Towards a Participatory Society

June 24, 2018

Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration 

Participants in a Vatican meeting on the participatory society addressed the theme by first defining the concepts of social participation, combating exclusion and social and cultural integration, and then considering the empirical phenomena, their causes and possible solutions. These are multidimensional concepts and processes that are not identical to each other, and yet are related in many ways.

Participation can be institutional or spontaneous. Exclusion can be active (desired, as in the case of ethnic or religious discrimination) or passive (due to unintentional causes, such as a major economic crisis). In both cases it is the fruit of processes that have been analysed in their generative mechanisms, since social and cultural integration is the result of the modification of these mechanisms, which are economic, social, cultural and political. The aim of including people and communities in society cannot be pursued with forced measures or in a standardized way (for instance, with school systems that do not take into account cultural differences and local cultures). Real social participation is possible and enhanced with the human dignity, peace, and the freedoms associated with human well-being.

The proceedings highlighted concerns over the spread of social fragmentation, on the one hand, and the concomitant inability of political systems to govern society, on the other. These two situations are spreading in many countries, causing major social disintegration and making it increasingly difficult to implement forms of social participation inspired by principles of justice, solidarity and fraternity.  The causes of these disruptive tendencies, which work against a more participatory society, are a crisis of political representation, increasing social inequalities, global demographic imbalances, rising migration and high numbers of refugees, the ambivalent role of information and communication technologies, and religious and cultural conflicts.

Certainly the most significant factor that thwarts social participation is growing social inequality between a small elite and the mass of the population. Statistics on the distribution of wealth and life opportunities indicate enormous gaps both between and within countries. Whereas in some countries, such as India and China, the middle class has grown, meaning less inequality at global level, worryingly in Europe and the USA the middle class has been greatly weakened and the working class and upper middle class are disappearing. The answer cannot be the rejection of globalization, but rather a fairer distribution of the profits generated by globalization, also within the developed countries themselves. Indeed, it must be recognised that democratic stability presupposes both a strong middle class and a clear stance against populisms that offer simplistic solutions that are incompatible with the moral responsibility for the common good of humanity.

In spite of all this, it is possible to work in favour of a better “participatory society” when genuine subsidiary cooperation is established between a political system that is sensitive to the voice of those who are not represented, and when there is a civilized market economy and civil society associations based on reciprocity networks. Top-down and bottom-up forms of participation must be made circular, enhancing the intermediate institutions on the basis of the principle of collegiality and subsidiarity.

In essence, a participatory society is one that enhanced relational goods, starting with friendship, fraternity and the family, and promotes human rights, knowing that human rights legislation cannot achieve any utopian social transformation project but can only create the positive conditions within which people and groups can act in an ethical way, that is, being given the opportunity to devote themselves to the mutual good of the members of the community, and to develop new social initiatives capable of generating greater social inclusion. The role of national legislation and regulation is essential in promoting a participatory society and encouraging good practice. Confronted by the dominance of “top-down” policies, said to promote social participation, on the part of national governments, especially those supportive of multinational enterprises, it was encouraging to note that Pope Francis is promoting a “bottom-up” alternative: namely, the use of INGOs to represent the views of the Church (such as the newly designated Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement both of 2015). Certainly these require national ratification and subsequent legislation, but generically can out-manoeuvre the powers of national resistance or, at least, reduce them to standing out as a minority against the majority consensus.

Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration 

Plenary Session 28 April-2 May 2017

Since the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has asked our Academy to give more attention to the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the suffering, and to make a renewed commitment to fight all forms of social marginalization and exclusion. This Plenary will respond to his call by seeking to deepen our understanding and explanation of the reasons for social exclusion and, above all, to suggest practicable steps for promoting a thorough-going social and cultural integration, which we have termed the ‘participatory society’. Unlike other meetings that are focused on particular problems, this Plenary will address the topic from the broadest vantage point, emphasizing new ways to promote the full participation of people in society, meaning participation in all spheres of civil and political society. The aim is not only to make the current structure of societies more participatory, but also to outline the characteristics of a participatory society capable of promoting the dignity of the human person in a context oriented to the common good and based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. One aspect has to do with dissatisfaction with existing ideas for progressive social transformation that are incapable of avoiding recurring processes of exclusion and marginalization of entire populations, generations and social groups on a world scale. The other aspect is the need to develop a genuine concept of participation in social life and highlight the best practices that can lead the society toward a good life for all in the different realms: in the economy, in the political institutions, in the cultural dynamics that are now heavily influenced by the spread of information and communication technologies.

Through such research, we do not pretend to be elaborating a new empirical model of participatory society. Instead, our aim is rather to highlight the structural elements that would enable any given social system to develop into a more participatory community. Such a development can only be initiated by a conversion of minds. No external coercive power can create participation. As participation is an inherent quest deriving from the social nature of all human beings, it can only grow from an appropriate anthropological background. Lack of participation in economic, cultural, social life is a consequence of according little consideration to human dignity. Here, the Social doctrine of the Church gives us a serious impetus to rectify this deficiency, one that generally receives lesser attention in current social and economic analysis. Participation is a moral value and a principle in ordering human societies. It stems from the internal quest for social change.

As Pope Francis reminds us: “A consumerist vision of human beings, encouraged by the mechanisms of today’s glo­balized economy, has a levelling effect on cul­tures, diminishing the immense variety which is the heritage of all humanity. Attempts to re­solve all problems through uniform regulations or technical interventions can lead to overlook­ing the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community.” (Laudato Si’, #144). The participation of all interested parties entails being fully informed about the projects of economic, social, cultural and political initiatives and their different risks and possibilities. This includes not just preliminary decisions but also various follow-up activities and continued monitoring. Honesty and truth are needed in scientific and political discussions. These should not be limited to the issue of whether or not a particular project is currently permitted by law. As Pope Francis warns, culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory part of contemporary reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and society. “In this universe, shaped by open and inter­communicating systems, we can discern count­less forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mys­terious beauty of what is unfolding. We are free to apply our intelligence towards things that are evolving positively, or towards those adding new ills, new causes of suffering and real setbacks. This is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction.” (Laudato Si’, #79) That is why it is urgent to think of a participatory society as the way to foster a ‘good society’ beyond the failures of the political doctrine of multiculturalism that has produced cultural relativism and social fragmentation.

The challenges to the realization of a participatory society derive from many factors. They have educational, economic, cultural, and political roots. Those participating at the Plenary will first of all analyze the overwhelmingly unfavorable factors of many kinds, e.g. in the labour market, in the generational gap, in electoral systems, in welfare services, in the realm of ICTs, and then provide evidence of good practices that avoid them through the sharing economy, new forms of welfare organizations for young people (Neets) and the elderly, new policies for migrants, public-private partnerships, personalized services for disabled people and disrupted families. From the latter, new orientations will emerge for the introduction of national and international legislation. Ultimately, the Plenary aims to define the means by which production, consumption and allocation of social and cultural goods can systematically take place in the interest of the common good and in ways that are both sustainable and efficient. These new ways of regulating and organizing economic, cultural and political processes in terms of full social participation will be ones that nurture social participation.

Our reflections could develop according to the following rationale:

1. As a first step, our Plenary will elaborate on participation as a quest flowing from a comprehensive consideration of the human person interacting with others in society.

2. Further, we need to determine which structural economic, social and legal elements are obstacles to the free development of participation in societies.

3. Participatory factors and processes in political and economic life are already moving ahead in many contexts, generating good practices at the macro, meso and micro levels which give hope in the possibility of creating human-sized societies. These positive initiatives must be identified. For instance, certain practices of the sharing economy and Soziale Marktwirtschaft, bottom-up processes for a better social and cultural integration of disabled people, school dropouts, migrants, and new networks of Third Sector organizations, deserve our attention.

4. Finally, we should be able to enunciate the principles that should guide current social systems to become more participatory.

 

Proceedings of the 2017 Plenary Session
Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration
28 April – 2 May 2017
M. Archer, P. Donati, M. Sánchez Sorondo (eds)
Acta 21, Vatican City, 2017
E-Pub ahead of print

Opening Session
CURRENT DYNAMICS THAT CHALLENGE A FULL PARTICIPATION OF PEOPLE TO SOCIETY

 

Message from the Holy Father Pope Francis

Word of Welcome
PASS President Margaret S. Archer

Welcome
H.E. Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo

Welcome
H.E. Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher

Introduction to the Plenary
Pierpaolo Donati

The Magisterium on Human Dignity and the Rights to Full Participation in Society
H.E. Msgr. Roland Minnerath

Discussion

Is Inequality – of any kind – An Obstacle for Social Integration and Participation? Towards an Integral Ecology
José T. Raga

The Dynamics of Social Inequalities in the Present World
Joseph Stiglitz

Discussion

Commemoration of Kenneth Arrow (Partha Dasgupta)

Commemoration of Hans Tietmeyer (José T. Raga)

The Etiology of Social Exclusion: Its Global Distribution and Differences
Paulus Zulu

Discussion

The Etiology of Economic Exclusion: Its Global Distribution and Differences
Juan J. Llach

Discussion

Cultural Exclusion and Civil Society
Ana Marta González

Discussion

HUMAN RIGHTS & PARTICIPATION IN THE SPHERES OF SOCIETY

Successes and Failures of Democratic Systems in Combatting Social and Cultural Exclusion
Douglas Porpora

Discussion

The role of the International Human rights System in Addressing the Challenge of Social Exclusion
Paolo Carozza

Discussion

Social Inclusion Beyond Exchanges and Distributions
Russell Hittinger

Discussion

The rights of Refugees from the Point of View of Morals, Natural Law, and Politics
Vittorio Hösle

Discussion

The Social & Cultural Integration of Migrants
Gérard-François Dumont

Discussion

Inclusive Citizenship Amid Religious and Cultural Diversity
Gregory M. Reichberg

Discussion

Participatory Democracy and the Under-Represented
Rocco Buttiglione

Discussion

Slavery, Participation and Human Rights
H.E. Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo

Discussion

GOOD POLICIES & PRACTICES FEEDING A PARTICIPATORY SOCIETY

Marktwirtschaft and Sharing Economy in the Perspective of a Participatory Society
Jörg Guido Hülsmann

Discussion

Towards an open Social Economy
Yochai Benkler

Discussion

Good Practices in Dealing with the NEET: Policy responses
Massimiliano Mascherini

Discussion

Participation and Collegiality: Lessons From Network Studies of Peer Production
Emmanuel Lazega

Discussion

Religious Agency and the Integration of Marginalized People
Allen D. Hertzke

Discussion

Communication, Participation and Socio-Cultural Integration
Paul S.-N. Lee

Discussion

The Social and Cultural Integration of Disabled People
Fabio Ferrucci

Discussion

Migration and Integration: Österreichs Antworten
Herbert Schambeck

General Discussion

NEW GUIDELINES FOR ACHIEVING SOCIAL & CULTURAL PARTICIPATION

Word of Welcome
H.E. Card. Pietro Parolin

Increasing Social Participation; from the top-down or the bottom-up?
Margaret S. Archer

Discussion

In Which Way Can Interculturality Achieve Social Integration?
Pierpaolo Donati

Discussion

The Contribution of the Civil Economy Paradigm to Enhance Social and Economic Participation
Stefano Zamagni

Discussion

The Social Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Child Soldiers
H.R.H.The Princess of Hanover

Discussion

National Legislations Addressing Social & Cultural Integration
John McEldowney

Discussion

Political Participation in Europe: What is required?
Janne Matlary

Discussion

Towards Formulating PASS recommendations