THE RELATIONSHIP OF THEORY TO POLICY: A CASE STUDY OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

WILLIAM FREDERICK BENGSTON, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation locates the problem of the relationship of social science knowledge to the development of social policy within the framework of the sociology of knowledge, and presents one of the few case studies which analyzes the detailed interplay between social science knowledge, an advisory Commission, and the legislative attempts to carry out the recommendations of that Commission.^ The process by which both social scientific theory and social policy are formulated is analyzed to determine the significant influences on each. It is concluded that development in both areas can best be understood in relationship to changes in the prevailing social order. A long view analysis of selected historical shifts in criminological theory and policy serves as an illustration.^ An indepth case study of the key circumstances and key individuals which influenced the development of the President's Crime Commission is presented, along with an analysis of the structure and methods of operation of the Commission. Drawing upon the unpublished transcripts of the Commission meetings, the publications of the Commission, and interviews with key Commission members, the process by which the Commission utilized relevant data, theory, and perspectives in the formulation of its policy recommendations is analyzed.^ Finally, a legislative analysis of the Safe Streets Act is presented, highlighting some of the significant influences and changes in the billl that purported to create the structure for the implementation of the Commission's recommendations. In the politically tedious journey of the Safe Streets Act through the Congress, substantial alterations from the original proposals resulted, to the point where the legislation became only vaguely recognizable as stemming from the work of the Commission.^ It is concluded that social scientific information and perspectives were not the significant basis for formulating or implementing the recommendations of the Crime Commission. The scientific purposes, methods, and audiences of social science are not readily transferred to the political purposes, methods, and audiences of social policy formulation. Whereas policy makers must respond to a variety of politically charged vested interest groups, for the most part social scientists do not. Hence, extra-scientific political considerations become the significant immediate considerations in policy formulation and implementation. Social science, as presently practiced, is both influenced by and serves to influence the social climate. But it is primarily through this influence on the social climate whereby social science indirectly influences social policy. ^

Subject Area

Criminology

Recommended Citation

BENGSTON, WILLIAM FREDERICK, "THE RELATIONSHIP OF THEORY TO POLICY: A CASE STUDY OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8111310.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111310

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