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What are social problems?

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Social problem
Is a social condition or pattern of behaviour that is believed to warrant public concern and collective action
Objective elements
The measurable features of a negative social condition; such a condition might include crime, poverty or
alcohol abuse and can be considered an objective reality
Subjective elements
Peoples evaluations of objective conditions and the processes that influence their evaluations; they include
the moral label that people apply to particular acts or situations, and the accounts they give for those acts and
Micro level analysis focuses on interactions of individuals in small groups
Peoples understanding and experience of social problems at the local, personal level
Macro level analysis focuses on the societal level; explores the ways that social trends occurring within major
bureaucratic and social institutions, such as the economy and the government, effect population as a whole
Sociology is an engaged, progressive and optimistic discipline, founded on a optimistic notion that a society
can be improved through research and the application of the research based knowledge
Sociological research on social problems is guided by seven valued preferences
Life over death
Health over sickness
Knowing over not knowing

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Co-operation over conflict
Freedom of movement over physical restraint
Self-determination over direction by others
Freedom of expression over restraint of communication
All social reality is conditional & temporary
Socialreality’ is a social construct set of ideas, beliefs, and views that is almost infinitely flexible and is
always open to interpersonal influence
People think about reality differently in such diverse aspects as religion, culture, ideology, mass
communication, propaganda, etc
This is clear through historical and cross-cultural research
People inventstories’ about reality
Even though stories are not real they lead to actions which are real in their consequences
Thomas dictum when people define a situation as real, the situation will be real in its effects or peoples
subjective view of reality (not the reality itself) shapes peoples behaviours
Example – in mass media, there arespin doctors’ in politics, advertizing, etc – whose job is to promote self-
interested concerns, beliefs, and wishes, often at the expense of the truth lying has become a full time
profession for some of the most financially successful people in our society
Some social problems are not real, but mere ‘social constructions
This means that some people view them as problems while others do not
Social constructions have important social effects
An approach to understanding the subjective aspect of reality is called social constructionism, and it rest on
the work done by Berger and Luckmann in their book ‘The Social Construction of Reality’
Often social constructionism includes work of moral entrepreneurs
Moral entrepreneurs
Term coined to describe people who ‘discover’ and attempt to publicize deviant behaviors; moral
entrepreneurs are crusading reformers who are distributed by particular types of evil they see in the world and
who will not rest until something is done to correct the problem
Elites, interest groups, or even community leaders, who stereotype and classify some situations as problems
Construction problems also includes claims making
Claims making

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Involves the promotion of a particular moral vision of social life, and, thus, is anything people do to
propagate a view of what is a problem and what should be done about it
Often blames the people involved in the problem, by labeling them as deviant or wrong doers
Social constructionism
A sociological research approach that examines the way people interact to create a shared social reality
Berger and Luckmann argued that all knowledge is created, preserved and spread through social interaction
even the most taken fro granted knowledge
Any idea, however neutral and obvious, in an invention of a particular culture or society
How do some ideas come to be accepted as true and compelling?
The answer to this question grew out of the work by symbolic interactionalist, George Herbert Mead, who
wrote that children learn to interact with others by learning a system of symbols
Symbols are gestures, artifacts, and words that represent something else
Symbols allow children to share and negotiate meaning to others who share the same system
Using the shared system, children can play together and perform complementary roles, and relate to the social
group as ‘generalized other’
Roles are the specific duties and obligations expected of those who occupy a specific social status
For Mead the ability to use symbols and thus interact with others is the basis of all social order
Shared meanings make social nitration possible
Interaction allows people to influence and co-operate with other another
For Mead, social life is the sharing of meanings (the social construction of reality)
Another social interactionist, Erving Goffman proposed that we can think of society as a theater in which
people compose and perform social scripts together
We come to believe in the roles and we play and become the people we pretend to be
Social life is a set of scripts and directed performances
Inside our social roles we express or hide our ‘true identities
In the view of social constructionists human beings react not to physical objects or events themselves, but to
the shared meaning of those objects and meanings
Shared meaning are not essential features of events and objects, but are socially imposed or constructed on
Red rose is beautiful
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