Monday, October 12, 2015


220. Hosting the refugees

Attempts to host the host of refugees are rightly based on ideals of hospitality and solidarity. But they should also be realistic and effective. How to think about that?

To analyse this I use the multiple causality of Aristotle (see item 96 of this blog). I used that before, in an analysis of historical explanation (item 100, on the emergence of the Dutch East India company), morality (item 175) and power (item 213).

It works as follows. An artisan (efficient cause) makes furniture from wood (material cause), according to a certain skill and technology of design and production (formal cause), with the goal of earning and income, plus, perhaps, the satisfaction of artisanal work and independence as an entrepreneur (final cause), under certain enabling and constraining conditions of market, regulation, …  (conditional cause), possibly following a certain model (exemplary cause).

Aristotle used  that causality in his attempt at natural science, but there it does not work. In particular, there is no final causality. Objects moving in space do not tend towards some end. That causality ended up on the dung heap of intellectual history, and was replaced by a more mechanistic and singular causality of natural forces (with attempts to arrive at a ‘unified theory’). The irony next is that economists emulated such causality of elementary forces (of supply and demand), while in economy and society Aristotle’s multiple causality, including final causality, fits admirably.

The inclination to consider only some single factor is a (formal) cause of much failure. Here one looks, for example, only at the goal, or who is to do something, neglecting means, methods and circumstances, and the inspiration of examples of success or failure.

In an analysis of a labour market, for example, one should consider what workers it is about (efficient cause), what motivates them, with next to wage also intrinsic value of work (final cause), what means are needed, such as tools or machinery (material cause), what knowledge and skill (formal cause), under what enabling and constraining conditions, such as child care, mobility, legal regulations, unions, job security, possible discrimination, … (conditional cause), and what models one might follow: Anglo-Saxon, ‘Rhineland’, or Scandinavian (exemplary cause).

How would it work for dealing with the flood of refugees? We should look at both sides of the relationship: the host country and the refugee.

For the host country it would work as follows. The efficient cause: in helping refugees, who is to do what: national government, municipalities, public agencies, schools, medical institutions, churches, Red Cross, volunteers, ..? The final cause (intention) of help presumably is the ideal of charitability, solidarity, hospitality. The material cause: financial means, available capacity for housing, food, medical care, schooling, .. The formal cause: how to deal with the logistics, organization, security, racial, religious, and cultural differences? The conditional cause: acceptance and rejection by the population, international relations, geo-political conditions. The exemplary cause: successful approaches earlier, or elsewhere (as the flood from Nazi Germany, Eastern Germany, former Yugo-Slavia, Hungary, …. )
 
For the refugee it would work out as follows. Who is the refugee; man, woman, child, family? What are their needs, aims and expectations: security, housing, work, income, support, …? What are their means: money, clothes, health, … What are their intellectual, social and cultural skills, knowledge, languages, religion, ability and willingness to integrate? What are the conditions for them: resources of housing etc. that are necessarily limited, cultural stance of the host country, degree of xenophobia, economic conditions, ….. Are there examples of successful integration of family or acquaintances?

All factors count. Germany at first focused on charitability and then ran into problems with the other factors. Refugees had expectations that could not be matched by limited resources available in the host country, in the short time available to act. The weighing and matching of factors requires debate, with involvement of those who are affected, or have relevant knowledge and experience. Both sides are part of each other’s conditional cause.  

Trust becomes fragile when expectations are disappointed. Therefore one should not create too high expectations, being open about what one can and cannot offer, taking all factors into account.