The role of subjectivity and knowledge power struggles in the formation of public policy

Sally Shortall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


There is a growing incentive for sociologists to demonstrate the use-value of their research. Research ‘impact’ is a driver of research funding and a measure of academic standing. Academic debate on this issue has intensified since Burawoy’s (2004) call for a ‘public’ sociology. However, the academy is no longer the sole or primary producer of knowledge and empirical sociologists need to contend with the ‘huge swathes’ of social data that now exist (Savage and Burrows, 2007). This article furthers these debates by considering power struggles between competing forms of knowledge. Using a case study, it specifically considers the power struggle between normative and empirical knowledge, and how providers of knowledge assert legitimacy for their truth claims. The article concludes that the idea of ‘impact’ and ‘use-value’ is extremely complex and depends on the policy context of knowledge power struggles, and on how policy makers want to view the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1088-1103
Number of pages16
Issue number6
Early online date12 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2013


  • empirical knowledge
  • knowledge and context
  • normative knowledge
  • power struggles
  • truth claims

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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