CHAPTER 1: What are Social Problems?
•Social problem is a social condition or pattern of behaviour that is believed to
warrant public concern and collective action.
a.The rise of sociology coincided with the rise of the modern societies in the
19th century where fuelled by progress in industrialization, urbanization,
scientific discovery, and innovation.
•Objective elements are measurable features of a negative social condition
(e.g. crime, alcohol, poverty). We can study its causes and detrimental effects
without making a moral judgement
•Positivism, a philosophical premise when we can perceive a physical reality
with our senses and science is the systematic attempt to find and test natural
laws through measurements of this reality
•Subjective elements are people’s evaluations of objective conditions and the
processes that influence their evaluations (i.e. moral labels as wrong, immoral).
a.Peoples’ beliefs are a reality too, because beliefs set in motion have social
consequences (e.g. laws)
b.Subjective aspects of social problems affect & reflect emotional reactions
to information we receive about the world (children dying remind us of
health inequality & environment negligence)
c.Our subjective responses lead to the social construction of social problems-
catch villains, etc.
•Sociological imagination is a term coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills that
describes the sociologist ability to connect seemingly impersonal and remote
historical forces to the most basic incidents of an individuals’ life. Also, they
are able to differentiate between personal troubles and public issues.
a.Micro events (our life) vs. macro events (social world) (e.g. unemployment)
b.Microsociology (micro-level analysis) focuses on interactions between
individuals in small groups
c.Macrosociology (macro-level analysis) focuses on interactions on a societal
level (e.g. how trends in gov’t or major institutions affect the population
on a whole)
•Post-modern approach is when narratives from subjects of inspection are
analyzed and compared, rather than using an objective, positivistic, traditional
•Subjectivist or constructionist approach is when sociologists question people
who aren’t affected why a certain social problem isn’t a social issue
•Sociologists study social problems to engage in a moral enterprise whose goal is
to improve societies:
a.Life over death, health over sickness, knowing over not, cooperation over
conflict, freedom of movement over physical restraint, self-determination