Assess the relationship between sociology and social policy (33 marks)
Social policy is generally thought of as tackling ‘social problems’, especially the welfare of the population. In order to understand this relationship, sociologists distinguish between social problems and sociological problems. According to Worsley, a social problem is some piece of social behaviour that causes public friction and/or private misery and calls for collective action to solve it. For example, poverty, educational under-achievement, juvenile delinquency and divorce may all be seen as social problems by members of society, and governments may be called upon to produce policies to tackle them. Worsley also said that a sociological problem id and pattern of relationships that calls for explanation. This might be something that society regards as a social problem, for example, why some people are poor, commit crime, or fail in school. It can also include behaviour that society doesn’t normally regard as a problem, for example, why people are prosperous and law-abiding, or succeed at school or remain happily married.
Most sociologists are interested in ‘normal’ behaviour and not just behaviour seen as a social problem. Simmel was interested in revealing the universal characteristics present in all social relationships, whether in an office, a family or a bus queue. Similarly historical studies of the social structure of the Roman Empire may have little relevance to today’s social problems. On the other hand, may sociologists are interested in solving social problems through their research. For example, sociologists who feel strongly about poverty or about inequalities in educational achievement have conducted research aimed at discovering solutions to the social problems. Many are employed directly by the government departments such as the Home Office or the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
However, even when sociologists do conduct research into social...
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