Sociological Perspectives on ‘Renting a Womb’  

Kim Kardashian and Kayne West are apparently expecting a fourth child, employing a surrogate mother to carry their fertilised eggs. This will be the second surrogate child, following the birth of their first surrogate child, ‘Chicago’, born in January 2018.

Paying someone to be a surrogate mother, or ‘renting a womb’ is legal in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, surrogacy is legal, but parents are only allowed to pay the surrogate expenses related to the pregnancy, rather than paying them a fee for actually carrying the child.

The reason Kim Kardashian and Kayne West have opted for surrogates recently is because Kim has a medical condition which means that becoming pregnant again carries a higher than usual risk of her dying, so this isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but an interesting ethical/ sociological question is whether or not paid for surrogacy should be legal in the U.K. (NB – there’s a chance that it will be, as the surrogacy law is currently under review.

This topic is clearly relevant to families and households and especially social policy, and it’s quite useful to use it to explore different Feminist perspectives on the family….

Liberal Feminism

From a liberal feminist point of view, renting a womb should be acceptable because it would enable career-women to avoid taking time off work to pregnancy and child birth, and thus prevent the kind of career-breaks which put them at a disadvantage to men.

In fact, as far as the couple hiring the surrogate are concerned, this puts them on an entirely equal footing in relation to the new baby, meaning that it would be practically possible for them to share maternity/ paternity leave equally, rather than it ‘making sense’ for the woman to carry on taking time off after she’s done so in order to give birth.

Paid for surrogacy also provides an economic opportunity for the surrogate mothers, an opportunity only available to women.

Marxist Feminism

From a marxist feminist point of view renting a womb is kind of paying women for their labour in one sense, however it’s a long way off providing women a wage for ‘traditionally women’s work’ within the family, such as child care and domestic labour.

Ultimately renting a womb does little to address economic inequality between men and women because it’s only available to wealthier couples, meanwhile on the supply side of the rent a womb industry the only women likely to enter into a surrogacy contract are those that are financially desperate, i.e. they have no other means to make money.

Radical Feminism

From a radical feminist perspective renting a womb does nothing to combat patriarchy more generally. If paid for surrogacy was made legal in the UK, the only consequence would be to give wealthy couples the freedom to pay poor women to carry their children for 9 months.

This does nothing to combat more serious issues such as violence against women.

In conclusion…

While it’s an interesting phenomenon, renting a womb, rather than just voluntary surrogacy, will probably do very little to further the goal of female empowerment. However, it will obviously be of benefit to potentially millions of couples (in the long term) who are unable to have children.

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£100 Million Extra to Combat Homelessness – Simply not Good Enough?

The British government recently announced an additional £100 million of funding to tackle chronic homelessness in Britain. Chronic homelessness means those sleeping rough on the streets, rather than much larger numbers of invisible homeless: consisting of people in temporary accommodation or sleeping on friends’ couches.

The additional funding will pay for a three pronged ‘attack’ on homelessness:

  • £50 million for houses to be built outside of London, for people currently ready to move on from hostels
  • £30 million for mental health support for those sleeping rough.
  • Further funding to help people move on from prison into secure accommodation.

There is also funding available to provide more information and support to help those on the streets navigate their way out of homelessness, as well as the promise of research into the nature and extent of LGBT homelessness, currently a very under-researched area.

How effective is this social policy likely to be in combating homelessness?

Probably highly ineffective…

  • That funding is over 10 years – to 2027. There are an estimated 4751 people currently sleeping rough on any given night. If you divide £100 million by that figure, and then by 10 (10 years), the government is only committing an additional £2000 per person per year to combating homelessness. This doesn’t sound like a huge amount of money compared to the cost of housing, for example.
  • We have to understand this ‘additional funding’ in the context of the wider Tory cuts since 2010 – which have been linked to the increase in homelessness this decade…. 169% increase since 2010.
  • Finally, this policy does nothing to combat the much more widespread problem of households living in temporary accommodation -of which there are nearly 80, 000, again a figure which has increased under the Tory government since 2010.

In Conclusion…..

Maybe this is more about creating some positive news for the government rather than it being any serious attempt at combating homelessness.. £100 million is nice round, easy soundbite type of figure, yet in the grand scheme of what’s needed to tackle social problems, it is almost certainly insufficient to make a real difference to a significant number of people.

Image Source

Homeless

 

 

Nudge Politics: a sociological analysis

‘nudge politics’ involves governments implementing small social policy measures to help people make the ‘right decisions’. This post considers some of the pros and cons of this type of social policy agenda.

It’s been 10 years since economist Richer Thaler and law professor Cass Sunstein published ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Hapiness‘.

Nudge book.jpgThe idea behind ‘Nudge’ was that by exploiting traits of ‘human nature’ such as our tendencies to put of making decisions, or to give into peer pressure, it was possible to ‘nudge’ people into making certain decisions.

10 years on, it seems that government all over the world have applied ‘nudge theory’ to achieve their desired outcome. They have managed to implement some relatively ‘small scale’ social policies and make huge savings at little cost to the public purse.

In the U.K. for example, David Cameron set up the Behavourial Insights Team (or Nudge Unit) which seems to have had some remarkable successes. For example:

  • Reminder letters telling people that most of their neighbours have already paid their taxes have boosted tax receipts. This was designed to appeal to the ‘heard instinct’.
  • The unit boosted tax returns from the top 1% (those owing more than £30K) from 39% to 47%. To do so they changed their punitive letter to one reminding them of the good paying taxes can do.
  • Sending encouraging text messages to pupils resitting GCSEs has boosted exam results. This appeals to the well-recognised fact that people respond better to praise.
  • Sending text messages to jobseekers reminding them of job interviews signed off with ‘good luck’ has reduced the number of missed interviews.

As with so many public-policy initiatives these days, the Behavourial Insights Team is set up as a private venture, and it now makes its money selling its ‘nudge policy’ ideas to government departments around the world.

The Limitations of Nudge Politics 

Methodologically speaking there are a at least three fairly standard problems:

Firstly, the UK’s nudge unit hasn’t been in place long enough to establish whether these are long-term, ’embedded success’.

Secondly, we don’t really know why ‘nudge actions’ work. The data suggests a correlation between small changes in how letters are worded and so on and behaviour, but we don’t really know the ‘why’ of what’s going on.

Thirdly, I’m fairly sure there aren’t that many controlled trials out there which have been done to really verify the success of some of these policies.

Theoretically there are also quite a few problems:

The book and the ‘team’ above both talk in terms of ‘nudging’ people into making the ‘right decisions’… but who decides what is right? This theory ignores questions of power.

It also could be used towards very negative ends… in fact I think we’ve already seen that with the whole Brexit and Trump votes….. I’m sure those campaigns used nudge theory to manipulate people’s voting outcomes. It doesn’t take a massive swing to alter political outcomes today after all!

Finally, I cannot see how you are going to be able to ‘nudge’ people into making drastic changes to save the planet for example: I can’t imagine the government changing the message on its next round of car tax renewal letters to include messages such as: ‘have you ever thought about giving up the car and just walking everywhere instead? If you did so, the planet might stand a chance of surviving!’.

Final thoughts: the age of the ‘nudge’?

I think this book and this type of ‘steering politics’ are very reflective of the age we live in. (The whole theory is kind of like a micro-version of Anthony Giddens’ ‘steering the juggernaut’ theory.) This is policy-set very much favoured to career politicians and bureaucrats who would rather focus on ‘pragmatic politics’. It’s kind of like what realism is to Marxism in criminology theory: not interested in the ‘big questions’.

I just cannot see how this kind of politics is going to help us move towards making the kind of drastic social changes that are probably going to be required to tackle the biggest problems of our times: global warming, militarism, inequality, refugees for example.

Relevance to A-level sociology

The most obvious relevance is to the social policy aspect of the theory and methods specification.

Find out more…

Image sources 

Nudge book cover

This post will also be published to the steem blockchain. 

Russell Brand’s Wedding Present for Harry and Meghan

A Windsor counsellor recently suggested that the homeless of Windsor should be cleared off the streets in time for Harry and Meghan’s wedding.

One person (probably among many others) that’s not happy about this is Russell Brand, who pointed out that yet again it’s the marginalised and powerless who are being made to suffer so that the elite can have a ‘jolly nice time’.

He outlines his views in this brief, 5 minute video clip:

One of this suggestions is that Slough Council should hand over one its buildings to SHOC ‘Slough Homeless Our Concern’, so at least there is some real, tangible, extra support being made available for the homeless in the area.

You can sign an online petition in support of the idea here>

Relevance to A level sociology

I thought this was a cheeky little example to highlight how the marginalised get treated in this country, also illustrates elements of the social construction of crime – in that ‘homelessness’ becomes more of a problem when the context (the impending wedding) approaches.

Also – here we have celebrity Russell Brand, a ‘moral entrepreneur’ spearheading a very specific, niche, social policy campaign (/suggested intervention) via his YouTube channel – there’s something very postmodern about all of this…

Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition, Examples and Evaluation

Environmental Crime Prevention strategies include formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating. They emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.

Examples, some of which are dealt with below, include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

These strategies are associated with Right Realism and are based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – the idea signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Zero Tolerance Policing

zero tolerance policing

Zero Tolerance Policing involves the police strictly enforcing every facet of law, including paying particular attention to minor activities such as littering, begging, graffiti and other forms of antisocial behaviour. It actually involves giving the police less freedom to use discretion – under Zero Tolerance policy, the police are obliged to hand out strict penalties for criminal activity.

The best known example of Zero Tolerance Policy was its adoption in New York City in 1994. At that time, the city was in the grip of a crack-cocaine epidemic and suffered high levels of antisocial and violent crime. Within a few years of Zero Tolerance, however, crime had dropped from between 30 – 50%. For an overview of ZT in New York and criticisms see this video (and love the ‘tache). 

In the UK Zero-tolerance policing allegedly slashed crime in Liverpool, a city historically blighted by antisocial behaviour and violent assaults, following its introduction in 2005. Overall recorded crime fell by 25.7 per cent in the three years to 2008 with violent crime falling by 38%.

It was not only the likes of drug dealers and burglars who were targeted. Boys kicking footballs against an old lady’s fence, litterbugs and graffiti louts were also on the police’s radar, and twice a month hundreds of officers flooded the streets to hunt suspects who had jumped bail or those wanted for a particular kind of offence.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

ASBOs are one of the best known crime control methods in the UK – they’re probably best described as bring related to Zero Tolerance techniques – in that you can get an ASBO for antisocial rather than criminal behaviour, and go to jail if you breach it, thus they police minor acts of deviance, although they’re not a perfect fit as the police have little to do with imposing them – that’s down to the local magistrate.

ASBO

Antisocial Behaviour Orders were introduced in 1998 in order to correct minor acts of deviance which would not ordinarily warrant criminal prosecution. Anyone over the age of 10 can receive an Antisocial Behaviour Order, and about half of them have been handed out to 10-17 year olds  or’juveniles.

(In 2014 ASBOs were replaced by Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs), but more on those later.)

According to the gov.uk website ‘behaving antisocially includes:

  • drunken or threatening behaviour
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • playing loud music at night

Getting an ASBO means you won’t be allowed to do certain things, such as:

  • going to a particular place, eg your local town centre
  • spending time with people who are known as trouble-makers
  • drinking in the street’

25000 Antisocial Behaviour Orders were administered between the year of their introduction in 1999 and the end of 2013, but how effective were they at reducing and controlling deviant behaviour?

Some (relatively) famous case studies of recent ASBO recipients

In 2013 the so called ‘Naked Rambler‘ received an ASBO stipulating that he had to cover his genitalia and buttocks when he appeared in public, apart from in a changing room. The 53 year old was jailed for 11 months, after he defied the banning order.

naked rambler

In 2014 Jordan Horner, 20, a Muslim convert from northeast London was ordered to stop preaching in public,as part of a campaign for a sharia state in Britain.

muslim ASBO

 

Criticisms of Environmental Crime Prevention Strategies

  • Zero Tolerance Policing in New York resulted in a lot more people being arrested for possession of marijuana – 25 000 a year by 2012 (one every ten minutes) – some of those people lost their jobs or rental houses as a result (the human cost of Zero Tolerance)
  • ASBOs give people a criminal record for not actually doing anything criminal – You could (past tense!) get an ASBO for being loud, which isn’t in itself criminal, and then go to jail for breaching the ASBO – by being loud again.
  • Zero Tolerance methods are not necessary – As the video above points out, despite the claims of the right wing governments who implement them, crime has gone down in cities in the US and the UK without the widespread use of Zero Tolerance techniques. This excellent article points out that ZT was never adopted widely in the UK or the Netherlands but both countries have witnessed a decline in crime in recent years. The simple truth is that crime has been going down for other reasons, ZT policing has little to do with this.
  • It creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – ‘If police concentrate their patrols in a certain area and assume every young man they see is a potential or probable criminal, they will conduct more searches — and make more arrests. Which means a high percentage of young men in that neighborhood will have police records. Which, in turn, provides a statistical justification for continued hyper-aggressive police ­tactics.’ (It’s time to rethink ZTP).
  • It might be racist – the above two articles also deal with the fact that somewhere in the region of 85% of people dealt with under Zero Tolerance in New York were/ are black or Hispanic

 

Work in progress, to be updated….

Crime Prevention and Control Strategies

This summary sheet defines and gives examples of situational crime prevention, environmental crime prevention and social/ community crime prevention strategies

Situational Crime Prevention

  • Includes strategies which focus on the specific point at which potential victims and criminals come together, making it harder for the criminal to commit crime.

  • Examples include ‘target hardening’ – shutters, window locks, anti-climb paint and also CCTV and security guards. Also ‘designing out’ features which encourage criminality – e.g. sloping seats at bus stops.

  • Based on rational choice theory and Cohen and Felson’s ‘Routine Activities’ theory which state that much crime is opportunistic, and if you reduce the opportunities to commit crime, you reduce the crime rate.

  • Appealed to policy makers because target hardening is cheap and simple.

Evaluations of Situational Crime Prevention

  • The Port Authority Bus Terminal Building is an example where this worked.

  • Newburn (2013) points to an obvious link between improved car security measures and reduced car crime.

  • Ignores factors such as inequality and deprivation as causes of crime (Garland 2001).

  • Ignores the role of emotion and thrill as a cause of crime (Lyng 1990)

  • Only tackles opportunistic street crime – won’t work for DV, white collar crime, or state crime.

  • It creates divided ‘Fortress cities’ (Bauman).

  • It leads to crime displacement.

Environmental Crime Prevention

  • Includes formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating.

  • Emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.

  • Examples include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

  • Based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Evaluations of Environmental Crime Prevention

  • The New York ‘Zero Tolerance’ study suggests that zero tolerance policies work to reduce crime.

  • HOWEVER, Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics found that this correlation was coincidental – other factors were responsible for the decline in crime.

  • It is more expensive than situational crime prevention – it takes a lot of police to patrol an area and clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

  • Reiner (2015) argues that the police would be better deployed focusing on more serious crime hot spots rather than clamping down on minor forms of anti-social behaviour.

  • From an Interactionist perspective, giving more power to the police will just lead to more labelling and more criminal careers.

Social and Community Crime Prevention

  • Focus on individual offenders and the social context which encourages them to commit crime.

  • There are two broad approaches – Intervention, identifying groups and risk of committing crime and taking action to limit their offending, and Community – involving the local community in combating crime.

  • Farrington’s (1995) longitudinal research comparing offenders and non offenders found various ‘risk factors’ which correlated with crime – such as low education and parental conflict.

  • Intervention programmes based on the above have included pre-school programmes to help with attainment and parenting classes.

  • Examples of this working include the Perry School Project (USA) and the Troubled Families Initiative (UK).

Evaluations of social and community crime reduction

  • If done effectively, these are the most costly of all crime prevention measures.

  • HOWEVER, if done properly, community prevention measures can save hundreds of thousands of pounds, by ‘turning’ a potential criminal into an employed tax-payer.

  • Marxists argue that these policies may tackle deprivation but they do not tackle the underlying structural inequalities in the Capitalist system which are the root cause.

  • Such approaches target working class, inner city communities and do not tackle elite crime.

  • Michel Foucalt and David Garland interpret the these strategies as being about surveillance and control rather than real social change which prevents crime.

Sociological Perspectives applied to Social Policy

Social policy refers to the actions governments take in order to influence society, or to the actions opposition parties and ‘social movements’ (Marxism and Feminism) propose to do if they were to gain power.

The barriers to certain social policies getting implemented

  • Electoral popularity

  • Ideological preferences of governments

  • Globalisation

  • Cost/ Funding

Positivism applied to social policy

  • Sociologists should work with governments to uncover objective ‘causes’ of social problems such as crime/ suicide etc.

  • Examples: Durkheim’s study of Suicide

  • Evaluation: Consverative theory which supports the status quo

Social Democratic Perspectives applied to social policies

  • Agree with the above, and generally favour wealth redistribution

  • Peter Townsend’s work on Poverty leading to better welfare provision

  • Evaluation: Welfare breeds dependency

Neoliberal and New Right Perspectives applied to social policies

  • Believe the government should interfere less in social life

  • Believe in policies to encourage competition and are anti-welfare

  • Examples of policies supported: 1988 Education Act, Benefit cuts, Right Realism crime control.

  • Evaluation: all of the above perpetuate inequalities

Marxist perspectives applied to social policy

  • Policies tend to benefit elites by maintaining wealth inequalities and providing ideological control

  • Examples of Policies criticised: Private schools, 1988 education act, selective law enforcement

  • Evaluation: Many social democratic policies seem to benefitted the working classes

Feminist Perspectives applied to social policy

  • Lib Fem – working with governments to legislate for more equal opps

  • Examples of policies supported – equal pay acts, divorce act, maternity and paternity acts.

  • Radical Feminism argues more needs to be done to tackle Pornification and DV Post and Late modernism applied to global social policy – support all of the above, but more needs to be done.

  • Evaluation: enforcing radical feminist ideas means more interference in private lives

Postmodern Perspectives on social policy

  • Postmodernists generally not interested in social policy (but should be pro-diversity)

  • Examples of policies supported: 2010 Equality Act (possibly)

  • Evaluation: Bit of a cop-out!

Late Modern Perspectives on social policy

  • Late Modernists believe social policies need to adapt constantly to globalisation

  • Examples of policies responding to globalisation: New Labour and New Right education policies, numerous crime control policies.

  • Evaluation: Tend to assume policies are neutral responses to globalisation

Social Policy and The Family – Topic Overview

Families and Households – Topic 6 – Social Policy

Overview of the topic

You need to be able to assess a range of policies using three key perspectives

The New Right

New Labour

Feminism (Liberal and Radical)

Some of the policies you need to know about –

Changes to the Divorce law

Tax breaks for married couples

Maternity and paternity pay

Civil Partnerships

Sure Start – early years child care

Key ‘test yourself’ questions (basic knowledge)

Identify three social policies that might have led to increasing family diversity

Identify three social policies that have ‘extended childhood’ (links to last topic)

Essays

Assess the New Right’s perspective on the relationship between Social Policy and The Family (20)

Assess the view that the main function of laws and policies on families and households is to reproduce patriarchy (20)

Social Policy and Sociology Summary

Social Policy may be defined as actions the government carries out, or actions political parties propose to do,  in order to exert an influence over a specific area of social life, such as education, the family, or society more generally – such as policies concerning taxation and wealth distribution.

This posts consists of a summary of Sociological Perspectives on the relationship between Sociology and Social Policy – covering Positivism, Marxist, Feminist and New Right Perspectives.

  What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research? How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

 

Positivism/ Functionalism  

•           Sociologists should work with governments to uncover objective ‘causes’ of social problems such as crime/ suicide etc.

•           Do this using stats to find trends

•           Help to governments to formulate policies to improve society gradually

 

·         Governments claim to collect data about the social world in a ‘value free’

·         E.G. Office for National Statistics employs over 4000 people to collect and analyse data on everything from family trends (births/ marriages/ deaths are recorded) to crime statistics

·         The UK national census is also a good example (from 2011)

·         Governments use this data to make decisions about how many school places will be needed, how many prison places etc.

Marxism and others on the left! •           Sociology should target research to highlight a) the exploitation by the Bourgeois and b) the oppression of the working classes

·         Research includes looking at the relationship between social class and inequality in education

·         Research into the unfair criminal justice system

·         Research on the harms ‘Corporate elites’ do (Corporate Crimes and Tombs and Whyte)

·         The Spirit Level

 

·         THE UK GOVERNMENT DOES NOT LISTEN TO MARXISTS

·         Marxists argue that governments mainly ignore research done from a Marxist Agenda because governments typically consist of the upper middle classes.

·         UK education policy has allowed private education to continue

·         Looking at Crime Policy – the government does not adequately fund the Health and Safety Executive which prosecutes companies which breach health and safety law, neither does it adequately fund the Financial Services Authority, which prosecutes companies and individuals who engage in financial crimes

·         Finally, despite the findings of the spirit level, taxation policy has tended to favour wealthy individuals and Corporations since the Thatcher years in the early ‘80s Before the Tories came into power, there was a 90% rate of tax on earned income over —– – today the top rate of tax on earned income is 50% (on all income over £150 000).

Feminism ·         Research gender inequalities

·         Liberal Feminism traditionally focussed on achieving political and economic equality for women

·         Contemporary Feminism Focusses on –

·         Patriarchal ideology in the family

·         Domestic Violence

·         Beauty Myth

·         Sex trafficking

·         THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN FORCED TO LISTEN TO FEMINISM –

·         Policies promoting gender equality include

o   The vote (obviously) (1918 and 28)

o   The divorce act (1969)

o   The equal pay act (1972)

o   Rape in marriage made illegal (1991)

o   The Paternity Act (2011)

·         HOWEVER: The current government seems to want to reverse women’s rights –

o   70% of the government cuts fall on women

o   Prominent MPs such as Nadine Dories want to reduce the time limit for abortion, giving women less control over their bodies.

 

Interactionism ·         Research should be smaller scale and focus on micro level interactions

·         It should aim to achieve Verstehen

·         Traditionally focussed on process such as labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy

·         Also inspired research on Police racism and labelling

·         Interactionists such as Becker criticise the government as being THE Source of labels – people in government label people not like them as ‘problems’ thus The government doesn’t tend to use interactionist research – it’s too small scale to be of interest.

·         There are some exceptions

o   Research on the extent of police labelling – Prompted compulsory multiculturalism training in the police

o   Ditto for training school teachers and other ‘state workers’.

 

The New Right ·         Kind of like modern day Functionalism

·         Believe the government should interfere less in social life and especially family life

·         The exception to this is through being ‘tough on crime’

THE CURRENT UK GOVERNMENT IS THE NEW RIGHT (More or less) (as was the last one, and the one before that)

 

Examples of New Right policies include…

·         The 1988 Education Act

·         Zero Tolerance Policing

·         Taxing the rich less (increasing inequality)

·         And basically ignoring anything that Marxist or Feminist inspired research says about the harmful effects of inequality on women and the poor.

Sociological Perspectives on Social Policy

Social policy refers to the actions governments take in order to influence society, or to the actions opposition parties and ‘social movements’ (think Marxism and Feminism) propose to do if they were to gain power. This topic basically involves looking at perspectives on government policies

The Positivist view of Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

For both Functionalists and Positivists the role of the researcher is to provide the state with objective, value free data which can be used to uncover the root causes of social problems in society. Social Policy recommendations are seen as ‘cures’ to a whole range of social problems.

Durkheim and Comte (in the 18the and early 19th centuries) both believed that doing research was part of the Enlightenment project – to use science and reason to improve society. Durkheim, and later Parsons both believed that through using cross national and historical comparisons they had started to understand the ‘laws of social evolution’ and so could inform governments of what the appropriate policies were to manage social change. For example, one of the things Durkheim suggested, way before his time, was for governments to establish a meritocratic education system and abolish inherited wealth (yay!) as a way to foster a fairer society and ensure that the most talented people could rise to positions of power and influence in the newly industrialising Europe.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Governments claim to collect data about the social world in a ‘value free’

E.G. Office for National Statistics employs over 4000 people to collect and analyse data on everything from family trends (births/ marriages/ deaths are recorded) to crime statistics

The UK national census is also a good example (from 2011)

Governments use this data to make decisions about how many school places will be needed, how many prison places etc.

The Marxist view of Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

Marxists believe that Sociology should target research to highlight a) the exploitation by the Bourgeois and b) the oppression of the working classes

Marxist inspired research includes anything that involves looking at the relationship between social class and inequality in education, research into the unfair criminal justice system, research on the harms ‘Corporate elites’ do (Tombs and Whyte) and The Spirit Level

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Marxists argue that governments mainly ignore research done from a Marxist Agenda because governments typically consist of the upper middle classes.

Marxists argue that Social Policies generally protect the interests of the wealthy – and there are several examples that support this view –

Within Education – the existence of private schools allows the wealthy to get their children a better education – upper middle class children effectively get ‘hot- housed’ so they are more likely to get better A levels and end up in top-end universities when compared to those attending state schools.

Looking at Crime Policy – the government does not adequately fund the Health and Safety Executive which prosecutes companies which breach health and safety law, neither does it adequately fund the Financial Services Authority, which prosecutes companies and individuals who engage in financial crimes – this is despite the fact that (according to Jones 2008) that these crimes together do more economic harm to the economy than all street crime put together.

Finally – taxation policy has tended to favour wealthy individuals and Corporations since the Thatcher years in the early ‘80s (NB – New Labour are effectively the same as the Tories these days) – Before the Tories came into power, there was a 90% rate of tax on earned income over —– – today the top rate of tax on earned income is 50% (on all income over £150 000).

Marxists argue that because of the inherent bias in Social Policy, Sociologists should not aim to work with governments – Sociologists should identify with the ‘underdog’ and focus on ‘critical research’ (which, of course, will be self-funded) to help alert people to the injustices of the Capitalist system and assist in the inevitable revolutionary movement that will bring down the Capitalist system.

Feminism, Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

Feminists generally focus on researching gender inequalities

Liberal Feminism traditionally focussed on achieving political and economic equality for women

Contemporary Feminism focusses on issues of domestic violence, the Pornification of Culture and the Beauty Myth, sex trafficking and the persistence of inequalities in work and politics

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

SUCCESSIVE UK GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO LISTEN TO FEMINISM –

Policies promoting gender equality include

  • The vote (obviously) (1918 and 28)

  • The divorce act (1969)

  • The equal pay act (1972)

  • Rape in marriage made illegal (1991)

  • The Paternity Act (2011)

HOWEVER: The current government seems to want to reverse women’s rights –

  • 70% of the government cuts fall on women

  • Prominent MPs such as Nadine Dories want to reduce the time limit for abortion, giving women less control over their bodies.

Interactionism, Sociology and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

According to Interactionists, research should be smaller scale and focus on micro level interactions. It should aim to achieve Verstehen. Traditionally research has focussed on process such as labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy, often taking the side of underdog (the powerless in society) – a good example of which is Venkatesh’s sympathetic account of Crack dealers in Chicago.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

Interactionists such as Becker criticise the government as being THE Source of labels – people in government label people not like them as ‘problems’.

The government doesn’t tend to use interactionist research – It tends to be too critical and too supportive of deviants, and in any case it’s too small scale to be of interest.

However there are some exceptions –

o Research on the extent of police labelling – Prompted compulsory multiculturalism training in the police

o Ditto for training school teachers and other ‘state workers’.

The New Right and Social Policy

What is the purpose of Sociology/ What kind of things do they research?

The New Right believe that the state should have minimal involvement in society. In particular they opposed to using state provision of welfare to deal with social problems. In their view, state intervention in areas such as family life and education robs people of their freedom and undermines their sense of responsibility. This in turn leads to greater problems such as crime and delinquency.

One classic New Right Theory is Charles Murrays’ view of the underclass – Murray argues that overly generous welfare benefits and council housing have encouraged ‘perverse incentives’ and lead to the growth of over a million people in the UK who are now dependent on state hand-outs – This includes hundreds of thousands of lone mothers, abandoned by feckless, irresponsible fathers, all made possible because these people know that if they don’t take responsibility, the state will just pay for them.

The New Right point out that there is a very strong correlation between being long term unemployed and social problems such as binge drinking and crime.

How has the government/ political parties used data from this type of research?

THE CURRENT UK GOVERNMENT IS THE NEW RIGHT (as was the last one, and the one before that)

Breakdown Britain (2007) – A report by a Conservative think tank proposes a number of social policies designed to tackle these problems – such as

  • Cutting unemployment benefit to make it less attractive

  • Tax incentives for married rather than cohabiting couples as married families are more stable than cohabiting ones.

  • Marriage preparation and parenting classes where required.

In addition to the above, New Right thinking was responsible for ‘Right Realism’ and ‘Broken Windows’ theory – The only exception to their theory that the state should do less is that it should provide strong law and order – to help communities that suffer from low levels of social control and to clamp down heavily on those who break the law with Zero Tolerance Policing techniques.

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Social Policy and The Family