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This book aims to widen debates about special education by introducing sociological perspectives: asking questions about the social structures and social relationships that occur when part of a mass education system in an industrial society develops as 'special' rather than normal, about the conflicts between individuals and groups that arise in special education, and about the beliefs and ideologies used to justify actions and relationships in this type of education. Current dominant perspectives on special education can variously be described as medical, psychological, administrative and educational, particularly prescriptive-educational. There has been a functional sociological tradition in special education, exemplified by the use of social surveys to discover 'how many' handicapped children or children with special needs there are, but by and large, theory and practice in special education are not informed by sociological perspectives.