This post is dedicated to my dad. My dad is a hard-working commercial contractor that lives happily in Florida. He and I have a hard time finding things in common (we both like water sports though) and sometimes, conversations like this one, are frustrating for me:
Hannah: Hi Dad, sorry I missed your call. I was in the library working on an essay.
Dad: What was it on?
Hannah: Well, it was for my Social policy foundations course…
Dad: What is social policy?
Social policy is a broad topic, so the confusion about what I’m actually studying as I work toward my MSc is relatively understandable. There are various definitions of the term social policy. The most oft-cited is perhaps the one written by LSE’s own Professor Hartley Dean: “Social Policy entails the study of the social relations necessary for human wellbeing and the systems by which wellbeing may be promoted” (you can read his justification for using this definition for free here). Of course, this definition is still a bit broad for non-academics, and I’m still thinking of my dad in this context.
Rather than deconstructing Professor Dean’s definition, I’ll tell you a bit about my experience with social policy. The field is multi-disciplinary. My colleagues’ interests range from gender relations in Bangladesh to social security schemes in Malaysia. My personal interests lie both the health and education policy realms and my geographical area of focus is Sub-Saharan Africa. Academics in our department also study criminality, citizenship, urbanization, and the relationships between states, global governance bodies, and non-governmental organizations.
While all of these examples may seem overwhelming to a prospective student of social policy, or to my dad, the multi-disciplinary nature of LSE’s Department of Social Policy is its most significant advantage. I had initially wanted to study health policy but chose social policy instead because I was unwilling to limit my opportunities – both for my year of study and later, in exploring careers. I quickly discovered that this was a reasonable choice – I’ve been able to employ my experience with health policy in coursework and debates with colleagues, but I’ve also come to discover a passion for education – and I’m now combining these two interests in a dissertation that I’m genuinely excited to write!
So to answer my dad’s question, “What is social policy?”, in a more nuanced way: Social policy is whatever the student of social policy wants it to be! And as far as I’m concerned, there is no better place to decide what you want it to be than the Department of Social Policy at LSE.