White papers for the 2015 UIC Urban Forum:
From its origin, the notion of social contract seems to be related to different features of the collective (public?), sometimes based on society and others in specific institutions. From Socrates’ argument about the need to obey human law to ensure the organization and functioning of society to a critical contemporary understanding of social rules as possible instrument of social control, theories about the social contract have historically accompanied the philosophical and political debate about the role of state and the making of public policy. This paper suggests that the contemporary shift in the balance of political and economic power represents an opportunity to review social contract theories from the understanding of the changing role of the state in the rise of economic power (and urban policies).
Does individual responsibility for one’s health have social consequences? Does a community have responsibility for an individual’s health? How should we conceptualize the relationship between community provision of health services as a public good and individual or family or neighborhood/community assumption of health services that benefit a specific element of the larger society? The recent measles epidemic illustrates the challenges of a society rooted in individual freedom and responsibility with the need of local governments to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents? Is there a social contract on health or has it been profession-imposed? What is causing the new social contract in the health area (e.g., ACA, community clinics) or is an earlier social contract still in effect?
Environmental damage launched many programs during the Progressive Era, recognizing that depletion of natural resources would damage future generations. The costs of production often ignored environmental degradation, as those costs could be off-loaded to the neighborhood, downstream residents, or down-wind lakes. Throughout the 20th Century health issues relating to environmental degradation (industrial and non-source pollution) and then to global warming have pushed the nation and metropolitan areas to address the effects and the causes of environmental degradation, and to forge a loose compact regarding the environment. Increasingly, the compact which had roots in science is being attacked, but is it unraveling? To what extent does the concept of SmartCities reinvigorate the public debate over the social compact on environmental sustainability and protection of the larger society?
Chicago and the Midwest are at a key inflection point for significant, systemic change for a cleaner energy future through accelerating Midwest solar energy policy development and rapidly advancing energy efficiency technologies, such as LED lighting, that can help solve climate change problems. Clean energy development is a win-win-win for environmental progress, job creation and economic growth, and building sustainable and resilient communities. Solar power is making great advances through policy drivers, market changes and technological innovations. Energy efficiency is saving businesses and consumers money on utility bills, is creating jobs and is the best, fastest and cheapest way to avoid carbon pollution. New clean energy technologies that are successfully developed in the United States can be shared with developing countries to help change the world by reducing global carbon pollution. In short, the electricity market is on the verge of rapid transformation through new energy efficiency technologies, distributed solar energy generation and battery storage technologies.
Urban services such as water and electricity have fluctuated back and forth between public and private ownership since at least the mid-19th century. The neoliberal era has seen a trend back to private ownership and management of many such services, but this movement has slowed, and even reversed in some cases, since the early 2000s. This paper reviews the history of these swings in public-private provision, with a focus on contemporary debates over the meaning(s) of public and how these conceptual frameworks shape alternative notions of public services. Illustrations will be drawn from different sectors and regions of the world in an effort to showcase both the dynamism and tensions associated with a renewed interest in ‘publicness’.