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Chapter 1

Sociology 2140 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: The Sociological Imagination, Norm (Social), Social Fact

Course Code
SOC 2140
Paul Whitehead

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1- Thinking about Social Problems
12:40 PM
Canadians identified the economy, unemployment & crime as primary areas of social concern
3 basic dimensions of human development: longevity, educational attainment & living standards
Globalization accelerates crime disease, social volatility- 100 mill children live and work on streets,
1.2 bill live on less than a dollar a day, 18 mill die everyday from communicable disease
Defined through subjective/objective criteria, varies across society, individuals, groups within a
society, historical periods
Objective and Subjective Elements of Social Problems
All social problems have an objective social condition and its subjective interpretation
Objective element: existence of a social condition, exist independently of our perception
Subjective element: beliefs that particular social conditions are harmful to society or to a segment
of society, should and can change them
Crime, addiction, poverty, racism, violence & pollution- not considered social problems until
segment of society believes these conditions diminish the quality of human life
Claims-making activities: strategies/actions that individuals or groups undertake to define social
conditions as social problems that require remedy- central to the development of particular view
of a social fact as a social problem
Spector & Kituse- trying to understand what people "perceive" as a social problem
Defining conditions as problems is a social activity that assumes shared values and shared
definitions regarding what counts as a social good
Social problem: social condition that a segment of society views as harmful to members of society
and in need of remedy
Social problems change overtime as society changes
Variability in Definitions of Social Problems
Individuals & groups disagree about what constitutes a social problem variations in views result
from differences in values, beliefs and life experiences
Helpful to have a framework to assess social problems- sociology provides a framework & requires
knowledge of the concepts & methods designed for assessing & analyzing social phenomena
Social Structure and Culture
Society is made up of social structure and culture - each side is distinct and inseparable from the
Analysis of both give a better understanding od the root causes of social problems
Elements of Social Structure
Structure of society: the way society is organized into different parts- institutions, social groups,
statuses and roles
Social facts: phenomena created by social organization rather than individual acts of desperation -
employment rates, morbidity/mortality, rates of population growth or decline
Society needs cohesion in different parts otherwise social upheaval and poor institutional
cohesion could have catastrophic outcomes
Institution: established and enduring organization of social relationships, five traditional
o Family, religion, politics, economics, and education
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