Chapter 1: Thinking About Social Problems Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 1: Thinking About Social Problems Deck (109)

Social problems are made up of ___ and ___ components.

Subjective, objective.


What is the objective element of a social problem?

Awareness of social conditions through one's own life experience and through reports in the media.


What is the subjective element of a social problem?

The belief that a particular social condition is harmful to society, and that should and can be changed.


What are claims making activities?

The strategies and actions that individuals or groups undertake to define social conditions as social problems that require remedy.


In order to be a social problem, there must be a segment of the population that believes...

The conditions diminish the quality of human life.


Spector and Kitsune (2001) describe social problems as the activities of individuals or groups making assertions of grievances and claim with respect to some ___ ___.

Punitive conditions.


What is the definition of a social problem?

A social condition that a segment of society views as harmful to members of society and in need of remedy.


Are social problems static or ever-changing?

Ever-changing as society also changes.


Do all people define social problems as the same thing? If not, give an example.

No, corporal punishment.


What are social facts?

Emile Durkheim refers to the phenomena that occur in the world as objectively identifiable facts, and are the result of social structures.


According to Durkheim, give an example of a social fact, and why.

Suicide rates, because this phenomena is created by social organization rather than individual acts of desperation.


What is an institution?

An established and enduring social organization of social relationships.


What are the 5 traditional institutions?

1. Family.
2. Religion.
3. Politics.
4. Economics.
5. Education.


What are some contemporary institutions?

Science and technology, mass media, medicine, sport, and military.


What is the largest element of social structure?



What is a social group?

Two or more people who have a common identity and who interact and form a social relationship.


Institutions are made up of ___ ___.

Social groups.


What are examples of positive and negative informal sanctions?

Praise or criticism.


What are examples of positive and negative formal sanctions?

Awards or fines.


What is a symbol?

Something that represents something else.


What is sociological imagination?

A term coined by C. Wright Mills to refer to the ability to see connections between our personal lives and the social world in which we live.


Give an example of a symbol that has two meanings.

The Swastika.


What is structural functionalism?

A sociological perspective that views society as a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole.


Structural functionalism focuses on how each part of society influences and is influenced by...

Other parts.


What is conflict theory?

The theoretical framework that understands material inequalities to be a driving force behind many social problems.


What do some sociologists call conflict theory?

Marxist theory.


What is symbolic interactionism?

A sociological perspective that emphasizes that human behaviour is influenced by definitions and meaning that are created and maintained through symbolic interactions with others.


What is feminist theory?

A set if diverse perspectives joined by the focus on sex and gender as defining and important categories of oppression.


What are the 4 central theoretical perspectives?

1. Structural functionalism.
2. Conflict theory.
3. Symbolic interactionsim.
4. Feminist theory.


What is postmodern theory?

A theory that rejects the positivist notion that societies are completely rational and that a single truth about social worlds can be identified.


Postmodern theory takes into account the...

Competing realities according to and through which people live their lives.


what is queer theory?

A theory developed largely out of the late 1980's in response to public panics over HIV and to medical system failures to treat with respect and adequate priority the needs of HIV+ persons, especially gay men.


Queer theory now asks how ___ ___ relates to carious problems rooted in oppression and prejudice.

Sexual identity.


Queer theory is also utilized by which social group?

Those with disabilities.


Queer theory extends its utility well beyond the scope of questions focused on ___, and into more general questions regarding the intersection of embodiment and social regulation.



List people that are associated with structural functionalist theory.

Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton.


When are elements of society functional?

If the contribute to social stability.


When are elements of society dysfunctional?

If they disrupt social stability.


What is a latent function?

Consequence that is unintended and often hidden or unrecognized.


What is a manifest function?

A consequence that is intended and commonly recognized.


What are two theories covered under the structural functionalist perspective?

Social pathology and social disorganization.


What does the social pathology model state?

Social problems result from some sickness in society.


Social Disorganization Theory

Rapid social change disrupts the norms in a society. Anomie.



A state of formlessness in which norms and values are weak or unclear; results from rapid social change and is linked many social problems, including crime, drug addiction, and violence.


Conflict Theory

Struggle between different groups and interests cause social problems.


Marxist conflict theories focus on ___ ___ while non-Marxist conflict theories focus on...

Economic inequalities, competing values and interests among social groups.


Marxist conflict theories focus on things like...

Downsides of capitalism, corporate violence, and alienation.


Corporate Violence

The production of unsafe products and the failure of corporations to provide a safe working environment for their employees.



The concept used by Karl Marx to describe the condition when workers feel powerlessness and meaninglessness as a result of performing repetitive, isolate work tasks. Involves becoming estranged from one's work and/or education, the products one creates, other human beings, or one's self.



The study of large aspects of society, such as institutions and large social groups.


What are some macro thories?

Structural functionalism and conflict.



The study of the social psychological dynamics of individuals interacting in small groups.


What are some micro theories?

SI, feminist, postmodern, and queer.


SI Perspective

Human behaviour is influenced by definitions and meanings that are created and maintained through symbolic interaction with others.


What did W.I. Thomas say?

Importance of definitions and meanings in social behaviour and in its consequences.


Thomas Theorem

Situations we define as real become real in their consequences.


Looking Glass Self

A reflection of ourselves we see when we develop our self-concept by observing how others interact with us and label us.



Social scientist must try to understand others' view of reality and the subjective aspects of their experiences, including symbols, values, attitudes, and beliefs.


In the SI perspective, social problems must be ___ or ___ as such in order for it to be a social problem.

Defined, recognized.


According to Blumer, how do social problems develop?

1. Societal recognition.
2. Recognition from the larger community.
3. Mobilization for action.


Give an example of how Blumer's development of social problems model can be applied.

Drunk driving or sexual assault.


What is a criticism of SI perspective?

If social problems exist only if they are recognized, then those who were sexually assaulted in the 1960's may not be considered victims of the problem.


Labelling Theory

A SI theory that is concerned with how regions and communities defend as social problems are affected by being so labelled, and with the negative effects of labelling on the self-concept and behaviour of individuals, thereby contributing to the further development of identities and behaviours consistent with the label.


Feminist Theories

Look at how the experiences, social relations, and locations of women's lives are missing or discounted from traditional sociology.


Women's Standpoint Theory

A view of knowledge and experience that begins from the standpoint that women occupy in larger society.


Postmodern Theories

Recognize that subjectivity and interpretation do not moved in one unified direction to assess a certain, external reality.


Which theory resists simple categorization?

Postmodern theories.


Lyotard and Baudrillard are associated with...

Postmodern theories.


Who came up with simulacra?




The nostalgic attempt to reproduce a past history and society that, in fact, never existed.


Give an example of simulacra.



Queer Theory

Refuses the commonly assumed distinction between sex and gender and in dismantling those allegedly causal relations that structure the difference between the two.


Who is associated with queer theories?

Butler and Devor.


Key figures in SF:

Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton.


Society is a set of interrelated parts; cultural consensus exists and leads to social order, natural state of society -- balance and harmony.

SF on society.


Society's institutions socialize individuals; socialization is the process by which social control is exerted; people need society and its institutions.

SF on individuals.


According to SF, what are the causes of social problems?

Rapid social change; social disorganization that disrupts the harmony and balance; inadequate socialization, weak institutions, or a combination of these.


According to SF, what are solutions to social problems?

Repair weak institutions; assure proper socialization; cultivate a strong collective sense of right and wrong.


What are some criticisms of SF?

Called sunshine sociology; supports the maintenance of the status quo; needs to ask "functional for whom?" Does not deal with issues of power and conflict; incorrectly assumes consensus.


Key figures in Conflict Theory:

Karl Marx, C. Wright Mills.


Society is marked by power struggles over scarce resources; inequities result in conflict; social change is inevitable; natural state of society -- imbalance.

Conflict Theory on society.


People are inherently good but are corrupted by society and its economic structure; groups with power control institution; "order" is part of the illusion.

Conflict Theory on individuals.


According to Conflict Theory, what are the causes of social problems?

Inequality; the dominance of groups of people over other groups of people; oppression and exploitation; competition between groups.


According to Conflict Theory, what are the solutions to social problems?

Minimize competition; create an equitable system for the distribution of resources.


What are some criticisms of the Conflict Theory?

Utopian model; Marxist states have failed; denies existence of cooperation and equitable exchange; can't explain cohesion and harmony.


Key figures in SI:

George H. Mead, Charles Cooley, Erving Goffman.


Society is network of interlocking roles, social order is constructed through interaction as individuals, through shared meaning, making sense of the social world.

SI on society.


Humans are interpretive and interactive; they are consistently changing as their "social beings" emerge and are moulded by changing circumstances.

SI on individuals.


According to SI, what are the causes of social problems?

Different interpretations of roles; labelling of individuals, groups, or behaviours as deviant; definition of an objective condition as a social problem.


According to SI, what are the solutions to social problems?

Reduce impact of labelling and associated stigmatization; alter definitions of what is defined as a social problem.


What are some criticisms of SI?

Concentrates on micro issues only; failed to link micro issues to macro-level concerns; too psychological in its approach; assumes label amplifies problem.


Key figures in Feminist Theory:

Harriet Martineau, Dorothy Smith, Meg Luxton.


Society has been measured without accounting for women's contributions or experiences. Women are, however, central actors and agents for change. Feminist work usually combines with other theoretical perspectives.

Feminist Theory on society.


Challenges the belief in individuals as separate actors; looks at interrelations of persons within and across groups and institutions.

Feminist Theory on individuals.


According to Feminist Theory, what causes social problems?

Separating genders in hierarchize opposition creates potentially dangerous inequalities between men and women with negative consequences across broad social institutions and stoups. Women and children are especially vulnerable.


According to Feminist Theory, what are the solutions to social problems?

Historical desire for inclusion in liberal institutions of economy, law, and education; challenge policies and institutions that privilege male-centred values and operations.


What are some criticisms of Feminist Theory?

Has neglected women from racially, ethnically, and economically marginalized groups. Is not adequately attentive to shared oppressions of women and men in depressed or developing regions.


Key figures in Postmodern Theories:

Jean Baudrillard, Jean-Francois Lyotard.


Rejects the view that societies progress toward their best and most rational potential. Culture is arbitrary. Focuses on internal ruptures, shifts and perpetual strain/change in any society.

Postmodern Theories on society.


Individuals do not exist as autonomous units. The self is never complete, but always exists only in negation with social phenomena around it.

Postmodern Theories on individuals.


According to Postmodern Theories, what are the causes of social problems?

Social problems are not rooted in a single set of causes, but are subject to constantly changing power relations that are especially pervasive and dangerously obscured under globalization. There is no "truth," only claims to truth used to suppress others' agency.


According to Postmodern Theories, what are the solutions to social problems?

Rejecting totalizing objectives; interrogate the use and abuse of knowledge; understand competing knowledge claims by assessing political motivations behind them.


What are some criticisms of Postmodern Theories?

Is "silly" and jargon-heavy; is a conspiracy to destroy culture; is "against" truth. Even sympathizers may charge it with being overly esoteric and impractical.


Key figures in Queer Theory:

Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Aaron Devor,


Traditional gender systems benefit a few, powerful groups of elite men and women, but can be dangerous for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons. The devaluation of women is central to homophobia.

Queer Theory on society.


The supposedly private lives of individual persons are actually a very public fixation, governed at multiple, invasive points by law, medicine, and public policy.

Queer Theory on individuals.


According to Queer Theory, what are the causes of social problems?

Developed as a result of HIV scare in 1980's that targeted gay men. Now asks how sexual identity relates to various problems rooted in oppression and prejudice.


How does Queer Theory propose to solve social problems?

Alter marriage, health, and employment law/policy to include "queer" persons. Remove tacit approval of discriminatory behaviours that threaten the rights of GLBT persons to full citizenship.


What are some criticisms of Queer Theory?

Very issues-oriented; subject to internal rifts over authentic and legitimate causes. Poor critique of liberal capitalism; may neglect problems of racism, poverty, and sexism within groups it seeks to represent.