Perspectives on Social Policy

  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 09-05-15 09:46

Perspective on Social Policy: Functionalism

Society is built on harmony and consensus and is free from major conflicts.

The state acts in the interests of society as a whole, and it's social policies benefit everyone.

Policies help families to perform their functions more effectively and make life better for their members.

Fletcher: the introduction of health, education and housing policies since industrialisation has led to the development of a welfare system that supports the family in performing its functions.


  • Assumes that all members of the family benefit from social policies. Feminists reject this and argue that policies often benefit men at the expense of women.
  • Assumes there is a 'march of progress', with social policies gradually making life better. Marxists reject this and argue that policies also reverse the progress previously made, for example by cutting welfare benefits to poor families.
1 of 5

Perspective on Social Policy: New Right

Social policies should avoid doing anything that might undermine the nuclear family.

The government creates a dependency culture by providing over generous welfare benefits (e.g. housing for unmarried teenage mothers and cash payments to lone-parent families).

Murray: these benefits offer 'perverse incentives' - they reward irresponsible behaviour.

The solution is to make cuts in the welfare system and tighten restrictions on who is eligible for benefits.


  • Feminists argue that it's an attempt to justify the traditional patriarchal family.
  • It wrongly assumes that the patriarchal nuclear family is 'natural' rather than socially constructed.
  • Cutting benefits would drive many poor families into even greater poverty.
2 of 5

Perspective on Social Policy: New Labour

Favours strengthening marriage and regards a family headed by a married couple as the best for raising children.

New Labour has cut benefits to some lone-parent families.

Believes some state intervention can improve life for families.

They changed the law on adoption so that unmarried cohabiting couples (including gay couples) have the same right to adopt as married couples.

Their welfare, taxation and minimum wage policies have been partly aimed at lifting children out of poverty by re-distributing income to the poor through higher benefits.

Many of New Labour's policies are only available to those on a low-income rather than being universal benefits which are available to everyone.

3 of 5

Perspective on Social Policy: Feminism

State policies help to maintain women's subordinate position and the unequal division of labour.

Policies are based on the assumption of what the 'normal' family is like. They then reinforce that type of the family at the expense of other types.

This creates a 'self-fulfilling prophecy', making it difficult for people to live in other family types.

Land: policies often assume the patriachal nuclear family is the ideal. 

Tax and benefits policies assume that husbands are the main wage-earners. This can make it impossible for wives to claim social security benefits since it is expected that their husbands will provide.

Courts often assume that women should have custody of children as it's seen as their 'natural' role.


Not all policies are directed at maintaing patriarchy, e.g. Sex Discrimination Act

4 of 5

Perspective on Social Policy: Marxism

Social policies do not benefit everyone equally.

The state and its policies serve capitalism.

Low level of state pensions are evidence that once workers are too old to produce profits, they are 'maintained' at the lowest possible cost.

Reject the 'march of progress' view towards better welfare policies producing happier families. They argue that improvements for working-class families (e.g. free healthcare) have only been won through the class struggle to extract concessions from the ruling class.

These improvements can be easily lost again.

5 of 5


Will McCarthy


really helpful, thank you

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Families and households resources »