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Sociology 2140 Lecture Notes - Sociological Perspectives, Social Change, Social Forces

Course Code
SOC 2140

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Social Problems
Seeing Patterns: The Sociological Perspective
Sociology is the systematic study of human societies.
Society is a term referring to people who live within a territory and share many patterns of
Culture refers to a way of life including widespread values, beliefs, and behavior.
People experience social problems in very personal ways
Problems not only the results of personal choices but reflect the operation of society itself
C. Wright Mills used the sociological imagination
Sociological Imagination
Connections: personal and economic?
Microlevel: small-group relations and individual interaction
Macrolevel: large-scale institutions
Defining Social Problems
A social problem is a condition that undermines the well- being of some or all members of
society and is usually a matter of public controversy
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 can also be discrepancies between ideals and achievement
Social Constructionist Approach
Social problems arise as people define conditions:
As undesirable
In need of change
Defining Social Problems
Claims Making: Process of convincing the public that a particular issue or situation should be
defined as a social problem
social movement: an organized effort at claims making
shape the way people think
encourage or discourage social change

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Why Study Social Problems?
To understand social forces
To gain new insights into ourselves and connections
To make more effective decisions
Social Change & Reducing Social Problems
Social change: alteration, modification, or transformation of public policy, culture, or social
institutions over time
Micro-Level Attempts to Solve Social Problems
Micro-level attempts focus on how individuals operate within small groups to solve problems
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
Macro-Level Attempts to Solve Social Problems
Macro-level attempts focus on how large-scale institutions (e.g., government and media) may
become involved in remedies
Analyzing Social Problems: The Role of Theory
Theory: a statement of how and why specific facts are related
Theoretical Approach: a basic image of society that guides thinking and research
Sociological Perspectives
Perspectives are an overall approach toward a subject. Four perspectives are:
Functionalist, Conflict, Interactionist, Feminist
Assumption: Society is a stable, orderly system composed of interrelated parts that perform
functions to keep society stable
Manifest functions are intended and recognized consequences of social processes
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