Measuring Well-Being, While Treating Autonomy as a Value: A Literature Review

What are values and how can they be operationalized for the empirical social sciences? The University of Malmö’s graduate student Irina Widmer traces debates on how to measure well-being. In her blog post, she focusses specifically on the value of autonomy. How relevant has it been for measurements of well-being?

Irina A. Widmer, University of Malmö/ University of Neuchâtel

Do conceptions of well-being vary across societies – and, if yes, how seriously should we take these variations? Felicia Huppert and Timothy So’s social psychology article on “Flourishing” points to the need to analyse well-being in a specific context and to pay attention to “cultural differences in well-being”. Alex Linley et al. came to the challenging conclusion that well-being might be measured with the same tool in different groups (gender, ethnicity, age), the context having little influence on the outcome of the study. Due to a missing common definition of well-being, the range of values which are included to measure well-being varies greatly from one study to another. Huppert and So attempt to build an objective definition of well-being, based on positive mental health criteria, defined as the opposite of internationally accepted symptoms for depression and anxiety. This “medical diagnosis” seems promising; nevertheless, some values considered central in many other methodologies are left out, notably autonomy.

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The EU and Non-Members: A Rights-Based Philosophical Reading of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union definitely has implications, beyond the right to asylum, for how the EU should act towards people in need outside the EU, Tommaso Colombo and Jos Philips argue. They defend this by proposing a rights-based philosophical reading of the Charter, rather than a relational or consequence-based reading.

Tommaso Colombo and Jos Philips, University of Utrecht

The so-called ‘refugee crisis’, which involved the arrival on European territory of more than 1,5 million refugees in 2015, has generated several, sometimes conflicting views concerning how to deal with refugees, both among the public and in more ‘official’ political debates in the Union. This fragmentation of views among Europeans arguably represents a challenge to the European ‘project’, more precisely, to the Union’s goal of creating a common, stable normative understanding focused on the importance of guaranteeing people’s fundamental rights. One of the most prominent places where such a focus is found is in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, on which this blog entry will concentrate. The Charter testifies to a clear commitment to human rights and explicitly addresses the right to asylum. This suggests that the EU’s commitment to human rights includes refugees within its scope.  Yet the ‘refugee crisis’ –we will stick to this common albeit not very fortunate expression– has shown that there are heterogeneous views about the scope of this commitment. Does the Union’s commitment to guaranteeing fundamental rights concern its own citizens and those who stand to be recognized as refugees? Or is its scope broader and does the Charter have – more or less clear – implications, beyond the right to asylum, for how the EU should act towards people in need who are outside the EU (and who are not its citizens)? In this blog post, we propose a philosophical reading of the Charter – as an articulation of the Union’s ideal of guaranteeing fundamental rights – where there are definitely such implications.

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Are Human Rights a European Value?

Europe’s commitments in the context of its migration policy are often framed in terms of promoting or protecting ‘European values’. Marie Göbel dissects the grammar of ‘European values’ – and argues that we should drop the value language if we are really committed to protecting migrants’ human rights.

Marie Göbel, University of Utrecht

The idea of European values has seen a revival recently in EU politics. It was mainstreamed when Ursula von der Leyen introduced a Vice Presidency for “Promoting our European Way of Life” after becoming European Commission president. Responding to criticism, von der Leyen was quick to point out that the idea behind this was simply to reaffirm Europe’s commitment to the basic values laid out in the EU’s founding treaties: freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity and human rights. But what do we mean when we speak of human rights, for example, as a European value? And what practical difference does this make?

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The View from Greece Pt. II: The New Pact on Migration and Asylum and Its Impact on Frontline States

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is neither new nor daring in its approach, argues Angeliki Dimitriadi. Instead, it is pragmatic in acknowledging and reinforcing the reality of a Union moving further away from solidarity, between member states but especially towards refugees. 

Angeliki Dimitriadi, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

On September 8, 2020 several fires broke out in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, destroying completely the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) that sheltered approximately 3,000 migrants. The remaining 9,000 had spent the better part of the past year(s) in makeshift or bought tents on the olive groves surrounding the RIC.

The humanitarian crisis in the Greek Reception and Identification Centres, like Moria, is the result of a chronic, inflexible European and national immigration policy. The priority, and rightly so, was the search for suitable accommodation and the transportation of unaccompanied minors. In less than a month, 400 children were moved from the island to the mainland while Member States committed to undertake relocation of those deemed vulnerable in Moria, including the children. The pledges were enthusiastically received but the overall speedy resolution raised some fundamental questions.  If such transfer was feasible, why had it not taken place before?

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The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. A Critical ‘First Look’ Analysis

To build an overarching compromise, the New Pact on Migration and Asylum drafted by the European Commission takes as its point of departure the radical demands formulated by the most nationalist governments in Europe. In doing so, it sacrifices migrants’ rights on the altar of a cohesive and integrated European migration policy.

Martin Deleixhe, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Where does it come from?

The New Migration Pact was built on the ashes of the mandatory relocation scheme that the Commission tried to push in 2016. And the least that one can say, is that it shows! The whole migration plan has been decisively shaped by this initial failure. Though the Pact has some merits, the very fact that it takes as its starting point the radical demands made by the most nationalist governments in Europe leads to sacrificing migrants’ rights on the altar of a cohesive and integrated European migration policy.

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European Migration Policy Before the “New Pact”: Eroding Solidarity

In the context of the EU-Turkey statement, it has often been held that member states would only re-commit to solidarity and the rule of law in migration policy if arrival numbers are kept low. In fact, the opposite has been the case, argues Therese Herrmann.

Therese Herrmann, University of Duisburg-Essen

Five years after migration rose to the forefront of the EU‘s political agenda in 2015, and four and a half years after, beginning with the EU-Turkey Statement, European heads of state settled on an agenda of externalizing responsibility for asylum seekers to third countries, European migration policy is in a dismal state. This much, it seems, all parties can agree on.

Looking at the current situation in Greece’s hotspots and the routine violation of fundamental rights it exposes asylum seekers to, it is hard to miss the cynicism of Europe’s perpetual “migration crisis”. The rationale for the EU-Turkey statement has been that member states would only re-commit to the principles of solidarity and the rule of law in European migration policy if arrival numbers are kept low – an approach that in all likelihood the European Commission will continue in its „New Pact on Migration and Asylum“. In fact, the opposite has been the case.

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The View from Greece: At Europe’s External Borders, Deterrence is the Norm Once Again

In Greece, deterrence is the new normal since the summer of 2019, long before the pandemic. Legislative changes, interdiction practices, and an overall harsher treatment of asylum seekers and recognised refugees are taking place. As the New Pact on Migration and Asylum is being negotiated, Greece appears to show the way forward as regards the priorities of the Member States and European Commission for the future of asylum in Europe.

Angeliki Dimitriadi, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends report ahead of world refugee day. Each passing year presents an increasingly troubling picture of global forced displacement. In 2019, the number of forcibly displaced individuals reached 79.5 million. The asylum seekers count has now reached 4.2 million with the number of refugees also increasing to 29.6 million. Five countries account for two-thirds of displaced people across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

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‘Gift Exchange’ and Value Circulation in Migration and ‘Integration’ Research

Understanding how exchange and circulation of values take place is essential to the analysis of how values matter and change shape within the European field of migration and ‘integration’. Ingrid Jerve Ramsöy discusses how the use of anthropological gift theory can support us in such an analysis.

Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy, University of Malmö

 

From an anthropological perspective one can argue that values are the ‘stuff’ of human social life. In many ways, values – or what we deem essential, important, and inconsequential – is what culture is all about. This influences power relationships, in that those who have access to more of what a particular group of people deems important, are often placed higher in social hierarchies, while this same position might also reinforce their access to ‘important things’. As such, value(s), culture, and social categorization and stratification are intimately connected.

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Forced Migration and Art: Reflections on Recent Exhibitions

Inspired by her recent visit to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., Izabella Main reflects on the role of art in depicting and narrating experiences of forced migration.

Izabella Main, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

 

The ‘refugee crisis’ has not been invisible in the art world. At the 2019 Venice Biennale, the Swiss artist, Christoph Büchel, exhibited an actual deathtrap vessel in which hundreds of migrants drowned. He called his artistic expression of the tragedy Barca Nostra. He described the vessel as “a relic of a human tragedy but also a monument to contemporary migration, engaging real and symbolic borders and the (im)possibility of freedom of movement of information and people.” The relic underscores “our mutual responsibility representing the collective policies and politics that create such wrecks,” he added.

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Researching Norms and Values: The Emic and Etic Approach

In this blog post, Elzbieta Goździak , Izabella Main, and Iza Kujawa reflect on the methodological approaches they have deployed in their field research in Poland, Hungary, Lebanon, Turkey, and Thailand to differentiate between the insiders’ points of view and the researchers’ interpretation of the collected data.

Elzbieta M. Goździak, Izabella Main, and Izabela Kujawa, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

 

Empirical research on norms and values constitutes a big part of the NoVaMigra project. We want to understand what role different values play in the refugees and immigrants’ integration into the European host societies. The readers of this blog have already gotten a glimpse at the research our colleagues are doing in Germany. In a blog post published in November, Franziska Bohm wrote about her attempts to explore transmission of European and national values in mandatory integration courses all immigrants in Germany must take.

Today, we want to reflect on our own research, both in terms of the subject matter we are studying and in relation to the methodological approaches we have deployed. Read More