Social assistance in the context of social changes. The Gustian Reform Programme


Elena Zamfir


The present study is a brief incursion into the history of social assistance in Romania and its role in social changes. In this context, the contribution of the Sociological School of Bucharest founded by D. Gusti is emphasised with respect to the emergence of the modern statues of social assistance as distinct institutional field, and specialised profession.
Dimitrie Gusti, a man of remarkable professional-scientific openness (studies of philosophy, sociology, ethics, social and political sciences, social statistics, etc ) was the promoter of a wide Social Reforms Programme based on the positions of scientific knowledge regarding society. It had as core objective to guide the evolution process of Romania on a modern development path. At the core of an extended programme of reforms laid also the assumption of the social responsibility of sociology and socio-humane sciences. Sociology emerges according to the Gustian vision as one of the fundamental social sciences involved in the processes of changing the society. As “sociologia militans”, it is in the service of the nation and of the community. Next to sociology, social assistance’s transformative function plays an essential role in approaching, solving, and preventing severe social phenomena. The changes demanded by Romania’s modernisation had also perverse effects at social, human, and moral level by multiplying/emerging risks generating marginalisation, and social exclusion for a good part of the society. Thus, sociology and social assistance (centred on supporting vulnerable communities/individuals) gained a completely particular role in the reform model proposed by the Sociological School of Bucharest. Here, social and socio-humane sciences were regarded as not only active tools for gaining knowledge about the society, but also as efficient intervention and change means. Due to their technicality and professionalism, social and humane sciences in general, and sociology and social assistance in particular were regarded in the process of social change as true “social and human engineering” (Zamfir, E. 1981). Thus, the Sociological School of Bucharest created by D. Gusti and supported by cultural and politic-administrative institutions mobilised also a wide collective of experts, and intellectuals of multi-and interdisciplinary openness, men with wide-ranging cultural perspective, as demanded by transformative processes.
The objectives of the Gustian reform project were structured clearly based on a general theory of the social system. They were guided with priority on knowledge about the society starting with empirical research regarding local communities, as such. Focusing on field research regarding the reality of the communities in their entirety, underpinned the idea that villages developed historically, as distinct social entities. Consequently, their research and knowledge about them imposed the monographic-type analysis. In the vision of the Sociological School of Bucharest, the village and the communities become sure milestones of social development and activism. In this context, social assistance plays a central role not only in recording the needs of the vulnerable ones, but also in solving their specific issues by multiple approach. This participative instance of social intervention and support work at the community and individual level is sustained by “action-research”. Thus, taking into account its multiple levels of practical intervention in social reality, assistance gains also a special mission of prevention and diminishing modern risks.


Author Biography

Elena Zamfir, Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romanian Academy

Address: 13 September Road no. 13, District 5, 050711, Bucharest, Romania.


How to Cite
Zamfir, E. (2018). Social assistance in the context of social changes. The Gustian Reform Programme. Sociologie Românească, 16(1-2), 9-22. Retrieved from


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