The Sociology of an Economic Society

Public Policy-How Do We Create “Rules”?

The term policy is ubiquitous within societies.  Policies shape a large portion of how our society functions.  Policies determine for many people the opportunities available and influence their actions, most evident in class based systems.  In a capitalist economy a large part of policy is influenced directly or indirectly by those entities which produce enormous wealth through the production of goods and/or services.  Policies in democratic nations are created by individuals or groups of individuals, theoretically with the intention of reflecting the voices of those the policies affect.

So what is policy and who makes them???????

 

Economy is “King”!

When it comes to policy, economists and the economy are “king”.  In the United States this is evident on many levels, from our form of economy-insert capitalism, to who influences and creates policy.  Policy in turn affects to a large degree the functionality of our society.  So, if you are an economist and/or supporter of perpetual economic growth and development you are in good company-and who would not be in favor of constant growth and development???  It would then seem that with a society where economists and economic growth are central to policy making that society would reflect a status of wealth, prosperity, and opportunity………………..until you take a look around.  The ratio of the socially disadvantaged to advantaged may not be accurately known but it is not a great leap to say that policy making is missing the voices and influences of those less fortunate.  A great example of how economists’ scope of policy involvement reaches well past traditionally boundaries into the social realm is from a presentation by Monika Queisser regarding gender inequality.  Appropriately suited for a sociologist, it is known from the beginning of the presentation that Monika is above all an economist.  So Monika, an economist, is presenting on gender inequality, and is also part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Interestingly, the OECD, a major contributor to policy development, has four main points for improving global governments, three of the four goals are rooted in economic interests.

Monika Queisser- https://www.weforum.org/agenda/authors/monika-queisser

OECD- http://www.oecd.org/about/

Sociologists as Policy Makers

“Why is it that sociologists are absent from many policy making decision processes when the phenomena the policy is developed to address involves complex social dynamics and evident social implications.  Put another way, according to Irwin, 2017, “In other words, economics is only a piece of a broader, societal problem”, “so maybe the people who study just that could be worth listening to” (p. 1).  In many cases of policy decisions, an economist focuses on financial benefits, economic growth, and opportunities that can be shared with newly instituted or modified existing policies.  The economist brings “good news” and presents arguments for continually moving forward.  The economist, in short, persuades with the promise of money and economic boosts-although the “who” of benefiting is oftentimes overlooked or not addresses in policy.  Sociologists have a difficult time when searching for and engaging in policy decision processes because sociologists are not the popular, “good guys”.  Sociologists seek to make impactful change through policy planning and implementation but lack the political influence of many economists.  The value of sociologists getting involved in policy making is their ability to understand and effectively improve upon the root causes of social issues which are greatly influenced by policy makers and the policies they create.  One particular example of how economists and sociologists have significantly different influences on policy making decisions is cited in Irwin’s writing, the issue of housing policies and discrimination against racial minorities.  Policies created to prevent discrimination within housing markets can be created by economists to appear as non-discriminatory but this often serves as a façade to continue current practices that favor influential players in the market and policy making arenas.  Including a sociologist in policy making for housing markets would include a much deeper understanding of the challenges faced by minorities and be able to help institute policies that address the root causes of discrimination and create a more fair and equitable system.  This issue is highlighted in Irwin’s writing, according to Irwin, 2017, “It is one thing to outlaw housing discrimination based upon race”, “But if real estate agents and would-be home sellers subtly shun minority buyers, the effect can be the same” (p.2).  In order for policies to be implemented that represent all parties involved and address the needs of all parties involved, the practice of “the good old boy” network will have to be disassembled.  Sociologists becoming more involved in policy making decisions can have a significant impact on creating effective change.  Sociologists impact on policy making can have a profound effect on solving problems that create the need for policy making and change.  The economists currently dominate the policy making processes so sociologists will have to actively seek opportunities to get involved and lend a more balanced approach to policy decisions.

Reference(s):

Hamilton, S. (2016). The policy making process. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLUbviQoef8

Harvard University. (2014). Progress and policies to achieve gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreunership. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRFbP_aMtMo

Irwin, N. (2017). What if sociologists had as much influence as economists? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/upshot/what-if-sociologists-had-as-much-influence-as-economists.html?_r=2

Sugden, A. (2015). Sociology and social policy. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KozxvVnjIc

One comment on “Blog X: The Sociology of an Economic Society

  • This is great, Beni. I like how you integrate your thoughts about public policy with actual examples. I agree that if more sociologists were involved in these conversations, we may see different, and even better, outcomes. Numbers tell us a lot, but what they don’t tell us is the stories and show us the faces of the people behind these numbers. Think of how often you’ve heard people make categorical generalizations about people and then say, but or except for…Everyone has those people and all those people aggregated are the numbers. If we could get to those stories, I think we’d be in a better place to make policy.

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