Chapter 18

Can Social Problems Be Solved?
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Chapter Outline
• Microlevel attempts
• Midrange attempts
• Macrolevel attempts
Groups and
• Special interest groups
• Collective behavior
• Types of social movements
• Functionalist
• Conflict
• Interactionist
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Problem with Tackling Social Problems
 Ideal vs. Practical Solutions
 Conflict between ideal solutions and the workable one
 Preventive measures are costly and are often allocated a
small percentage of money and resources
New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina
 We usually rely on after-the-fact measures to deal with
both natural and social disasters
 Defining the Problem vs. Fixing it
 No agreement about what the problem is and what it
needs to fix it
 Those who identify it usually don’t fix it
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Social Change and Reducing Social Problems
 Social change is the transformation of public
policy, culture or social institutions over time
 Obstacles, delays, and frustrations confront those who
attempt social change
 Solving a social problem can entail short-term,
middle-term or long-term efforts
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Microlevel Attempts to Solve Social Problems
 Focus on how individuals operate within small
groups to solve problems
 Primary groups: face to face emotion based interactions
 Focus on how individuals can do something about the
problems they face.
Limitation: Fails to consider that secondary groups
and institutions play a major part in creating,
maintaining, and exacerbating many social
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Midrange Attempts to Solve Social Problems
 Focus on how secondary groups and formal
organizations deal with problems such as drug
 Grassroots groups often work to change a perceived wrong
Mid-range attempts are based on 2 things:
 Some social problems can best be reduced by reaching one
person at a time
 Prevention and intervention are most effective at the
personal and community levels.
Limitation: Local efforts usually lack the capacity to
produce the larger changes needed at the national or
international levels
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Macro-Level Attempts to Deal with Social Problems
 Focus on how large-scale institutions (e.g., government)
may become involved in remedies
 Powerless individuals bind together to in organizations to
influence those at the national or global level.
 Overemphasizes structural barriers in society, making
them appear insurmountable
 De-emphasizes the importance of individual responsibility
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Working Through Special Interest Groups
Special Interest Groups:
 Political coalitions designed to protect or advance
specific issues
Can be categorized on the basis of 3 factors:
1. Issues
 Single issue versus multiple demands
2. View of the present system of wealth and power
 Radical demands versus reform
3. Beliefs about elites
 Whether to influence them or replace them
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Working Through Social Movements
Collective Behavior
 Voluntary, often spontaneous activity of a large number of
people and typically violates group norms and values
 Riots and public demonstrations
Civil Disobedience
 Collective behavior that is nonviolent and seeks to change a
policy or law by refusing to comply with it
 1960s Civil Rights Movement and protest crowds
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Types of Movements
 Reform movements
 Change specific aspect of social structure
 Revolutionary
 Bring about total change in society.
 Religious movements
 Renovate or renew people through inner change
 Alternative movements
 Seek limited change in some aspect of people’s behavior
 Resistance movements
 Prevent change or undo change that has occurred.
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Functionalist Perspective
 Social problems arise when social institutions do not fulfill
their functions or when dysfunctions occur
 Social institutions need to be more effective
 Prevention of rapid social change
 Maintenance of status quo
 Restoration of order
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Conflict Perspective
 Conflict is natural and inevitable in society.
 Conflict occurs because of values held by divergent
groups in society.
 Solutions:
 Patriarchy, capitalism must be radically altered or
 Dramatic changes in society giving minority groups
more opportunity.
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Interactionist Perspective
Examines how a certain behavior becomes a social
problem, and why people engage in that behavior
 More adequate socialization of people
 Understand how labeling affects behavior
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