University of Oxford

Social policy in Zambia: social theory another key to social workers

Questions revolving around the meeting of human basic needs and the strategic planning of social services for effective national social development carry different notations from one social context to another. Social policy has the potential to act as a spring bold for tackling the present state of extreme poverty, national destitution and general deprivation in Zambia. But such potential needs to be supported by knowledge on social theory. Social theory is not only essential but pivotal to the process of economic and social development. In this paper the relationship between social policy and social theory has being discussed. The heart of the subject under discussion, hinges on the fact that social theory is an explanation to a social problem and social Policy is a tool that solves the problem at hand.

Social policy like most phenomena in the social world, it’s a subject to a variety of definitions and interpretations, partly due to the fact that, social reality is never perceived through the same lenses, and partly because proponents operational sing the concept come from different school of thought. Social Policy has main definitions (Latrids, 1994), and is shaped by various forces.

Social Policy is a system of interrelated principles of courses of action which improves the quality of life. Social policy can be perceived as a tool or human action to prevent and solve social problems in the society. In other ways social policy is a deliberate action adopted by the society to improve the living standards of people in the world. For example, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, health, gender imbalances/ inequality and HIV/AIDS. In view of the stated problems above, social practitioners develop up strategies as instruments of social change.

Ndangwa Noyoo (2000), “Social policy aims to ameliorate social ills through systematic and scientific procedures. It is worth of note that, Social policy has two related characteristics, first is that, social policy does not operate in a vacuum. In view of this, social policy gives us understanding that, it’s a deliberate way of providing social services and preventing social problems in the society.” Social Policy cannot flourish in an environment where good governance is missing. A good government is an essential conduit for translating social policies into better living conditions for citizens.”

However, this is not the case with developing countries like, Zambia, social policies in Zambia is a crucial bearing in mind that this nation the nation is faced with major obstacles of poverty, scarcity of resources, deprivation of general squalor. In Zambia politicians are part of the team that have brought present misery, in that they have not pursued good governance and have not exhibited quality leadership. Furthermore, many social and economic propagated by Zambia politicians have in many instances impacted negatively on the Zambian populace. To make matters worse, Zambians hsve had to contend with a crop of politicians whose primary motive seems to resolve around self enrichment at the expense of the country social and economic development in Zambia.

Having, discussed social policy, we can now define social theory and then link the relationship between the two . Social theory is the use of theoretical frameworks to study and interpret social structures and phenomena within a particular school of thought (Harrington Austin 2005). An essential tool used by scholars in the analysis of society, social theories are interdisciplinary, drawing ideas from and contributing to such disciplines as anthropology, economics, history, human geography, literary theory, mass communications, philosophy, sociology, and theology.

The concept that social theory may supersede certain aspects of the natural sciences is called the social construction of reality. Social theory takes knowledge, the manner in which we acquire knowledge, and the institutions by which knowledge is reified and disseminated among a human collectivity to be socially constructed. In effect, the laws of nature can only be derived using social tools within a social context. According to social theory, the understanding of natural phenomena is predicated on the understanding of social phenomena, as the interpretation of natural phenomena is a social activity.

This interpretation of the natural sciences leads to some deeper epistemological questions. By questioning the methods by which we deem knowledge to be "objective," we necessarily put into question any scientific knowledge whatsoever. Social theory does not exist in mutual exclusion to the natural sciences; one is often complementary to the other. Rather, social theory calls for natural scientists to examine their methodologies with a critical eye by situating said methodologies within a social context.

Almost all good research is guided by theory. Selecting or creating appropriate theory for use in examining an issue is thus an important skill for any researcher. Important distinctions: a theoretical orientation (or paradigm) is a worldview, the lens through which one organizes experience (i.e. thinking of human interaction in terms of power or exchange); a theory is an attempt to explain and predict behavior in particular contexts. A theoretical orientation cannot be proven or disproven.

Social theory is an explanation to the causal of problems in the society such as poverty, unemployment, child abuse, HIV/AIDS and gender based violence.  The difference between the two is in that, social policy is a tool or instrument used in solving these social problems. For example, Women and youth are among the most vulnerable groups in the Zambian society, mainly because traditions and customs to a large degree do not cater for their needs at all. National Youth Policy and National  promotes, several women and youth associations, who work towards including these groups in the decision making process and establish gender equality. Young people and women are trained in decision-making, leadership skills, human rights and advocacy and thus empowered to take charge of their lives. Many of the women and youths engage in practical skills training, helping these groups to improve their livelihood and develop economic independence. At national policy level, Young Women’s Christian Association are actively advocating for women’s rights.

The other relationship between the two is in that; social theory is a body of knowledge that facilitates social policy to be implemented in context of problem solving. The concept that social theory may supersede certain aspects of the natural sciences is called the social construction of reality.  Bell David (2008:24) notes that, “Social theory takes knowledge, the manner in which we acquire knowledge, and the institutions by which knowledge is reified and disseminated among a human collectivity to be socially constructed. In effect, the laws of nature can only be derived using social tools within a social context.” According to social theory, the understanding of natural phenomena is predicated on the understanding of social phenomena, as the interpretation of natural phenomena is a social activity.In another school of thought, Berger peter etal(1966) adds that ” Social Policy is also distinct as an academic field which focuses on the systematic evaluation of societies’ responses to social need.”

Social theory relates well with social policy in that, in that social policy requires one to have knowledge on the problem at hand, if the problem has to be sorted out. For example, poverty is one of the top most social problems that has preoccupied social workers minds in Zambia, effective and the most efficient way is not about resources needed to fight it, but rather depends on the existing social policy frame work in line with the poverty key areas in Zambia. Bergula beech (2005) writes that, “Almost all good research is guided by theory. Selecting or creating appropriate theory for use in examining an issue is thus an important skill for any researcher.”

 Important distinctions: a theoretical orientation (or paradigm) is a worldview, the lens through which one organizes experience (i.e. thinking of human interaction in terms of power or exchange); a theory is an attempt to explain and predict behavior in particular contexts. A theoretical orientation cannot be proven or disproven; a theory can. Having a theoretical orientation that sees the world in terms of power and control, I could create a theory about violent human behavior which includes specific causal statements (e.g. being the victim of physical abuse leads to psychological problems). This could lead to a hypothesis (prediction) about what I expect to see in a particular sample, e.g. “a battered child will grow up to be shy or violent.” I can then test my hypothesis by looking to see if it is consistent with data in the real world. I might, for instance, review hospital records to find children who were abused, then track them down and administer a personality test to see if they show signs of being violent or shy. The selection of an appropriate (i.e. useful) theoretical orientation within which to develop a potentially helpful theory is the bedrock of social science and in this regard is referred to as social policy (Bell, David (2008).

Conclusion

Social theory and Social Policy is not only essential but pivotal to the process of economic and social development.  Given the fore going examinations, the call for strategies that can raise the quality of lives of people in the society. It can be therefore said that social theory is an explanation to a social problem and social theory is a tool that solves the problem at hand. The two sociological concept are important in that, social worker practioners can not solve or prevent the arising of the problem, if its not well interpreted in context with the problem at hand. In another school of thought, one can know the problem area of a particular phenomenon in the society, but without policy strategies no social and economical realization of human development can be achieved.

REFERENCES

  1. Bell, David (2008). Constructing Social Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  2. Berberoglu, Berch (2005). An Introduction to Classical and Contemporary Social Theory: A Critical Perspective, Third Edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  3. Berger, Peter; Luckmann, Thomas (1966). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City NY: Anchor Books.
  4. Harrington, Austin (2005). Modern Social Theory: An Introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  5. Latrids, (1994) Social Policy Institutional Context of Social Development, Lusaka, Multimedia Publishers, Zambia.
  6. Ndangwa Noyoo (2000) Social Welfare in Zambia, Lusaka, Multimedia, Zambia.

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