What is Applied Sociology?
‘Applied Sociology’ is concerned with that part of sociological knowledge which is put to human use and human betterment. In fact, there is a controversy regarding the role being played by sociology in contributing practically to human betterment.
There are some sociologists who advocated that sociology being a science should study only the society ‘as it is’ and not “as it ought to be”. It should not pronounce any judgements or suggest any solution for solving those problems.
Sociologists should never determine questions of public policy and should not recommend legislations, what laws should be passed or repealed – – they have argued. But majority of the sociologists do not agree with this point of view.
In their opinion all social sciences are light bearing as well as fruit bearing sciences and it is quite justifiable for them to suggest ways and means to solve social problems and improve society. The aim of social sciences is and ought to be human betterment and applied sociology is concerned with human betterment.
Professor Davis observes, “We want to build the society for the better. There are certain citizens who may be contented and do not want to change but we must be careful not to give them undue weight. So long as there are people who feel that they are not receiving justice or fairplay to that extent, society needs reconstruction. It is the function of applied sociology to reconstruct that society.
The objective is that in free society — (1) there should be variety of thinking, (2) equality of opportunity by eliminating inequalities — economic and educational, (3) there is no exploitation of special privileges by a particular group, and (4) social order in which social intelligence, social efficiency and voluntary co-operation produce the maximum good”.
Professor Ford remarks, “the practical or ‘applied sociology’ may be designated as “applied social ethics” or “social policy”. And the study of adaptation of social method of the achievement of moral purpose may be termed as applied social ethics”. Gillin and Gillin have pointed out, “Some of the earliest sociologists ignored the pathological aspects of human association……………. those who are interested in studying society as a dynamic rather than as a static phenomenon, are convinced that social pathology is as much a part of sociology as medical pathology is a part of scientific medicine”.
Thus, it is clear that sociology has two parts, (1) theoretical sociology, and (2) practical sociology. Practical sociology itself is applied sociology. This second part is concerned with the getting of information upon problems of social experience and finding methods for their amelioration and, if possible, their solution.
Applied sociology is the search for ways of using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. A sociologist making a study of “the social structure of a slum neighbourhood” is working as a pure scientist or theoretical sociologist. If this study is followed by a study of “how to prevent delinquency in a slum neighbourhood”— he would be acting as an applied sociologist also. Some people consider sociology as an entirely ‘applied science’ trying to solve problems, while many consider it is both.
Practical applications of sociological knowledge are not always appreciated by all. Only gradually, the services and advices of sociologists are sought. Some sociologists are employed by business corporations, government bureaus, hospitals, city municipal bodies, big factories, social welfare agencies, and sometimes in administration.
They are engaged in planning, conducting community acting programmes, advising on public relations, employee relations, working on human relations and problems of many sorts. Sociologists are often consulted by legislative committees while planning new legislations. But the private citizens very rarely take decisions on the basis of knowledge supplied by sociologists.
On many social questions such as—the causes and treatment of crime and delinquency, drug and alcohol addiction, sex offences, the causes and consequences of racial discrimination, or the adjustment of the family to a changing society, etc.—there is considerable scientific sociological knowledge.
Applied Sociology and Social Work:
‘Applied sociology’ and ‘social work’ are not one and the same. Though sometimes these two terms are often used synonymously. The scope of both is in some sense, the same; but “in social work more emphasis is laid on rendering assistance through methods like social case-work, group work and community organisation”. Further, applied sociology is treated as a branch of sociology also. On the contrary, social work is considered to be a profession.
Scope of Applied Sociology:
According to G.R. Madan, the main task of applied sociology is to deal with social problems. From the point of view of applied sociology, social problems are divided into two categories that is— (i) problems of social disorganisation or social rehabilitation, and (ii) problems of social reconstruction. The first category includes problems of deviants, defectives and dependants, e.g. criminals, delinquents, orphans, mentally defectives, ills, blinds, etc. For the problems of this kind, measures are needed to cope with the evil. They are generally curative or rehabilitative in character.
For example, something has to be done to help the poor, to educate the defectives, to reform the criminals, to prevent poverty, defectiveness and crime. In the second category such things as child welfare, women welfare, youth welfare, labour welfare, housing welfare, etc. are included.
Here the preventive and constructive methods are more useful. Example: Education of the children is looked into so that they would not turn out to be either as child beggars or juvenile delinquents; but would be enabled to lead a normal life. Welfare of women is promoted so that they would not be either exploited or neglected.
According to Groves and Moore, applied sociology would include problems of poverty, crime, immigration, race, the family, the social hygiene, mental defects, housing, public opinion, and the organisations and practices of modem philanthropy.
Role of a Sociologist in Applied Sociology:
An applied sociologist has been playing a vital role so as to fulfil four main tasks:
(i) He conducts scientific researches in various fields of human social life about which the existing knowledge is either scanty or erroneous,
(ii) He tries to correct popular nonsense especially with regard to issues and problems such as — racial conflicts, communal tensions and riots, the myth of innate intelligence and inborn superiority of races, minorities, religious conversions, etc.
(iii) He tries to make sociological predictions.
(1) would the suppression of obscene literature help to reduce sex crimes and sex immorality? (Prediction: ‘No’).
(2) would low birth-rates and small family norm increase marital happiness? (Prediction ‘Yes’)
(iv) He works as a policy consultant. An applied sociologist provides valuable suggestions to bodies with legislative power in framing suitable social policies. Sociological predictions can also help to estimate the probable effects of a social policy. Hence they can contribute to the selection of policies which achieve the intended purposes.