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ISS 210 Chapter 1 Notes

by: Dane Brennan

ISS 210 Chapter 1 Notes ISS 210

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In these notes I have collected both my own highly detailed noted on the book, as well as my notes from being in the lecture.
Society and the Individual
SocialProblems, sociological perspective
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This 4 page Bundle was uploaded by Dane Brennan on Tuesday September 13, 2016. The Bundle belongs to ISS 210 at Michigan State University taught by Garcia in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 122 views.


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Date Created: 09/13/16
ISS Notes Chapter 1 – The Sociological Approach to Social Problems Historical Theories of Social Problems Early U.S sociologists: Social pathologists assumed social problems were caused by abnormal people – deviants, disturbed normal order. Applied a medical model to social pathology. Social problems resulted from “bad” people. Assumed norms were universally held. 1920s and 1930s Focused on conditions of society that fostered social problems. Rapid social changes, migration, industrialization. Modern sociologists Focus on the subjective nature of social problems Subjective nature of social problems – what is defined as a social problem differs by audience and time. Sociologists struggle to 1) define what is a social problem 2) is the focus of inquiry individuals or social systems? C. Wright Mills – individual or small group of job loss is “private trouble,” but widespread unemployment is “public issue” or “social problem” Free & Equal – the price of exclusion. Objective reality of social problems: There are conditions in society (poverty and institutional racism) that induce material or psychic suffering for some certain segments of population. Social conditions which induce material or psychic suffering and limit opportunities. Discrepancies between values and actual conditions. The dangers and limits of objectivity. Hard to define, because of subjectivity. Don’t listen to the powerful, they distort. Don’t assume current social ways are correct. Types of Social Problems 1. Norm Violations act and conditions that violate the norms and values in society. The traditional approach to studying social problems. Directs attention towards society’s failure and away from the failures of society. Deviance is culturally defined and labeled. The powerful in society define who is deviant and what constitutes a social problem. 2. Social Conditions socially induced conditions that cause unequal emotional and material suffering. Some types of social arrangements may reflect a bias in the system such that individual deviance is a consequence of institutional deviance. Institutional deviance when society and its formal organizations are not meeting the needs of its individuals. Institutional deviance – when the society and its formal organization are not meeting Focus on how power is distributed with society as the primary source of social problems. Sociological Imagination (C. Wright Mills) The ability to see the link between individual circumstances and the structure of society. Components: Viewing the world from the perspectives of others. Focusing on the social, economic, and historical circumstances that cause individual problems. Questioning the structural arrangements of society. Using our sociological imagination helps us understand how society influences decisions and behaviors. Where does your “style” come from? Why did you enroll in college? Why do people get married? When? And to whom? Fundamental issue: Do social problems emanate from the pathologies of individuals (person blame) or from the situations in which deviants are involved (system-blame), that is, whether deviants are the problem itself or only victims of it. Person-blame Person-Blame Approach -assumes that social problems result from the pathologies of individuals. Authorities and individuals most likely to take this perspective. Emphasizes cultural degradation – the culture or groups are inferior or deficient compared the majority culture. Recidivism – reinvolvement in crime. Consequences of the Person-Blame Approach Shifts the blame from institutions to individuals so the system goes unchallenged. Treats the symptom not the disease. Provide justification for a form of social Darwinism: that the placement of people in the stratification system is a function of their ability and effort. Reasons for system based approach: Social Structure as the Basic Unit of Analysis System-Blame Approach- assumes that social problems result from social conditions. Preferred approach when studying social problems. Sociologists often ask: Who benefits under the current existing social structure? Faults in blaming system: System is not the entire truth. Individuals do bad things. Blaming system entirely means people have no free will outside system invites. This technically makes people not held accountable to their actions and could invite anarchy. William Graham Summer was a proponent of social Darwinism. 3 reasons book uses system based approach: 1. Average citizens tend to interpret social problems from an individualistic perspective, so a balance is needed. 2. The subject matter of sociology is not the individual but society. 3. The institutional framework of society is the source of many social problems. An exclusive focus on the individual ignores the strains caused by the inequalities of the system and its fundamental intransigence to change. 3 types of sociology questions: 1. Questions to ascertain facts. a. Ex: Are curriculum offerings the same for boys and girls within a school? 2. Comparative Questions; how does the situation in the one social context compare with another? 3. Historical; looking at trends. a. Divorce over time. Problems with collecting data: Value neutrality: to be absolutely free of bias in research. Attacked from 3 positions: 1. Scientists should not be morally indifferent to the implications of their research. 2. The stance is impossible, bias exists. 3. The types of problems researched and the strategies used tend to either support the existing social arrangements or undermine them. 4 different sampling techniques: 1. Survey research – when sociologists are interested in obtaining information about people with certain social attributes. -Sample – a representative part of a population. - A variable is an attitude, behavior, or condition that can vary in magnitude and significance from case to case. -Longitudinal studies last for a long time and follow same subjects. 2. Experiments: To understand the cause and effect relationship among a few variables, sociologists use controlled experiments. -Independent variable – the variable that affects the other variable. -Depend variable – the variable that is influenced by the effect of another variable. 3. Observation – what it sounds like. To observe people / situations naturally unfold. 4. Existing data – rely on previous studies to collect data.


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