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1.1.1: Chapter Introduction

  • Page ID
    81304
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    Understanding Social Problems

    As we move well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States and the rest of the world face many social problems: poverty and hunger, racism and sexism, drug use and violence, and climate change, to name just a few. Why do these problems exist? What are their effects? What can be done about them? This new open textbook (free online, very affordable in other formats) from a student-friendly publisher, Flat World Knowledge, tries to answer these questions with the latest theory and research from sociology and other social sciences.

    The discipline of sociology began in Western Europe during the late 1800s and soon made its way to the United States. Many of the new American sociologists focused on the various social problems facing the United States at the time. This was perhaps especially true at two institutions: Atlanta University (now known as Clark Atlanta University) and the University of Chicago. Befitting their urban locations, sociologists at both universities were very interested in poverty and racial inequality, and they sought to use sociological theory and research to address these problems and, more generally, to improve society (Calhoun, 2007).Calhoun, C. (2007). Sociology in America: An introduction. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Sociology in America: A history (pp. 1–38). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    A. Javier Treviño (2011, p. 1),Treviño, A. J. (2011). Program theme: Service sociology. Program of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 1. Retrieved from http://www.sssp1.org/file/2011AnnualMeeting/Final%20Program.pdf. recent president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, refers to the vision and goals of these early American sociologists as service sociology, and he emphasizes that “early American sociology was primarily a reformist endeavor.” He adds, “Service sociology is a sociology of social problems intended to ameliorate conditions of life for those in need of assistance, and to insure and promote the welfare of the community. Motivated by care and compassion, a service-oriented sociology is aimed at helping people meet their pressing social needs. As such, service sociology involves the application of sociological knowledge combined with the expression of humanitarian sentiment.”

    In the spirit of early American sociology and service sociology, this book brings sociological insights to bear on the important problems of our time. Using the latest social science evidence, it discusses the dimensions and effects of various kinds of social problems, the reasons for them, and possible solutions to them.

    This first chapter begins our journey into the world of social problems by examining how sociology understands social problems and gathers research about them.


    1.1.1: Chapter Introduction is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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