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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.”

 

 

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ch.2, ec-p.1 – opening introductory paragraph for environmental concern section describing the beginning of sociological attention to public concern about ecosystems and support for greater protection of the environment…

“After the first Earth Day in 1970, US sociologists began intensively exploring which constituencies of the population were amenable to and supportive of the environmental movement’s goals (Buttel 1977, Heberlein and Black 1978, Van Liere and Dunlap 1981). This exploration included describing the strength of public concern about ecological conditions (Dunlap 1992), gauging support for environmental policies (Buttel and Flinn 1976), and associating support with social and demographic characteristics (Dunlap and Van Liere 1984). Analysts explored individuals’ perceptions about ecological conditions through original research surveys (Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig and Jones 2000) and by using secondary data from opinion polling (Dunlap and Scarce 1991). Professional acceptance of environmental sociology as a sub-discipline accelerated studies of environmental concern (Catton and Dunlap 1980). More than a thousand assessments have been conducted since then, most relying on quantitative methodologies (Dunlap and Jones, 2002). Analysts take these views about environmental problems and the variability of expressed environmental concern to reflect the environmental movement’s “social bases” of public support (Dietz, Stern, and Guagnano 1998, Dunlap and Mertig 1992, Jones and Dunlap 1992, Van Liere and Dunlap 1980). These social bases reveal who is concerned about the biophysical world or practices pro-environmental behaviors.”

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a short and sweet closing paragraph to the section on social construction. occasionally i write stuff that quickens my pulse because it feels inspiring and reminds me why sociology gives me hope. this is one them, maybe it is for you… 

“Social constructionists adopt the interpretive approach “as a counter to survey research, which…fails to understand the meanings people attach to their lives and actions.” In contrast to quantifying individuals’ discrete attitudes, hearing individuals’ own stories facilitates study of the interaction of structure and agency in meaning construction. Agger advocates the approach because individuals’ stories “can be read to reveal both the ways in which they have been socialized to accept ‘reality’ as defined for them by dominant ideologies and institutions, and the ways in which they creatively resist and transform these definitions” (2006:??).”

 

Orphanage Photographers - Visual Sociology

Orphanage Photographers – Visual Sociology (Photo credit: Paul Chenoweth)

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)

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)

on the contemporary, proximal theoretical origins and connections between social construction sociological perspective…

“Especially in recent decades, interest among sociologists has grown about how, when, and why people see some conditions as problems and not others (REF… Turner, Alexander, Collins theory cite?). Calls for a subjectivist view toward social problems by Blumer precipitated its contemporary emergence. He argued “social problems have their being in a process of collective definition. This process determines whether social problems will arise, whether they become legitimated, how they are shaped in discussion, how they come to be addressed in official policy, and how they are reconstituted in putting planned action into effect” (Blumer 1971). As a symbolic interactionist, Blumer opposed previous conceptions of social problems as “objective conditions and social arrangements” merely awaiting discovery by sociologists and other social scientists. His declaration was soon followed by several articles and a book manuscript that “exercised a profound and productive influence on contemporary social constructionism and social problems theory” (Weinberg 2009#1).”

first major section of chapter two…

Social Construction. “Social constructionism is a theoretical approach focusing on social influences on the meanings people impose in their everyday lives. A social constructionist approach emphasizes the dynamic, iterative processes by which individuals perceive, define, and then subsequently act toward their reality. But the approach itself is used with varying meanings (Hacking 1999). Some analysts emphasize human agency in examining people’s construction of meanings about the world. Other analysts emphasize social structure, studying the restraints of social institutions, and cultural processes.”

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