A social policy is a plan or action of government agencies which aim to improve or reform society. • Sociologists are divided as to whether there should be a relationship between sociology and government social policy• 1.
One group argues that sociology should be ‘applied’; it should be used to directly influence government to bring about reforms. 2.
Another group argues that sociological insights should be used to radically change the political and economic system – they should not be used for reform. 3.
And,• Finally, there are those who argue that the point of sociology is that it is an academic subject and has no use-value other than to increase self knowledge.
• Anthony Giddens According to him, there are 4 practical benefits of studying sociology:1. Understanding society2. Awareness of cultural difference3. Increase in self knowledge4. Assessment of government policies • Understanding Society Sociological understanding can take two forms:• Factual – providing us with the ‘facts’ which allow us to form a theory• Theoretical – providing us with an explanation as to why something is happening • An example of the way in which factual andtheoretical understandings of society can positivelyinfluence social policy is the sociologicalstudy of poverty. • Poverty in The UK (1979)• Peter Townsend’s study showed that poverty remained a huge, though hidden, problem in the UK.• This was despite the creation of the welfare state.• Through his fact gathering he made poverty socially and politically visible again • ContinuedHe provided atheoretical analysisof this problem bydevising sophisticatedways of measuring it:he devised the‘relative deprivationmodel’. • Definition• He argued that poverty can only properly be understood in terms of what people normally expect to have in a society – even if this was well above the level of destitution.• This new way of defining poverty allowed for a whole new insight into the nature of poverty in affluent societies....
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