Germany is considered to be a pioneer of social security systems; nonetheless, globalization and demographic changes have put enormous pressure on them. A solution is not yet in sight as the debate on the future of the German social security systems still lacks consensus. We argue that ideas matter and that the debate can benefit from a deeper reflection on the concept of social security. This objective is pursued along two lines. First, we take a historical perspective and reconstruct the (...) development of Germany's social security systems. Second, we scrutinize from a theoretical perspective how social security is conceptualized in public and theoretical debates. Behind the various positions, we identify four basic ideal types. We then analyze how these ideal types account for the benefits of social security systems and what role they assign to corporations in providing social security. While two ultimately reinforce potential conflicts between different groups in society, the other two ideal types reveal possible benefits for all. The last ideal type actually conceptualizes social security systems as insurance that fosters risky but overall productive investments in human and other forms of capital. Therefore, it can be shown that social security systems are not necessarily threatened by globalization and that incentives exist for corporations to invest in the provision of social security. (shrink)
In this paper a formal framework is proposed in which variousinformative actions are combined, corresponding to the different ways in whichrational agents can acquire information. In order to solve the variousconflicts that could possibly occur when acquiring information fromdifferent sources, we propose a classification of the informationthat an agent possesses according to credibility. Based on this classification, we formalize what itmeans for agents to have seen or heard something, or to believesomething by default. We present a formalization of observations,communication actions, (...) and the attempted jumps to conclusions thatconstitutes default reasoning. To implement these informative actionswe use a general belief revision action which satisfies theAGM postulates; dependent on the credibility of the incominginformation this revision action acts on one or more parts ofthe classified belief sets of the agents. The abilities of agents formalizeboth the limited capacities of agents to acquire information, and the preference of one kind of information acquisition to another. A very important feature of our approach is that it shows how to integratevarious aspects of agency, in particular the (informational) attitudesof dealing with information from observation, communication and defaultreasoning into one coherent framework, both model-theoretically andsyntactically. (shrink)
Much social theory takes for granted the core conceit of modern culture, that modern actors-individuals, organizations, nation states-are autochthonous and natural entities, no longer really embedded in culture. Accordingly, while there is much abstract metatheory about "actors" and their "agency," there is arguably little theory about the topic. This article offers direct arguments about how the modern (European, now global) cultural system constructs the modern actor as an authorized agent for various interests via an ongoing relocation into society of agency (...) originally located in transcendental authority or in natural forces environing the social system. We see this authorized agentic capability as an essential feature of what modern theory and culture call an "actor," and one that, when analyzed, helps greatly in explaining a number of otherwise anomalous or little analyzed features of modern individuals, organizations, and states. These features include their isomorphism and standardization, their internal decoupling, their extraordinarily complex structuration, and their capacity for prolific collective action. (shrink)
This article discusses relations among the multiple levels of analysis present in macro-sociological explanation—i.e., relations of individual, structural, and institutional processes. It also criticizes the doctrinal insistence upon single-level individualistic explanation found in some prominent contemporary sociological theory. For illustrative material the article returns to intellectual uses of Weber's "Protestant Ethic thesis," showing how an artificial version has been employed as a kind of proof text for the alleged scientific necessity of individualist explanation. Our alternative exposition renders the discussion of (...) Protestantism and capitalism in an explicitly multilevel way, distinguishing possible individual-level, social-organizational, and institutional linkages. The causal processes involved are distinct ones, with the more structural and institutional forms neither captured nor attainable by individual-level thinking. We argue more generally that "methodological individualisms" confuse issues of explanation with issues about microfoundations. This persistent intellectual conflation may be rooted in the broader folk models of liberal individualism. (shrink)
Much social theory takes for granted the core conceit of modern culture, that modern actors-individuals, organizations, nation states-are autochthonous and natural entities, no longer really embedded in culture. Accordingly, while there is much abstract metatheory about "actors" and their "agency," there is arguably little theory about the topic. This article offers direct arguments about how the modern cultural system constructs the modern actor as an authorized agent for various interests via an ongoing relocation into society of agency originally located in (...) transcendental authority or in natural forces environing the social system. We see this authorized agentic capability as an essential feature of what modern theory and culture call an "actor," and one that, when analyzed, helps greatly in explaining a number of otherwise anomalous or little analyzed features of modern individuals, organizations, and states. These features include their isomorphism and standardization, their internal decoupling, their extraordinarily complex structuration, and their capacity for prolific collective action. (shrink)
As the expansion of the Internet and the digital formatting of all kinds of creative works move us further into the information age, intellectual property issues have become paramount. Computer programs costing thousands of research dollars are now copied in an instant. People who would recoil at the thought of stealing cars, computers, or VCRs regularly steal software or copy their favorite music from a friend's CD. Since the Web has no national boundaries, these issues are international concerns. The contributors-philosophers, (...) legal theorists, and business scholars, among others-address questions such as: Can abstract ideas be owned? How does the violation of intellectual property rights compare to the violation of physical property rights? Can computer software and other digital information be protected? And how should legal systems accommodate the ownership of intellectual property in an information age? Intellectual Property is a lively examination of these and other issues, and an invaluable resource for librarians, lawyers, businesspeople, and scholars. (shrink)
After having defined the KARO logic for specifying intelligent agents in earlier work we now turn to the question how to realise agents specified in the KARO framework. To this end we look at agent programming languages that we have defined, and investigate how programs in these languages can be linked to the KARO logic.
In recent decades, the individual has become more and more central in both national and world cultural accounts of the operation of society. This continues a long historical process, intensified by the consolidation of a more global polity and the weakening of the primordial sovereignty of the national state. Increasingly, society is culturally rooted in the natural, historical, and spiritual worlds through the individual, rather than through corporate entities or groups. The shift has produced a proliferation and specification of individual (...) roles, accounting for what individuals do in society. It has also produced an expansion in recognized individual personhood, accounting for who individuals are in the extrasocial cosmos and fueling elaborated personal tastes and preferences. Where it has been contested, the shift to the individual has also produced a rise in specializing identities (e.g., in such domains as ethnicity or gender). These offer accounts of individuals' distinctive linkages to the cosmos, and they serve to bolster individual claims to standard roles and personhood. Over time, specializing identities tend to get absorbed into roles and personhood. And in turn, expanded roles and personhood provide further bases for specializing identity claims. Because many theorists mischaracterize the relationship of specializing identities to roles and personhood, the literature often overemphasizes the anomic character of the identity explosion and the closeness of the coupling between social roles and identity claims. On the contrary, specializing identities tend to be edited to remain within general rules of individual personhood and to be disconnected from the obligations involved in institutionalized roles. (shrink)