Social Problems Study Guide – KNOW THESE CONCEPTS FOR THE FINAL
Social Problems and Sociological Imagination
1. Social Problems: A social problem is a condition or issue that groups and individuals
define as harmful.
Objective: Real social and material conditions, what “does” exists
Subjective: Ideas and beliefs about those conditions, what “should” exists
2. Conflict, Functionalist, and Interactionist Approaches
Conflict: Unequal social arrangements create social groups that differ in their goals and
access to resources and power EX) blue collar vs. white collar
Functionalist Theory: Institutions, like organs in a body, provided certain social functions
contributing to "social order" - running harmoniously
Interactionist: Shared meanings are a product of human activism and interaction including
which conditions and issues are problems EX labels
3. “Collective Definition” of Social Problems: Social problems are fundamentally
products of a process of collective definition instead of existing independently as a set of
objective social arrangements with an intrinsic makeup. dynamic, social process of
4. Sociological Imagination: The ability to understand lives as shaped by social contexts.
It distinguishes between personal troubles (biographical), public issues (social and
historical) and it allows us to see them as fundamentally connected. (Ex: Imagine reading
Anne Frank’s journal and not knowing what the holocaust was? You may not give it more
importance, or even see it as significant)
- Allows us to connect history and biography
5. Media Framing: Framing allows the media to produce coherent narratives and images
out of complex social reality. Certain aspects of an issue or condition are focused upon to
the exclusion of others
6. Agenda-Setting: Agenda-setting takes place when the media draws attention to a
particular issue or condition in society and thereby influences public awareness and debate.
7. Income vs Wealth:
Income: Income refers to money received by a person or household over some
period of time. Income includes wages, salaries, and cash assistance from the government.
Wealth: Wealth refers to the stock of assets held by a person or household at a
single point in time. These assets may include financial holdings and saving, but
commonly also include the family home.
8. Perspectives: Exploitation and Domination, Life Conditions, Opportunity Hoarding
Opportunity Hoarding: Powerful groups benefit from excluding other groups from
accessing opportunities. Barriers such as education, credentials and investment
create “social closure” and low mobility.
Capitalist Class: Defined by access to an ownership of private property that produces
Middle Class: Defined by access to education and skills. Excluded from access to
capital, probably managers, etc. don’t own a business
Working Class: Defined by exclusion from private property, education and skills
Social Closure: Relatively low social mobility, very difficult or rare for someone to
improve their class position. This creates three social classes that are rooted in
access and exclusion.
Exploitation and Domination: Groups not only benefit from exclusion but also from
controlling the labor of others. There is an unequal social relationship between the
classes (economic power).
Capitalist Class: Owns private property that produces profit.
Working Class: Owns their labor until they sell it to the capitalist class
Example: A corporation buys a farmland that was previously shared by various
peasant families (exclusion). It then hires them to work on an industrial farm
(exploitation) and has complete control over the conditions of their labor (domination).
Life Conditions: Class can be thought of as attributes: education, inclusion in social
networks, employment, etc. as material conditions: for instance housing, living in a
very run down house will give you an extremely different experience than living in a
luxury house- stereotypes, etc.
9. Economic, Social, and Cultural Capital:
Social Capital: Who you know and what they have and know
Economic Capital: What you own and access- Burdu would do these big surveys and
map out people’s tastes accordingly- having tastes and trends due to an economic
availability (so like a gluten free diet is accessible to you because you can afford the
double in price gluten free foods)
Cultural Capital: Often times can be related to economic capital; tastes, preferences,
traveling, gaining knowledge through experiences, daily life, literature, etc.
Racial Oppression 10. Systemic Racism:
The various types of racial discrimination in institutions and everyday life, when added
11. Racial Formation: (How is Race “Socially Constructed”?)
● Omi & Winant (1994) argue that racial categories have been formed over time using
different types of logic:
○ Religion → “The great chain of being”
○ Science → “Racial Science” a.k.a. biological racism
○ Politics → Census and the state.
12. Colorblind Racial Ideology: 4 Ways of Framing Racial Inequality t