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ch.2, ec-p.29 – a summary paragraph closing the discussion of research on the role of religion, specifically christianity and protestantism, in environmental concern before moving to a discussion of the analytic framework for the study on evangelical christians’ perceptions of climate change…

“The general social bases of environmentalism among the US public are clearer and more stable than the view on its religious base. Evidence shows it exists and work continues identifying which expressions of environmental concern typically are associated with religious people. Demographics describe, however, but don’t explain why believers care about environmental problems or participate in the environmental movement. These structural characteristics give little insight for how religious knowledge, mental schema, and cultural tools shape peoples’ perceptions of ecological conditions as problematic or inform their personal judgments about environmental policy. Further exploration into these forms of environmental concern across and within religious sub-groups in relation to social institutions and social structures is needed (Freudenburg 1991). These include factors social constructionist perspectives emphasize like different socialization experiences such as religious upbringing and inter-generational mass media effects (Kanagy, Humphrey, and Firebaugh 1994).”

 

 

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ch.2, ec-p.7 – identifying the value and utility of the sociological social construction approach to social  problems for examining public opinion and concern about environmental problems…

“Among the many challenges faced by analysts of public environmental concern (Dunlap and Jones, 2002), the fact that an individual’s views vary over time makes the social constructionist view on social problems advantageous. The relevance of environmental problems to different kinds of people and social groups also varies (Freudenburg, 1991). Although explorations of environmentalism’s social bases offer cross-sectional and longitudinal snapshots, they cannot fully explore the social processes in which ecological conditions are defined as problematic. This failure includes revealing the cultural resources and social factors such as religious tenets that shape people’s perceptions of ecological conditions.”

 

 

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)

identifying various other versions of theories for the emergence and decline of public interest in social problems…

“Conceptually compatible theoretical models developed simultaneously with Spector and Kitsuse’s social construction of social problems. Hilgartner and Bosk (1988) applied a ‘public arenas’ metaphor to emphasize the social contest between claims-makers and the process through which definitions of environmental and social conditions are ascribed their status as ‘problems’ in public discourse. Other analysts focused on variation over time in public attention to and concern about problematic conditions. Downs (1972) described waves of resurgent, then dissipating, interest in ecological issues as the inevitable result of the public’s “issue attention cycle.” Dunlap (1992) viewed the cycle as a consequence of their “natural decline.” Others emphasized the role of organized, sustained, collective action such as social movements in constructions of meaning of problematic conditions (Mauss 1975). Best notes that, despite some compatibility, this social movement approach substantially differs from the social construction approach: “Constructionist analyses have obvious parallels with studies of social movements but, constructionists remain the only sociologists committed to the cause of developing a theory of social problems” (Best 2002:??).”

 

Before the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, ...

Before the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, air pollution was not considered a national environmental problem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the broader version of the sociological social construction approach to social problems…

“Contextual constructionists counter that “the language of claims does not exist independently of the social world; it is a product of—and influence on—that world” (Best 1993:141). They argue that strict constructionism ignores the pragmatic realities of the “social problems work” that both researchers and actors perform. Contextual constructionists advocate a more ethnomethodologically sensitive approach that reflects concern for “the interpretative practices by which everyday realities are locally accomplished, managed, and sustained” (Holstein and Miller 1993:152). They recommend a broadened focus to constructionism that includes “practices that link public interpretative structures to aspects of everyday realities” (Holstein and Miller 1993:152). Miller and Fox (1999) grant strict constructionism value as a theoretical ideal, but declare it untenable in practical research and applied applications.”

 

 

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).”

 

 

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)

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