T.H. Marshall’s ‘Social Policy’ (1965), can be said to be a clear contribution to this field. In this work he has suggest
ed that “the task of social policy is to determine the order or priority of claims against the national product”.
Sociology has been helpful in making social policy a success. During the 19th century in France due to the writings of Comte, Saint and Simon and encyclopaedists, it was believed that sociology as a “positive science could establish universal laws of social behaviour by reference to which all disputes about social policy might be settled”.
But today it is well known that the sociological laws have their own limitations. Sociology cannot arbitrate all social disputes and settle all social controversies. In spite of this, no one can underestimate the practical help rendered by sociology to social policy.
1. Sociology has provided much exact and reliable information upon those matters of social policy with which politicians, administrators, and social reformers have to deal. The earliest sociological researches particularly in U.K. were the surveys of poverty and other problems of urban life.
The surveys particularly those of Booth and Rowntru (1901) enabled to indicate some of the causes of extreme poverty, the lack of regular employment, and the accidents or illness suffered by wage- earners. These and similar researches have influenced social policy a great deal.
2. In a number of other fields sociologists have provided useful data for the formulation of rational social policies. Example: population studies, studies of social mobility, etc. Studies of social mobility, for instance, reveal the extent and forms of mobility in different societies. It also shows connections between mobility and such factors as family size, educational opportunity, and occupational structure.
3. “The contribution of descriptive sociology or sociological researches should not be limited to providing information which is useful at the stage of formulating and introducing new social policies; it is equally important in evaluating the operation and achievements of these policies.
4. Social sciences have begun to influence social policy in another way. They are also giving training to those who are concerned with the formation and execution of social policy. Thus sociology is giving training to social workers, industrial managers, personnel officers, teachers, and public officials responsible for the administration of social welfare services or of publicly owned enterprises.
5. It should be noted that not all social issues and policies are not without controversies. But where there is no agreement, sociologists can make a practical contribution by clarifying the points of controversy. It can do so by viewing alternative social policies in relation to the structure of society as a whole. Sociology attempts “to grasp every specific problem in its whole social context, and to conceive the alternative social policies which affect the entire life of society”. -Bottomore.
6. “Sociology provides a framework of concepts and a basis of exact knowledge, for the intelligent discussion of political issues”. An example relating to educational policy may be considered here.
As far as education is concerned, the recent sociological investigations show the connections between social class origin, educational opportunity, and achievement. An educational policy with an aim to establish equality of opportunity in education has to be pursued. Then, it is necessary to use the results of sociological research which show the sources and mechanisms of inequality.
7. Since the writings of sociologists are often read by the members of the industrial societies, a sociologist, more than a social anthropologist, often arouses, and expects to arouse, some response in some of the people he is studying and this influences his study.
The practical influence of sociology is quite wider. In addition to organisations and interested parties, even a larger section of the population may be influenced, through the media of mass communication about such problems in a more rational and dispassionate and objective way and to reject irrational opinions and policies. In this way, sociology has been successful in some extent to reducing racial prejudice and discrimination.
“In these various ways—by the exact description of social problems, the search for causes and remedies, the training of social workers and administrators, the education of public opinion, the revelation of inequalities and privileges and of the political controversies to which they give rise, sociology has in fact contributed to the realisation of the ideal which was formulated…. the participation of all men in the control of their conditions of life, a self-directing humanity”-Bottomore.