Textbook Notes (368,430)
Canada (161,877)
York University (12,845)
SOSC 1880 (2)
Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - What is Social Change?

8 Pages
Unlock Document

Social Science
SOSC 1880
Stephen Bosanac

What is social change? What are social problems? • Social conditions or behavioural patterns that a sizeable portion of society views as harmful and in need of collective action to remedy • Can be : o Empirically observed • Conditions that threaten the well-being of society (i.e. the problem that really exists) o A sequence of events through which a condition comes to be seen as a social problem Why study social problems? • Social problems harm our social environment and we should be aware of these conditions to work towards improving them o Studying social problems allows us to better understand how social structure interacts and influences people What is social change? • The action over time of an evolutionary nature within a society. Sometimes this is a progression and sometimes this is a regression. • Common sense is not enough to understand the social environment o Use systematic research to gather evidence, test hypothesis and conduct experiments o Based on careful study of social problems, theories or explanations can be formed to help develop practical solutions and the policies to deal with the problems • Sociological Imagination is needed o Sociological imagination is the ability to step back and see the connections between one's own life and the larger social world in which one lives o An approach that focuses on the relationship between the private troubles of individuals and broad social trends and public issues of society at large o Example: Unemployment • People without jobs may think that unemployment is a private trouble, involving only them and their families • Widespread unemployment is the source of this private trouble and is caused by factors (economic recession, corporate downsizing) that affect many people in society o Sociologists make the connections by considering two levels of analysis: • Microsociology (micro-level analysis)  Focused on interaction between individuals in small groups  Studies people's understanding and experience of social problems at individual and person levels • Macrosociology  Focused on a societal level  Studies the ways in which social trends occuring within major bureaucratic organizations and social institutions (eg. Economy, government) effect the population as a whole  May overlook individuals • Both levels of analysis are necessary to fully apprecite how private troubles are really public issues • Social Problems Research as a Moral Enterprise  Sociology is a progressive and optimistic discipline founded on the notion that society can be improved through research and the application of research-based knowledge  Many sociologists studying social problems think of themselves as being engaged in a moral enterprise whose goal is to improve human societies through social change  Goals of social improvement • 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 • New Social Problems in the Making o Social researchers are also interested in new concerns that could potentially become serious social problems o For example: • The creations and escape of dangerous biological life forms from labs • Unregulated antibiotics • Misuse of antibiotics leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria • Manufactured longevity  Higher life expectancies create new issues • Global refugees may destabilize the countries that grant them asylum • Approaches to understanding social problems o Essentialist approach • Social problems are talked about as though they 'really' exist; they are self-evident problems with real and serious outcomes • This approach is based on the view that an external world exists separate from the way we represent it • No room for individuality o Social constructionist approach • Some problems are not really problems, but 'social constructions'  Social construction: Something that we decide is real as a society. • Involves:  Stereotyping  Claims-making: a process that describes, explains, and blames people who are involved with the problem  Moral entrepreneurs (contruct problems) • Social problems exist when claims-makers or moral entrepreneurs succeed in persuading the public that problems exist • Origins of social constructionism  Theory of knowledge: all knowledge is created, preserved and spread by social interaction • Goal: examine how people act to create a shared social reality  G.H. Mead are able to interact by having shared meanings and symbols • Shared meanings make social interaction possible • Interactions allows influence and co- operation • According to social constructionists, the world is not presented objectively to the observer, but is known through human experience (which is influenced by language) • People do not react to objects or events themselves, but to the shared meanings of objects and events • Meanings are not essential features of objects and events, they are socially imposed or constructed meanings  For example: red roses are seen as beautiful and romantic  The meaning of anything, including social problems, is a product of the dominant culture and symbolic practices in a group or society • Strengths of social constructionism  Social constructionism recognizes that social reality in general is a social construct, or a set of ideas, bliefs and views that is flexible and open to interpersonal influence  It can account for the fact that the definition of a social problems changes over time and differs in various parts of the world • Weaknesses of Social Constructionism  Built on a weak foundation in accepting that beliefs and perceptions are socially constructed, empiricism and scientific observations of what is real or unreal are attacked Warnings, Panics and Claims • The definition of legitimate social problems changes over time o Ex. Former tolerance of family violence • Claims-makers construct social issues by invoking intense feelings towards percieved harm done to people in a commonality • Can result in "moral panics" o Short-lived intense periods of concern that leave a legacy in the form of laws, stereotypes, and changed attitudes Claims-Making Process • Tries to put a problem on the public agenda • Rhetoric invokes certain type of risk and risk avoidance as goals o Ex. A call on people to protect health, community, country and uses particular images or icons to sway public opinion • Main Actors in Claims-Making o Uses the media, which plays a large part in depicting the problem and shaping the public's opinion of and response to the problem • Main actors include  Media  Interest groups  Religious leaders  Medical doctors  Organizers insiders (whistle blowers) Historical Context of Social Problems • Many of the issues considered social problems only a century ago have changed dramatically since then • Example of Historica
More Less

Related notes for SOSC 1880

Log In


Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.