2 Definition of a Social Problem Social problems have two components 1. an objective component 2. a subjective component
3 Textbook Definitionwhen enough people in a society agree that a condition exists that threatens the quality of their lives and their most cherished values, and they also agree that something should be done to remedy the conditionThis definition is vague
4 Awareness of Social Problems Our own experienceThe Mediasocial movements
5 Sociological Imagination C. Wright Mills (1959) An awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider societyThe ability to view one's own society as an outsider would, rather than from the limited perspective of personal experiences and cultural biasesour experiences are influenced by social forcesMills argued that the Sociological Imagination enables us to understand the relationship between “private problems” and “public issues”
6 Because Americans stress personal individualism, we commonly think in terms of the individual “deviant” and his or her problem.
7 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON SOCIAL PROBLEMS Sociological perspective tend to focus on one of two different levels 1. Theories of society (macro theories) 2. social psychological theories (micro theories)
9 FUNCTIONALIST PERSPECTIVE (Structural Functionalism) First used by August Comte, and Herbert Spencer.The central idea of functional analysis is that society is a whole unit, made up of interrelated parts that work together.It views society as something like a living organism with the different institutions such as the political, family and religious acting like the brain, and the heart to maintain the body alive.
10 Societies represent an intricate system of interrelated parts (social structures) whose activities have consequences (social functions)
11 Functionalists see a common set of norms and values as the glue that holds groups, institutions, and whole societies together.Thus, one of the major sources of contemporary social problems is the weakening of the social consensusFunctionalists theorists assume that human beings work together through common consensus to collectively preserve society.
12 social disorganization involves a breakdown of social structure, so that its various parts no longer work together as smoothly as they should
13 Conflict TheoryThis perspective is associated with the writings of Karl MarxConflict perspective assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tension among competing groupsIt views societies as being composed of diverse groups with conflicting values and interests
14 Conflict Theory - continued Conflict theorists see a diverse collection of social groups all struggling for wealth, power and prestigeMarx stressed that there are two social classes with competing interest: 1. The bourgeoisie and 2. the proletariatConflict sociologists see social problems as the inevitable byproducts of power
15 Conflict Theory - continued social problems are in large part the result of the intentional exploitation of weak groups by powerful onesSociologists use the conflict model not only on economic conflicts but also on conflicts that have no clear economic basis, conflicts over values, ethics, and behavior
16 Value Conflict TheoryValue Conflict Theorists define social problems as conditions that are incompatible with group values.According to this theory, social problems occur when groups with different values meet and compete.From this perspective social problems need to be understood in terms of which groups hold which values and have the power to enforce them against the wishes of other groups.
17 Feminist Theorynot really a single theory but a group of theories that share a concern with the same basic questionsMany feminists believe that the exploitation of women by their male counterparts is the original and most basic form of social exploitation
18 SYMBOLIC-INTERACTIONIST PERSPECTIVES George Herbert Mead American Sociologist ( ) is the founder of this perspectiveSocial psychology is concerned with the behavior of single individuals and small groups, and their relationships with the larger societySymbolic interactionists view symbols- things that we attach meaning- as the basis of social life.
19 A symbol is something representing something else; symbols range from words and language to nonverbal gestures and signsAccording to symbolic interaction, people attach meanings to each others words and actionsTo understand individual behavior, the interactionist tries to look at the world though the eyes of the actors involved
20 This understanding of the of the conditions in which we find ourselves, known as the definition of the situationSymbolic interactionism explains our behavior in terms of the patterns of thoughts and beliefs we have, and in terms of the meaning we give our lives
21 Social Construction Of Social Problems This approach argues that some social problems become dominant and others remain weak or unheeded.The activities of individuals and institutions in society shape our consciousness of the social world.Journalists, television commentators, editorial writers, professors among others.
22 Labeling: An Interactionist View This theory focuses on the impact of labels applied to those who deviate.Power differences result in an inconsistency in labeling.Labeling theorists argue that social problems are conditions under which certain behaviors or situations become defined as social problems.
23 Who benefits from labeling homosexuals deviant? Terrorists vs Freedom fighters, looters vs desperate survivors.According to labeling theory, the way to solve social problems is to change the definition of what is considered deviant.