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Prevention, Intervention

Franz-Xaver Kaufmann

Subject Sociology » Social Problems

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The terms “prevention” and “intervention” are used in many social sciences, from international politics to social work. They concern certain classes of intentional behavior by collective actors which are considered as interfering with given situations. Prevention means measures or actions to reduce potential risks, i.e., to hinder the future happening of certain kinds of damage, e.g., accidents at work, deviant behavior, or the spreading of contagious infections. Intervention, by contrast, means the interference with some actual situation or process in order to change the course of an ongoing problematic event “to its best.” From an analytical perspective, both terms are rather equivalent: prevention in the ordinary sense means an interference in earlier stages of an assumed causal process than intervention. Given the pervasive character of both kinds of actions, it is impossible to discuss here their implications with respect to specific fields of action. This is rather an attempt to specify their sociological character as a tool for reflecting on the operation of applied social sciences. Therefore, both terms are used here as concepts of a sociological observer interpreting actions of an actor pursuing defined goals in social situations defined by herself as problematic. The task of social science consists first in working out the implications of that very widespread form of social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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