Monday, October 18, 2004

Social policy

Social policy, by its own definition, implies both 'action' and 'reflection' - intervention and research, knowledge and authority. But society is not a passive object of interest, to be studied and improved. The act of producing and disseminating knowledge of 'the social' actively shapes the social. This is not just by shaping our perceptions thereof, but in fact by altering and challenging attitudes, reinforcing preconceptions, initiating debates, and also in changing behaviours and attitudes in marginal but meaningful ways. Simultaneouosly, 'society', 'nationhood', 'identity', 'risk' and 'problems' all come into view in new ways. In addressing social problems, social policy also creates and recreates them - by altering our understandings and by shaping the real effects of political power and economic distribution and by shifting attitudes and influencing choices. By addressing one perceived inequity, policy creates new ones.

Social Policy thus assists in the production, the reproduction and the very history (or evolution) of the social and all its attendant problems or obstacles to people's happiness.

The production of statistics for social indicators and correlates that may be described as 'factors' (producers) of risk or resilience of subjects is a political technique for bringing the social into view, and for problematizing and forming it as a legitimate object of governmental authority.


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