Constructing Social Problems

Constructing Social Problems

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ISBN: 978-0-7658-0716-8
Pages: 184
Binding: Paperback
Publication Date: 09-18-2000
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Description

There is no adequate definition of social problems within sociology, and there is not and never has been a sociology of social problems. That observation is the point of departure of this book. The authors aim to provide such a definition and to prepare the ground for the empirical study of social problems. They are aware that their objective will strike many fellow sociologists as ambitious, perhaps even arrogant. Their work challenges sociologists who have, over a period of fifty years, written treatises on social problems, produced textbooks cataloguing the nature, distribution, and causes of these problems, and taught many sociology courses.

It is only natural that the authors' work will be viewed as controversial in light of the large literature which has established a "sociology of" a wide range of social problems-the sociology of race relations, prostitution, poverty, crime, mental illness, and so forth. In the 1970s when the authors were preparing for a seminar on the sociology of social problems, their review of the "literature" revealed the absence of any systematic, coherent statement of theory or method in the study of social problems. For many years the subject was listed and offered by university departments of sociology as a "service course" to present undergraduates with what they should know about the various "social pathologies" that exist in their society. This conception of social problems for several decades has been reflected in the substance and quality of the literature dominated by textbooks.

In Constructing Social Problems, the authors propose that social problems be conceived as the claims-making activities of individuals or groups regarding social conditions they consider unjust, immoral, or harmful and that should be addressed. This perspective, as the authors have formulated it, conceives of social problems as a process of interaction that produces social problems as social facts in society. The authors further propose that this process and the social facts it produces are the data to be researched for the sociology of social problems. This volume will be of interest to those concerned with the discipline of sociology, especially its current theoretical development and growth.






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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction to the Transaction Edition

Chapter 1     Introduction
     Social Problems: Some Examples
     Definitions of Words
     The Library of Congress Treatment of Homosexuality
     The Yellow Pages
     Psychiatric Nomenclature on Homosexuality 
     Some Related Lines of Investigation

Chapter 2    Functional and Normative Definitions
     The Functional Etiological Approach 
     The Normative Approach 
     Whose Normative Standards? 
     Conclusion

Chapter 3    The Value-Conflict School
     Inconsistencies in the Value-Conflict Position 
     Recent Value-Conflict Writings


Chapter 4    Social Problems and Deviance: Some Parallels
     Labeling Theory
     Interpretation
     Conclusion

Chapter 5    Social Problems as Claims-Making Activities
     Social Problems as Activities 
     A Definition of Social Problems 
     Claims-Making Activities
     Kinds of Questions about Claims 
     The Role of Values 
     Summary

Chapter 6    The Description and Analysis of Social Problems Activities: An Extended Empirical Example
     Social Problems as Activities: What Would the Research Look Like? 
     Social Problems in the American Psychiatric Association: A Case Study 
     Concluding Remarks

Chapter 7    The Natural History of Social Problems
     Trailer Camps in Detroit 
     Lemert's Replication 
     Induction and Generalization 
     Emergence and Development 
     Natural History of Social Problems: A Reformulation 
     Some Further Considerations 
     Is There a Natural History of Social Problems?

Chapter 8    Teaching Social Problems
     Project 1: Recognizing and Defining Social Problems
     Project 2: Social Problems Activities 
     Project 3: Social Reformers and Crusaders 
     Project 4: A Legislative History 
     Project 5: Subject Indexes as Data 
     Project 6: The Experts Difficulties of the Perspective

References 
Name Index 
Subject Index


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