Justice and Social Policy in the Arab World
Hasan Yahya, Ph.Ds, professor of sociology
As a fundamental principle in sociology dictates, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas 1970). This leads to the definition of a situation largely determines how it will be reacted to, and definitions of the situation framed in the West about the Arabs have provided the prescription for deadly interventions into it. Social and political Arab analysts have studied social policies in the Arab countries in the last fifty years. There is an image among most researchers of Arab origin a little different from western countries researchers. For example, Arab researchers see that in the western world in general and among English speaking parts in particular, “representations of the Arab world tend to be unsympathetic at best, and are usually couched in metaphors that presume an essentialist image of the Arab–the quintessential Other in chauvinist discourses.” (Ismael & Ismael 2008).
Ismael and Ismael in an article published at the Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) noted that “the subject of social justice in the Arab world in particular conjures up images of repression and extremism–veiled women, suicide bombers and fanatical clerics.” In their article, the authors stand against the backdrop of such representations and in the spirit of enhancing the cultural competence of human service professionals (health, education and social welfare) engaged with people from the Arab world.
The authors discovered in their study of social policies of the Arab Countries, that the backdrop of misrepresentations alluded to above are based on myths. These myths are powerful vehicles of discourse for they are usually based on grains of truth or isolated facts taken out of context and generalized to represent essential characteristics of the whole. The researchers brought the myths about women in the Arab world, and gave example, generally based on facts about either Gulf women (veiled, politically marginalized and pampered) or poor women (oppressed, exploited and brutalized). The researchers believe that these myths are taken out of their political and social contexts and generalized into hard core stereotypes that distort definitions of the situation of women in the Arab world.
But any study of social policy anywhere on the globe including the Arab countries should not have these assumptions or perception, whither they were true or false. Any research study have to be led by its rules and methodologies rather than perceptions and doubtful assumptions. Dealing with initiating social policy studies in the Arab countries were mainly supported by certain agencies, for example, the UNESCO, UN, and some research centers in the west, for a certain purposes, may be ideological or political, or else, In doing research, the validity of measures, conceptual or operational is a supreme goal to establish a sound methodology to construct the hypotheses, the sample(s), the questionnaire, and the measures to test the given hypotheses in both forms. I believe that Eastern researchers as well as western researchers follow the rigor steps in doing research. However, the assumptions presumed by the researchers have impact on results and recommendations.
Studies of social policy are of complex type, which may imply Complex Theory assumptions. Any study would be a multivariable testing, and multi purposes types. For example, The questions describe this complex type are, for example, the question of resources, the question of the environment, the question of human rights, the question of culture, the question of well-being and satisfaction, the question of economic, social, and political factors. This complexity shows research limitations on the research project manager to deal with, and limit its study of few aspects of social policy in the given country or countries under study.
Complexity Theory is an interdisciplinary area that represents an approach to the study of complex dynamic systems–that is, to systems as non-deterministic entities composed of many parts interacting with each other and their environment in unpredictable ways (Casti 1994; Cilliers 1998). Time span design is also, important in studying social policy in certain location (s). As an approach in the social sciences, complexity theory replaces or works side by side with systems theory (and its focus on the unfolding of predictable outcomes of social evolution), where aspects, people, resources and environment change. Both are with holist models that focus on social evolution as a non-linear process of adaptation to change and the emergence of unanticipated patterns of human interaction (Nowotny 2005; Capra 2005). The term complex adaptive system (CAS) is used to describe systems that have the capacity to adapt to unpredictable change in their environments. Approaching the topic of social policy and social justice in the Arab world should take into consideration the perspective of complexity theory, and system theory to deal with the subject matter of Arab societies as complex adaptive systems or subsystems. Accordingly, the dynamics of the complex adaptive system adapting to unpredictable change in their environments constitute a process of non-deterministic social change.
In conclusion, project studies of social change in general, and social policies in particular involve research designs, periods of time, socio-economic and political variables, and creating a style measurements to test the hypotheses and come up with recommendations according to the findings. The myths on certain society or group have nothing to do with research outcomes, if the rules of research in terms of theory and methodology are taken seriously and scientifically. (903 words) www.askdryahya.com/index.html
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