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Principles of social management and some issues for social management in Vietnam

(LLCT) - Social management is a matter of great concern in both aspects: scientific study and practical activities in Vietnam. Beside the initial results of studying and practical activities, the social management in our country is facing a lot of insolvable issues. Social management study in Vietnam has just come to the point of giving macro directions. The levels, objects of social management activities are divided and separated which are not considered as a whole. Social management is one-sidedly seen. Therefore, management in Vietnam should to be based on principles, levels, and modern social management tools.       

1. Modern social management principles

In order to ensure the validity, effectiveness in social management, the following principles should be thoroughly implemented:

Firstly, carrying out specialization in social management with simplified mode and selective management of social life aspects, decentralizing, empowering, socializing several management fields and providing public services, promoting grassroots democracy in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of management and public administrative services. The role of the Government and governmental agencies turns from “boat rowing” into “boat steering”(1).

Secondly, managing in accordance with a developmental constructive model, managing “development administration”, “development construction” with the focus on serving people, having high dynamics, sensitiveness, adaptability to changeable circumstances, meeting the requirements of people and managed objects quickly, facilitating them to abide law, rules, and related provisions of the State(2).

Thirdly, managing society based on social power with the adjustment by the formal and informal institutions, of which the informal ones (of the socio-political, social, communal organizations, etc.) play an important role(3).

Fourthly, having high opinion for the benefits of individuals, social groups - the direct object of social management. Promoting campaigns, persuasion, conditions for people, social organizations, and businesses to follow the law rather than keeping an eye on the violations and applying sanctions.

Fifthly, highlighting the development of a clear, strategic vision of social management. Changing from policy-making based on the subjective will of the leadership, management to evidence-based policymaking. In particular, there should be the participation of those involved as well as extension of social criticism.

Sixthly, combining the goal of long-term and short-term social management harmoniously. Stable implementation of major policies helps manage society effectively, but it also requires flexibility in responding to market signals, associating discipline with necessary measures to achieve short-term goals.

Seventhly,planning with wide participation of those involved, bottom-up, enhancing decentralization and grassroots empowerment.

Eighthly,evaluating effectiveness based on the result and influence, process supervision, supportive supervision, coordination supervision of experts with the participation of those involved.

Ninthly,promoting the development of a social management database, especially applying information technology to management. At the same time, implementing democratization, social management from law-based provisions to supervision. Accepting the diversity, softness, flexibility of social management practice.

Tenthly,emphasizing the aim and effectiveness of social management activites rather than professional qualifications of managers, gender equality and age at work.

One of the pressing principles and requirements of social management in Vietnam is the effort to overcome the following limitations: (1) No discrimination between public and private works resulting in the tendency of using public resources for self-interest purposes, (2) Failure to establish legal clarity on the behavior of the managed subjects, (3) Many rules and regulations causing difficulty for normal operation of social life, (4) Inconsistent development priorities leading to waste and wrong investment of social resources, (5) Non-transparent, superficial, unsystematic, incomprehensive decision-making process, (6) Lack of individual responsibilities and ethical standards in social management activities, (7) Lack of assumptions/situations in policy making process(4).

2. Modern social management levels

Based on its levels, social management can be divided into five groups: social change management, social development management, social issue management, social deviation management and unexpected situation management (Table 1).

3. Social institution - social management tool

Social institution is a system consisting of formal and informal methods and rules created by people to adjust the behaviors and activities of individuals, groups, and organizations so as to meet the certain requirements of society(5). In social management, social institutions are considered as a tool to carry out management.

Hence, social institutions are a system of stable relations and create social models manifesting the unity which is publicly recognized by society. Social institutions are a stable set of social values, standards, positions, and roles with formal and informal social groups, which centres on the basic needs of society. The existence and development of social institutions is due to objective conditions, which are shown through the consistency with socio-economic bases. However, a social institution also has a relative independence and repercussion to the socio-economic base. The tendency of mutual governance and stipulation is considered as the nature of social institutions. Any change in a social institution can lead to a significant one in the other social institution. For example, a positive change of the educational institution will result in the positive impacts of the current economic, political, legal, cultural institutions, and vice versa.

The shared characteristics of all social institutions are the performance of the function of adjusting social relations and people’s behavior, managing and controlling society.

For example, the function of regulating social relations and controlling society is to ensure that society is closely united by social strata, that the behaviours of individuals and groups are in conformity with the models which are considered to be right by society, and that the deviated behaviours must not be against the rules or order.

The action ordering function of members in the groups of social institutions ensures that activities with social behavior patterns are accepted in different social statuses. With the operation of institutions, individuals adopt behavior models and implement them, depending on specific situation.

The function of socializing individual’s role of the social institution determines the individual’s role in society. Thence, individuals can choose the appropriate role.

The function of imposing and maintaining the cultural model of a social institution is the recognition/acceptance of values, social norms, behavior models in order to reinforce the perception and unify the actions of all members in society.

In the “normal” development period of society, social institutions are stable and firm, and capable of organizing social benefits, making society develop sustainably, harmoniously, and unshakeably. When social institutions are unstable, they are likely to have bad influence and disorder which can hold back social development. The ineffectiveness of social institutions is manifested in the non-harmonious impact, inability to organize social benefits, failure to arrange the operational order of social relations. On the contrary, when social institutions play an active role and meet the requirements, society will be further developed. Thus, the positive change of social institutions is a component of social change and development, not just the condition for social change and development. Simultaneously, a social institution always has the function of controlling social issues, deviation and ability to control social change, development in accordance with general goals. As a result, one of the significant issues of social management is that it must be exercized through the system of social institutions, such as politics, economics, law, family, culture, education, religion simultaneously and consistently. That means the process of social management must promote the optimization for the participation of the social institution system.

4. Some issues for social management in Vietnam

A part from the early results of studying and practical activities, social management in our country is facing a lot of issues pending for solutions to change.

They are as follows:

Social management studies in Vietnam have just come to the extent of providing macro directions. Meanwhile, the levels of social management such as managing social changes, development, issues, and so on are often separated. Hence, a strong theoretical system and the basic categories and concepts for the sphere of society as a whole have not been developed. The objects of social management are often grouped and divided into specific issues, so social issues are not considered as a whole in development. This is an “open” and a missing thing over 30 years of renovation, so it has led to ineffective social operation and management. Beside that, the general social management approach and the social system has not been emphasized.

In the strategies and platforms to build and develop the country, the specific models and methods of social management over periods have not been clearly identified. Particularly, in the period of national industrialization and modernization, there has not been a harmonious combination of three mechanisms: the State, the market and the community. In fact, these three mechanisms are always of formal and informal existence in all aspects of social life, but there has not been a harmonious combination of them into one model yet. Thus, the resources of society have not been fully promoted, and the negative effects, backwardness, conflicts have not been limited.

Social management is largely one-sidedly seen as the role of agencies of the state which is official, top-down, regulatory, and passive. Meanwhile, the role of community participation in social management is informal, bottom-up, active, self-governing, and has not been paid due attention to. The importance of developing a modern social/communal management mechanism (especially in urban areas) to supersede the traditional village management mechanism is not properly realized nor received proper attention. This is largely due to the lack of a social management model with a harmonious combination of the three mechanisms (the State, the market and the community).

In social organization and management, the roles of social institutions have not been taken seriously. The traditional barriers still have a negative impact on the effectiveness of modern social management. These are the very reasons for the ineffectiveness in deploying the legal system, building the state of law. In addition, because there have been no unified understanding of specific models, social development in Vietnam has just been recognized in various aspects/indicators. However, it is fragmentary and unsystematic, not the sustainable, harmonious development of the whole system.

The mechanism of policy monitoring and criticizing is still ineffective, and mostly focuses on formalism.  The role and participation of social organizations have not been actively promoted. Social organizations tend to be nationalized, politicized, or marketized. Although there have been some changes, reality has revealed that there has been insufficient awareness of necessity to promote the functions, roles of social organizations in social management.

Despite a large number of innovations, mechanical thinking and actions, and lack of flexibility in social organization and management are a major barrier in Vietnam today. For example, at the macro level, there is a consistency between the goal and the social management method. In contrast, at the middle and micro levels, social management activities tend to focus too much on goals, achievements, competition, and movement while the basic human principles and ethics are not paid due attention. The external motivations (striving to achieve targets, achievements, awards, degrees, positions, etc.) are more emphasized than the real internal motivations (i.e. mental and ethical motivations). This can easily result in deviation in action and behavior.

Although there have been changes, the capacity of building institution, managing, running, organizing law implementation of social subjects is still weak. State management apparatus is still cumbersome, bureaucratic, and ineffective; judicial reform is slow, non-synchronous, and ineffective. Administrative reform has not met the requirements set out. Decentralization of functions and tasks is not clear between party organizations and the government and enterprises, between central and local governments. The quality of some cadres and civil servants fails to meet the requirements(6)... Therefore, many social change, development issues have not been identified and taken into consideration as the subject of social management. Pressing social issues are quite common and tend to increase. In addition, the behaviours in society tend to be negative, and unexpected situations are becoming more and more common which leave serious social consequences. Meanwhile, the solutions are not timely and effective.

Reality has shown that the guidelines, laws, policies of the Party and State on social management have not really been “thoroughly grasped” in some party organizations, in the government, in political unions, social organizations, enterprises and social strata. Meanwhile, the response and criticism of party organizations, government, political unions, social organizations, enterprises and social strata towards the Party’s guidelines, policies and laws are still rather limited. In addition, for different reasons, international standards, scientific achievements related to social management in the world have not been properly accounted for or applied in a timely and effective manner.

Thus, social managment in Vietnam should be based on the principles, levels, and modern social management tools. Managing society well means contribution to ensuring the direction and success of the goal to build and develop the country that has been identified by our Party and people: rich people, strong country, fair, democratic, and civilized society.


(1), (2), (4) Vu Manh Loi: Discussion on Model of Social Development and Social Development Management in Vietnam, Sociological Review, Edition 4-2012.

(3) Doan Minh Huan: Social Development Management, Implementation of Social Progress and Equality under the Spirit of the 12th Party Congress, Electronic Communist Review, http://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn, 2016.

(5) Le Ngoc Hung: Educational Sociology, Publishing House of Vietnam National University, Hanoi, 2009, p.219.

(6) Dang Nguyen Anh et al.: Social Change in Vietnam: Traditional and Modern, Social Sciences Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.528.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Tat Giap

Dr. Do Van Quan

Institute of Sociology,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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