Problems of privatization and participation research from the sociology of knowledge perspective
The main aim of this study is to illuminate social circumstances, theoretical, methodological and practical problems, as well as potential effects of the non/existence of gathering and analysis of spatially and temporally comparable data on experiences of and attitudes toward glo-cal process and project of transformation of ownership relations between people concerning their non/participation in control and decision making about “things” necessary for their life reproduction. Having in mind that this transformation presents the key social content of the latest wave of transition world over, systematic and systemic quantitative and qualitative research of experiences of and attitudes toward privatization and participation of different social groups and individuals, presents indispensable tool for proposition and realization of dominant social relations’ transformation strategies based on articulated interests of stakeholders.
Concrete impulses for gathering of internationally comparable and longitudinal empirical data needed for adequate causal analysis, understanding and resolution of social relations’ transformation problems were given by the findings of the Institute for sociological research of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade from 2003, which point out to the existence of the clash between the responses of the relative and often also of absolute majority of respondents pertaining to desirable transformation of social relations in process, on the one side, and of the legal framework that regulates this transformation, on the other. The main hypothesis of this study that the actual process of social ownership and decision making power relations’ transformation, does not have just local or regional and in this sense singular characteristics, but has world proportions and intrinsic social systemic moving forces (accumulation of capital crisis), stimulated the formulation of the proposal to organize permanent international comparative and longitudinal research in order to find out whether similar clash exists also in other European and not European countries, whether this clash has the tendency to expand or diminish and what action strategies should be proposed.
On the basis of the sociology of knowledge analysis of unreflected “blind spots” in theoretical, methodological and practical assumptions and findings of representative domestic and foreign researches of privatization and participation so far, in this study the proposal is elaborated for the overcoming of technical barriers (absence of common research instrument) and at the least control of social barriers (presence of opposed interests of the key social actors) on the way to the international comparative and longitudinal participatory research directed towards finding solutions for the problems of transformation of dominant social relations to the benefit of the increase in satisfaction of needs and democratic participation of the majority of citizens, instead of the increase in profit and power of the few, that reproduce the war and complex re-colonization disaster.
Key words: privatization, participation, comparative longitudinal perspective, participatory research directed on the problem solving, class strategies of social relations’ transformation, sociology of knowledge approach
1The conspicuous absence of systematic comparative and longitudinal research of privatization and participation
How to explain the paradox that in contemporary so called knowledge societies (Drucker, Peter, F. 1994), key worldwide proces and project (Vratuša, Vera, 2004) of social relation’s transformation between people concerning the degree of their participation in ownership and decision making regarding production, exchange, distribution and consumption of material and spiritual goods necessary for their life reproduction, including knowledge itself, did not become a permanent subject of systematic comparative and historical research of social scientists?
Should not in knowledge societies, thanking to the advance of informatic and communicative technology, knowledge be more than ever in history the key directing component of every human social action quickly accessible to everybody? Can, namely, all those who attempt to explain, understand and eventually (self)govern actual social processes and projects of social relations’ transformation, not percevere in the effert to systematically gather comparable and longitudinal quantitative and qualitative data on the experiences and attitudes of different social groups and individuals about transformation of ownership relations and participation in strategic decision-making?
Sociologists of knowledge who examine social determinants of the process of construction and reproduction of knowledge, point out that there is nothing paradoxical about the phenomenon that in societies whose intellectual elites proclaim that they are already based on knowledge or that they should increase their knowledge grounding, there does not exist wholesome, reliable and valid knowledge about the process and project of social relations’ transformation, as long as in these societies there still exist socially structured different social interests and knowledge perspectives. The main assumption of this paper is that every research is social relation that includes as the key actors (Gilly, 1972) the orderers of research or bearers of material power, subjects of research or bearers of expert power, and objects of research, or bearers of either negative power of passive resistance in the period of stabilization of existing social relations, or potentially active pozitive power of confrontation and transformation of existing social relations in the periods of social crisis. These social groups and individuals are on the basis of their different places and roles in social division of labor interested in realization of often confronted research strategies and practical conceptions concerning the possibility and desirability of the combination of different forms of private and collective ownership and corresponding forms of market, plan, autocratic or democratic regulation of non/participation of citizens in ownership and strategic decision making.
The groupation of knowledge workers (Drucker, Peter, F. 1994) distinguishes itself from other social groups according to the fact that due to its contradictory position in class division of labor of wage workers who are at the same time the order givers to other wage workers and often collective co-owners of the production means through pension and other investment funds. Due to this contradictory position highly educated specialists have more often than other social groups the possibility to consciously choose the interest orientation of their research and practical and political social development strategy by choosing to which one of the two main social classes they will give at disposal their capacities and knowledge (Vratuša, V., 1995). It is the question first of all of this group's affiliates' capacity to learn quickly and productively coordinate in a team with other specialists their specialised concretely applicable knowledges or dexterity which they sistematically and permanently acquire within the capitalist system of education as an inalienable individual property both through the system of formal schooling and through the lifelong education at the work place or outside of it. In these circumstances generally educated people are becoming diletants in the new jargon. Ever rarer become critically oriented specialists who do not only ask themselves how to realize the most eficaceously any given aim, but also about the sense and justifiability of the aim itself (Vratuša, V., 2003).
The existence of contradictory social and knowledge interests conditioned by the class division of labor find their expression in the opposed neo-Marxist, neo-Smythean and neo-Keynesian theories and strategies of transformation of predominantly collective forms of ownership relations and state regulation of life reproduction, on the one hand, and predominantly private forms of ownership relations and oligopolistic market regulation, on the other (Vratuša, Vera: 1995; 2007). Contradictory social interests are thus the starting point for the explanation and understanding not only of the phenomenon of conspicuous absence of systematic research of actually enveloping social relations’ transformation, but also of purposeful avoidance of adequate naming of this proces and project of transformation.
One of the indicators of insufficient and contested knowledge about this proces and project of transformation is its fashionable but inadequate naming using the expression “tranzition” in the narrow sence of changes in societies that were organized in the states of the so called “real socialism” since the October revolution or after the Second World War, which have begun to “tranzit” into organizational forms of market economy and representative democracy, or more precisely underwent completion of capitalist relations’ restauration after the symbolic tearing down of the Berlin wall at the end of 1980s. Such naming is losing from sight that the last cycle of shifting from different forms of collective ownership relations towards the private ones, has begun at the beginning of the 1980s in the societies that had after the Great economic depression at the end of the 1920s been organized into the so called “welfare states”. These societies have begun to “tranzit” again into neoliberal forms of social relations’ regulation through supposedly free market and minimalized state intervention into economic flows, since the crisis of stagflation in the 1970s of the twentiest century. Homologous shift has happened in former colonies and semicolonies when meny of their governments went over from the planning of social and national industrial development through import substitution, to the lowering of import taxes and stimulation of export (Vratuša, V., 1991;1997a) under the preasure of conditioning for getting new credits.
The concrete stimulus for gathering internationally comparable and longitudinal empirical data necessary for adequate causal analysis, understanding and solving of social problems with which we are confronted during the last cyclical shift from the predominantly collective organizational ownership forms towards predominantly private ones, gave those findings of the research conducted in Serbia in 2003 (ISIFF03) which point out to the existence of the clash between the replies of the relative and often absolute majority of respondents concerning the actual transformation of social relations, on the one hend, and the legal framework that regulates this trasformation, on the other (Vratuša, Vera, 2005). The main hypothesis of this work is that actual process and project of social ownership and decision making power relations' transformation, does not have local or regional and in that sense singular characteristics, but that it has world proportions and intrinsic planetary socially systemic driving forces (crisis of capital accumulation). This hypothesis will be tested and the answer to the question whether this clash exists also in other countries and whether it has the tendency to widen or nerrow down, will be sought through the comparison of the ISIFF03 findings with the rare findings of privatisation and participation research that were organized in Serbia and other countries after 2003.
The first part of the paper briefly resumes the social and historic circumstances of the 2003 research in Serbia as well as its findings. The second part of the paper contains the summary of the findings of researches concerning privatization and participation carried out in Serbia and other countries after 2003. The third part of the paper contains the sociology of knowledge analysis of the unreflected “blind spots” of empirical researches of privatization and participation carried out so far, that should be avoided in the proposed international comparative and longitudinal future researches of alternative social development strategies.