Governance Reforms and Social Progress

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Social science has a major task in today’s world: there is a long list of major gains in the situation of human beings on a global scale, as measured against the Millennium Goals; but the UN (2019) does, however, also list serious problems that lie ahead. Challenges to the Environment, and to the systems of international transactions, especially, demand action on a global scale, as does the increasing social and economic inequality. New forms of governance are clearly required to meet these challenges, but the UN does not attempt to identify which organizational measures are necessary and possible in this respect. A major effort of social science is required to start the process of that identification.
Such an effort has been initiated by the International Panel of Social Progress. In its 2018 Report, the IPSP analyzes in depth the concept and situation of social progress – a broad term covering much of the agenda also for the global challenges – and then proceeds to outline in depth the possible ways ahead for progressing, the organizational forms and global/societal governance measures.
A Manifesto on Social Progress, published subsequently by five leading IPSP researchers, presents the overall picture in a readable, compressed manner, and discusses organizational forms for reaching social progress. This paper departs from the analyses in the Manifesto, and then tries to go further, attempting to identify the forces that work against social progress, against the governance and regulation formats that must be developed to enable social progress? Those forces - active and powerful regressive forces – can be identified by comparing some of the major developments in contemporary governance.
Using examples from countries around the globe, the paper shows how serious these regressive forces are, illustrates how they work, and points to mechanisms that make them emerge and grow. Moreover, the paper suggests a particular role for the social sciences in this context. A true social science cannot be nihilistic or passively compliant. It can and must point to myriads of organizational forms that have been employed to advance the situation of people in all sorts of societies. Social science has to be practical and normative – if not pointing the way, at least mapping the course.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventSASE 31at Annual Conference 2019: Fathomless Futures: Algorithmic and Imagined - The New School, New York, United States
Duration: 27 Jun 201929 Jun 2019
Conference number: 31


ConferenceSASE 31at Annual Conference 2019
LocationThe New School
CountryUnited States
CityNew York
Internet address


  • Social progress
  • Social science
  • Governance

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