Monday, July 14, 2008

Social problems cannot be solved as if they were technical problems

In my last blog I talked about the problem of double interpretation: each person has his or her own frame of reference for interpreting the world. This frame is also used for interpreting other persons, as we have seen there. Now it is so that if we see a problem, we often try to find a solution for it. For example, if we have a problem with our car, we bring it to a garage for having it repaired by a car mechanic. The knowledge the car mechanic has received at school and then through his or her experience forms the frame of reference that helps him or her to repair the car. For technical problems this kind of behaviour is rational and it works well. However, when we have a social problem to be solved, many policymakers like administrators, managers, parliamentarians, government ministers and so on who are involved in solving social problems think that it works the same way. What they forget then is that cars do not have brains with a frame of reference but that human beings do have and that these human beings use it for interpreting the world in their own way. For this reason, the solutions that policymakers make for social problems often fail. For what is a rational solution for a problem from the point of view of the policymaker need not to be so for the people for whom the solution has been made (the “objects” of the solution). The latter give the solution proposed often their own turn and execute it in their own way, which may be quite different from what the policymaker had imagined. Or the “objects” of the solution do not understand what the policymaker means with their measures. Or they simply try to use these measures for their own benefit, they evade them or they succeed to ignore them, or whatever they do. The result of all this is that proposed solutions for social problems often do not have the effects as thought of in advance, as long as social problems are simply treated as technical problems. For the people which are to be helped with a solution or are in one or another way involved in it are not objects like cars but they are subjects with their own frames of reference.

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