Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology.
Volume 3. No. 1 (January) 2006.
implementation and, correspondingly, the role of the social scientists including sociologists areyet to show signs of abatement in the concerned literature. Viewed against this background it isno surprise that this issue became the theme of the 85th Annual Meeting of the AmericanSociological Association in 1990. It was entitled “Sociology and the Public Agenda”. More than adecade later, in 2003, social policy (along with the issues of governance and mobilization)became the leading theme for the XXIX
All India Sociological Conference held at Udaipur inRajasthan.The relationship between the social sciences and the organizations (public and private)has been always less than satisfactory. In particular sociology is accumulating increasing deficitin the policy-making arena in view of the fact that it is yet to demonstrate its utility and relevanceto society either in the amelioration of societal and/or individual problems or in promotingsociety’s developmental goals. Sociologists, whether in India or elsewhere, are yet to convincethe government and other organizations that their expert knowledge and skill can be productivelyfed into the policy making process to deal with diverse social issues and problems, viz., rural andurban poverty, inequality, unemployment, housing, pollution control, crimes, education, familydisorganization, transportation, energy, urbanization, health care, displacement due todevelopment projects, and so on. To get an idea of the policy deficit, which sociology and other social sciences have accumulated, one needs only to have a cursory look at some of thepublications such as those by Lyons, Lynn Jr., and Scott and Shore.
The policy shortfall alsogrew because of the resistance offered by the sociologists themselves, those who oppose thepractical application of sociology on purely pragmatic grounds. They argue “it is good thatsociological research draws very little attention from policy-makers and the media because it bothinsulates the discipline from outside pressures to pursue certain research topics, particularlythose that are topical, and protects the discipline from being sanctioned by the state if theresearch does not support a particular political agenda or ideology.”
But this kind of rationale isself-defeating for longer-term interests of sociology. The reason is that, as Wilson arguescorrectly, “the moresociology is ignored by policy makers and the media, the less attention it receives as anacademic discipline and therefore the more removed it is from the decision-making arena, thefewer students it attracts, and the more difficulty it has in trying to obtain funding support from
L .M. Lyons,
Uneasy Partnership: Social Science and the Federal Government in the Twentieth Century
(New York:Russell Sage, 1969); L. Lynn Jr.,
Knowledge and Policy The Uncertain Connection
(Washington D.C: National Academyof Sciences, 1978); and R.A. Scott and A.M Shore,
Why Sociology Does not Apply: A Study of the Use of Sociology
(NewYork: Elsevier, 1979).
W.J. Wilson “Can Sociology Play a Greater Role in Shaping the National Agenda?” in W.J. Wilson,
Sociology and thePublic Agenda
(Newbury Park: Sage, 1993), p.6.