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brief mention of the narrow version of the sociological social construction approach to social problems…

“Analysts adopting a social construction approach to social problems in this era of the theory formed two camps, “strict” and “contextual” constructionists. Strict constructionists contended that analysts must confine themselves to focusing only on claims-making activities and their “symbol and language bound character” since “the strict constructionist never leaves language” (Ibarra and Kitsuse 1993). In this formulation, analysts were urged to remember that “it is ‘they’ (as members of the settings we are studying) and not ‘us’ (as analysts) who do the work of realizing the characteristics of the worlds in which they live” (Weinberg 2009#1).”

 

 

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rather than the social or structural causes of objective conditions…

“After this seminal text detailing the social construction approach to social problems appeared, past presidents of the Society for the Study of Social Problems extended Blumer’s original notion (Lopata 1984). Although arising from and still compatible with other theoretical traditions in sociology, proponents argued its distinction came from its presumption “that social problems are the definitional activities of people around conditions and conduct they find troublesome, including others’ definitional activities” (Schneider 1985). This stance not only shifted the analytical focus, but consequentially changed analysts’ relationship to the object of study (social problems). On the basis of professional research and personal activism, analysts become their own subjects. “Sociologists who act as experts on problematic conditions are social problems participants. They become part of the problems rather than an analysis of it” (Schneider 1985). Advocates of the social constructionist approach to the study of social problems made unequivocal, value-based assertions about the purpose of their work. “Sociologists of social problems should not concern themselves with the validity of participants’ (their colleagues included) claims about conditions, but with how such claims and definitions are created, documented, pressed, and kept alive. Documenting claims or definitions about conditions constitutes participation. The point is to account for the viability of these claims, not judge whether they are true” (Schneider 1985).”

 

English: Underlying structure of the social co...

English: Underlying structure of the social construction of reality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

what’s the sociological social constructionist process for how conditions become problematic?

“Spector and Kitsuse outline the process and activities involved in defining conditions as problematic by conceptualizing it as a “heuristic, four-stage natural history model” (Schneider 1985). Stage one includes “collective attempts to remedy a condition that some group perceives and judges offensive and undesirable…Initial social problems activities consist of attempts to transform private troubles into public issues” (Spector and Kitsuse 1973:148). Stage two occurs when “governmental agencies or other official and influential institutions” acknowledge these claims (Spector and Kitsuse 1973:154). Whether stage three comes next is contingent on first, official agencies or institutions accepting these claims and then responding, and secondly, this response becoming seen itself as problematic. If this occurs, stage four commences when advocates (claimants, claimsmakers) of problematic conditions declare “that it is no longer possible to ‘work within the system’…” and they set out to craft alternative institutions (Spector and Kitsuse 1973:156).”

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