"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) Introduction:
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.
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!
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.
Goals: 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.
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.
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!
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.
INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS
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