The British Sociological Association (BSA)

The British Sociological Association, founded in 1951, promotes the work of sociologists and social scientists as practitioners and scholars, in the UK and, through links, much further afield. Sociology offers an analysis which helps surprisingly large numbers of us make sense of what happens in our ever-changing world.
I recently re-joined the British Sociological Association, of which I was an Executive Committee member when I worked in further and higher education, much earlier in my career.
It’s fascinating to see how things have evolved since that time, back in the 1980s.
Battles now won
Then we were battling to ‘save’ the Personal, Social and Health curriculum, which Sir Keith Joseph, then Secretary of State for Education under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was keen to remove or at the very least side-line. History in schools was to stop at 1945, the end of the Second World War and before the arrival in 1948 of the National Health Service (NHS) and Welfare State; Section 11 legislation made it almost professional suicide to teach about HIV / AIDS; the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) had to be renamed the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) lest anyone should think that social research was scientific – in retrospect a far cry attitudinally from current demands for ‘evidence-based’ policy at the highest levels.
All this we addressed, through the Executives of the BSA and other professional associations, via FACTASS, The Forum of Academic and Teaching Associations in the Social Sciences, of which I was Convenor. Now there is no need for FACTASS. We managed to hang on in there, and it’s unlikely that any mainstream politician in any modern democratic country would want to see it otherwise; the PSHE curriculum and entitlement of children to understand their world is, along with positive resolution of the GCSEs-for-all debate, now established.
Fundamentals
But the fundamental emphases of the BSA on social equity; on understanding the interactive social constructions which give meaning to our daily lives, continue, developed and debated by people who have now spent a lifetime exploring how human societies and communities work and are understood by the people in them.
The ‘classics’ – gender, ‘race’ and ethnicity, age and life transitions, and social class – remain (alongside matters such as health and medicine, work and employment, and so forth) the fundamental building blocks of sociological analysis, keeping us constantly aware that big and sometimes invisible forces shape our day-to-day experience, even to the extent that they often determine our actual life expectancy.
New social analysis too
And beyond that, there is a new and critical emphasis on our physical world, on sustainability and green issues and how societies and communities will find themselves responding to the challenges we all face.
It may be too soon to say that Human Geographers and Sociologists have found completely common ground, but it looks as though a convergence may slowly be developing, after a decade or more when the gathering of empirical data on population change and socio-economic impacts was sometimes perceived to be enough to take governmental programmes and political policy forward.
Contextualising for the future
There is now a recognition that ‘social research‘ must inform, e.g., environmental as well as community, health and education policies. (I was recently a co-author of the Defra Science Advisory Council report on Social Research in Defra – a fascinating and I hope very fruitful experience.)
The BSA, I note, has a growing Section (interest) Group on Sociologists Outside Academia (SOAg). I intend to sign up for it.
See more articles on Social Science , and
History Lessons Need More Than ‘Hitler And Henry’
Social Geographers Take The Lead In Social Policy

Posted on June 5, 2008, in Education, Health And Welfare, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Social Science, Sustainability As If People Mattered, Who Is Hilary?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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