The Sociological Approach to Social Problem
It is hard to define a social problem because what constitutes a social shortfall differs from one societal group to another. A social problem in the US may not be an issue in some region in Argentina or Iraq. Another problem presented in the definition of social problems is the official bias poised by the high and mighty in society keen on maintaining their status quo. For instance, at some point in the history of slavery, the masters never saw it as a social problem despite the psychological desperation it puts the victims. This paper will discuss two approaches used in understanding social issues. As part of the development, it will examine two theorems of poverty by taking a postmortem of the two approaches used in defining social problems.
There are two approaches used in understanding social problems: person-blame and system-blame. The person-blame approach assumes that social problems are a function of individual pathologies. On the other hand, the system-blame approach assumes that social problems are caused by conditions in a society that is skewed (12). By looking at poverty, sociology can explain why poverty exists and why it is a common social problem.
Sociologists have devised two theories of poverty. The structural-functional theory of poverty is in line with the person-blame theory of social problems. On the other hand, the conflict of interest theory’s provisions coincide with the system blame theory of social problem. According to the structural-functional theory of poverty, there exists inequality in the society to serve as a motivating factor of the poor to attaining a better status. The ladder to the top is the potential difference that the poor can fill to enjoy success (18). This theory does not however point out the individual pathological issues but rather leads to the society. It acknowledges that as much as the person exists, he or she does not live in isolation.
The conflict of interest theory of poverty subscribes to the concept of system-blame approach. It states that the owners of factors of production are the reason the poor lack their necessities. Furthermore, it indicates that there exists the working class (proletariat) who work for wages, and the poor who are perpetually lazy or without a marketable skill to bring to the market. The theory insists that inequality is mandatory for change. This theory derives its strength from the reference to the society as the cause of poverty. It points out greed as the reason for inequality.
Poverty, just like other social problems has its subjective nature. It depends on time, geographical region, and audience (7). What is inferior to one man may be rich to another. That is why the concepts of absolute and relative poverty exist. The poor of a developed country like Russia may be considered rich in some less developed country like Haiti. Similarly, the American rich of 1970 may be regarded as poor in 2015 depending on economic dynamics such as price changes and the advent of technology.
The person-blame approach protects the established order in that t looks at numbers. If a problem like malaria affects an individual or several individuals scattered all over the country, it is termed as a private issue. However, the government will step in if it concentrates in an area, and the numbers of those affected are adjudged to be many. People are expected to work themselves out of individual problems and may only benefit if their problem affects the whole community. The person-blame approach gives the individual autonomy over their welfare by empowering them to work hard. The knowledge that no one cares about his or her problem makes the individual creative enough to avoid suffering.
As much as individuals have direct control over their standard of living, they have little or no control over their fate. Individuals may have done all the necessary preparation towards autonomy but fall short of being recognized as a result of luck. For instance, an unemployed graduate may suffer due to societal issues like corruption. Another may be structurally unemployed because of the labor market’s inability to absorb them. Therefore, considering both the person-blame and system-blame approach and not one in isolation best explains poverty.
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