Social policies are areas of policy usually within a governmental or political setting. It can refer to guidelines, principles, legislation and activities that affect human welfare.
Sociology has been greatly linked to the creation of social policy, even more so in recent years. For example, the influence of sociology led to the creation of the concept of marketisation within the school system in the early 1990’s by New Labour and the current introduction of the reduction in Tuition Fees, by Conservative. There is an ever increasing link between these two, which greatly influences politics and how individuals within society live.
Social policies are generally introduced in the belief that they will in improve society by tackling social problems. However, some perspectives, such as the Marxists and Feminists, believe that social policy is not just about improving the welfare of citizens. They believe that the idea of social policy is more about social control than aiding individuals.
Policies are introduced by governments that act upon information given to them by sociologists, asking the question of whether it is correct for sociologists to be able to influence policies, or whether they should be objective and just provide information for the government to act upon. Also we must consider the limitations on sociologist trying to influence social policy that not all studies which are done are taken into account by the government, as they may be seen as irrelevant.
The Functionalists such as Durkheim believe that sociology should be involved in politics to provide information and be scientific about which information is used. However, while they claim to be objective, many do state that they should influence policies, such as those supporting the nuclear family, meaning they are against policies allowing civil partnerships, support for single parent families, and child benefits. They are also for educational policies that allow for the bond of society and to represent cultural values, this is done as it represents the values, norms, beliefs and goals. This is done as Durkheim suggests this represents the bonding of individuals in society creating social cohesion. However, by claiming to be objective but also wanting to be subjective in certain areas, Functionalists have drawn criticism for having a double standard. They are also criticised for being in power but not utilising the power they hold for the better. This criticism comes from Marxists and Feminists, who state that they should try and change the existing power structures, ideology and patriarchy. However, the Functionalists defend themselves by stating that the Political system provides a function in society, and they must therefore aide it in as many ways as possible.
On the other hand Marxists such as Marx believe that almost all social policies that are introduced are in some way ideological and benefit the ruling class, no matter what area of society they affect. They believe that the government masks what is really going on with and is never truthful of why they are introducing each of the policies. The Marxists believe that policies that look good, such as education or health, are in fact bad for society, as the ruling class are ensuring that their workers are fit to work and are educated enough to compete on a global market. They state that policies eliminate social problems but real and truly they make a problem better or more manageable without actually solving the problem itself. For example, governments state that they have reduced the levels of poverty to almost zero, when in actual fact all they have done is get rid of the worst of it and have ignored the relative depravation of the majority of society. Governments do this to try and stop major social changes or possible retaliations by workers. Therefore, Marxists believe that policies all benefit the ruling class and only large scale reforms