The Relevance of Studying Sociology to understand Social Problems
A social problem is viewed as a behavioral pattern originating from human interactions resulting in unfavorable consequences for all factors involved whether social or physical (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.4). The value of sociology in understanding social problems lies in the fact that it applies a scientific approach to the study of human affairs. In that respect, the resulting body of knowledge and principles that will enable the control of and subsequently the improvements in social conditions are provided by this scientific study. As a social science, the approach to understanding the causes of social problems is made objectively and systematically (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.5). Sociology is thus tasked with the application of scientific research methods in determining humanity’s social problems and finding solutions to them. Furthermore, sociology helps present social problems in terms of objectivity or subjective realities. Mooney, Knox & Schacht (2016) posit that the objective reality of a problem stems from the actual existence of a particular condition while the subjective reality attaches meaning to the existing problem (p.5). It is in this context that the study of sociology becomes important in determining social problems locally, nationally and globally. Sociology assumes significance in the fact that problems and solutions do not only involve individuals but also societal social structures as a whole.
Theoretical Perspectives used to study social problems
The above perspective examines societal structural functions or consequences (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.10). French sociologist Émile Durkheim theorized that societal social structures like bodily organs have essential and specialized functions. In life, the perspective is applied in deterring people from behaving in certain ways as the social values and norms prohibit such acts. The societal approach of solving problems is unbiased as the people are accorded a fair hearing as opposed to an individual approach which might be biased. Solving the problem by involving many people in the society might take a while, which disadvantages the whole process. The theories associated with the perspective include the social pathology, which results from shortcomings of the society and social disorganization which results from disruptions that take place in society (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.11).
The conflict perspective suggests that only those in power benefit through the use of that power and coercion to hold society together (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.12). German philosopher and activist Karl Marx is depicted as the pioneer theorist of the conflict perspective. The strength of this perspective is that it highlights the system itself and the inequality it creates as the biggest social problem. As a weakness, the perspective offers no easy solution to social problems. The theories related to the perspective include the Marxist conflict theory, which stipulates that social problem arises due to inequality in society and non-Marxist conflict theory which is concerned with conflicts arising due to varied interests and opinions of people in a group (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.12).
Symbolic interactionist perspective
Mooney, Knox & Schacht (2016) suggest that the symbolic interactionist perspective focuses on how symbols, words, and language are used to create and maintain social reality (p.13). The foundation of this perspective was provided by George H. Mead and at a micro-level perspective, highlights what individuals take for granted in terms of rules, expectations, and norms that are learned and practiced involuntarily. In life, the perspective is applied in constant maintenance of a good relationship with people as it affects the behaviors of individuals. The perspective weakness is, it does not help determine the exact origin of observed social behavior. The perspective strength lies in the explanation of how social behavior was learned through interaction with others. The interactionist theories associated with the perspective include Blumer’s stages that highlights how societal problem develops in stages, labeling theory which suggest that social problems are viewed as problems if they are labeled that way and social constructionism which highlights how people interpret social words resulting in conflict with others definitions (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2016, p.14).
Mooney, L., Knox, D. and Schacht, C. (2016). Understanding Social Problems (10th Ed). New York: Thomson Wadsworth.