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What Is a Social Problem?
Social problems are interrelated
Debate in society centers on:
the causes of social problems who is responsible for the problem solutions to the problem
What is a Social Problem (cont.)?
A condition (e.g., poverty) A pattern of behaviour (e.g., violence) that people believe warrants public concern and collective action to bring about change Social problems are conditions that:
affect the quality of life of a large number of people affect cherished values
What is a Social Problem (cont.)?
Social problems can also be discrepancies between ideals and achievement For example, between rights guaranteed by the Charter and discrimination: actions or practices of dominant group members that have harmful effects on members of subordinate groups The discrimination could be acted out in the form of violence, a hate crime, an act of violence motivated by prejudice against people on the basis of racialized identity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Why Study Social Problems?
To understand social forces that shape our lives on personal and societal levels To gain new insights into ourselves and connections between our world and that of other people, and To make more effective decisions about these concerns
” Retrieved from http://www.Index of Social Health To measure “social problems” The need for “a single quantitative measure of social well-being resulted in the development of the Index of Social Health (ISH) in 1986 by Marc Miringoff at Fordham University in the United States.gc.hrsdc. 2007 . The Index focuses on specific social problems.shtml May 12. to determine if there has been an improvement or a decline over time.ca/en/cs/sp/sdc/pkrf/publications/bulletins/1997000006/page03.
shtml for more detail) .ca/en/cs/sp/sdc/pkrf/publications/bulletins/1997000006/page03.gc.hrsdc. including: Unemployment Percentage of children in poverty Average weekly earnings Levels of child abuse Health Insurance Coverage In Canada.S.The Index of Social Health Measures sixteen major social problems in the U. this index was revised in 1997 by HRSDC to look at 15 “Canadian” social problems and a comparison was done between GDP and the index for both the US and Canada (see http://www.
US Index compared to US GDP .
Index compared to Canadian GDP .Modified Can.
Urbanization. and Environment War and Terrorism .Crosscultural Look: Social Problems from a Canadian Perspective (text): Poverty and Economic Inequality Crime and Violence Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Racial and Ethnic Relations Sexism and Gender Inequality Sexual Orientation and Homophobia Aging and Ageism Family Work and Unemployment Health and Health Care Population.
khoj.Social Problems from an Indian Perspective: (http://www.com/Society_and_Culture/Social_Problems/) Adoption and Child Support Poverty Sati Social Work Unemployment Women's Rights Child Labour Child Marriage Consumer Rights Crime and Enforcement Dowry Female Infanticides Homelessness Illiteracy .
did not take complexities of a diverse society into account 1920s-1930s: focused on the conditions of society that fostered social problems Past few decades: sought the sources of deviation within the social structure and focused on the role of society in creating deviance through labeling people viewed as abnormal Recent: subjective nature of social problems .History of Social Problems Theory Early: medical model used.
Creating A Comprehensive Definition of Social Problems Objective reality Subjective factors will always be present The study of social problems can never be value-free Tepperman. and Kwan define a social problem as both an objective and a subjective dimension: A condition that can be empirically observed A process by which society comes to define the problem . Curtis.
Types of Social Problems Acts and conditions that violate the norms and values present in society Societal-induced conditions that cause psychic and material suffering for any segment of the population .
the relationship between personal unemployment. Wright Mills) For example. . Wright Mills (1959): The Sociological Imagination The ability to see the relationship between an individual’s experiences and the larger society (C. and technological change and economic cycles that cause it The task of sociology is to realize that individual circumstances are inextricably linked to the structure of society.C.
The Sociological Imagination For Mills the difference between effective sociological thought and that which fails rested upon imagination. The sociological imagination is simply a "quality of mind" that allows one to grasp "history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” .
Sociological Imagination (cont.) Connections between personal and socioeconomic levels is made through: Microlevel analysis focusing on small-group relations and individual interaction.. . and Macrolevel analysis focusing on large-scale institutions. e.g. government and the economy Examining the historical circumstances that link the two levels.
economic.lclark.edu/~goldman/socimagination. groups.Main Elements of a Sociological Imagination A willingness to view the social world from the perspective of others Focusing on the social. and organizations Questioning the structural arrangements that shape social behavior and seeing the solutions not in changing problem people but in changing the structure of society Read an excerpt of C. and historical circumstances that influence families.html . Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination (1959) at: http://www.
Private Troubles and Social Issues One main distinction to keep in mind when using the sociological imagination is the distinction between private troubles and social issues. Mill uses this example: when 1 person in a city of 100. but when 5 million in a nation of 150 million are unemployed. it is a social issue…we need to focus on the larger issue. not that one person who is unemployed.000 is unemployed. that is a private trouble. blaming him/her for his/her) situation .
I believe the only chance.The Sociological Imagination "What I am suggesting is that by addressing ourselves to issues and to troubles. to make reason democratically relevant to human affairs in a free society. and so to realize the classic values that underlie the promise of our studies" (1959: 194). and formulating them as problems of social science. . we stand the best chance.
Why are Social Structure and Culture Important? Social problems are rooted in both the structure and culture of society In order to use “the sociological imagination” we need to understand the basic elements of both social structure and of culture Macro-level theories (functionalism. conflict and feminist theory) focus their attention on social structure while micro-level theories tend to focus more on culture and the creation of meaning .
2. media. Institutions patterns of social relationships Family. etc. religion.Elements of Social Structure 1. Social groups Members have common identity Primary and secondary .
Statuses: position in group Ascribed. and expectations . achieved and master status 4.Social Structure (cont.) 3. Roles Associated with status rights. obligations.
Elements of Culture Culture = the meanings and ways of life that characterize a society 1. laws. mores . Values: agreements about good and bad 3. Beliefs: what is assumed to be true 2. Norms: socially defined rules of behaviour Folkways.
) 4. Sanctions: social consequences for conforming to. Symbols: language. gestures. and objects The meaning commonly understood by group members They form communication . formal and informal 5.Culture (cont. negative. or violating norms positive.
Another View: Culture as Stories According to George Gerbner’s (1986) “cultivation theory” culture is a set of stories passed through generations Stories about: 1. to TV) “cultivates” our beliefs. What to do about them Heavy exposure (esp. attitudes and values Gerbner believes the media now tell our stories . How they work 3. What things are 2.
. and can then affect individual’s lives adversely.Person-Blame vs. System-Blame Person-Blame: The assumption that social problems result from the pathologies of individuals System-Blame: The assumption that social problems result from social conditions The sociological imagination recognizes that largescale social problems originate with the system. are formed through historical circumstances.
ex-convicts. inner-city poor. .Ideology of Cultural Deprivation A loaded ethnocentric term Implies that the culture of the minority is inferior and deficient in comparison to the culture of the majority Examples: children in a low-income area school.
.Ideology of Social Darwinism Social Darwinism was developed by Herbert Spencer (1860’s) Coined the term “survival of the fittest” Has its origins in Charles Darwin’s work on natural selection (1859) in nature which was applied to society The belief that the place of people in the stratification system is a function of their own ability and effort.
Consequences of the PersonBlame Approach Frees the institutions of society from any blame and efforts to change them Controls “problem” people in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes Legitimizes person-control programs Justifies the logic of Social Darwinism .
Danger of System-Blame Approach It is only part of the truth It presents a rigidly deterministic explanation of social problems It suggests that people are merely robots controlled by their social environment .
police. and legislators who typically use a person-blame approach The system is the subject matter of sociology.Reasons to Use the System-Blame Approach A need to balance the perspective of the average citizen. not the individual The institutional framework of society is the source of many social problems .
or predict social events .Sociological Perspectives Perspectives are an overall approach toward a subject. Four main perspectives are: Functionalist Conflict Interactionist Feminist (not in text) Theory is a set of logically related statements that attempt to describe. explain.
orderly system composed of interrelated parts that perform functions to keep society stable Concepts: Manifest functions are intended and recognized consequences of social processes Latent functions are unintended. and Dysfunctions are undesirable .Functionalist Theory Assumption: Society is a stable.
) Dysfunctions can create • Social disorganization: conditions in society that undermine the ability of traditional institutions to govern behaviour Which cause breakdowns in • Values: collective ideas about what is right or wrong and norms are established or standards of conduct Application: Violence occurs when institutions become disorganized.Functionalist (cont. To solve problems regenerate institutions .
g. e. e. liberty and group values Critical-conflict: problems come from contradictions in the organization of societies. ...g. class and gender inequalities.Conflict Theory Assumption: Groups in society are engaged in continuing power struggles for control of scarce resources Two types: Value conflict: problems come from incompatible group values.
but not with issues of ethnic relations Capitalist class controls working class Application: Violence occurs because of conflict between groups’ values and relations of capitalist domination and subordination . Real Culture. e.) Concepts: Ideal vs.g.. people claim they support liberty.Conflict (cont.
g. e.. not an inherent characteristic. labelling behaviour as delinquent may cause more delinquent behaviour Application: Violence is a learned response.Interactionist Theory Assumption: Society is the sum of the interactions of individuals and groups Concept: self-fulfilling prophesy: a false definition of the situation that evokes a new behaviour that makes the original conception become true. to rewarded behaviour or inappropriate socialization .
Interactionism (cont. behaviors and situations that are defined and labeled as social problems Labeling and deviance Secondary deviance-stems from adapting to the effects of the label and taking on the self concept and roles associated with it .): Labeling and Self-fulfilling Prophecies Social problems as conditions.
not the disease itself Most deviants are victims and should not be blamed entirely The system should also be blamed Institutionalized Deviance: When a society is organized in such a way that it is not meeting the needs of individuals. .Deviance as a Social Problem Deviant Individuals (Norm Violators): Norm violators are symptoms of social problems.
): The Social Construction of Social Problems Social problems are created through the actions of others which raise our consciousness to issues in society The media and the creation of social problems Universities and colleges Government agencies Civic voluntary organization .Interactionism (cont.
Moral Entrepreneurs Those who have or develop the power to “label” problems or problem behaviour in society Often members of elites or interest groups Malcolm Spector and John Kitsuse (1977) saw social problems as Claims-Making activity Stage 1: Problem Definition .gaining public recognition .forming new organization to solve the problem .acceptance by official agencies -reasserting demands Stage 2: Legitimacy Stage 3: Reemergence of demands Stage 4: Rejection and institution building .
Moral Panics and The Media Modern mass media aids in “claims-making” Mass media allows for the rapid spread of new information The media is often the vehicle by which the public becomes aware of social problems Create intense public concern about and issue – a “moral panic” Two factors help: Media and the need for news Public demand for sensational news stories .
. racism. e. Every issue is a feminist issue and interlocking oppressions. and homophobic are addressed Concept: Patriarchy is control by men Application: Violence comes from power differences especially between men and women and is a means of reinforcing patriarchy . sexism.g.Feminist Theory Assumption: Theorists should look at differential impacts of social phenomena on men and women. and emphasize power relationships.
Is a broad approach whose goals are to improve the health of the entire population and to reduce health inequalities among social groups.Population Health Perspective (used by text authors) A comparatively new theory that emerged due to the observation that many social problems are associated with health consequences. .
a combination of strategies is required .Reducing Social Problems through Social Change Social change: alteration. modification. mid-range. or social institutions over time Efforts can be: Short-term. or transformation of public policy. or long-term Micro-level. middle-term. or macro-level For most problems. culture.
Micro-Level Attempts to Solve Social Problems Micro-level attempts focus on how individuals operate within small groups to solve problems Example: people turn to primary groups: small. maintaining. for help. and exacerbating many social problems .g. getting a job Limitation: Fails to consider that secondary groups and institutions play a major part in creating.. less specialized groups in which members engage in face-to-face interactions. e.
like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) often work to change an individual’s behaviour and… Grassroots groups.Mid-Range Attempts to Solve Social Problems Mid-range attempts focus on how secondary groups and formal organizations deal with problems such as drug addiction Example: Self-help groups. started by people with a problem in their territory. sometimes grow to social movements Limitation: Local efforts usually lack the capacity to produce the larger changes needed at the national or international levels .
g. making them appear insurmountable De-emphasize the importance of individual responsibility .Macro-Level Attempts to Solve Social Problems Macro-level attempts focus on how large-scale institutions (e.. government and media) may become involved in remedies Limitations: This approach may Overemphasize structural barriers in society.
Politics and Social Policy Debate on policies often focuses on how best to address the social problem Opinions range from neo-conservativism to left-wing liberalism Conservatives .government intervention in social-welfare institutions as the solution to social problems .limiting governmental involvement in the solution to social problems Private enterprise as a solution Focus on individual responsibility Liberals .
and the body Looks at global concerns such as ecological survival . particularly issues pertaining to the self. reproduction. sexuality.Politics (cont.) Emancipatory Politics: Involve liberation of people from adverse conditions through eliminating exploitation. promoting justice Life Politics: Involve lifestyles.
. e.g.. gun control. versus multiple demands.g.Special-Interest Groups and Social Change in Solving Social Problems A political coalition composed of individuals or groups sharing a specific interest Types of pressure groups: Issue focus: Single issue. better schools View of the present system of wealth and power: people have a range of demands Beliefs about elites: Whether to influence them or replace them Type of political action: Working through the system . e.
Social Movements and Social Change in Solving Social Problems Collective behaviour: Voluntary Often spontaneous Engaged in by large number of people Typically violates group norms and values Civil disobedience: Non-violent action that seeks to change a policy or law by refusing to comply with it .
Types of Social Movements: Reform movements: Seek to change some aspect of the social structure Revolutionary movements: Seek to bring about a total change in society Religious movements: Seek to renovate people through “inner change” Alternative movements: Seek limited change in some aspects of behavior Resistance movements: Seek to prevent or undo change .
the close observation of interaction among people in a social group or organization Provides in depth understanding of the nature of a problem Demographic Studies .Research on Social Problems Ethnography (field studies) .how social conditions are distributed in human populations How many people are affected Characteristics of the people that are affected .
Research (cont.) Survey Research – way of gathering information from a large population Sample-representative part from the population to be studied Cross-sectional data – data collected at one point in time Longitudinal data – data collected at different points in time Interviewing or administering a questionnaire to a sample .
) Social Experiments – are studies that are conducted in a controlled setting Random assignment of subjects to two groups Experimental group Control group Test the effect of a treatment on the experimental group .Research (cont.
such as environmental protection Growing out of social movements in response to the needs of diverse peoples .A Humanist Agenda Criteria include: Improving most of the world’s people’s lives Corresponding to widely held common interests Providing handles for action at a variety of levels Including elements that can be implemented independently but are compatible Making it easier to solve non-economic problems.
and long-term Remedies are found at the micro-.To Conclude: Each perspective involves different assumptions and thus provides a different analysis of social problems Also need a means to solve them Strategies are short-. middle. mid-range-. and it is our responsibility to work together for a better world . and macro-level Canadians do have a number of pressing social problems to address.