Over the last seventy years, the world has been presented as correct in all aspects, it was a period of social stability, and expert knowledge, scientists and doctors were increasingly accurate, reliable, and trusted. In social life, bureaucrats and politicians were respected; in economic development, full employment and jobs for life were a possible reality. All these factors are becoming different. For example, the jobs which were for life in the Europe are becoming flexible. The changes in the world have created a significant ambiguity in modern society where anti-social behavior has increased insecurity and moral panic. This analysis will briefly examine some changes in knowledge and social sciences, concentrate on the changes in family, work, and welfare, and focus on those changes in the global economic and politics. It will also present different evidences to make sense of how these changes in social, political, and economic life have created uncertainty for society, and conclude that the important changes have created uncertainty.
Firstly, let us explore the outcomes and manifestations of “the knowledge society” which was use to describe and explain the importance of knowledge in contemporary societies such as diversity and explosion of knowledge; and how these might be a source of uncertainty for society. The explosion of knowledge has created a diversity of news sites for the population and transmission of knowledge in contemporary societies, offering a greater equality and democracy in access to knowledge. It is also bringing with it, a diverse feeling of uncertainty and risk. Why? Because this knowledge was considered as correct in all aspects, technology experts, politicians; economists and scientists were accurate and were commonly understood as having certain objectives and using methods to reach these objectives. The knowledge in political ideologies seeks to answer certain questions about how family, work, welfare, the economy, and society are organized and how these changes created uncertainty. It means that the explosion of knowledge in all aspects permits the development that is taking place in our everyday lives as well as in global organization and contributed to these uncertainties. As an example, manual accounting system has been replacing by electronic system or computer-based system which means the jobs that were available to the labor market have disappeared and have been replaced by new jobs that require completely different skills and knowledge to perform in paid employment.
The (1950s) have seen two opposite political ideologies such as conservative and feminist argument which attempt to explain the change in the post war family in the EU community. The conservative ideology is based on the dependency of the mother and children on the father as a provider of support; while the feminist ideology recognizes the traditional family as an institution, where women suffer under the patriarchal oppression, abuse, violence and total dependence on a male as the breadwinner.
The changing nuclear families form is part of the ideas, beliefs, and social values on authority. Nowadays we observe increasing diversity of family types like lone-parent families, same sex families, stepfamilies, families with unmarried couples and the approach of women in economic activities. It shows that a growing diversity in the contemporary EU family life entrains an increment of uncertainty compared with the 1950s.
On the other hand, the feminists associated with the social democracy ideology are advocating gender equality, social justice, social citizenship, equality of opportunity and civil and political right. Both ideologies have challenged liberalism which has become the most politically challenging ideology in the world. It promotes the right of individuals and families in terms of freedom, ethnic and cultural identities as well as sexualities and economic activities; it also reorganizes the welfare institutions and NHS hospitals trusts.
Concerning political changes over the last seventy years, we can mention that since the so-called “golden age” of capitalism (1950s to the 1970s) where studies generated high possibilities of employment in the nationalized industries and welfare services, the feather in this period was the long term contracts, established jobs, legislation and union power. For people who were in this kind of paid work these salaries denoted a “golden age”, full of certainties and securities. Keynesian ideologies were when the theorists demanded management to eradicate unemployment, increasing government expenditure to balance the state with secure orderly and peaceful population. By this period, transformation in work and employment meant people had started looking for fixed, secure, standard and long-standing jobs; and these arrangements started to change quickly. As a result of the changes, economics and politics are becoming more trans-national and global development, political authority is becoming a routine of a more uncertain and unruly world. The change in this time is attributed to the fundamental values, beliefs and ideologies of liberalism and the core of these ideas were the flexible market.
The growth of lone parent households as well as the changing rates of economic activity among men and women has led to a major shift in the employment market. As women have increasingly sought paid employment in the labor market, by the late (1980s), the patriarchal father figure domination was fading, which facilitates more equal relations between all members of the family, like full time or part time employment. It permits and facilitates the freedom of women to do flexible jobs and became independent.
Another significant change was reflected in the welfare state where government has the responsibility for the well-being of its citizens and that this cannot be entrusted to the individual, Private Corporation, or local community. The government protects individuals and families against poverty by caring for their health, free education, and financial security in time of unemployment and provided comprehensive program of support during this period. These different services are financed by state insurance schemes and taxation. These challenges have been a key source of uncertainty for the welfare state and different political ideologies are contrasting ways of organizing different programs of social welfare. In the EU countries liberal welfare reforms of the 1980s and the levels of social inequalities and poverty continued to grow government expenditure on the welfare state has also increased. As an example, groups most vulnerable to poverty’ shows that the diversity and inequality in welfare have created uncertainty for the EU community.
As write in the previous research about “the sovereignty of the nation-state been undermined by globalization”. The rapid exchange of ideas and economic changes has stimulated different political ideologies to have opposite ideas about the process known as globalization. Globalization comes with the free market, deregulation of economic activity, transformation of family structure and information technology together with the advances of communications, free circulation of capital and of course with the new ways of criminality and tactics of war and terrorism. It also comes with the movement of people. Groups of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are all seen as a source of uncertainty for the nation-state which created the inequalities, increased fragmentation, and segmentation of society.
The debate about economic globalization has three points of view which are: globalists, inter-nationalist and transformationalists perspectives. The globalists argue that globalization can be seen positively and for others pessimistically. They understand the change in global economic may have benefit for society as well as risks. As a result, the global economic processes are increasingly stretching the flows, intensification of networks economic, interpenetration of economic and the emergence of new global infrastructure. While the transformationalists do not accept globalists views, they assume that the change is taking place in international economy and the globalization processes is not inevitable but could be reversible.
On the other hand, the inter-nationalists are to some extent more sceptical, their argument emphasizes upon the structure of power in the inter-state economy. They argue that the international economics is still directed by the stronger and richer economies and is largely to their benefit; the World Trade Organization has power delegated to them by national economies when it is in their benefit. It means that the push of competition, deregulation, privatization and open capital market has actually undermined economic prospects for many of the poorest people in the world. Mander and Barker report support this claim by the following statement:
A report by United Nations […] found that inequalities between rich and poor within countries, among countries are quickly expanding and that the global trading and finance system is one of the primary causes. (Mander and Barker, 2002, p.1 quoted in David Held, 2004, Book 4, p 96).
Nevertheless, it can also be argued that change does not create only uncertainty in society. It has created many opportunities and certainties to the whole socio-cultural, economic and political life for rich as well as poor countries. In the EU community we can observe that distant cultures and societies are coming face to face with each other at the local level and therefore diversity. As an example, we would like to name interpenetration phenomenon caused by the Multinational Corporations like McDonald and Coca-Cola; Hutton supports this concept of the changes on economic globalization by the following statement:
“Whether in trade, finance or the speed and scope of communication, the degree of interpenetration of national markets and cultures is unprecedented. We smoke Marlboro cigarettes, eat sushi, use [Microsoft] windows…experiment with acupuncture, read cosmopolitan, take away pizza and watch CNN whenever we are. English is emerging as the International language…” (Source: Hutton, 1997, p.55 quoted in David Held, 2004, Book 4, p11).
Conclusion: the evidence has been presented to explain how change in social sciences has created many opportunities for the explosion of knowledge; it means that the knowledge changes have enabled society to cope with uncertainty. While the changes in family structure, from nuclear family to diversity such as same sex families, step families etc., the changes from the secure jobs, full time employment to flexible, and increase in welfare service consumers have created a significant uncertainty for societies. The changes in economics and politics in the global context where deregulation of economics activity, transformation of family structure, free circulation of capital and new ways of criminality have created uncertainty for rich as well as poor countries. We conclude that the conspicuous changes that are taking place in social, political, and economic life are creating uncertainty and risky conditions for citizens as well as government and the global world.
Mr Césaire KAKPO