Framing Social Problems An introduction to a theoretical framework for the analysis of Social Problems 1
Jumpstarting exercise Form groups of 2 and on a piece of paper write down 10 social problems that come to mind You have 15 minutes! See assignment 1
The sociological imagination
Sociological Imagination (1) One quality of mind that all the great social analysts need to possess in order to study social phenomena The ability to understand “ the intersection between biographyand history” The interplay between the self and the world C. Wright Mills (1916 -1962)
Sociological Imagination C. Wright Mills: “Personal troubles of milieu” “Public issues of social structure”
Sociological imagination (2) The sociological imagination requires that we search for the link between the micro and macro levels of analysis Mill’s characterization of sociology as the intersection between biography and history reminds us that the process works in both directions: While larger social forces influence individual lives, there are many ways in which our individual lives can affect society as well
Personal or social problems?
What do you think isthe difference between personal and social problems?
Assignment 2Personal or social problem? What difference does the distinction between personal and social problems make in understanding the causes and consequences of problems? Work in groups and choose one problem from the list you made at the beginning of this class and try to understand this specific problems in terms of a) A personal problem b) A social problem c) Make a comparison: what different analysis outcomes do you get? What consequences does this have
Personal problem A personal problem is one whose causes and solutions lie within the individual and his/her immediate environment “personal troubles or milieu”
Personal vs. Social problems Viewing a problem as either personal or social leads to identifying very different consequences as well as different causes Helping individuals deal with personal problems is important but it is only a stopgap approach to social problems.
Approaching rape: a personal or social problem ?
Defining it as a personal problem either blames the victim or castigates the offender
Defining rape as a social problem organizes the need for collective action that attacks factors outside the individual
Tackling personal problems Individual strategies employed to deal with problem Help from professionals depending on the type on problem (e.g. social workers, psychologists etc.) Possible consequences: Personal empowerment Escape mechanism Sense of inadequacy (low self-esteem, self-fulfilling prophecy)
Let’s practice our sociological imagination
And in the same neighborhood…
‘Personal troubles of milieu’ of ‘public issues of social structures’?
What is a social problem? What’s a social problem?
A broad definition of a social problem “A social problem is a social condition that has negative consequences for individuals, our social world, or psychical world” (Leon-Guerrero, 2010)
A Normative framework for social problems Social condition? Negative consequences? For individuals? Our social world? Our psychical world? Says who? People often disagree, because of different perspectives
different Level of social problems Problems of behavior deviance Problems of inequality Problems of social institutions Global social problems As we will learn it is difficult to place social problems in boxes of categories, since they so complex and overlap.
Critical thinking for the analysis of SPs
Recognizing fallacies of thinking
9 fallacies of thinking when analyzing social problems: Fallacies of thinking when analyzing SPs: Fallacy of dramatic instance: Overgeneralizing Fallacy of misplaced concreteness: making something abstract into something concrete Fallacy of personal attack: Argument by attacking the opponent personally rather than dealing with the issue
examples Fallacy of dramatic instance: Overgeneralizing “We saw two young boys doing drugs in the street; the modern youth is really in decline”
Fallacy of misplaced concreteness: Making something abstract into something concrete “The masculine Aruban culture inhibits a good education for women.” Fallacy of personal attack: Argument by attacking the opponent personally rather than dealing with the issue “We shouldn’t start a program for the homeless; they are all drug addicts.”
9 fallacies of thinking when analyzing social problems: Fallacies of thinking when analyzing SPs: Fallacy of appeal to prejudice: Argument by appealing to popular prejudices or passions Fallacy of circular reasoning: Using conclusions to support the assumptions that were necessary to make the conclusions Fallacy of retrospective determinism: That argument that things could have not worked out any other way than they did
examples Fallacy of appeal to prejudice: Argument by appealing to popular prejudices or passions “We shouldn’t hire gay people, they have AIDS” Fallacy of circular reasoning: Using conclusions to support the assumptions that were necessary to make the conclusions “Poor people are inferior because they are unable to make any money.” Fallacy of retrospective determinism: That argument that things could have not worked out any other way than they did “There will always be poor people, there always have been” “Without tourism Aruba would be broke”
9 fallacies of thinking when analyzing social problems: Fallacies of thinking when analyzing SPs: Fallacy of composition: The assertion that what is true of the part is necessarily true of the whole Fallacy of non sequitur: Something that does not follow logically from what has preceded it Fallacy authority: Argument by an illegitimate appeal to authority
examples Fallacy of composition: The assertion that what is true of the part is necessarily true of the whole “Members of parliament are wasteful, parliament is wasteful” Fallacy of non sequitur: Something that does not follow logically from what has preceded it “If you don’t donate to this charity organization, you don’t care about the poor.” Fallacy authority: Argument by an illegitimate appeal to authority “Aruba’s crime rates are rising” “Why do you think that?” “Professor x said so.”
Defining the concept of “Social problems” Defining the concept of ‘social problems’ Social problems can be defined in terms of different perspectives The specific angle you choose will influence the way you approach social problems
A perspective influences how you:
Tomorrow we will focus on different perspectives for the understanding of social problems