Productivity of social relations
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The term social is derived from the Latin word socius, which as a noun means "an associate, ally, companion, business partner or comrade". The adjectival form socialis refers to "a bond between people" (such as marriage) or to their collective or connected existence. The term "social" is a crucial category in social science and is frequently used in public discourse. But, its meaning is often vague, suggesting that it is a fuzzy concept. An added difficulty is that social attributes or relationships may not be directly observable and visible, and must be inferred by abstract thought. It is used in different senses and many contexts, referring among other things to:
- Attitudes, orientations or behaviors which take the interests, intentions or needs of other people into account (in contrast to anti-social behavior);
- Common characteristics of people or descriptions of collectivities (social facts);
- Relations between people (social relations) generally, or particular associations among people. Such relations could be between individuals insofar as they belong to a group; or, between groups of people; or, between an individual and a group of people. The group could be an ethnic or kinship group; a social institution or organisation; a social class, caste or stratum; an economic entity; a nation, a population, or a gender, etc. This definition contrasts with the relationship between people and inanimate objects. Social relations form the basis of concepts such as social organisation, social structure, social movement and social system. The sum total of social relations connecting its members (i.e., constituents of the social structure of the economy) is indeed society.
- Interactions between people (social action), i.e. social interactions, which can be regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. The fabric of society consists of intricate interrelationships and interactions between different individuals, activities, entities, systems, organizations, institutions, ideas, beliefs and values.
- Membership of a group of people or inclusion or belonging to a community of people;
- Co-operation or co-operative characteristics between people; relations of (mutual) dependence.
In one broad meaning, "social" refers only to society as "a system of common life", but in another sense it contrasts specifically with "individual" and individualist theories of society. The adjective "social" implies that the verb or noun to which it is applied is somehow more communicative, cooperative, and moderated by contact with human beings, than if it were omitted. That is, it implies that larger society has played some role in defining the idea or the principle. For instance terms like social realism, social security, social justice, social constructivism, social psychology, and social cohesion imply that there is some social or ‘societal’ process involved or considered, a process that is not there in regular, "non-social" realism, security, justice, constructivism, psychology, or cohesion.
The term productivity is etymologically derived from the Latin word producere, which means “lead or bring forth, draw out” (from pro- “forth” + ducere “to bring, lead”). It connotes in a general sense, the state of being productive, fertile or efficient. It is often confused with "efficiency", "rationalization" or "profitability". In reality, the modern understanding of productivity is doing things right at the least possible cost in the least possible time with the highest possible quality and to the maximum level of satisfaction of stakeholders, such as customers, employees, etc.
Productivity, which is also used in several senses and contexts, could refer to any of the following specific terms:
- Labor productivity: In the economic sense, labor productivity means the rate at which goods or services are produced by a standard population of workers. Some economists write of "capital productivity" (output per unit of capital goods employed). "Total factor productivity," sometimes called multifactor productivity, also includes both labor and capital goods in the denominator (weighted by their incomes). Unlike labor productivity, the calculation of both capital productivity and total factor productivity is dependent on a number of doubtful assumptions and is subject to the Cambridge critique. In micro-economics, productivity enables companies to make profit, yield higher return for input resources at micro levels and improves the quality of working life. In this sense, productivity is a total business concept rather than a "rationalization of production", and productivity also has social dimensions, not only economic ones. In corporate finance, the sales to expense ratio is often used as a measure of (corporate) productivity.
- Land Productivity or Yield: In the agricultural sense, (land) productivity or yield is the rate at which crops are grown on a standard area of land. Measures of land and labor productivity should be used only when conscious of the role of the heterogeneity of inputs in the production process.
- Productivity (linguistics): Linguistic Productivity is the degree to which native speakers use a particular grammatical process, especially in word formation. A productive grammatical process defines an ‘open class’, one which admits new words or forms. Non-productive grammatical processes may be seen as operative within ‘closed classes’, but only previously formed and learned structures show the results of those processes.
- Personal Productivity: It is defined as the ratio of the volume of personal output produced in a given walk of life to time used. Attempts have been made to qualify personal productivity using factors such as impact (extent or ability to provide value to and influence a large number of people), endurance (the duration for which the fruits of one's labor is consumed) and essence (the degree of uniqueness of one's output and the extent of its desirability).
- Social Productivity: The topic of this article, ‘Social Productivity’, is discussed separately in the section below.
 Social productivity
Social productivity connotes efficient conduct of social interactions, management of social relations, and coöperative or collaborative social activity. It has also been argued that social productivity is a form of inter-personal exchange founded on the notion of reciprocity. As the activities are socially valued, efforts are expended in return for monetary or non-monetary rewards. Strong internal motivations for engaging in activities, including the need for self-agency and for self-esteem, may help explain why people stay involved in activities, which may not offer monetary rewards commensurate with effort.
In one “socio-economic” sense (and implying ‘societal productivity’), it is the rate at which goods and services, of social- and/or economic-value or worth to its recipients & beneficiaries, are produced in society. In other words, it is based on the inclusion of paid work or labor, voluntary or honorary (unpaid) work, care of family members, community service and informal help to friends into the equation. Generally, work is considered the most important element in the measure of social productivity.
In another sense, social productivity (as opposed to personal productivity) is the ratio of the volume of a group’s collaborative output to time used. Increasing evidence shows that collective endeavor is critical for societies to prosper economically and for that development to be sustainable. The increase of social productivity obviously reduces the expenditure of social labor necessary for the production of a given commodity (i.e. product or service), and consequently its cost, but not necessarily its value or social capital. Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society's social interactions. It facilitates co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration.
 Impact of Productivity
Productivity, in the socio-economic context, enables society to generate value-added, collective output through an optimal mix of available resources - human knowledge and skills, time, technology, equipment, raw materials, energy, capital and intermediary services. Productivity improvement is a vital factor that enables all nations to make economic progress, improve the standard of living of people and attain prosperity. Higher productivity results from the intimate interaction of:
- Socio-cultural factors that influence values and attitudes towards productive & quality work including society’s strategic, concerted effort towards common national development objectives;
- Macro-economic policies, which create conducive and enabling economic, productive & competitive environment;
- Micro-economic policies including governmental & private institutions that are implementing programs, and;
- Finally enterprise decisions (managerial capability building, workers’ skills & competency development, operations improvement, alliances, partnerships, etc.) and individual effort (networking, reading, etc.).
However, some qualitative, rather than quantitative, aspects of productivity may be very difficult to measure in an exact or unbiased way. We might be able to observe definite increases in output, even though we do not know what those increases should be attributed to. Such qualitative factors include:
- Intensity of labor-effort, and the quality of that labor effort.
- Creative activity involved in producing technical innovations.
- Relative efficiency gains resulting from different systems of management, organisation, co-ordination or engineering.
- Productive effects of some forms of labor on other forms of labor.
Enhancing productivity, besides qualitative increase in the content and sophistication of the constituent elements and geographic coverage of sections of society, plays a significant rôle in the process of social development. The integration of existing and new organizational elements into an increasingly complex network of interrelationships also helps in the social development process. So does the quantitative expansion in the size and carrying capacity of social activities, systems, organizations and institutions.
 See also
- What is Productivity? October 19th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina
- Social Theory & Health, Volume 2, Number 1, February 2004, pp. 1-17(17); Siegrist J.1; von dem Knesebeck O.1; Pollack C.E.2
- Productivity promotion organizations: evolution and experience - edited by Joseph Prokopenko (April, 1999)
- Work Stress and Health – Mechanisms and Preventive Options; Johannes Siegrist
- The Role of Money & Internet in Social Development; Robert Macfarlane, Garry Jacobs & N. Asokan; 1997
- Social Capital Initiative Working Paper No.1, The World Bank, April 1998