The article presents the method of participatory action research (PAR), its meaning, the use and misuse in the social policy. The thesis is formulated that PAR is a research approach useful in investigating and dealing with contemporary social problems. However, used by powerful institutions, governments and think-tanks it may be also an instrument of accomplishing particular or narrow political goals. In the first part various approaches and types of participatory action research are discussed. The second part of the text presents the different applications of PAR in social policy, especially in the local context. The third part of the article illustrates the threats resulting from expansion of PAR and shows the mechanisms of contributing to 'unsocial' goals by PAR.