Assess the relationship between sociology and social policy
In order to understand the role of sociology in relation to social policy, it is important to firstly distinguish between social problems and sociological problems. According to Peter Worsley, a social problem is some piece of social behaviour that causes public friction and private misery and calls for collective action to solve it. According to Worsley, a sociological problem is “any pattern of relationships that calls for explanation.” In other words, it is any piece of behaviour that we wish to make sense of. However even when sociologists conduct research into social problems, there’s no guarantee that policy makers will study their findings, or that any solutions they propose will find their way into social policies. Many factors may affect whether or not sociological research succeeds in influencing policy. Some of these include electoral popularity, interest groups, globalisation and cost.
Different sociological perspectives hold different views of the nature of the state and their social policy it produces. As a result, each perspective tends to take a different view of the role of sociology in relation to social policy.
Early positivists such as Comte and Durkheim took the view that sociology was a science and would discover both the cause of social problems and scientifically based solutions to them. As such, their approach was part of the Enlightenment project to use science ad reason to improve society. Functionalists see society as based on value consensus and free from fundamental conflicts. Like positivists, they see the state as serving the interests of society as a whole producing and implementing rational social policies for the good of all. These policies help society run more smoothly. For both functionalists and positivists, the sociologists role to provide the state with objective, scientific information. By investigating social problems and discovering their causes,...