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Economics, Social Policy and Social Administration: The Interplay between Topics and Disciplines*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2009

Abstract

The article uses a distinction between topic and discipline to argue that social administration, like economics, is characterized by both, but that social administration has the special advantage, in treating the topic of social policy, of being multi-disciplinary. An account is presented of why economics is underrepresented among the disciplines of social administration, and three important contributory roles are outlined for economics to play in the development of social administration.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1981

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References

1 Williams, Alan, ‘One economist's view of social medicine’, Epidemiology and Community Health, 33 (1979), 37.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

2 Cahnman, W. J. and Schmitt, C. M., ‘The concept of social policy (Sozialpolitik)’, Journal of Social Policy, 8 (1979), 4759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 Titmuss, R. M., Social Policy: an Introduction, Allen and Unwin, London, 1974.Google Scholar

4 Ibid. pp. 30–1.

5 Titmuss, R. M., The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970.Google Scholar

6 See Edgeworth, F. Y., Mathematical Psychics, C. Kegan Paul, London, 1881.Google Scholar

7 See Dickinson, F. G., Philanthropy and Public Policy, National Bureau of Economic Research, New York, 1962Google Scholar; Phelps, E. S. (ed.), Altruism, Morality and Economic Theory, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1975Google Scholar; Collard, D., Altruism and Economics, Martin Robertson, London, 1978.Google Scholar

8 In emphasizing the idea of caring as an integrating concept of social science I am not, of course, implying it is not substantiively important in the analysis of actual policies.

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11 See the introduction in Jones, K. (ed.), Yearbook of Social Policy in Britain 1973, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1973.Google Scholar

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13 The reason, for this may lie on the ‘supply side’: the vast expansion in sociology teaching in universities since the war and the limited employment prospects for the better graduates may have led them to offer themselves relatively more frequently than others – including social administration graduates, who came later, were fewer in number, and had considerable employment potential elsewhere. (I am grateful to Brian Abel-Smith for this point).

14 Economists, sociologists, etc. are identified by their discipline. The discipline is identified by its theory. Hence theoreticians are ‘disciplinarians’ – in quotation marks to avoid confusion with the more usual meaning of the word. A social administrator may be a ‘disciplinarian’ in this sense or a ‘multi-disciplinarian’.

15 See Culyer, A. J., The Political Economy of Social Policy, Martin Robertson, Oxford, 1980.Google Scholar

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17 A superb review for those unfamiliar with this territory is Mueller, D. C., Public Choice, Cambridge University Press, London, 1979.Google Scholar

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19 Smith, J. H., ‘The human factor in social administration’, Journal of Social Policy, 8 (1979). 433–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

20 Titmuss, R. M., Commitment to Welfare, Allen and Unwin, London, 1968, p. 22.Google Scholar

21 In a paper for the Social Administration Association's meeting in Leeds 1981.

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30 Sen, A. K., ‘Planners' preferences: optimality, distribution and social welfare’ in Margolis, J. and Guitton, H. (eds), Public Economics, Macmillan, London, 1969Google Scholar. This is set out in a simplified version in Culyer, A. J., The Political Economy of Social PolicyGoogle Scholar, op. cit. chapter 4.

31 Rawls, J., A Theory of Justice, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1972.Google Scholar

32 Nozick, R., Anarchy, State and Utopia, Blackwell, Oxford, 1974.Google Scholar

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