May 14 : Probs 1
Social Problems – Chapter 1
What is a social problem?
A condition/pattern of behavior that warrants public concern/collective
What is sociology
Systematic study of societies
sociology is well- equipped to help us inform ourselves about current
problems and their possible solutions
sociology is an engaged, progressive, and optimistic discipline founded
on the notion that we can improve society through research and the
application of research-based knowledge
No field is more likely than sociology to force us to make connections
sociology has always been about social change, social conflict, and social
cohesion—and all of these are connected to social problems
Goal: use knowledge to improve social life
‘progress’ included indus- trialization and urbanization; inventions and scientific
discovery; and exposure to new and different ideas and cultures. ‘Progress’ also
meant the possibility of social improvement or social ‘amelioration’.
Sociologists then believed that social life could be improved through the
systematic study of social issues: by applying knowledge and expelling ignorance,
superstition, prejudice, and blind custom.
They believed deeply in the value of social research as the means for diagnosing
social problems and for inventing and evaluating solutions.
They believed that social change could be directed to good ends; that social con-
flict could be resolved in just ways; and that the social order could be re-
established around new principles of organization.
Note that an objective of sociology is also to find and test natural laws about
these sub- jective beliefs and their consequences. The rise of sociology itself coincided with the rise of modern societies
There are two aspects to social problems
1) Objective Elements
Measurable features of a negative social condition (eg crime, sexual
This activity is based on a philosophical premise, sometimes called
‘positivism’, of a material reality we can perceive with our senses; and
what we call ‘science’ is the systematic attemptto find and test natural
laws through measurements of this reality.
2) Subjective Elements
Our evaluations of objective conditions and the processes that influence
their evolution (eg moral labels)
and the accounts they give for these acts and situations. These moral or
aesthetic judgements reflect people’s beliefs and tastes
the beliefs become an aspect of social reality-Beliefs set in motion actions that
have social consequences
These ‘subjective’ aspects of social problems affect and reflect our emotional
reactions to information we receive about the world.
econd, our ‘subjective’ or emotional responses often lead to what we call the
‘social construction’ of social problems—including a search for vil- lains, moral
panic, crusades for better behaviour, a demand for improved laws, and so on. A
central feature in the social construction of social problems is called ‘claims-
making’—a process by which people try to capture attention and mobilize public
opinion around par- ticular problems and their solutions.\As we will see, our
formulation of social problems is influenced both by changes in meas- urable
reality and by changes in our perceptions of measurable reality.
By bringing together the objective and subjective elements, we can define a social
problem as both a condition—an empirically observed condition that threatens
the well-being of a significant part of society—and a process—the sequence of
events by which members of society come to see a condition as a social problem
that warrants and needs collective remedial action.Sociological Imagination
C. Wright Mills The ability to see connections between one’s life (micro events) and the
social world (macro events)
This enables people to distinguish between personal troubles and public
This connection is made by closely analyzing reality at two levels
o Microsociology: interactions between individ- uals in small
groups. This approach studies people’s understanding and
experience of social problems at the local, personal level
o Macrosociology: major bureaucratic organization and social
institutions It explores the ways that social trends occurring
within major bureaucratic organizations and social institutions,
such as the economy or the govern- ment, affect the population
as a whole
The sociological imagina- tion makes a connection between the
conditions of our personal lives and the larger social context in which we
Present unemployment results in part from so-called ‘globalization’, a process
that sends high-wage Canadian jobs to low-wage counries.
We need both levels of analysis for a proper understanding of social problems and
to see that many private troubles are essentially public issues. Take the case of
street youth, or homeless youth, written about in a classic work of sociology by
John Hagan and Bill McCarthy (see Box 1.1). Hagan and McCarthy (1998) take a
purely objective, positivistic approach to the study of homeless youth. They show
no doubt whatever that (1) there are identifiable homeless youth they can study;
(2) they can find out all the necessary facts about the lives of these homeless
youth; and (3) they can devise explanations or theories about the reasons these
young people live on the streets. This is sociology in the traditional, scientific
An alternative approach might be to ask the youth to give personal accounts of
their homelessness, then analyze and compare their narratives to understand
why some youth accounted for homelessness in one way, while others did so in
another way. This is called a post-modern approach. Finally, Hagan and McCarthy
might have carried out the study a different way: to determine the reasons why
few people consider youth homelessness a major social issue, despite the efforts
by some to raise public awareness about this issue. This is called a subjectivist or constructionist approach. As you can see, each approach would involve collecting
and analyzing different kinds of information.
our human efforts to improve society sometimes backfire
no other century in human history combined as much technological progress with
as much organized killing and environmental destruction as the twentieth century
Those soci- ologists who study social problems often think of themselves as
engaged in a moral enter- prise whose goal is to improve human societies through
social change. Therefore, much of the sociological research on social problems is
guided by seven value preferences (Alvarez, 2001):
• life over death; • health over sickness; • knowing over not knowing; •
co-operation over conflict; • freedom of movement over physical
restraint; • self-determination over direction by others; • freedom of
expression over restraint of communication.
much of the research on social problems simply criticizes the existing social
order. Much of the social problems literature aims at change society, to protect
the vulnerable and redress the injustices done them.
Sociologists identify the social-structural conditions that make people vulnerable
to these so-called personal troubles
we find the media turning ‘public issues’ into ‘private troubles’.
Durkheim, over a century ago in his classic study, Suicide, pointed out that a lack
of social integration and social control are likely to cause great men- tal distress.
Sociologists also identify social-structural factors that increase the likelihood of
prob- lem behaviours—indeed, sequences or cascades of problem behaviours
As sociologists, we need to study these problems and find ways of preventing
them—controlling them at their source—since efforts to correct them later have
proved largely unsuccessfu
Social ‘reality’ conditional and temporary
Social reality is a social construct, a set of ideals, beliefs and views
that are flexible and open to interpersonal influence
People’s subjective view of reality, not reality itself shapes behavior
These stories—however imaginary—lead to actions that are real in their
Thomas dictum: when people define a situation as real, the situation will be real
in its effects. Stated another way, people’s subjective view of reality—not reality
itself—shapes their behaviour.
at least some of the supposed social problems we will discuss are not real
problems—they are merely ‘social constructions’ because Lying has become full-
time professional work for many of the most financially successful people in our
A sociological research approach that examines the ways people
interact to create a shared social reality.
An approach to understanding the subjective aspect of reality
rests on a sociological theory of knowledge stated by Peter L. Berger
and Thomas Luckmann in their book The Social Construction of Reality
Those who classify social problems and try to make a change
people who ‘discover’ and attempt to publicize deviant behaviours.
Moral entrepreneurs are crusading reformers who are disturbed by
particular types of evil they see in the world and who will not rest
until something is done to correct the problem
Claims – Making
Anything people do to propagate
involves the promotion of a particular moral vision of social life and,
thus, is anything people do to propagate a view of who or what is a
problem and what should be done about it.
a procedure that describes, explains, and blames people who are
involved with the problem, Often, the social construc- tion of reality involves the work of moral
entrepreneurs—elites, interest groups, or even community leaders, who
stereotype and classify some situations as problems. Constructing problems also
Berger and Luckmann argue that all know- ledge—including the most taken-for-
granted knowledge of everyday life—is created, pre- served, and spread by social
interaction. According to the social constructionist approach, any idea, however
natural or obvious it may seem to the people who accept it, is an invention of a
particular culture or society.
Gestures, artifacts, and words that represent something else.
The specific duties and obligations expected of those who
occupy a specific social status.
George Herbert Mead (1934), who wrote that children learn to interact with others
by learning a system of symbols, including language, which allows them to share
and negotiate meanings among those who share the system. Using shared
meanings, they can play together, perform complementary roles, and relate to the
social group as a ‘general- ized other’. For Mead, this ability is the basis of all
social order. Shared meanings (including shared symbols) make social interaction
possible, and interaction allows people to co-oper- ate and influence one another.
Social life, for Mead, is the sharing of meanings—that is, the co-operative (social)
construction of reality.
Erving Goffman: Social life is a set of scripted, directed performances. Inside our
social roles we find and express (or hide and protect) our ‘true’ identities.
In the view of social constructionists, human beings react not to physical objects
and events themselves, but to the shared meanings of these objects and events. The
shared mean- ings are not essential features of the objects and events, but are
socially imposed or con- structed meanings. The meaning of anything, including a social problem, is the product of the
dominant cultural and symbolic practices in a group or society.
There are 4 basic assumptions made
The world does not present itself objectively to the observer (but is
known through human experience, which is largely influenced by
Historical and cultural specificity recognized (The language
categories used to clas- sify things emerge from the social interactions
within a group of people at a par- ticular time and in a particular
Knowledge is sustained by social process ( How reality is understood
at a given moment is determined by the conventions of
communication in force at that time.)
Knowledge and social action go together (Within a social group or
culture, reality is defined by complex and organized patterns of
A set of people, defined by formal or informal criteria of membership,
who feel unified or are bound together in stable patterns of
when people interact, they share their views of reality and act on these shared
views. Through discussion, debate, and bargaining, people construct a shared
common- sense knowledge of the world. Social constructionism looks at the ways
people create and institutionalize social reality. And when people act on their
shared knowledge of this ‘reality’, they reinforce it or lock it in. To think in those
terms becomes habitual and seems natural, even unavoidable.
organization that, unexplored, serve the interests of the dominant groups in society.
In this respect, the method is intended to shift sociological research away from the
interests of the most powerful to better serve people who are subject to the
administra- tion of power. The result would be knowledge useful to anyone in
challenging relations of domination. A useful variation of this social constructionist approach is institutional
ethnography, a mode of inquiry designed by feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith
and intended to help researchers explore the social organization of everyday
knowledge. The purpose of this approach is to make the familiar strange and call
into question taken-for-granted assump- tions about social
A central means of performing this analytical exercise is by questioning the ways
in which knowledge is used to manage institutional life—by defining the
categories and conceptual frameworks of administration we all learn to use. Often,
these categories and conceptual frameworks are not only inappropriate for most
people’s everyday lives, they promote ideas about social order that serve the
dominant institutions and not ordinary people. Nowhere is this more evident than
in the realm of public discourse.
The first job of institutional ethnography, then, is to deconstruct the language used
to confuse and obscure public understanding of reality. Second, institutional
ethnography aims to shine a light on taken-for-granted relations of power, to
demystify the relations of ruling, and to point out ways that ruling relations can be
modified to better serve ordinary people in everyday life.
Do social problems only become real when attention is drawn to them?
One goal of ruling classes is to generate social and moral concern about
behaviours, such as dissent, they want to control. This means they are likely to use
claims-making strategies to provoke intense feelings of pity, concern, and even
To bring a perceived problem onto the public agenda, claims-makers usually rely
on com- mon rhetorical idioms and styles that reflect core cultural values. Often,
the rhetoric used invokes certain types of risk avoidance as pre-eminent goals
(Krinsky, 2008). popular perceptions today are more often shaped by media depictions than by
firsthand experience; how the media depict a problem plays a crucial part in how
the public will respond.
For example, the media can influence public opinion by putting stories about a
given ‘problem’ on the agenda for repeated discussion in news reports. As well,
they can portray the alleged problem in sensational ways, with heroes and villains.
Some media manipulation is more subtle, as brought to public attention in
television ‘talk’ shows. From these shows, we are meant to infer community
standards of behaviour—what is deemed by the talk show host to be ‘deviant’ and
‘normal’, ‘praiseworthy’ and ‘shocking’ is reinforced by the applause of the studio
audience. Here, the hosts are moral entrepreneurs and claims-makers, but the audi-
ence in the studio and in the home becomes the ‘court of public opinion’.Though
moral panics, like fads, are short-lived, they sometimes leave a legacy of laws,
stereotypes, cultural beliefs, or changed attitudes.
Since our perception of social problems arises out of claims-making, and since
claims- making is a social activity occurring within a specific historical context, we
must understand social problems, and their construction, within their historical
are unusual claims-makers who gain credibility for speaking out contrary to
their own immediate interests and those of their employer; but they lack the
organizational power to promote their definitions of the social problem.
Employees in a bureaucratic organization who bring forward valid
information about wrongdoing or illegal conduct by their organization
and who are often punished for doing so.
Framing a social problem in a particular way is especially important for
influencing public opinion.
Public expressions of feeling and attitude typically based on false or
exaggerated perceptions that some cultural behaviour or group of people (frequently a minority group) is dangerously
deviant and poses a menace to society.
Some issues grow slowly and hold the public interest for a long time, two
examples being domestic violence or school violence (Tanner, 2009). Others grow
quickly, peak, and quickly lose public interest, for example, the alleged devil
worship and satanic ritual that produced a flurry of concern in the 1990s.
Sociologists refer to such short-lived, intense periods of concern as moral panics,
and to the people responsible for these sensed threats as folk devils
To understand the definitional dilemma, consider race relations and ask why, or
under what conditions, racism might represent a social problem for Canadian
society (Reitz, 2007a). Various problems might be linked to race relations. First,
we might want to discuss unjust differences and inequalities between groups, and
the fact that some groups exclude other groups from employment, housing, or
social participation (Reitz, 2007b). These inequalities and exclusions are, if
nothing else, a moral issue for Canadians, because they cause income inequalities,
poverty, and demoralization. So, whenever we study a social inequality (like
racism) and ask whether it is a social problem, we will want to decide whether it is
exclusion- ary and the source of unjust differences.
Second, the lack of intergroup contact, due to exclusion and racism, produces
problems of isolation and limited information flow. Excluded people will be ‘out
of the loop’, separated from mainstream society. This limits their knowledge about
and access to good jobs. It also reduces the development of familiarity between
members of the different groups—a source of friendship and mutual understanding
known to reduce conflict. Thus, we may want to consider racism a social problem
because it encourages separation, segregation, ignorance, fear, and conflict
Third, problems associated with race relations might include second-order
outcomes of segregation, exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination such as self-hate.
People who suffer exclusion and stigmatization may feel inferior, since they are
treated in an inferior manner. This we can view as a form of psychological
disability—a way the host society disables vari- ous members of society, making
them unwilling or unable to compete effectively for the ‘rewards’ of income,
power, authority, and prestige (Moran, 2008).
How can we tell if a social problem is real? Are there differences/inequalities in the groups?
Is there exclusion?
Are there second-order outcomes?
their knowledge about and access to good jobs
conflict between groups.
, prejudice, and
discrimination such as self-hate.
may feel inferior, since they are treated in an inferior manner.
reduced happiness and life satisfaction;
mental illness—depression, for example.
criminal or revolutionary means.
retreat from life, into suicide, addiction, or blind, purposeless conformity
to minimalist social expectations.
a problem for Canadian society if we can show, with data, that they produce any
or all of these outcomes. To put our findings in context, we also need to ask
ourselves whether Canada’s problems are worse than those found in other
societies, and if so, why? Are these problems unmanageable and get- ting worse, or
manageable and getting better? Can these problems be avoided, and if so are
Canadians taking suitable steps to avoid them?
Social Problems are not the exclusive domain of sociologists
natural and social sciences have brought their own unique understandings and
perspectives to the study of social problems when we are seeking the truth, disciplines are not competing with one another.
he study of social problems is best understood as a complementary, multi-level co-
Biological Perspective: focus on genetic, hormonal,
neurological factors-uncover the biological bases for socially
harmful behaviour. To this end, they focus on individuals and
on the genetic, hormonal, neurological, and physiological
factors that contribute to their dysfunction in society.
Occasionally, biologists provide us with provocative new ways
of thinking about the human condition. However, since they
focus on (assumed) universal human traits, their theories are not
helpful for explaining historical and cross-national variations.
Psychological Perspective: focus on cognitive, perceptual and
social psychologists, -study the ways in which social, cognitive,
and emotional factors influence social action.
distinguish themselves from sociologists by limiting their
research to the thoughts and personalities of individuals as they
are influenced by and represented in a social context
, they tend to use experiments to study the influence of
This focus on experimentation, rather than on surveys or field
studies, is another defining difference between sociologists and
insights are useful because we are influenced by cognitive,
perceptual, and affect- ive factors. Nowhere is this recognized
more clearly than in the symbolic interactionist and social
constructionist approaches to social problems.
However, psychological studies—typ- ically carried out in
laboratories using undergraduate subjects—tend to overlook the
broad mix of social, cultural, and other contextual factors
within which humans actually make their social decisions. The
laboratory setting is chosen in hopes of controlling and/or
testing one factor at a time, but it is far from natural.
sociological researchers focus on group relations and culture.
Some prefer macroanalysis at the societal level and others
concentrate on microanalysis at the small-group level. The two
major macroanalytical approaches in sociology are the structural-functionaland conflict perspectives, while the major
microanalytical approach is the symbolic inter- actionist
Ways of looking at society
A Theoretical paradigm emphasizing the way each part of society
functions to fulfill the needs of society as a whole
views society as a set of interconnected elements that work
together to preserve the overall stability and efficiency of the
whole. Individual social institu- tions—families, the economy,
government, education, and others—contribute to the func- tioning
of the entire society.also called ‘functionalism’; a
macrosociological approach that focuses on the societal, as
opposed to the individual, level.
Everyone/everything has a function in society including poverty
o Manifest Functions: Intended/easily recognizable: The
visible and intended goals, consequences, or effects of
social structures and institutions.
o Latent Functions: Unintended/hidden from
participants:Hidden, unstated, and sometimes
unintended consequences of activities in an
organization or institution.
• Elements in society are interconnected and interrelated.
According to functionalists, the cause of most social problems is a failure of
institutions to fulfill their roles during times of rapid change. This social
disorganization view of social problems holds that sudden cultural shifts disrupt
traditional values and common ways of doing things.
French sociologist Émile Durkheim (see, e.g., 1964 , 1951 , 1965
) introduced the term anomie, or normlessness, to reflect this condition in
which social norms are weak or come into conflict with one another.
The rules and expectations of the society pertaining to appropriate
behaviours under various social circumstances. Norms regulate
behaviour in different situations and large-scale norm violation often
is viewed as a social problem—a problem occurs when traditionally
normative behaviour is violated.
• Well-functioning societies require value consensus, social cohesion, and social control.
• Social change or inequality may create social disorganization
and strain, and lead to deviance and crime.
• Social problems occasionally strengthen social cohesion by
renewing commitment to social boundaries.
As traditional norms and relations break down, social control declines and people
feel less tied to one another; and as a result they become more likely to engage in
non-conforming, devi- ant types of behaviour (crime, drug use, and so on). The
general solution to social problems, according to this perspective, is to strengthen
social norms and slow the pace of social change.
Marx and Engels, emphasize conflict and change as the regular
and permanent feature of society
Marx believed in two broad groups
o Bourgeoisie: elite owners of the means of production
o Proleriat: working class who must sell labour for wage
o The capitalists use their great economic power and political
influence to ensure that they remain in a position of domin-
ance over the workers.
o For the capitalist class to uphold its wealthy, privileged
status, it must ensure that those below it in power do not
have the opportunity—and if possible, even the desire—to
encroach on bourgeois power. However, for the bourgeoisie
to reap so much economic gain from the system, sizable
minorities must live in abject poverty. This poverty of the
working and unemployed classes produces conflict and
despair. It also leads to many other social problems,
including crime, drug use, homelessness, environmental
pollution, domestic violence, and racism, as well as physical
and mental health problems.
o theorists also contend that workers in a capitalist system feel alienated from the
processes and products of their labour, which are fragmented and specialized.
Because they are powerless and stuck in narrowly defined jobs, they are unable
to control or change the conditions of their work. In every sense, they are
alienated—estranged—from their work, their fellow workers, the products of
their work, and even from themselves. Moreover, they are alienated because they are exploited: denied a fair and just payment for the value they produce through
a macrosociological research approach that focuses on
processes within the whole society.
has its roots in the basic division between the ‘haves’ and the
criticize the structural-functionalist explanation of social
problems,especially its assumption of consensus among members
of society and its limited attention to power struggles and
The conflict perspective instead views society as a collection of
varied groups—especially, social classes—locked in struggle over
a limited supply of assets and power.
argue that social problems stem mainly from the economic
inequalities that exist between competing groups
•Conflict and change are basic features of social life.
• Social problems are a result of inequality, conflict, and
•Conflicting groups, classes, and individuals routinely struggle
for domination over others.
• The conflict between men and women is a basic feature
of all societies
Critics of the Marxian conflict theory approach have noted that, historically, communist
well, non-Marxist conflict theories argue that many social conflicts are based on non-
class-based interests, values, and beliefs. They point out that the Marxist approach has
overemphasized the importance of economic inequality at the expense of other types of
inequality and social injustice based on race, gender, age, or other factors linked to
inequality. While they recog- nize the value people place on differences in income and
social class, proponents of these perspectives believe that other divergent interests and
characteristics can also lead to conflict and oppression.
Paradigm that studies the processes by which individuals interpret
and respond to the actions of others, and that conceives of
society as the product of this continuous face-to-face interaction
o Focuses on small group interactions (microsociological approach
)Labeling theory: a social problem is only a social problem
once it has been labeled -- labelling theory is a close cousin of the social
constructionist view- point discussed earlier o ymbolic interactionist sees society as made up of the shared meanings,
definitions, and interpretations held by interacting individuals. In studying social
problems, followers of this perspective analyze how certain behaviours and
conditions come to be defined or framed as social problems and how people
learn to engage in such activities.
•Society is a product of continuous face-to-face interactions.
•Social problems are socially constructed.
•Problematic behaviours are socially learned and practised in
• Socialization and labelling shape deviant identities and
social problems develop in stages.
o social recognition, the point at which a given condition or behaviour
o , social legitimating takes place when society and its various institutional
elements formally recognize the social problem as a serious threat to social
o mobilization for action, marking the point at which various social organizations
begin planning strategies for remedial action.
o develop- ment and implementation of an official plan,
Critics of the symbolic interactionist perspective argue that social problems may exist even
when they are not recognized as problems.
Population Health Perspectives
Approach to health with goals of reducing health inequalities
Population health is a sensitive global measure of how well a society
• All common social inequalities have significant health consequences.
• Social problems are revealed by declines in population health.
• The goal in dealing with social problems is always to avoid and reduce
Because of complex interactions among the determinants of health, the population health perspective
employs a multidisciplinary approach to theory and research-- it com- bines insights from various
government divisions, such as health, justice, education, socialservices, finance, agriculture, and
environment, with input from such academic fields as medicine, social work, psychology, cultural
anthropology, and sociology.
Often, the cause of social problems is a failure of institutions to fulfill their roles during times of rapid
change, as functionalists suggest. However, sociologists who support competing explanatory
approaches hotly debate this view. In particular, conflict theorists insist that social inequal- ities are
the key to understanding social problems. May 16 : Points 9
Starting Points- Chapter 9: Classes and Workplaces
The satisfaction people feel from their work depends on what they want to
get out of their work and what they are expecting.
Class: a group of people who share the same relationship to the means of
production or to capital (Marx) or a group of people who share a common
economic situation based on income, property , authority, etc. (Weber).
Marx→ conflict between classes is an inherent problem for capitalism
Durkheim→ conflict between classes in inherent in industrialism
In our age of capitalism it’s the managers and directors who control capital,
not the owners.
Also, state institutions exercise a lot of power in society
Marx → capitalism alienates workers. They become isolated and estranged
from the products they make, their co-workers and sometimes even
themselves. The anger employees feel can be channelled to other places
(violence against women, children, minority groups).
Workplace inequalities translate into broader social and economic
Functionalists argue that poverty and inequality have an important place in
In this case the inequality cause by capitalism is a “graded ladder” where
people who are at different rungs have different jobs and incomes.
Meaning that poverty is a way to motivate people to move up the ladder.
The jobs at the top of the ladder require the most education but have the
Functionalists think that everyone needs work along with hope and love.
Work allows you to acquire material necessities for you and your family.
Work also allows you to satisfy your need (emotional) of wanting to be a
productive and valuable member of society, to gain praise and recognition
and to interact and co-operate with other people. Work is a platform for social interaction, social solidarity and cohesion. It’s
a place to work out your social and creative impulses.
Relies on ideas from Marx and Weber
Want to know “Who benefits from the way power is organized in society?
(Especially the workplace).
In this theory, unemployment is a condition that is manipulated by the
capitalists who run things. It allows them to boost profits
Marx→ capitalism is a cycle because you get burst of high productivity
which leads to overproduction. Overproduction forces prices down and
when prices go down the capitalists stop investing. When investment stops
the economy slows causes a recession (where people lose their jobs)
Boom and bust cycle gives you periodic cycles of unemployment.
Reserve army of labour: the people who form the easily mobilized, easily
disposable workforce that is at the mercy of the employers. (Their
employment situation is like this because they are often unemployed and
are therefore impoverished)
Marx→ class relations under capitalism cause all the conflict that happens
Have a critical analysis of the workplace but they note that women and
men, whether of the same class or not, have quite different experiences at
Since women get paid less than men, capitalists profit more from the work
that women do than from the work that men do.
This creates job dissatisfaction for women, a lack of job control and high
rates of depression (and other psychological issues).
Want to know “ How the labels of wealthy and poor are constructed
through social interaction” Stereotype of the poor: minority member who relies on welfare instead of
getting a job. Perhaps is involved in crime and spends their money on
drugs, alcohol, etc.
Stereotype of the rich: greedy, snobbish, callous, wasteful. Most likely born
into a family that was already well off.
Focus also put on what work and unemployment mean to individuals.
A lot of people see occupational titles as status symbols (basing their
assessment on income)
Ask “How did this arrangement emerge”
Contested Terrain: The Transformation Of The Workplace In The Twentieth
Century (Edwards, 1979) tells us that management practices have changed,
going from direct control to technological control to bureaucratic control.
Change in management strategies and ideologies is seen in the work that is
done and the technology used at work.
Also interested in charting the changes in ideologies about work and the
‘50s and ‘60s → worry was that work could become alienating. ‘70s and
‘80s→ concern was for exploitation of workers , computers replacing
humans and the need for more leisure time.
Labour and Monopoly Capital
Harry Braverman, 1974
Explored the evolution of capitalists over 2 centuries
Saw that works was becoming more degraded and “mindless”
Noted that the separation of skill and knowledge further degrades the
meaning of work.
Developed 2 groups of employees needed: the small number of highly
skilled employees whose time is valuable (white-collar) and the masses of
people doing simple labour whose time is worth next to nothing (blue-
collar). The proliferation of clerical workers led to the application of scientific
management techniques (standardization of techniques, subdivision of
skills, freezing of pay levels) degraded work even further, even highly skilled
Labour and Classes
Social class: the way people earn a living (Marxian version) or how much
money and status people gain from their job (Weberian version).
Classes and the work that people do are fundamentally linked.
Bourgeoisie (the “haves”): the controlling class who owns the means of
Proletariat (the “have-nots”): the subordinate class who work for wages
that come from the bourgeoisie (Marx).
Since the two classes have different interests they will always be in conflict,
yet they are interdependent (they gain at the expense of each other).
Proletariat have to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie to earn the wages
they need to survive. Bourgeoisie buy the labour and gain profit from the
goods and services that are created.
But high prices, low wages and poor working conditions are bad for the
health of the workers.
Marx → the class struggle is inevitable and never ending.
Class consciousness: a group’s awareness of their common class interest
and their commitment to work together to attain collective goals. Very hard
to attain because legislators who are sympathetic to businesses create laws
that prevent or impede unionization.
Workers may also not want to work with people of different races, union
leaders may not know how to best represent workers, etc.
False consciousness: a willingness to believe in ideologies that support the
ruling class but that are false and disadvantageous to the working class
Ideological reasons can prevent workers from seeing that they are being
exploited. Exploitations by the bourgeoisie has 3 principles (Wright, 1997), the inverse
interdependence principle, the exclusion principle and the appropriation
Inverse interdependence principle: economic well-being of capitalists
depends on the economic deprivation and exploitation of workers because
the share profits.
Exclusion principle: capitalists have to keep up pressure on workers by
excluding them from access to productive resources (ex: capital to create
their own businesses, limiting access to jobs, housing, etc.).
Appropriation principle: capitalists take advantage of the workers, taking
(appropriating) their labour for a fraction of its worth.
Petite bourgeoisie: the lower middle class, a group of people who own the
means of production on a small scale (ex: owners of small shops).
Don’t belong to working class or capitalists (as classified by Marx)
Parties (Weber): associations and organizations that give people economic
power and influence (ex: political parties/ formations)
Status groups (Weber): sets of people who share a social position in society
(ex: religion, ethnicity)
Weber thought people could gain power via parties and status groups,
regardless of economic control.
Post-industrialism: economic system based more on services and
information than on manufactured goods or primary production.
The Organization of Work Today
Computers have positive and negative effects on work.
But people have to invent, use and fix technology at work.
Non-standard work arrangements: dead-end, low paying. Insecure jobs,
a.k.a precarious employment. The fastest growing type of employment in
developed countries. Employers have full control over the employment
Self-employment is also growing but many people who are self-employed
are struggling to make a living in competitive markets because they have to
work long hours with few to no employees while building a market share. The Division of Labour in Society
Emile Durkheim, 1933.
Moral evolution has resulted from our adjustment to a larger size, a more
complex economy and our increased communication ability.
‘Moral density” with the growth in division of labour.
2 factors associated with moral density: social volume (total # of people in a
society) and material density (frequency of social connections).
Changes in social experience and social communication lead to changes in
laws and social tolerance. Changes aren’t smooth though, they weaken the
moral fabric that binds us to each other and society, can cause anomie
Without social cohesion and social support, we’re less productive, less
secure and less fulfilled.
Alienation and Collective Action
Marx saw the disconnection between new industrial workers and the
detachment from their own lives as a result of capitalism. Called it
Workers feel alienated from their products they make, which makes them
feel alienated from production (what they create is taken by the
capitalists), themselves and finally other workers.
Seeman→ 5 dimensions of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness,
normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement.
Membership is usually higher in Canada than in the US.
Highly correlated with class awareness.
Give working people strength in numbers for negations about working
conditions, job security, etc.
Unionization in decreasing overall but increasing in female-dominated
The Culture of Poverty Poverty is harmful in our society because it hints at personal failure.
Working poor: those who earn minimum wage.
Culture of poverty: includes a short sighted view of the future, an impulsive
attitude and lack of self-discipline, a failure to participate in mainstream
culture and accepting their marginalized status. Portrays the poor as
White Collar Crime
Edwin Sutherland, Principles of Criminology (1961).
Corporations that are convicted of offences have usually offended before.
White collar crimes are deliberate and organized.
Moderns Forms of Capitalism
Managers are the ones who have control.
Doctors, civil servants, judges, elected officials, etc. also hold large amounts
Knowledge, expertise and capital are important inputs to wealth
production and state craft.
The people mentioned above are part of “the upper middle class”.
Not all inequality is due to exploitation, some comes from inadequate
finance laws, tax structure, etc.
The Relationship Between Class and Health
The Hidden Injuries of Social Class, Sennett and Cobb (1977).
Class warfare hurts the body and spirit.
Poverty and inequality lead to stress which causes illness. Risk is higher for
those living in extreme poverty?
Stress and poverty amplify pre-existing health problems and are manifested
in physical illness food, lack of shelter and suitable food, exposure to
The same is seen in those on welfare and those with homes that are
unemployed. Jobs like being a waiter are the works because they are high stress low
Job hierarchy is associated with health and longevity. Better jobs= better
health. (Whitehall Studies)
Social Class and Crime
Crime is an innovation aimed at solving the problem of the gap between
ends and means (Merton, 1957).
We are socialized to desire fame and wealth.
White collar criminals are the real innovators, getting friendly, uninformed
people to help them with their crimes.
Gerhard Lenski’s work (The Religious Factor, Power and Privilege, Human
Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology) argues that the
concentration of power controls the concentration of material wealth.
We see “high Gods” in developed societies and ‘moral Gods” in herding and
Stress leads to health problems, decreased enjoyment of life, distrust of
others and the government and diminished participation in social life.
May 16 : RS 7
Chapter 7: What a girl wants, what a girl needs: examining cultural change and
ideas about gender equality in relationship self-help
Advice books reflect and speak to the many cultural and structural changes
o Changing gender relations, social structures, and ideologies
Sociologist disagree about the nature of relationship advice books’ content
and their impact on intimate relationships
Relationships have changed profoundly in the past half century
o Later marriage, cohabitation, more egalitarian (power/money),
mixed ethnic and socio-economic background, loss of cultural stigma
surrounding divorce, increase single-parenting
1960s-1970s o Optimism concerning changes in intimate life, broader social
changes, and their impact on heterosexual relationships
o Partners should be seen as equals, endorse exploration of new
relationship forms, promote couples’ investments in ensuring
women’s sexual satisfaction and the need for open and honest
o Encourage women’s movement and financial independence, break
away from tradition
o Cautionary tales of being burned
o Emphasize on the relationship of the self with self, promotion of
women’s self-love above all relationship concerns, a vocabulary of
dysfunction and pathology for framing relationship challenges ,
caution to women vis-à-vis emotional investment in relationships and
greater sexual conservatism
o Stress that a willingness to get to know and love oneself better is a
prerequisite to a willingness to fall in love
o Women must be their own prince
Mid 1990s-late 2000s
o Promote egalitarian relationships but emphasize the need for
distinctly feminine and masculine personae within them
o Voice displeasure at outcomes of the feminist movement/perceived
erosion of family values
o Promote romance (chivalry and male leadership)
o Emphasize the importance of God, religion, and spirituality in
o Bracket broader structural issues affecting intimate relations, and
considerable tension between authors’ insistence on men/women’s
formal equality and their belief that men/women have different roles
o Men must be ‘cheetah boy’: leading, providing, protecting
o Women must be ‘creatures unlike any other’: hard to get, coy,
o The personal is political: even when books are ignoring social
context, writing about relationships in individualistic terms, they are
still shaped by broader social forced
o Each cluster demonstrates tensions between progress/equality,
tradition/inequality in gender relations
o Cluster 1: alternative lifestyle, fertility dropped, new social
movements, mixed promotion of continuity and change
o Cluster 2: coincided with reactionary neo-liberalism in NA, women’s
movement dropped, women’s work seen has necessity, HIV/AIDS
appeared, in-vitro fertilization reduced women’s reliance on men
o Cluster 3: political dominated by shift to the right, conservative views
on the family were promoted, resilience of religious culture,
mainstream promotion for post-feminist ideology, couples tried to
move beyond traditional
o Advice books always reflect changes in macro-level social structure
May 16 : RS 10
Inequality and Stratification:
Inequality and stratification is the result of the unequal distribution of
The conditions of inequality are rarely random. They are socially
constructed that are used to rank individuals in society; known as traits.
o These traits can be biological or socially acquired, but these traits
must be imbued with cultural meaning to be ranked.
The Four articles in this Section cover issues of:
o 1. Pat Armstrong = distribution of material resources - neo-liberal
policies increasingly impoverishing some while enriching others
o 2. Jacqueline Kennelly = stratification of social power - the ability of
those who are empowered to control and shape the lives of those
who lack power o 3. Arlene Tigar McLaren and Sylvia Parusel = distribution of risk -
traffic risks are disproportionately experienced by lower-income and
o 4. Carlo Fanelli and Justin Paulson = same theme as the 1st (Pat
Overall, this Part is a compilation of Critical Theorists because they are
engaging the question "Who benefits from the current social order?" = look
to Chp. 9 in Points p. 248 for a summary of Critical Theorists
o Pay equity = The term used in North America to refer to equal pay
between men and women
"equal pay for equal value"
Is based on comparisons of work predominately done by
women with work predominately done by men. It does not
challenge the wages paid for men's jobs but does say that
women's jobs should be paid on the same basis as men's jobs.
It assumes that legislation applied to all employers can create a
level playing field.
This failure to challenge the assumed market determination of
men's jobs has been one reason some feminists have rejected
pay equity strategies.
Key Point: -->Pay equity supports the continuing segregation
of the labour force that leaves women doing women's work at
o Gender Wage Gap = A difference between a man and woman's
fixed regular payment earned for work or services, typically paid on
a daily or weekly basis.
Based on the notion of need, improved women's wages
because women are the majority of those earning the lowest
Minimum wage was introduced to address this, however it
was not intended to create equity.
o historically, equal pay is focused on individuals where the
responsibility is on the individual to take the risk of complaining and, if successful, the reward of higher pay is only given to that individual.
The challenge was the intent of the employer had to be proven
where the employer was not being given "equal pay for equal value."
o the challenge was to have gendered wage difference legally
recognized as systemic discrimination - discrimination that did not
need proof of the employer's intent of discrimination of pay by
o The main argument against Equal Pay is: it assumes that gendered
division of domestic life is natural and does not need equal pay of the
"heavier" work of a man's job. Where a women's "lighter" work of
domestic cleaning does not merit the same pay as men's work. Thus,
it does not separate gender from the workplace. Equal pay laws
views the workplace and the individual together.
o One argument against Equal Pay = women choose to take low-paying
jobs and part-time, precarious employment due to a lack of need for
o In contrast: Pay Equity does separate gender from the workplace.
Pay equity is about the jobs NOT the individual.
o To achieve pay equity, the process can't be left to unions alone.
o Many women have entered self-employment in reaction to poor
institutionalization of pay equity.
o The privatization of many government services means women
employees are no longer protected by the equity legislation or
o Pat Armstong calls for the expansion of the equity legislation into
other forms of work not covered by current legislation.
o Qualitative method of data collection that involves interactive
discussion among a small number of people.
o High profile, onetime events of a limited duration hosted by a city
that receives global media attention. Mega-events typically
circulate among host cities rather than recurring in the same city
multiple times. Zones of Prestige
o A culturally impressive institution or space that a city uses to
boost its reputation both nationally and globally.
o An area that the police have designated as out of bounds to
particular youth who have been banished by police for partaking
in illegitimate (though not always criminal) behaviour.
o Olyimpic games event in Vancover 2012 is an example of a mega-
o Its effects on some lower class local y