(no) free lunch – zur Frage sozialer Grundrechte
University of Vienna
Speaking of a “lunch” that is never really “free” has become a common practice in our times. We quote this phrase in all kinds of situations, fitting it to whatever purpose we may encounter, but what does it really mean? Beneath this modern, supposedly capitalistic credo lays an ancient principle: only those who work(ed) shall be allowed to eat – the thought that every effort is undergone in perspective of an attached benefit.
But does this concept still fit modern day societies? Our closely knit, networked world faces the challenge of an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor – a gap that seems to widen progressively, without an end in sight.
Although there seems to be some understanding for the need of top-to-bottom social reforms, the collective consensus seems to lie within the boundaries of a capitalistic, market-driven system, while the acceptance for perspectives which look for solutions outside those boundaries decreases by the day.
The basis for all reforms is prescribed in the classic question of which profound rights a human being has in its role as a social agent and whether those rights need to be guaranteed by distinct measures: Is a certain labour imperative necessary in order to maintain the welfare state, or is the welfare state itself outdated anyway? Does society need welfare, and if so, what do we consider collective welfare?
What is the individual pursuit of happiness? Does freedom require security, or is freedom just for those who can free themselves via the vehicle of (social) achievement? What is right, what is just and what is possible – is there a consensus? What is, and what should be – and how are we to transgress from one to the other? Can we rely on ourselves in fundamental resorts like education, old-age provision, health care or property protection? And if we are not to rely on individuals to take care of themselves, is it really simple financial security we require in order to free ourselves?
Are these but philosophical or ethical questions? Our everyday experience might say “no”. Are there certain social rights that nurture themselves from within the fabric of society – if so, what kind of rights are they? If not, should they? Whose duty is it to protect those rights? Which responsibilities does the economy carry? How is this discrepancy between individual responsibility and collective solidarity portrayed in literature and scientific discourse?
The Società welcomes contributions to this year’s conference from all scientific disciplines (20-30 minute speeches; send propositions until May 31st 2010 to Paul Ferstl at email@example.com as 500 word abstracts plus short curriculum vitae) along the lines of the following topics:
Welfare State – yes or no
(Social) Health Care
Knowledge as a Resource
Working under Pressure – justifiable efforts?
Homo homini lupus: Security, Monopoly of Physical Force, Freedom
Economy and Welfare
Portrayals of Poverty, Work and Justice
Correlations of Ethics and Justice
Are individual social rights also Human rights?
Scepticism towards Democracy (self-responsibility as a basis?)
Crisis management – international solidarity
Basic social rights – in the EU and law of nations
While the majority of the conference will be held in German, English contributions are highly welcomed. An anthology will be published in 2011. The conference fee is 50 Euro (incl. conference dinner).
Department of Comparative Literature
University of Vienna
P: +43-1-4277-430 71
F: +43-1-4277-430 89 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.societa.at
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