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Between the representation of the crisis and the crisis of representation. How crisis changed the symbolic background of European societies and identities. Implication for policies and policy making

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Re.Cri.Re. (Between the representation of the crisis and the crisis of representation. How crisis changed the symbolic background of European societies and identities. Implication for policies and policy making)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2018-05-31

This project aims to understand what kind of social identity change is going on within European societies. For policymaking, the analysis of social identity is highly valuable because the social identity moderates the impact of policies. In particular, the project aims: A) to verify whether the symbolic universes grounding the social identity has undergone a major change within European societies, as a consequence of the socio-economic crisis; B) to draw strategic and methodological implications for policy-making from point A.
This project includes 4 core scientific work packages: a) Multilevel Analysis of the Symbolic Universes, aimed at mapping structurally and developmentally the systems of meaning grounding the social identity; b) Case Studies for policies, aimed at see how different policies have been organized and their impact; c) the results of this analysis will be transformed into abstract criteria, contextualised in 5 different European macro-Regions, discussed with stakeholders; d) finally, the guidelines will be validated in terms of pertinence, effectiveness and the feasibility criteria, through seminars with the stakeholders.

According to a psycho-social conception, to which this Project refers, the impact of policies is never simply a function of their intrinsic characteristics and the contents they propose, but it also depends on how those elements are interpreted by the social actors embedded in their local contexts. This interpretation is grounded and channeled by actors’ social identity, conceived in its turn as based on a stable system of generalised meanings (here called: symbolic universe) that shapes the image actors have of themselves and their relation with the social environment.
In policy-making, the analysis of the symbolic universes grounding the social identity has great importance, and this is particularly true in times of crisis. Indeed, in critical situations, two possible scenarios emerge:
- Scenario 1: social systems are able to assimilate the crisis into their view of reality: the representation of the crisis therefore does not modify the symbolic universes of the social identity, which can serve as the common ground to which policies can be anchored. For the policy-maker this is the scenario of continuity;
- Scenario 2: the crisis reorganizes the way reality is interpreted, modifying the symbolic universes of the social identity. This is the scenario of discontinuity. In such situations, policies to exit the crisis must address such a (dis)rupture.
This Project is based on the hypothesis that the crisis EU Countries are facing is a major one: namely, it has produced a rupture in the symbolic universes of social identity, and therefore in the way actors view themselves and their relationship with the social and institutional world.
The main results of the projects are the following:
a)The empirical identification of the Symbolic Universes characterizing 11 European countries’ cultural milieu and their distribution within societies (based on a sample of about 9,000 participants).
b)The elaboration and validation of the VOC questionnaire for the analysis of the symbolic universes and the segmentation of population in accordance to them.
c)The empirical analysis of the models of representations of relevant topics as they emerge from a collection of newspaper articles.
d)A series of studies on the impact of Symbolic Universes on several psycho-social dimensions and phenomena.
e)10 case studies of policies concerning a large spectrum of policies.
f)A comprehensive interpretation of the socio-institutional dynamics characterizing the EU societies’ scenario of (post)crisis.
g)The elaboration and the validation of the Guidelines for designing culture-sensible policies.

These outcomes have a high potential of exploitation, both at the scientific level and at the level of their impact on approach to policy-making.
As to the scientific impact, several scientific outputs have been produced. More specifically, at the moment, the scientific outputs of the Re.Cri.Re. project are the following:
a)9 works published, 6 submitted on peer-reviewed international scientific journals as well as 2 in preparation and numerous papers presented in international and national conferences;
b)an international Book Series aimed at presenting the main scientific outcomes of the project and providing a discussion arena for the development of their research and institutional implications;
c)Two Volumes in advanced stage of preparation and a further volume in initial stage of preparation within the Book Series.

As to the exploitation of the outcomes at the level of their impact on policy-making, societies and institutions, the Re.Cri.Re. Consortium has been developing three lines of work aimed at providing continuity and incidence to the cultural, political and strategical implications of the project’s outcome:
a)the constitution of the European Institute of Cultural Analysis for Policies ( a spin-off of the project that has the ambition to become a think-tank aimed at developing further and promoting the Re.Cri.Re. methodological approach;
b)a systematic presence in the media – starting from a column on the on-line newspaper “La Voce di New York” (;
c)both within the framework of the EICAP and on the grounds of specific agreements, a series of pilot studies for specifying and validating the Guidelines further have been designing – at the moment in the domains of health and education.
Below, the expected impacts and outcomes are listed as they were defined in DoA. The impacts are mainly related to the research activities implemented in WP3 and at the following analysis of case studies in the WP4, the development and validation of the guidelines in WPs 5 and 6. There are not only socio-economic impacts so far, due to the fact that many activities of the project are mainly devoted to research activities.
In the past onths, partners further elaborated research results (including research results of WP4, WP5 and WP6) and they worked on dissemination, respecting the indicators of results established in DoA.
Results details are available in the WPs reports and deliverables.

To this end, the project pursued several complementary, intertwined results:
1) To map the systems of meanings (henceforth symbolic universes) grounding the social identities in various European societies.
2) To analyse what different higher mental functions symbolic universes are associated with, and through what different forms of behaviour and communication they are expressed in daily life circumstances.
3) To estimate the relation of the symbolic universes with socio-economical phenomena.
4) To verify whether a major change of the symbolic universes grounding social identities in European countries has been occurring/has occurred
5) To analyse to what extent such a change is distributed in different local European contexts, and in connection with which socio-cultural conditions.
6) To explore the repercussions of the change of the symbolic universes for some social objects, relevant to European cohesion.
7) To understand the role played by the symbolic universes in mediating the impact of policies.
8) To identify both general guidelines and context-specific, strategic and methodological guidelines for policy-making in post-crisis contexts, that are consistent with the symbolic universes at stake.