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Seeing Patterns: The Sociological Perspective

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Western University
Sociology 2140

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 behaviors. 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 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 Functionalist: Assumption: Society is a stable, 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 A theoretical framework that sees society as a system of many interrelated parts Social Institutions: the main parts of this system (organized to meet basic human needs) education family economics politics religion 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
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