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Chapter 1

SOC102H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Symbolic Interactionism, Labeling Theory, Georg Simmel

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January 11th
What Are Social Problems?
-social problema social condition or pattern of behaviour that is believed to warrant public
concern and collective action
Sociology and the Study of Social Problems
- rise of sociology 19th century during industrialization
Objective and Subjective Elements
-objective elements
othe measureable features of a negative social condition; such conditions can be considered
an objective reality
-subjective elementspeoples evaluation of objective conditions and the processes that influence
their evaluations
othey include the moral labels that people apply to particular situations (‘good, sick), and
the accounts they give for these acts and situations
obeliefs set in motion actions that have social consequences (ex. legislation)
oour subjective or emotional responses often lead to the social construction of social
central feature: claims-making process by which people try to capture
attention and mobilize public opinion around particular problems
Social Problems and the Sociological Imagination
-terms coined by C. Wright Mills in his 1959 book, The Sociological Imagination
-the ability to see connections between ones own life (micro-events), the social world in which one
lives (macro-events), and between private troubles and public issues
othe sociological imagination enables people to distinguish between personal troubles and
public issues
-describes the sociologists ability to connect seemingly impersonal and remote historical forces to
the most basic incidents of an individuals life
-sociologists make these connections by analyzing reality at two levels
omicro-sociology – focuses on interactions between individuals in small groups
omacro-sociology – focuses on the societal level
-Hagan and McCarthy studies on street youths
Social Problems Research as Moral Enterprise
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-sociologists who study social problems often think of themselves as engaged in a moral enterprise
whose goal is to improve human societies through social change
-therefore, much of sociological research on social problems is guided by 7 value preferences
1.Life over death;
2.Health over sickness;
3.Knowing over not knowing;
4.Co-operation over conflict;
5.Freedom of movement over physical restrain;
6.Self-determination over direction by others;
7.Freedom of expression over restraint of communication.
-too often, the media turns public issues into private troubles and the victims are stigmatized
and blamed (ex. homeless youth)
Social Construction
-W.I. Thomas
oThomas dictum: when people define a situation as real, the situation will be real in its
-social constructionisma sociological research approach that examines the ways people interact
to create a shared social reality
oBerger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (1966)
osocial construction of reality involves:
moral entrepreneurs term coined to describe people who discover and
attempt to publicize deviant behaviours
moral entrepreneurs are crusading reformed who are disturbed by
particular types of evil and who will not rest until something is done to
correct the problem
claims-makinginvolves 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
oall ideas are created, preserved and spread by social interaction
-symbolic interactionism
oMead, 1936
ochildren learn to interact with others by learning a system of symbols (gestures, artifacts,
and words that represents something else) which allow them to share and negotiate
meanings among those who share the system
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