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LETTER: Social works

WHILE I would not wish to dispute your reporter's account of the British Sociological Association conference it would be wrong to allow the impression to go unchallenged that it is representative of British sociology ("Sociology: dark and difficult work", 16 April).

Many members of sociology departments have little or nothing to do with the BSA or its conferences. More importantly, sociology has had an influence way beyond departments. There are many sociologists working more or less as such, not only in such intellectually close departments as social administration and social history but also in medicine, law, geography, accounting, and business studies. Their impact on these and other disciplines and subject areas has been substantial.

Your reporter justly bridles at the use of jargon and neologisms. I recall students ridiculing their development in the 1960s.

The sociologist's job is to describe and explain how societies and their institutions work. A great deal of that has been achieved in the past 30 years and the impact on social policy - poverty, education and crime, for example - has been considerable.

M J Clarke