Home Sociology Social Work in East Asia
Developing and Defending People's Human, Social, and Cultural Capabilities
Social policy has expanded (was forced to expand) its scope of social policies to address an ever-increasing number of social problems. Economic problems, such as unemployment, were thrown out of the standard economic policy repertoire. Work creation policies, public works programs, public infrastructural projects, however, cannot be replaced with monetary policy that regulates the supply of money, to either stimulate or reduce economic activity. Low inflation now coexists with high rates of unemployment and together these seem to form the parameters of a new evil kind of economic equilibrium, that is supported by 'not empirically founded' neoliberal, neoclassical economic thought, based on the theories of Carl Menger (1871, 1994), Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1890, 1891), Friedrich von Wieser (1893), Ludwig von Mises (1912, 1927, 1929, 1940, 1952, 1977), Friedrich A. von Hayek (1941, 1944,
1960, 1972, 1978, 1990), and Milton Friedman (1962, 1973, 1976, 1989).
New social problems caused by aging of societies and the onset of new modern mass diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease, have changed the landscape of personal human needs, and changed the conditions current health-care and long-term-care systems and policies are built on. Health-care and long-term-care costs, now more than ever before, threaten existing health-care systems and economic systems as a whole (with US health-care costs quickly approaching 20 per cent of GDP (Aspalter, 2012)!
Non-monetary social policies are not to replace monetary social policies (such as, social assistance or social security systems), but instead to complement them, increasing the reach and output of overall social policy in the short as well as in the long run.
Social policies that invest in people's human capabilities, social capabilities, and cultural capabilities are among the most efficient policies there are, since they are very much preventative in nature. If applied very early, there is a very positive multiplying effect, since a life 'saved' very early is a life that will avoid a great deal of personal problems.
Societal human capabilities policies prevent individual problems before they evolve and social problems before they spread and spiral out of control.
For social work services, investing in people's individual human capital would mean focusing, for example, on (a) character-building; (b) helping people with character weaknesses; (c) improving their skills; (d) knowledge and selfawareness; (e) education on how to prevent mental and physical health problems;
(f) educating people on healthy and unhealthy lifestyle choices, including food choices and hygiene matters and how to keep up with sports and/or physical and mental exercises; (g) educating and counselling people on economic as well as employment and career choices; (h) educating and counselling people on how to avoid and deal with loneliness; (i) educating and counselling people on family matters, including family planning; (j) educating and counselling people on how to open their own small-scale businesses or on how to become a self-employed professional, and so on; and (k) educating people on financial and legal affairs for everyday life, and so forth. This is only a short (not exhaustive) list of goals for extending existing and introducing new social work services with regard to creating and strengthening people's individual human capabilities.
With regard to social capabilities, social work agencies and professionals may in the future focus more on (a) training people in how to make, keep, and look after friends; (b) teaching people how to create family habits such as Friday night dinners, Sunday picnics in the park, and so on; (c) teaching and enabling people in how to join social events such as chess circles, poetry/literature circles, dance groups (which is very popular, especially among middle-aged and elderly women in China, to be found in almost every larger community and central parks/squares), and so on, or irregular community events, such as, balls, theatre, and musical performances, and so forth; (d) integrate the wealthy, the powerful, and people with high social standing to participate and support social work programs and/or community activities for the weak and the disadvantaged; (e) facilitating and/or organizing hospital visits to terminally or severely ill people and to people who are alone; (f) facilitating and/or organizing self-help groups for people who face old or new kinds of problems or risks; (g) facilitating singing, dancing, acting classes,
(i) facilitating or organizing group excursions and hiking events, or other sports events and physical exercise (e.g., like water gymnastics groups); (j) facilitating or organizing tourist trips (one of my own grandma's favorite activities, where she met with people from her local community and travelled the country, Austria, and Europe – she was a mountain farmer with a very small pension), and so on.
This way, social workers get to know the community at large better, and find more potential clients for further consultations, and/or therapy, and so on. This will help to loosen people's shyness, and increase their acceptance and willingness to seek help in everyday and exceptional lifetime situations, as well as referrals from relatives and friends of persons in need.
In the realm of creating and strengthening people's cultural capabilities, social work agencies and government agencies alike may in the future concentrate their efforts in the direction of (a) increasing people's participation in cultural activity at the community level (e.g., Beijing Opera, theatre and circus performances, group meditations, Taiji courses and groups, etc.); (b) increasing people's cultural activities at the personal level (e.g., calligraphy, painting, etc.); (c) increasing people's cultural sports activities/participation, such as, golf, mini-golf, cricket, Japanese arrow shooting, playing Korean drums, joining or watching cultural dance performances (indigenous or traditional dances, etc.), joining a ball or dance event/competition; (d) organizing a talent show for younger and older people;
(e) organizing cooking courses and cooking competitions for children, people with handicaps, senior citizens, whole families, or organize cooking courses that teach people how to cook healthily and/or with very little money at hand – especially for the poor, and so on; (f) bringing the traditional local and national cultures closer to people by, for example, organizing or facilitating cultural classes and cultural activities for everyone to join; (g) teaching family values (including filial piety, etc.); (h) educating people to save money and to make their own investments, be they on a very small scale or not; (i) educating children to create a culture to study and work, and to help their parents, wherever they can; (j) educating people to eat healthily, to exercise, to rest and play – in short, to develop a healthy lifestyle.
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