Instructor: Ted Pride

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Social Problems

SOC 2020

Spring 2013

Mon & Tues, 6:00 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.

Oakland Center, Rm 0314
Instructor: Ted Pride

Office:2264 FAB, WSU

Office Hours: Upon Request

Phone: (313) 974-4900

E-mail: -or-

"Focusing on the poor and ignoring the system of power, privilege, and profit which makes them poor, is a little like blaming the corpse for the murder"

-Michael Parenti (in Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 2000)

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

-Karl Marx (Theses on Feuerback, 1845)

This course on social problems will challenge you to think creatively about solutions to some of our more intractable social quandaries: poverty, addiction, crime, healthcare inequalities, educational outcomes, pollution, and global human insecurities. The thematic node for this course is a mere question that I hope you will seriously and reflexively consider: “Is it possible to change the world?” I am excited about the prospect of spending the next few months of the semester with you discussing what I believe is one of the most important questions of our time.

Course Content:

Typically, society highlights a plethora of non-elite social problems such as family violence, poverty, drug addiction, discrimination, and so forth. Consciously or not, the latent supposition is this: the most pressing (and visible) social problems are unyoked from the ‘hidden’ world of elite deviance. Stated otherwise: The illegal financial transactions of the infamous Michael Milken, who stole billions of dollars from investors and was paid $550 million for his illegal commerce (Eitzen&Zinn, 1997: 29-30), or the shady investments and accounting schemes of the Boards of Enron and World Com, are not linked to the urban crisis of the truly disadvantaged underclass, deindustrialization, family violence, gang proliferation, and other non-elite quandaries. This course argues that there is a manifest and an indubitable link between elite (Wall Street/wealthy) deviance and non-elite (“ghetto”) social problems. A FOREWARING: THIS IS NOT A PLEASANT STORY TO TELL. IT WILL BE A DISTURBING AND A (DE)CENTERING EVENT FOR MANY OF YOU!

Required Text:

Eitzen, D. Stanley, Maxine Baca Zinn, and Kelly Eitzen Smith.Social Problems (12th Edition).Allyn& Bacon.

Supplemental Readings (not required but recommended):

Charles Derber. The Wilding of America: Greed, Violence, and the New American Dream.

Newman, Katherine. Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings.

Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society.

Course Structure & Policies:

Class attendance is critical andclassroom participation isrequired. Assigned readings should be read before each class session. The expectation is that students will be fully prepared to answer questions and participate in informed discussions on assigned readings and weekly topics. At each session, the instructor will present a lecture that deals with the broader analytical framework of the particular problem under study. These lectures and readings will form the basis of our class discussions.


  1. The development of an understanding of the theoretical approaches and analytical frameworks sociologists used to define, understand, and analyze social problems. This includes gaining some insight into the methods used in research, interpreting data, and critically thinking about social findings.

  2. Specifically, gain an in-depth knowledge of a politicoeconomicapproach to social problems. That is, understand how those from the dominant strata (elites), political system, and lower strata interact with each other and create conflict that shape social, economic, and political outcomes and phenomena.

  3. An increased awareness and sensitivity to societal problems and the complex and dynamic world in which we all exist. This should encourage students to think about possible solutions to the problems are world faces—how can you change the world for the better.


1. Essays:There will be four essay assignments for this course. These essays will constitute the bulk of your grade—80% to be exact. Therefore these essays must be well written, and they must clearly demonstrate that you understand the subject matter at hand. The essay questions will be given to you at the time of the assignment date. All essays will be 5-7 pages, double spaced, and properly cited.
4. Participation/Class Discussion:Students will be required to engage in class discussions. The discussions will be based on lectures, readings, and any other materials covered in class. Talking about the topics will allow people to ask questions, address any confusion about topics, and gain a better understanding of the concepts and issues. Furthermore, there will be various in-class projects and activities through the semester. These activities will be used to provide students with a practical understanding of various concepts. Participation will be worth 20% of your final grade, so please be involved!

I essay100 points

II essay 100 points

III essay100 points

IV essay 100 points

Participation & Attendance 100points _____________________________________________________

Total possible points 500 points

Classroom Rules:

Please do not talk during lectures or presentations. Cell phones should be turned off or on vibrate. Cell phone use is not permitted during class time (No texting, listen to music, or playing video games). If you need to use your phone during class, please do so out in the hall.
Withdrawing From the Course:
The course withdrawal deadline for Summer 2013 will be June 8th.

Course Outline:


Overview of Course and Sociological Approach to Social Problems- 5/06

Discuss the syllabus and course expectations/requirements

Readings:Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 1-The Sociological Approach to SocialProblems


A Politicoeconomic Approach to Understanding Social Problems- 5/08

Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 2- Wealth and Power: The Bias of the System

Class Activity: Making a Budget

Looking at the World through a Critical Lens: Are things what they appear to be?- 5/13

Watch the film: Inside Job, Charles Ferguson

Readings: TBA
NO CLASS MAY 15th (Readings will be assigned)


The World and the Environment- 5/20


Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 3- World Population and Global Inequality,

Chapter 4- Threats to the Environment

Place Matters and the Changing “Appearance” of America- 5/22

Readings:Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 5- Demographic Changes in the US: The

Browning and Graying of Society, Chapter 6- Problems of Place: Urban, Suburban, and Rural


Race and Class Matters- 5/27

Readings:Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 7- Poverty, Chapter 8- Racial and Ethnic


Gender and Sexuality- 5/29

Readings: Chapter 10- Gender Inequality, Chapter 11 Sexual Orientation



Crime, Addiction, and the Legal System- 6/03

Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 12-Crime and Justice, Chapter 13- Drugs


Jobs and the Economy- 6/05

Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 14- The Economy and Work

Watch the film: American Winter, Joe and Harry Gantz

TheFamily Unit- 6/10

Readings:Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 15- Families

Education and Health- 6/12

Readings:Chapter 16- Education, Chapter 17- The Healthcare System

National Security: Making America Safer?- 6/17

Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 18- National Security in the 21st Century

Watch film: The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein


Policy and Social Movement Approaches to Change- 6/19

Readings: Eitzen, Social Problems: Chapter 19- Progressive Plans to Solve Social Problems


EXTRA CREDIT POINTS- If you can solve the puzzle below, I will give you 5 extra credit points that will count towards your final grade. Good Luck!


Without lifting your pen from your paper, connect these nine dots with four contiguous straight lines.

. . .

. . .

. . .

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