The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia

By Ian McAllister; Steve Dowrick et al. | Go to book overview

theoretical exploration in its own right. The early sociological contributions to the study of social policy in Australia came from political science, public administration, social history and social work. Since the 1980s, increasing interest in social policy has come from the field of economics and has revolved mainly around social expenditure and fiscal welfare. To a certain extent this trend has continued to this day. For this reason, much of the research and writing on social policy has been concerned with the study of particular government policies and specific programs, but not with the theoretical explorations of social policy as a field in sociology comparable to, say, social class, religion, the family, or social deviance. In more recent years, significant sociological research and writing on social policy has come from sociologists working in the schools of social work and welfare studies, and some of these have been mentioned in this chapter. This has been a valuable trend and we can only hope that it will continue.

The other reason that sociological research and writing on social policy has not contributed volumes of theoretical explorations has been two periods of significant change in social policy at the federal level, which the sociologists took some time to 'digest' and explore the social significance of. The first of these was the period of the Whitlam Labor government, 1972 to 1975, which introduced philosophical concepts of social democracy that were rather 'foreign' to Australian social-policy lexicon. Concepts such as participation, social planning, regionalisation and community development were new, and in the Opposition as well as in the printed media they were criticised as 'fanciful ideas encouraging fiscal profligacy'. Sociologists were rather tardy in engaging to study the social and political significance of these ideas. By the time some theoretical writing on these issues appeared in print (some of these have been noted in this chapter), the concept had disappeared from government policy, and the writing that examined these issues became a writing of social history.

The other period that has faced a similar problem in social-policy research and writing is that which started in 1996, with the election of the conservative Coalition in Canberra. With some exceptions, most writers on social policy and social welfare who contribute articles (there have not been many books on these topics since 1996) keep providing critique of social policy based on the notion that these policies do not meet the criteria of 'the welfare state'. What seems to be difficult for these researchers and writers to accept is the reality of a radical philosophical and ideological change that has taken place in the policies of the conservative Coalition in Canberra. The flawed assumption in such critique is that the government is failing, or not doing well enough, to be doing what it should be doing in social-welfare policy. What such critique fails to see is the reality of radical philosophical and ideological change in the social policy of the current government, which enables the government to achieve the objectives it wants to achieve. In both these periods, Ossowski's observation quoted at the start of the chapter appears to be very apposite.


References

Australia and New Zealand Journal of Sociology. 1980. (Special issue Symposium on the Sociology of the Welfare state) 16(3).

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The Cambridge Handbook of the Social Sciences in Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Contributors x
  • Preface and Acknowledgements xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • References 13
  • Part 1 - Economics 15
  • Chapter 1 - Privatisation 17
  • References 27
  • Chapter 2 - Competition Policy and Regulation 31
  • References 40
  • Chapter 3 - Economics and the Environment 45
  • References 57
  • Chapter 4 - Health Economics 60
  • References 70
  • Chapter 5 - Immigration 74
  • References 87
  • Chapter 6 - Labour Market and Industrial Relations 94
  • References 113
  • Chapter 7 - Income Distribution and Redistribution 118
  • References 134
  • Chapter 8 - Taxation 138
  • References 148
  • Chapter 9 - Innovation 153
  • References 165
  • Chapter 10 - International Trade and Industry Policies 168
  • References 180
  • Chapter 11 - The Macro Economy 186
  • Notes 199
  • References 200
  • Chapter 12 - Money and Banking 203
  • References 216
  • Part 2 - Political Science 221
  • Chapter 13 - Political Theory 223
  • References 231
  • Chapter 14 - Federalism and the Constitution 234
  • References 246
  • Chapter 15 - Legislative Institutions 249
  • References 260
  • Chapter 16 - Political Parties and Electoral Behaviour 266
  • References 283
  • Chapter 17 - Electoral Systems 287
  • References 302
  • Chapter 18 - Gender Politics 305
  • References 319
  • Chapter 19 - Interest Groups and Social Movements 323
  • References 339
  • Chapter 20 - Environmental Policy and Politics 345
  • References 355
  • Chapter 21 - International Relations 358
  • Notes 368
  • References 369
  • Chapter 22 - Political Economy 374
  • References 391
  • Chapter 23 - Public Policy and Public Administration 406
  • References 422
  • Part 3 - Sociology 431
  • Chapter 24 - Patterns of Social Inequality 433
  • References 457
  • Chapter 25 - Families and Households 462
  • References 477
  • Chapter 26 - Gender Perspectives 480
  • References 493
  • Chapter 27 - Work and Employment 499
  • Notes 511
  • References 512
  • Chapter 28 - Crime and Deviance 518
  • References 531
  • Chapter 29 - Health and Illness 536
  • References 552
  • Chapter 30 - Population 554
  • References 569
  • Chapter 31 - Race, Ethnicity and Immigration 573
  • Notes 585
  • References 586
  • Chapter 32 - Urban and Regional Sociology 590
  • Reference 598
  • Chapter 33 - Rural Sociology 604
  • Reference 619
  • Chapter 34 - Religion and Spirituality 626
  • Reference 632
  • Chapter 35 - Cultural Studies, Australian Studies and Cultural Sociology 638
  • References 651
  • Chapter 36 - Sociological Theory 654
  • References 664
  • Chapter 37 - Social Policy and Social Welfare 666
  • References 674
  • Author Index 678
  • Subject Index 696
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