In Paris, guards on the
underground organise the 'transfer' of the homeless at the end of
the day. They take them to reception centres where they can take
a shower and find a bed for the night, before returning to a métro
station the next morning. In Krefeld (Germany), with the help of
a 27-point list, the Ordnungshüter (law and order officer)
investigates such minor infractions as failure to ensure that a
dog does its business in the gutter, or overly aggressive begging
methods. In Greece, police officers in the large cities have become
a key element in prevention policy, helping to train others involved
in the field, while in the Netherlands their role is often akin
to that of social workers (with whom there is generally harmonious
cooperation). In Belgium, many GPs claim they are becoming the administrators
Common problems, local strategies
When vulnerability and exclusion change, so does
the pattern of crime. New problems bring new forms of behaviour,
leading in turn to policies being adapted to combat them. Unsafe
urban areas, rootless young people, drugs, new forms of violence
such as vandalism and extortion, new trouble spots such as schools
or public transport...
To what extent should society prevent or punish?
And how? Who is responsible for what?
'The same social problems are encountered right
across Europe. But they are acted out in a different context and
it is interesting to study the specific ways in which different
countries tackle them,' explains Rémi Lenoir, director of
the Centre de sociologie de l'éducation et de la culture
(Paris) and coordinator of the project entitled New forms of
public management of deviant behaviour in Europe. Supported
by the TSER programme, the project includes researchers from five
countries (BE, DE, FR, GR, NL).
'The State is under-investing in the social and
over-investing in the penal,' remarks Luc Van Campenhoudt, head
of the Centre d'études sociologiques des Facultés
universitaires Saint-Louis (Brussels), with reference to the situation
in Belgium. 'They are trying to contain the effects but without
combating the causes. The courts are becoming the regulator. In
the past, if a pupil was a regular truant the headmaster would speak
to the parents. Today, the case is submitted to the public prosecutor.'
In this small country a whole armoury of new mechanisms (security
contracts, victim aid, penal mediation, consultation assistants,
etc.) support the police in their role as the central player in
'global, integrated prevention' which is based just as much on the
courts as on the social players. Meanwhile the traditional
actors complain of having lost their autonomy, of a shift from assistance
to prevention, of acting as supervisors, or even - when they have
to report to the public authorities - as informers, effectively
helping erode the principle of professional confidentiality in the
New players and the drive for efficiency
This all seems to be part of a general trend
towards a wider 'entrepreneurial' approach to social problems. 'Projects
used to be long term, but now the talk is of short term, profitability,
results by the end of the year, target audience and the like,' observes
Gérard Mauger, a sociologist working with Rémi Lenoir.
In a country such as Germany - with a mosaic
of Länder committed to their autonomy - this drive for efficiency
is in the hands of a highly decentralised management in which non-government
institutions including charitable organisations, trade unions and
churches play a major role. The Caritas-Verband, for example,
manages thousands of local bodies - hospitals, detox clinics, nurseries,
retraining centres for juvenile delinquents, etc.
In Greece, recent sociological changes,
such as immigration from Eastern countries and the creation of ghettos
in some poorer towns, have led to a new approach to the problem
of anti-social behaviour. 'The approach is twofold and often contradictory.
When it comes to controlling crime, the state oscillates between
a protectionist policy tending towards repression, and a voluntarist
policy distinctive for its "economic" rationality,' explains
Nikos Panayototopoulos, a professor at the University of Crete.
'Social management is also increasingly decentralised and contracted
out to private experts, who often
import foreign models without adapting them at all.'
In the Netherlands, of particular concern is the prevention of new
forms of apparently senseless violence, carried out by young people
from a range of backgrounds. Some believe the social problems are
due to the socially outcast groups themselves. Others believe it
is the circumstances - the creation of ghettos - which fuels the
socially deviant behaviour, and that social mixing in a particular
geographical area could have an impact on the causes of this delinquency.
'We are studying both the principles which
underlie social policy and the form it takes in practice,' continues
Rémi Lenoir. 'Our aim, on the basis of these comparisons,
is certainly not to provide decision-makers with ready-made answers,
but rather to identify the pertinent questions which could help
in preparing a European social policy.'
Nikos Panayototopoulos believes that, 'there
is every reason to create this genuine Social Europe, which would
be the best possible defence against aggressive sentiments by reducing
the likelihood of tensions and violence between individuals or groups.'
(back to text)
are we talking about?
Whether dealing with problems, institutions,
actions or actors, how is it possible to make comparisons
when you do not speak the same language? During their field
work, the researchers sought to define the terms used to describe
situations which are not always identical from one place to
another - or for which the 'translation' could create confusion.
A much favoured term in Belgium, such as médiation,
has no equivalent in the Netherlands, for example. In France,
proximité is used with significantly different
connotations depending on whether the context is economic
(with reference to jobs or recruitment), or legal (with reference
to the police or justice). Traditional equivalents between
the French 'baccalauréat' and German 'Abitur' refer
to quite different educational systems.
The terms criminalité (FR),
criminaliteit (NL) or Kriminalität (DE)
are truly false friends. As to terms 'imported' from other
cultures or fields, such as zero tolerance, employability
or benchmarking, they do not necessarily refer to the same
things in each country.
The glossary prepared by the project (which
should be very valuable for many other projects too), describes
each term in its national context, with a brief presentation
of its social philosophy and a bibliography. A comparative
context is provided by referring to related words in other
languages while, at the same time, making sure that false
or absent friends are identified.
To find our more
Nouvelles formes d'encadrement, Social science research
actions nos 136-137, March 2001, Paris, édition du