What Is Social in Social Innovation?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Lavinia BIFULCO, Department of Sociology, University of Milano Bicocca, Italy
Vando BORGHI, University of Bologna, Italy
As pointed to by several  processes affecting European welfare systems, e.g. marketization,  there is a tendency towards expansion and at the same time towards the loss of salience of the ‘social’ domain. Even social innovations can be incongruent or reductive with regard to the social, especially if they refer to a regime of justification that reduces social relations to a moral virtue.

The paper focuses on three fields of tension between these two dimensions (social realm and innovation), in order to better understand the ambivalences and contradictions characterizing the social in itself:  

- The rescaling processes. The localization of welfare, and the questioning of the features  of standardization and uniformity of welfare national space, triggers at the same time  generative social potential and risks of social fragmentation.  

- The  transformation of social bonds.  Capitalism always expanded itself through a growing extension of market type relations  to not yet marketized social spheres of life.  Contemporary phase of capitalist expansion is based on unprecedented processes of value extraction from social relations and the social is reframed as a systemic prerequisite of the economy. How is changing, in this context, the social root of innovation?

- The informational basis of social innovation. According to Amartya Sen, informational basis structures the terrain which any policy and project is going to intervene on, as it incorporates definitions of problems and targets and activates systems for assessing actions against objectives. Nowadays informational basis of policy undergoes processes of radical abstraction, mechanical objectivation, privatization and moralization, whereas citizens capacity for voice is weakened.

The paper develops an analytical framework that, focusing on  the connections between  these three fields of tension, may  help to investigate conditions, variety and implications of social innovation. We therefore will try to answer the question: What is social in sociali nnovation?