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beginning to close the section on sociological social construction approach to social problems, one more paragraph and then on to section two: environmental concern – with a summary of its social bases and my review of the research on religion’s role in it…

“Today’s proponents of the social construction approach to social problems continue urging analysts to follow a “middle road” (Weinberg 2009:1) between its principled, narrow version (Ibarra and Kitsuse 1993) and other sociological traditions in which the objective conditions of social problems are assumed (Spector and Kitsuse 1977). They acknowledge a pragmatic and paradoxical challenge facing the social constructionist perspective is everyone’s inevitable embeddedness in the mundane social world. “Neither we as researchers nor those we study can ever intelligibly leave the domain of embodied, invested, and fully purposeful practical action” (Weinberg 2009#1). However, they contest the strict constructionist argument to ignore this (Ibarra and Kitsuse 1993). “Agnosticism regarding the structural contexts of human action comes at the cost of rendering that action normatively unaccountable or, in other words, unintelligible. General social problems theory cannot succeed if it is confined to the comparative analysis of social problems discourse in vacuo” (Weinberg 2009#1). Calling for a contextual social constructionist approach to social problems reflects the value proponents place on holding onto this analytical tension and balance. It comes from the belief that this perspective offers sociologists a clearer, wider vision on how some conditions, but not others, become defined as problems and why people’s views about them vary.”

 

I am very concerned about environmental problems

I am very concerned about environmental problems (Photo credit: Gauravonomics)

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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).”

 

 

the emergence of the social construction perspective on problematic conditions…

“Following Blumer, Spector and Kitsuse initiated a more systematic approach for examining interpretations of social reality with the provocative claim, ”there is no adequate definition of social problems within sociology, and there is not and never has been a sociology of social problems” (1977:??). Their treatise expounded on the pithier, but limited, notion that problematic conditions arise in society when “a significant number of people or a number of significant people” see them as such (Julian 1973:9). Kitsuse and Spector aimed to explain this phenomenon by focusing on both the social process and people’s actions in their everyday lives (Kitsuse and Spector 1973; Spector and Kitsuse 1973). They proposed that “social problems be conceived and defined as an activity by which groups identify ‘problems’ which they claim to be harmful, undesirable, unjust and in need of corrective attention. By this definition, every condition claimed to be a problem by whatever group on whatever grounds qualifies as subject matter for the study of social problems. In this view of meaning construction, a social problem is not seen as an ‘objective condition but rather as the process of interaction between claimants that is organized by what they claim to be ‘a problem’” (Spector and Kitsuse 1977).”

The Society for the Study of Social Problems

The Society for the Study of Social Problems (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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