Social Problems: Chapter 1- Sociological Approach to Social Problems
Social Problems: Chapter 1- Sociological Approach to Social Problems ISS 210
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Grace Harmon on Friday September 18, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ISS 210 at Michigan State University taught by Dr. Garcia in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 381 views.
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Date Created: 09/18/15
ISS 210 Chapter 1 The Sociological Approach to Social Problems Issues of Today Immigration and the browning of America 0 Immigration from Latin America and Asia is fueling population growth 0 Half of the last 100 million Americans are immigrants and their US born children 0 Nonwhites will begin to surpass Whites as the numerical majority The graying of America 0 Number of elderly people is increasing 0 Causing problems with funding Social Security and Medicare The inequality gap 0 Inequality gap is at record levels resulting in a diminished middle class The increasing power of money to influence elections and public policy 0 Inverse relationship between money and power 0 No voice of the poor Globalization and the transformation of the economy 0 US economy shifted from manufacturing to service occupations and the collection storage and dissemination of information 0 Result relatively wellpaid employment in manufacturing products ex Automobiles has dwindled and been replaced with jobs in lowerpaying service industries 0 Most manufacturing is now done in foreign countries because of the cheap labor and lower taxes The plight of the poor 0 Nearly 1 in 6 Americans is poor 0 The trend is for the federal government to reduce quotsafety net programs that help the poor such as welfare and nutrition programs 0 Minimum wage is far belowa living wage The environmental impact 0 The US consumes of the world s energy most particularly oil and is the world s greatest producer of greenhouse gas resulting in global warming 0 Population growth more use of natural resources 0 Earth is warming because of human activities The growing global inequality 0 The world will grow by 50 before midcentury 0 Almost all this growth will occur among the poorest nations 0 An estimated 11 billion people are under nourished 0 Half of the world s population live on less than 2 a day An increasingly dangerous world 0 US responded to 911 with a war in Afghanistan and on Iraq war on terror 0 Growing threat of nuclear proliferation History of Social Problems Theory Early US sociologists applied a medical model to the analysis of society to assess whether some pathology was present Sociologists commonly assumed that social problems resulted from bad people ex people with mental disorders mental deficiencies lack of education or incomplete socialization Social pathologists assumed that the basic norms of society were universal They viewed social problems as behaviors or social arrangements that disturb the moral order They defined behaviors such as alcoholism suicide theft and murder as social problems They did not take into account the complexity of a diverse society Sociologists in the 19205 and 19305 focused on the conditions of society that fostered problems Societies undergoing rapid change from the processes of migration urbanization and industrialization were thought to have pockets of social disorganization In the past few decades many sociologists have returned to a study of problem individuals deviants who violate the expectations of society Modern study of deviance developed in two directions 0 1 Sociologists saw deviance as the result of conflict between the culturally prescribed goals of society such as material success and the obstacles to obtaining them that some groups of people face 0 2 Focusses on the role of society in creating and sustaining deviance through labeling those people viewed as abnormal Societal reactions are viewed as the key in determining what a social problem is and who is deviant relatively recent origin what is defined as a social problem differs by audience and by time 0 Example pollution hasn t always been considered a social problem 0 this perspective also examines how particular phenomena come to be defined as social problems focusing on how groups of people actively influence those definitions Issues in looking at social problems 0 Sociologists have difficulty agreeing on adequate definition of social problems 0 There is continuing debate over the unit of analysis 0 Issue of numbers how many people have to be affected before something is a social problem Toward a Definition of Social Problems the notion that societal conditions harm certain segments of the population and therefore are social problems 0 There are sociocultural phenomena that prevent a significant number of societal participants from developing and using their full potential 0 Example there are conditions in society such as poverty that induce material suffering for certain populations or racism that causes psychic suffering Dangers in defining social problems objectively o Subjectivity is always present 0 Identifying a phenomenon as a problem implies that it falls short of some standard but what standards are best to use 0 People from different backgrounds region occupation race age differ in their perceptions of what a social problem is and how it should be resolved Guard against the tendency to accept the definitions of social problems provided by those in power 0 There is congruence of official biases and public opinion example slavery wasn t considered a social problem by the powerful in the South 0 bad conditions for minority groups tend to be ignored as social problems by the people at large The most important social problem the existing social order 0 If defined exclusively through public opinion social problems are limited to behaviors and actions that disrupt the existing social order 0 From this perspective social problems are manifestations of the behaviors of abnormal people not of society 0 The inadequacies and inequalities perpetuated by the existing system are not questioned ex distribution of power justice system children s education Types of Social Problems Two main social problems 0 Acts and conditions that violate the norms and values present in society 0 Societally induced conditions that cause psychic and material suffering for any segment of the population Norm Violations o actions that violate the norms of a social organization 0 Most deviants are victims and should not be blamed entirely by society for their deviance rather the system they live in should be blamed o Situations affecting deviants such as social class occupation age race region size of community type of neighborhood helps explain why some categories of persons participate disproportionately in deviant behavior 0 Deviance is culturally defined and socially labeled 0 Certain behaviors are labeled as social problems whereas others are not example murder is a social problem but killing the enemy during war time is rewarded The members of society especially the most powerful members determine what is a social problem and what is not There is no absolute standard that tells us what is deviant and what is not our definition of deviant behavior depends on which behaviors the law singles out for punishment The law is an instrument of those in power so the acts labeled as deviant are so labeled because they conflict with the interests of those in power To understand the labeling process we must be understanding which interest groups hold the power Social Conditions 0 Social problems of this type generate individual psychic and material suffering O O O O Societal arrangements can be organized in a way that is unresponsive to many human needs when society is organized in such a way as to disadvantage some of its members ex criminal justice system is biased against the poor and people of color These conditions often escape criticism and are rarely identified as social problems instead the focus is on individuals who vent their frustration in unacceptable ways Individual deviance is a consequence of institutional deviance The Sociological Imagination Sociology is the study of society and other social organizations how they affect human behavior and how these organizations are changed by human endeavors realizing that individual circumstances are inextricably linked to the structure of society C Wright Mills Sociological Imagination involves several related components 0 O Sociological imagination is stimulated by a willingness to view the social world from the perspective of others It involves moving away from thinking in terms of the individual and her or his problem and focusing on the social economic and historical circumstances that produce the problem The sociological imagination is the ability to see the societal patterns that influence individuals families groups and organizations People with a sociological imagination and understand all viewpoints ex can shift from the examination of a poor person to national welfare policies single family to national budgets etc Having a sociological imagination requires a detachment from the takenfor granted assumptions about social life and establishing a critical distance One must be willing to question the structural arrangements that shape social behavior Having this imagination we see the the solutions to social problems are changing the structure of society not changing problem people Social Structure as the Basic Unit of Analysis Personblame social problems originate from the pathologies diseases of individuals Systemblame social problems originate from the situations deviants are involved The answer lies somewhere between the two extremes PersonBlame Approach vs SystemBlame Approach 0 assumption by the members of a group that the culture of some other groups is not only inferior but also deficient This term is usually applied by members of the majority to the culture of a minority group ex children don t do well in school because their families speak different dialects victimblame approach 0 involvement in crime 0 Why are exconvicts recidivism rate so high I Personblame because of their faults of the individual crimes their greed their feeling of aggression etc I Systemblame because of the scarcity of employment for excriminals and the schools 2030 of inmates are functionally illiterate Consequences of interpreting social problems solely within a personblame framework 0 Because societal causes are not addressed social problems remain in place 0 It frees the government the economy the system of stratification the system of justice and the educational system from any blame By using the personblame approach the relatively welloff segments of society retain their advantages Personblame approach demands a personchange treatment program 0 Counseling behavior modification psychotherapy drugs etc o Focusses on changing the individual deviant Final consequence of personblame interpretation is that it reinforces social myths about the degree of control individuals have over their fate o It provides justification for a form of social Darwinism o that the placement of people in the stratification system is a function of their ability and effort 0 This logic says that poor people are poor because they are dregs of society They deserve their fate as do the successful in society 0 In this viewpoint little sympathy exists for government programs to increase welfare Reasons for Focusing on the SystemBlame Approach 0 Dangers of systemblame approach I It is only part of the truth I It presents a rigidly deterministic explanation of social problems If taken too far this position views individuals as robots controlled totally by their social environment I This view invites anarchy o Systemblame approach is the guiding perspective in this book for 3 reasons I 1 because average citizens police officers legislators social scientists and judges tend to interpret social problems from an individualistic perspective a balance is needed I 2 the subject matter of sociology is not the individual but the society I 3rd the institutional framework of society is the source of many social problem racism pollution unequal distribution of healthcare poverty and war Sociological Methods The Craft of Sociology Reliable data and logical reasoning are needed for the analysis of social problems SociologicalQuestions o Sociologists begin to try to ascertain the facts 0 Sociologists may ask comparative questions usually comparing one society to another 0 May ask historical questions sociologists are interested in trends Sociologists go beyond the factual to ask why a set of ideas that explains a range of human behavior and a variety of social and societal events Problems in Collecting Data 0 A fundamental problem with the sociological perspective is objectivity o Sociologists are caught between being members of society with beliefs feelings and biases and their professional task of studying society scientifically o to be absolutely free of bias in research 0 Attacking value neutrality from 3 positions I Scientists should not be morally indifferent to the implications of their research I It is impossible to be purely neural Our values lead us to decide from which vantage point we will gain access to information about a particular social organization I The types of problems researched and the strategies used tend either to support the existing societal arrangements or to undermine them Both types are political o Bias is inevitable in the study and analysis of social problems 0 Scientists must display scientific integrity recognizing biases without having biases invalidate the findings 0 People gather data in faulty ways I bias I People tend to generalize from their experience it s subjective and there is a basic problem with sampling I People make assumptions from a single case 0 We explain social behavior by using some authority other than our senses ex Bible 0 o Ourjudgments and interpretations are also affected by prevailing myths and stereotypes Sources of Data 0 Four basic sources yield valid data for sociologists survey research experiments observations and existing data 0 Survey Research Personal interviews or written questionnaires to gather data Researcher may obtain information from all possible subjects or from a selected sample a representative part of a population Random sample of subjects is selected from the larger population Variable an attitude behavior or condition that can vary in magnitude and significance from case to case Longitudinal Surveys collects info about the same persons over many years and in doing so allow the observing researcher to quotrecord the antecedents of currents events and transitions 0 Experiments To understand the causeandeffect relationship among a few variable sociologists use controlled experiments Control group subjects not exposed to the independent variable Experimental group a group of subjects who are exposed to the independent variable Dependent variable variable that is influenced by the effect of another variable Independent variable variable that affects another variable 0 Observation A researcher watches without intervention 0 Existing Data Sociologist uses existing data to test theories Various agencies of the government collect a lot of data
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