Combatting the Causes of Inequality Affecting Young People Across Europe

In April 2018, I published a book with the above title. It is based on the project Citispyce. More information on that project is available here. The book has been published by Routledge and described there like this:

Inequality is one of the most burning issues of our time, affecting young people in particular. What causes inequality? And how can actors at the local level combat the causes, not only the symptoms? By seeking to answer these questions, the book will contribute to this growing and transdisciplinary subject area by using mainly qualitative research and a perspective that integrates theory in every phase of the analysis.

Drawing on cultural political economy, based on critical realism, the author claims that the most important causes of inequality are the ones inherent as potentials in capitalism and the capitalist type of state. Compared with the first post-war decades, these potential causes have been actualised differently since around 1980. They are also actualised differently across Europe. The book explores these differences concerning growth models and welfare regimes. In general, societies have developed into a new condition of social inclusion, which explains why many young people have become excluded. Societal borders have arisen in the cities, separating the winners and losers of inequality.

Positioning itself outside the box of what tends to be the majority of the publications in the field, the book proposes knowledge alliances between young people, policy-makers, civil society and researchers to combat the causes of inequality.

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Klass i Malmö

I mars publicerade jag min rapport En fråga om klass i framtidsstaden Malmö, vilken ingår i projektet ”Klass i Sverige”. Mer information om projektet och publiceringen av min rapport finns här. Rapporten blev kommenterad i SDS av Heidi Avellan. Det skrev jag ett svar på men eftersom endast en förkortad version publicerades i tidningen, publicerar jag här den fullständiga versionen:

Det finns inga klasser, skriver Heidi Avellan den 17 mars. Talet om klasser, klasskamp och klassidentitet hör historien till. Det är nostalgi. Men hur kan det då komma sig att enorma rikedomar har omfördelats till de välbeställda under de senaste decennierna? Och vilka har varit drivande i att förvandla delar av offentlig sektor till en skattebetald vinstmarknad? Det kan också kallas klasskamp. Och nog har det utvecklats både klassidentitet och klasskultur inom denna välbeställda minoritet av befolkningen, borgarklassen som den också brukar kallas. Men sådant finns det tydligen ingen anledning att synliggöra, enligt Avellan.

Själv har jag försökt bidra till att synliggöra arbetarklassen i Malmö genom min rapport ”En fråga om klass i framtidsstaden Malmö”, utgiven av den fackliga tankesmedjan Katalys. Det rör sig om ca 45% av alla förvärvsarbetande malmöbor. De har mycket gemensamt vad gäller bl a arbetsförhållanden, inflytande och lönevillkor. Jag kan också visa i min rapport att arbetarklassen inte är lika uppdelad som tidigare på varken kön eller bakgrund. Om fler upptäckte detta skulle de kunna hävda sina gemensamma intressen mera kraftfullt. Precis just det som borgarklassen har varit så bra på under de senaste decennierna. Och de har haft stor hjälp av det osynliggörande som Avellan företräder i sin artikel. Detta osynliggörande av klass är i sig en viktig orsak till de senaste decenniernas ökande ojämlikhet.

För Avellan tycks det bara finnas en lösning. Carl Bildt kallade det i början av 1990-talet för den enda vägens politik. Andra har kallat det nyliberalism. Det innebär att marknaden ska bestämma. Jobb till varje pris, oavsett kvalitet och villkor. Det kräver avregleringar och privatiseringar. Som Christina Persson skrev på denna sida den 9 mars har detta skapat växande klyftor, arbetslöshet, fattigdom och krig. Det vet vi nu efter flera decennier med denna politik. Vi har facit. Mer av samma, alltså? Häpnadsväckande.

Själv vill jag tro på en ny framtidsoptimism. Men då krävs det att vi lyfter blicken. Det gör jag i min rapport genom att ställa en fråga om hur Malmö ska förtjäna sin plats i världen. Ännu bättre kan det bli om många malmöbor engageras i en kunskapsutveckling om denna viktiga fråga och därmed även i en förnyelse av demokratin. Talet om arbetarklass fyller då en viktig funktion eftersom det adresserar människor utifrån vad de bidrar med och antyder att de har så mycket gemensamt. Är det inte hög tid att välja en annan väg och med ett brett folkligt stöd innan de främlingsfientliga högerkrafterna tar över och klimatförändringarna beseglar vårt öde?

Malmö den 20 mars 2018
Mikael Stigendal
Professor i sociologi
Malmö Universitet

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Act.Now in Vienna, 29-30 January 2018

Act.Now is an initiative taken in the wake of the refugee crisis in 2015. It was set up as an enterprise, acting internationally but based in Vienna. The first international conference was held in Vienna in 2016 and since then in total 5 conferences have been arranged. According to its website, against the background of profound societal changes, Act.Now “aspires to a respectful and appreciative social coexistence to be possible in the near and distant future”. Act.Now encourages people to take on more responsibility, connects active individuals and initiatives, provides information about social changes and their impact, to promote the discussion of new solutions, and uses formats that are both cognitively and emotionally effective.

I was invited to the 5:th international conference, held in Vienna, 29-30 January 2018. The conference had the title “Shaping the Future – Social Cohesion in our Cities” and is presented like this at the website:

“The influx of migrants in 2015 and 2016 highlighted problems that already existed in societies: in particular social inequality and polarisation, which have had a significant negative impact on community life. This development is especially worrying with regard to children and young people. How are towns, cities and communities addressing these challenges? And how can social cohesion at community level be strengthened? The 5th International Mayors’ Conference NOW, which took place on 29 and 30 January in Vienna, concentrated on this topic, with a special focus on the younger generation. Around 190 political decision-makers, experts, NGO representatives and citizens from 27 countries discussed and analysed cross-border approaches to overcoming the challenges facing our society.”

I participated in one of the panels, the one with the title “Social cohesion – towards new political debates and policies”. More information on the conference and its results can be found here.

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Lectures in Vienna

In the second week of January, I was invited by professor Andreas Novy at Vienna University of Economics and Business to give two lectures. The audience at the first one were master students. The lecture, with the title Social Innovations to Combat Inequality, can be downloaded here. The second one was given at the Critical realist workshop with the title Mobilizing and Founding Knowledge Alliances to Combat Inequality, and it can be downloaded here.

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Delegationen mot segregation (Delmos)

I juni 2016 presenterade regeringen ett långsiktigt reformprogram för minskad segregation. Det beslutades att en statlig myndighet med namnet Delegationen mot segregation skulle inrättas för att i samverkan med kommuner, landsting, regioner, myndigheter, forskare och organisationer i det civila samhället verka för genomförandet av reformprogrammet. En särskild kommitté utsågs för att under 2017 förbereda och genomföra bildandet av myndigheten. Som ett led i denna förberedelse bjöd kommittén in till ett antal dialogträffar med representanter från kommuner och landsting/regioner ute i landet under augusti och september. I samband med kommunbesöken ville kommittén också träffa aktörer från forskningen och civilsamhället. Den 25 augusti genomfördes en sådan dialogträff i Malmö där jag deltog som en av närmare 10 forskare från Malmö Högskola.

Den 8 december 2017 anordnades en konferens på Södertörns Högskola inför starten av den nya myndigheten Delegationen mot segregation. Jag engagerades som key-note speaker på temat ”Segregationens orsaker och framtidens möjligheter” och min föreläsning presenterades så här: ”Mikael Stigendal, professor i sociologi vid Malmö högskola, ger perspektiv på arbetet mot segregation utifrån sina erfarenheter från Malmökommissionen och sin senaste bok Samhällsgränser. Ojämlikhetens orsaker och framtidsmöjligheterna i en storstad som Malmö. Hur kan Delmos bli en del av lösningen och inte en del av problemet?” Min presentation filmades och den kan nås här. En pdf-version av min presentation kan laddas ner här.

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RE-InVEST

RE-InVEST is a EU-project, funded by Horizon, which, according to its web page, “aims to contribute to a more solidary and inclusive EU, through an inclusive, powerful and effective social investment strategy at EU level. Moreover, the project itself adopts a participative approach that gives voice to vulnerable groups and civil society organisations”.

The project started in March 2015 with a duration of 48 months consisting of three reporting periods (12+18+18). In February 2016, I was invited to act as a reviewer / monitor for the RE-InVEST project, together with Prof. Theodora Kostakopoulou. Following the end of the first reporting period on 29 February (2016), the first review meeting, to assess the progress, was held in Brussels, 17 May 2016. At the end of July 2016 we submitted our review report.

Next meeting took place on 22 November 2017 in Brussels, following the second reporting period. We submitted our report just before Christmas. The third and final review meeting is expected to be held in relation to the final conference of RE-InVEST in February 2019. More information on the project can be found here.

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EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum (Oct 2017)

On 25 October 2017, I was invited to give a key-note speech at the conference in Gothenburg of EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum. I have enclosed two emails below from the coordinator from EUROCITIES as I think she explains the event and its purpose as well as my task very well. My presentation can be found in pdf here. There is a lot to say about the European pillar of social rights and my intention is to write a separate article on that later.

5 October 2017
Dear Professor Mikael Stigendal,
My name is Bianca Faragau and I am the coordinator of the EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum. Together with the colleagues in Gothenburg city council, I am organising the upcoming event on 25-26 October in Gothenburg.
Let me first thank you for accepting to take the role of keynote speaker at our high-level event. I have read your impressive CV and I am absolutely certain that you are the right person to open our conference with an inspiring speech about social rights and the role of cities. I know that you have been part in plenty of research projects around the topic of how European societies have developed into states of social inclusion with boundaries appearing mainly in the cities. You surely have a vast knowledge and experience as researcher and thematic expert in the URBACT programme.
I will try to shortly describe our event, which is a political event that happens twice a year and gathers mayors, deputy mayors and city representatives to discuss key issues related to social affairs in their cities. This time we will focus on discussing the role of cities in promoting a more social Europe and in delivering on a European Pillar of Social Rights, which is the most recent initiative launched by the European Commission at the highest level of president Juncker. You can find out more information about this Pillar here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/deeper-and-fairer-economic-and-monetary-union/european-pillar-social-rights_en
The entire programme of our event is designed to maximize exchange among cities and with invited stakeholders on the principles and rights enshrined in the Pillar. Two high-level panel debates are scheduled, five workshops and five site visits. On the second day of the event, we will adopt a EUROCITIES statement of commitment from cities to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights and to ensure social rights for all (you can see the draft statement in attachment). The entire event is aimed at demonstrating the role of cities in ensuring access to social rights and in voicing the expectations of cities for the future of a social Europe. All this is for the purpose of sending a strong message to the EU and member states ahead of the EU Social Summit on 17 November. Our main plan is to advocate for a stronger role of cities at the table of EU policy-makers based on the argument that cities can do more but need financial support from the EU and national level.
Your role as keynote speaker is to inspire the audience and to trigger the discussions about the role of cities in a social Europe. You will have a maximum of 15 minutes for your speech, which would be best if it is a free speech without PowerPoint or other tools which are usually distracting the audience. The format you could envisage is that of a TED talk that is inspiring and captivating the audience into the subject. As for the content of your speech, it would be great if you could start by thinking from the perspective of a citizen inhabiting in a large city like Malmo and Gothenburg. You could launch some interesting questions, food for thought, about how society and cities in particular have developed into a state or a space for social inclusion. You could bring some inspiring examples from your research about the role of a city in helping citizens access their social rights – education, employment, minimum income, housing etc. – and reach their full potential of inclusion and participation in the city. Then you could point at some clear examples of EU policies – e.g. Youth Guarantee, combatting long-term unemployment – that could not be implemented without the contribution of cities to the implementation. You could also use real examples of projects realized in Malmo or Gothenburg to show how average citizens have benefited from the help / support of the city authority. You could end your speech by raising key questions about how cities could improve their role to ensure social rights for all, even for the most vulnerable, how could cities learn from each other and how could they cooperate with the national and EU authorities to making social Europe a reality.
I would be more than happy to discuss this in further detail with you over the phone in the coming days. When would you be available for a phone call or Skype call? How about Monday, 9 October?
Thank you for registering to our online database – this is excellent!
Best regards,
Bianca

29 October 2017
Dear Mikael,
A big THANK YOU for your excellent keynote speech at our EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum on Wednesday morning. We’ve received very positive feedback about your speech and the key points you made about the disconnection between the economic and social dimensions of the EU growth model. Not only did all panelists refer to your speech, but it also stimulated discussions among all participants whether in workshops or in coffee or lunch breaks. Many thanks for your great work on the speech and capturing all the most important elements that inspired our further debates.
I would like to kindly ask you to please send me your PPT presentation so that it can be made available to all participants by uploading it together with all materials on our event webpage.
For your information, the event was very successful for us both in terms of organisation and content. The announcement of our EUROCITIES statement ‘Social Rights for All’ received a widespread publicity in both the Swedish and the EU media. You can check out the highlights from our meeting as well as our press release here: http://bit.ly/2yZPZw1 The photos and sketch art from the meeting are available here: http://bit.ly/2ybQHXL
Thank you very much once again for your excellent contribution to making our event a success! I sincerely hope that we will continue our good collaboration in the future 😊
With best wishes,
Bianca

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