Relationship between sociology and social policy (Nine ways sociology…
Relationship between sociology and social policy
Sociology, social policy and social problems
Social policy - the packages of plans and actions adopted by national and local government or various voluntary agencies to solve social problems.
Social problem - something that is seen as being harmful to society in some way, and needs something to sort it out.
(1978) - social problems cause 'public friction' that needs some collective action to solve it.
Nine ways sociology contributes to social policy
Providing an awareness of cultural differences
Providing self-awareness and understanding
Providing a theoretical framework
Providing practical professional knowledge
Identifying social problems
Providing the evidence
Identifying the unintended consequences of policies
Assessing the results
Influences on social policy-making
Social policy formation is muck more complex than looking at evidence provided by sociologists.
Governments can ignore evidence when they form policy, or only use research selectively to justify social policies which are driven by their political ideologies.
Policy advice to political parties and governments is provided by research institutes ('think tanks') which are broadly politically aligned.
E.g. Centre for Social Justice and Policy Exchange = Conservative Party.
Such think tanks will provide evidence that supports the ideological and political preferences of governments and political parties
(1986) - what becomes defined as a social problem depends on the individuals or groups being able to whip up enough support among those with power to make their concerns an issue for public debate and action.
Sociological theories and social policy
Functionalist, New Right, and Feminist research is a means of changing society through social policy
Positivist methodology favoured by governments
Conflict theories of all kind emphasise research that promotes social policies that reduce social inequality.
Should sociologists be involved in social policy research?
Founding fathers, Comte, Durkheim and Marx saw he study of the social world as a means of improving society.
Issue of funding from government and other public bodies
Policy making is a complex process, if sociologists don't involve themselves in social policy research, then social policy will be even more vulnerable to manipulation by powerful groups with particular interests of their own to promote
Produce findings that oppose the interests of the government
Sociology should not be involved in social policy research
Sociology provides only interpretations of the world, rather than universal truths
Bauman & May (2001)
- all sociology does is to provide a commentary on social life, but it does not possess a monopoly of wisdom in understanding society, not is its interpretation the only one.
Any successful use of sociological evidence in influencing social policy would simply be imposing their view of reality on others
Sociologys role is to contribute, not to the formation of social policy, but to social understanding and tolerance by enabling people to understand more about themselves and others and the social context of their personal lives and those of others