Social Welfare Administration: Science or Art?

Nature of Social Welfare Administration

The question of whether social welfare administration is science or art has assumed much importance with the passage of time. There are conflicting views and opinions on this issue and each appears to be justified in its own way. Social welfare lends itself to two usages. It stands for the process of administering social welfare programmes. It is also an area of intellectual enquiry. The first is practice, the second is study. As a practice social welfare administration is decidedly an art.

Social Welfare Administration as an Art: The following arguments have been given to support that social welfare administration is an art

ü  Social welfare administration can be acquired: No doubt art is a natural gift. Music, dance, drama or painting is examples of this category of art. But natural gifts can find their best expression by proper training, without which even the best artists will die unknown. On the other hand, a painter making a painting and a potter shaping a beautiful piece of pottery are also examples of art. It is so because they possess the following elements:

a)      personal skills;

b)      practical know-how;

c)      result orientation;

d)      creativity; and

e)   constant practice aimed at perfection.

Similarly, the art of social welfare administration can be acquired. Talented persons become the best administrators under proper training. Thus, so far acquisition is concerned with social welfare administration is also like other arts.

ü  It is subjective in nature: A painter contributes to art by mixing colours. A sculptor performs his job with the aid chisel and hammer. A social welfare administrator with the application of knowledge and skill can make wonders by combining and bringing together available human and material resources to change the very fate of the nation. Today success of every welfare programme depends on how a social welfare administrator performs the job.

ü  Practical application of knowledge: Art is the practical application of systematic knowledge. It is not merely theory but putting that into practice. Similarly, social welfare administration is not merely a theory but is applied also. And the best knowledge can be gained by practice alone.


Social Welfare Administration as a Science: Science is a systematic study of knowledge. Those who believe that social welfare administration is a science point out that there are certain specific and clear principles on which day to day administration of social welfare programmes is being run and managed. They also argue that these principles are based on sound and rational principles, which are also considered universal. The following arguments have been put forward to justify that social welfare administration is a science:

ü  Application of scientific methods: The claim of a discipline to be called a science depends on whether the scientific method of study is applicable to it. Social welfare administration can be called a science, because the scientific method of study equally is applicable to it, as in the case of other social science.

ü  Critical examination: Critical examination and study of evidence is the prime requisite of any scientific study. This is possible in social welfare administration also.

ü  Universal guidelines: Universal principles of social welfare administration also provide the colouring of science. Even if we cannot use all the guidelines in a similar manner, these guidelines certainly help the administrator in the proper implementation of social welfare programmes.

However, the nature of social welfare administration as a science has been criticized on the basis of experimentation, and objectivity. Thus, it may not be an exact science, but it is a science in its own way. It is also an art because it is connected not only with the formulation of general principles of social welfare programmes but also with the actual running of the administration of social welfare programmes.

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