Thinking in models

The research network does not base itself on a systematic theory of socioeconomic development, nor does it strive for a complete theoretical integration in terms of a ‘system’. Rather the observation dimensions and the indicators have to be selected in such a way that the report can be beneficial for many users regardless of their theoretical backgrounds. It is therefore necessary to confront and deal with theoretical approaches which perceive society as a socioeconomic development context and try to explain the particularities of the ‘German Model’.

Political discourses, too, needs to ask how the political system is measuring the socioeconomic development and with which indicators it is trying to observe and monitor them. Special attention must be paid to the European Union’s further strategy-building following the Lisbon-strategy for the modernisation and improvement of the European Social Model as well as the strategies of sustainability for Germany and the EU.

In order to integrate findings from different fields of observation the approach of socioeconomic reporting needs theoretical assumptions. Production models, which can be observed micro-analytically on the level of the individual enterprise stand for a typical nexus of market and business-related political strategies of companies, typical forms of company organisation and their institutional framework. On the other hand the entirety of social institutions and regulations, which enable a society ‘to exist through relations of mutual dependency as an integrated totality’ (Castel), can be classified as a social model. Thus, the social model forming the framework for the conduct of life within households encompasses much more than a certain type of welfare state regime.

‘Thinking in models’ is supposed to help selecting the objects of reporting which are needed for an empirically dense description of the model of production and the social model and to identify problem domains of the transformation. The first report (soeb 1) dealt with six of these problem domains:

  • the coexistence of secure and insecure forms of employment/earnings
  • the coexistence of different models of earnings within households
  • different time patterns for gainful employment and other activities
  • inequality concerning the acquisition and utilisation of education
  • the relation between formal services and informal domestic work
  • forms and patterns of commitment and participation