Social Science Research and the Social Policy Making Process: The Case of Albania

By Fatos Tarifa.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies

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Historically, people have turned to democracy primarily as a guarantor of personal freedom, not as a policy-making process nor as a process for popular control over policy making. One great figure in Western social thought who made policy-making―particularly its efficiency or rationality―central to his work was Adam Smith. Addressing, in his Wealth of Nations, the inefficiencies of contemporary governments’ commercial policies, Smith began an intellectual tradition that persists to this day. Following this tradition, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper have both emphasized that social sciences have developed very largely through the criticism of proposals for social improvements, or through attempts to find out whether or not some particular economic or political action is likely to produce an expected, or desired, result (Hayek 1933: 123; Popper 1960: 68). From a different perspective, and following Max Weber, C. Wright Mills expanded on the theme of rationalization, understanding it as “the practical application of knowledge to achieve a desired end.” Like Weber, Mills believed that the rationalization’s goal is efficiency, whereas its means are coordination and control over the social processes needed to attain that goal. Both Weber and Mills maintained that rationalization is the guiding principle behind bureaucracy and the increasing division of labor (see Elwell 2006), and it is a product of “scientific specialization and technical differentiation” that seems to be a characteristic of Western culture” (Freund 1968).
It was not until the mid 1940s that the term “policy sciences” was introduced by Harold Lasswell, one of the most “creative innovators in the social sciences in the twentieth century” (Almond 1978). In 1943 Lasswell wrote:

I propose to contribute to the systematic theory of the policy sciences. The policy sciences include the social and psychological sciences; in general, all the sciences that provide facts and principles of direct importance for the making of important decisions in government, business and cultural life (quoted in Muth et al. 1989: 17).

Lasswell envisaged his key contributions as developing a “systematic theory”, “devising new instruments for research”, and acting as a “policy advisor” to “aid in perfecting the intelligence function” in society in order to “clarify alternatives of action”, and to “provide pertinent information about trends and causal relations” (ibid, 17–18). His policy science orientation was holistic: a multi-method, multi-disciplinary, problem-focused, contextual approach to policy analysis and development. Adopting his approach, in this paper we focus on a number of issues pertaining to social science research and the social policy-making process in general, such as: (1) the role of analysis in policy making; (2) the complexity of social reality and cognitive limitations to policy analysis, and (3) partisan analysis vis-à-vis value-freedom and objectivity in social science research.

Keywords: Policy Sciences, Social Science Research, Policy Making, Social Policy, Albania

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social and Community Studies, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.77-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 357.407KB).

Prof. Fatos Tarifa

Professor, Institute of Social and Policy Studies, European University of Tirana, Tirana, Albania

is currently the director of the Institute of Social and Policy Studies at the European University of Tirana. He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Tirana and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Tarifa served as Albania’s Ambassador to the Netherlands (1998–2201) and to the United States (2001–2005). He taught and conducted research at the University of Tirana, the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, Webster University (Leiden, the Netherlands), Campbell University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Eastern Michigan University, and he has delivered lectures at institutions of higher education throughout the world. He is the recipient of several awards, including a Senior Fellowship with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Senior Fulbright Fellowship. He has authored, coauthored, and edited 30 books and more than 50 journal articles and chapters. At Chapel Hill he edited an innovative, international scholarly journal, Sociological Analysis, which is now published by him under the auspices of the European University of Tirana. His main areas of interest are in political sociology, international relations, and social theory.