part-whole, agent-structure etc) and translate them into plural setting. Such a paradigmatic shift is needed to obtain a possibility to comprehend complex social matters in a relatively simple and operational way. Keywords: Social complexity, Meso level, Integration, Aggregation, Evaluation
Society is complex because it is composed of irreconcilable constituents. As a consequence, every important social issue is evaluated conflictingly as being both horizontally incommensurable (among interest groups) and vertically incommensurable (micro – macro). Social incommensurability (Munda) as a category concerns incompatible but legitimate social claims. When different principles of social primacy are applied, no objective basis exists for rational choice between alternatives (Wacquant). This raises concern for the possibility of holistic evaluation of complex social matters. Because of an aggregation problem (Scriven; Virtanen Uusikylä) our ability to reach wide social consensus on the content and process of social transformation is critically undermined. Hence it appears that increased complexity leads to the disintegration of contemporary societies. We are of the opposite opinion! By definition, holistic evaluation of incommensurable social issue is not achievable in a direct way. An indirect approach is needed – such as in a mesoscopic perspective. Its core theoretical background derives from mathematics (Pythagorean Hipassus) and philosophy of science (Kuhn) because of their elaboration of incommensurability concept, complexity theory with the concept of meso (Prigogine, Wallerstein, Leontief, Dopfer, Easterling, Kok, and Rotmans), and theory of social integration (Giddens, Bourdieu and Wallerstein) in sociology. The major characteristic of meso evaluation is its capacity for addressing incommensurable oppositions in intersectional way. “Intersectional” means through overlaps between oppositions which take place only in non-essential instances that are only marginally important to the corresponding agents who pursue incommensurable claims. For example, social-economy is an overlap between conventional economic and social policies as two incommensurable components of sustainable welfare. Intersectional character of the meso logic is schematised with Leontief’s input-output matrix and Venn’s diagram. They are suitable because they both combine non-overlapping meanings as primary or constitutive but also divisive, with overlapping meanings as only secondary in importance but correlative and thus capable of indirect synthesis of evaluation conclusions. Meso approach to holistic evaluation is operationalized with a set of hybrid categories which are then applied in evaluation of five study cases. These categories are: weak in/commensurability, weak balance, weak cohesion, weak and double exclusion, bimodality, two step aggregation procedure, dual embeddedness, dual hermeneutics, concept of partial whole, and classification system of meso levels (meso 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 3c).
social.Study cases are selected from the realms of policy evaluation. Meso approach has demonstrated its capacity to broaden and deepen the understanding of complex social matters. coordination of policies. Uusikylä) arises because different policy impacts are not commensurable across evaluation scales and across evaluation domains. Leopold et al. Assumptions about how to aggregate assessed impacts from micro to macro level across multiple evaluation domains (economic. Ekins and Medhurst have appropriately defined the problem of incommensurable of impacts but failed to implement the observation consistently. organizational quality management and citizen’s self-organization. meso 3b and meso 3c levels of synthesis (Picture). This is possible because our approach is not only vertical but also includes a horizontal dimension and horizontal domains can be multiplied (for instance. macro (full aggregation) and meso (partial aggregation and correlation) approach. However. In each case we first identify conventional oversimplifications in the standard approach which does not take into account underlying social complexity. Picture: Four set Venn diagram of sustainable development . are correlated. The methodological solution is illustrated by the comparative assessment of the sustainability of the development programme for the Pomurje region in Slovenia. using three methods: micro (no aggregation of impact results). meso logic is further elaborated. Detailed impact assessments results are first partially aggregated into an input-output matrix of assessment domains (meso level) and then non-diagonally situated partial aggregates. Virtanen. public choice. With the horizontal extension from three to four set model. A new approach to the synthesis of evaluation results is proposed. In a second step – with the introduction of hybrid categories – study cases are explained in meso perspective and resolved as complex ones. Only the latter is found consistent with the complexity of the challenge. We comply with Dopfer’s et al. defined as secondary impacts. and environmental) differ and different approaches produce different end results. First Case. They happened to overlook that incommensurability exists not only between different evaluated impacts (effects) but also between different policy measures (causes). Synthesis without a common denominator: The case of policy evaluation Impact evaluators of large-scale and multi-domain policy interventions have had difficulties in aggregating detailed assessments results into a summative evaluative conclusion. in particular for possibility of deantagonised handling of deep and substantive social confrontations. social-S and environmental-O evaluation of the programme). An aggregation problem (Scriven. At the end of each experiment broader implications are drawn for the mesoscopic research of socially complex matters. classification of meso 1. recognised this and decided to present evaluation results in a disaggregated manner. they are only weakly incommensurable which allows for partial aggregation of detailed results. Practical implications of obtained conclusions are relevant for the policy programming. they failed to observe that evaluation of economic impacts on the environment are not strongly but only weakly incommensurable (strongly incommensurable are impacts of economic measures on economy with impacts of environmental measures on environment). for integration of society. evaluation. meso 2 and meso 3 levels. human impact-H is added to the economic-G. but we are able to upgrade it so as to add meso 3a.
It is not wrong to apply circular explanation to the phenomena which are circular in their nature. It has been introduced as “a generic approach”. Second case. The problem is nested . This explanation is circular. Contemporary sociologists (Giddens) explain integration as a process of double hermeneutics. interactions are valued higher when they exhibit multifunctional and plural character and when they share social content with the means of mutual understanding. recognition of legitimate oppositions. People produce structural order through their habituated interactions. Meso logic is extensive into itself. Synthesis is not meant as a cumulative aggregate in a quantitative way. the concept of weak balance is closely linked to mechanic integration. Internal evaluation thus exposes evaluator to the risk of bias and self-deceptive assessment of complex social matters. Simultaneously. and when established. However. global environmental and local social responsibility. The latter is concerned with correlated interactions among members (positive integration) which produce cohesion. structural order refines a framework inside which people socially interact. Circular explanations of emerging properties of phenomena are ordinary in social sciences. but decays into its two components – covariance which describes weak cohesion of organic integration and product of standard deviations which describes weak balance of organic integration. correlation cannot produce scalar result as it does conventionally.Three conclusions are drawn. Mechanic and organic integration are opposite but also elementary for social integration. Integration beyond polarities: The case of territorial cohesion Social integration is classically presented as a dichotomy between its mechanic and organic counterparts (Durkheim). The former concerns preservation of structural order with the means of balancing principal system oppositions (negative integration). like for instance the invisible hand of the market. Weak balance as a concept derives from correlation of secondary meanings. The issue is illustrated by the example of evaluation of national energy programme’s impact on territorial cohesion of Slovenia. but there is a logical inconsistency in CAF between initial holistic aspirations of the assessment model and subsequently piecemeal assessment methodology. One needs to go beyond binary theories of social integration. Concept of weak balance is therefore doubly embedded in mechanic and organic aspect of social integration. Precondition for neutral evaluation is not only an objective analysis of data but also a consistent synthesis of analytical findings. to account for social complexity. and weak cohesion with weak balance as the two organic measures of integration. As an aspect of balance. which thus cease to be treated as binary divided. In a contemporary society where relative comparisons (resulting from differentiation) are important. it fails to explain how one can interfere with integrative processes. These are in a large extent contextual and thus accessible for evaluation only by those involved in a specific context. For this purpose a new meso category of weak balance is proposed which translates the classical model from dual (mechanic/organic) to triadic. The issue is demonstrated on the case of self assessment of organization O from Slovene public sector with the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). Excellence Squared: Organizational self-deception Internal evaluation is an intrinsic approach to the assessment of complex social concerns. or evolution. This demands reformulation of social integration equation with a concept of weak balance in the centre – measuring not the strength of secondary relationships (weak cohesion) but its mutuality. Third case. consisting of strong balance as a measure of mechanic integration. In evaluation of socially incommensurable matters. it has to be obtained correlatively between diverse qualities. sharing the benefits of economic transactions fairly. weak balance is also related to organic integration since it arises through correlation.
A substitute development model of social economy is proposed. Organizational inputs and outputs are usually administratively imposed from above. so the process is the most autonomous component of a given organization in public sector. positive . with majority of population already categorised as vulnerable. As a result. The model’s ineffectiveness is particularly observable in Pomurje region. On the other side. partners/users. with differentiated scopes of operation and competing levels of judgment. In principle. but only of secondary importance for the region as a whole. Processes are assessed in relation to their contribution to organizational “added value” in transformation of its various allocated inputs into its prescribed outputs. The experiment also points out that internal evaluation should always remain open externally. project or policy alternatives. Its meso logic first reorganizes the assessment from scoring of criteria to process evaluation which evaluates relationships between main organizational domains (leadership. aggregated quantitative results are left aside as less important assessment achievements in comparison to internal discussion about organizational quality which accompanied quantitative assessment. It puts forward the alternatives with the most intensive secondary impacts and thus projects which are the most synergetic for the region. relate to the concerns which are of primary importance for specific interest group. Conclusion is that spill-over effects. Social economy is conventionally defined as an overlap between economic and social motives of the entrepreneur. Primary concerns on the regional level. employees. It sees social economy as an overlap between its economic. Equals among the firsts: Setting collective priorities The neo-liberal model of economic development has proved to be strategically ineffective – because of its social injustice and environmental pollution with devastating welfare consequences. These are conceptually simple as they posses merely one and strictly consistent operational scope – profit. Fourth Case. Its prime function is to employ inactive local resources for meeting unsatisfied local needs. To resolve the inconsistency between logical structure of the model and its practical implementation. which aspire for being selected as regional priorities. So in evaluation it is not only important how high inputs and outputs score but also how scores are distributed between them. But in interpretation. wider society). social and autonomous aspects. Instead of this binary view.) and the source of doubt about internal validity of its results. public sector’s organizations are complex. Organization is schematised into a matrix of sub-processes which operate partly independently from each other and partly overlap. Organization “adds value” in process terms only when its various inputs are assessed (scored) lower than its differentiated outputs. an alternative three-part (or complex) definition is adopted. The problem is particularly evident in the synthesis of self-assessment results: CAF invests disproportionately large input in collection of detailed assessment data. Lack of external communication of assessment results is one of the main self-reported weaknesses of standard CAF (Staes et al. a synthesis module is added to the standard CAF. Slovenia. Internal tensions and associations provide the possibility for nonbiased internal assessment on the level of organization as a whole. such as major health and safety standards are always presented as urgent so there is no dilemma about their relative importance. and require assessment on a single level – of the firm. Secondary context suggests that one needs to apply mesoscopic prioritisation of social economy’s alternatives. sometimes surpassing two thirds of time required for the whole assessment.in the fragile theory of organizational quality (EFQM) borrowed from private firms. New understanding is exemplified on the attempt for ranking of ten project alternatives. regional priorities in social economy are achieved indirectly through side effects of regional stakeholders’ primary aspirations.
For eliminating . previously taking place in the form of antisystemic conflict. Exclusion in this case is not concerned with the dark side of contemporary societies (poor. The novelty approach requires a hybrid solution so it can be framed in the meso perspective. semi and orto-antisystemic correlate which complement each other in their capacity for mobilisation. these groups are not comparable in programmatic terms and when they need to interact. autonomous zones…) may have a profound impact on conventional conceptualisation of social conflicts. marginalised – classical approach). Fifth Case. As a result. However. Movements with inversely similar footprint will tend to correlate into antisystemic hybrids to achieve balance between programme and action as a precondition for their internal consistency. Anonymous. And there is evident discrepancy between the two – movements are more radical in programme (such as classical trade unions and NGOs) or in action (new movements. it also establishes capacities for self-ordering in decreasingly structured ways. This seriously obstructs their otherwise outstanding political potentials. antisystem groups are not only programmatic units but also activist units. Through Exclusion to the Community: Organization and structure Emergence of the antisystem movements. Complex society in the meso The five methodological studies have been accomplished with the aim to illustrate difficulties in holistic evaluation of complex social matters. The idea is that it is exactly the »inconsistency« in their programme-activist footprint which is able to connect and structure the movements in a way that does not endanger their programme diversity. This leaves society deantagonised which is also why meso interference is seen as radical. but establishes itself as a starting point for reasoning about alternative social strategies which give rise to autonomous antisystem sociality (Landauer). Now it is understood in meso logic as an irresolvable disagreement between multi-polar interest groups concerning the definition and appropriate implementation of their irreconcilable visions of social good. they favour unstructured interactions. For this reason they are not capable of organizing and structuring their antisystem potentials on a more operational and representative basis. When society sets itself free from any particular type of structure (systemic or antisystemic). There are many modalities of social exclusion and these mirrors in diverse programmes of antisystem groups.externalities and multifunctionality are critical for regional development based on social economy. like Occupy). Society can be now seen as located in the middle between two structures and being able to migrate between them depending on the need for more safety (which can be obtained in a system structure) or more autonomy (migrating back to antisystem structures). In this way society decreasingly relies on the system as a negative precondition for social integration. More importantly. are now enclosed in the system type of conflict. The emergence of antisystem structures (such as World forums. claiming to represent the 99% majority of the excluded population. production of autonomous alternatives and in provision of means to impose and defend the boundaries between the occupied autonomous zones and the system. A classical “antisystemic conflict” between a system and society is in meso view reframed into a “system conflict” between system’s structure and antisystem's structure of correlated movements. The main findings: it appears that trend of social disintegration is not a result of increasing social complexity but only of oversimplified approaches (micro or macro) to evaluation of socially complex concerns. This of course does not mean that society will eventually become less conflictual. it releases a large part of internal tensions. Three correlates are obtained: quasi. Antagonistic struggles. Deantagonised milieu in a meso society gives rise to a post-binary and multi-polar class conflict. has brought forward again demands to study society from the aspect of social exclusion.
further possibilities of integration become abundant in meso frame. In meso frame. stretched between the explanation of its primary meanings – which are constitutive for it. a meso frame is proposed. either locally or globally. In our view. in relation to all Others with whom we are only indirectly related. without synthesis it cannot integrate the social meaning beyond its incommensurable origins. And finally. Primary and secondary aspects need to be logically separated in the analytical phase of the evaluation but cognitively integrated in synthesis of meanings. In the first case. Its double hermeneutics imposes a permanent request for advancing hybrid social forms to enable improved translation of social contents between primary Us and secondary Others. Instead. When incommensurability is fully acknowledged and implemented methodologically in evaluation. . and finally in relation to the world as a whole and to the truth about it. for example. it is holistic. new possibilities for social integration will be enhanced in at least three independent directions: in direct relations between each other privately. But it nevertheless develops apparatus for their consistent treatment. Normal science (Ravetz) is thus not useless in researching a complex world. It is internal – otherwise it cannot become authentic. but it needs a socially humble application to utterly acknowledge a plurality of incommensurable social truths. Only its validity ought to be constrained to the narrow framework from which it is obtained. these partial wholes sometimes compete and sometimes cooperate for more holistic characterization of social good and for more integral strategies for achieving it. in an open way and educationally. fashioned in a neo-liberal style. social body is integrated through mutual recognition of aspirations of parties in interaction. The unknown Other is integrated by means of global responsibility of local interactions when participants evaluate local achievements in global context. This simply means that it has to be evaluated in the golden ratio of its duality. Hence. but in an incommensurable and deeply dividing way – and the explanation of its secondary meanings that are the only ones that lead to a holistic view. social totality can be emphasised only indirectly. Standard scientific approach stretched its logic far beyond its cognitive capacities. but merely in contents that are not of primary importance to any participating agent. social totality does not emerge from commensurable elementary parts piled up together but from partial and incommensurable wholes. performs very poorly in this regard as it is driven by the philosophy of winners and losers. preliminarily. Ordinary market mechanism. it cannot be achieved directly but only cohesively through secondary means with the provision of something valuable to the unknown Other – who is in this way invited to recognise our aspirations and so broaden our strategic chances. Mesoscopic evaluation is not like science. Despite its enhanced capacity to deal with complex concerns.oversimplification. beyond their primary concerns. meso evaluation can not resolve the initially given dichotomy between primary and secondary meanings. The finding is that social matter has to be evaluated in a complex way. As this is incommensurable. which remain separated and as such cannot directly coalesce toward ever higher unity. It is also process-oriented – otherwise it cannot understand society as sets of interactions which undergo permanent transformation. Routine practices of oversimplification and generalisations are diagnosed in simplistic social research. Incommensurability after all is not an obstacle to holistic thinking but a constituent of social complexity which requires treatment of social matters on a plural platform. This is achieved with the provision of weak balance between them. Justification for global responsibility is not ethical but rational – in relation to everybody’s aspirations for the acquirement of a particular form of social good. But this does not mean that standard approach failed in social sciences.
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