SOCIAL PROBLEMS SOCI 201 1/31/2017. B. Where do Social Problems Come From? 1. Social problems can be though of as objective and subjective.

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1 SOCI 201 SOCIAL PROBLEMS Professor Kurt reymers, Ph.D. ( Dr. K ) Spring Social problems can be though of as objective and subjective. Objective Condition = Material Reality: the world of physical, sensory perception and observation; Subjective Definition = Social Reality: the world of consciousness, mind and society-wide patterns of thought shared by everyone within a culture. 2. Social problems can be though of as objective and subjective. The difference between objective condition" and "subjective definition" lies basically in the difference in perspective between material, physical reality in which we live, compared to the socially constructed reality that is a normal condition of our society (but may be very different in another society). For example, poverty can be an objective condition of having little money and all of the accompanying problems that condition creates. However, poverty can also be subjectively defined. In America, 42% of families in poverty (by the U.S. government s definition) have two cars and at least one smart phone; is this a valid definition compared to another society, where poverty means starvation-level survival? 1

2 3. Regardless of subjectivity, social problems are related to the social structure. The textbook authors suggest that to best investigate personal troubles that stem from problems within the structure of social institutions, we must look at the structure of the POLITICAL-ECONOMY of a society. American society works on the basic principles of a CAPITALIST-DEMOCRACY. So, in order to understand the problems of American society, we must first understand the contemporary problems of American capitalism and of American democracy. 3.a. Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state (socialism). Contemporary American society generally embraces ideal capitalism, with little credence given to any form of socialism (including deregulation of business and a shrinking of government services, including welfare, healthcare, and infrastructure). 3.b. Is American capitalism still a free-market? Karl Marx argued that capitalism would inevitably fail because it has a tendency to become monopolistic, meaning that small companies will be gobbled up by larger ones, creating less competition and thus less innovation. Corporations today are becoming fewer and fewer, consolidating as larger businesses buy up smaller ones. The following charts show this consolidation visually: 2

3 40 banks have become 4 banks in the past 30 years Ten airlines have become four in the past 20 years Media corporations have shrunk from 50 to 6 in 40 years 3

4 23 drug companies have become 7 in the past 30 years 22 oil companies have become 8 in the past 20 years 10 corporations make almost everything you eat and drink 4

5 Gack! Even our BEER has been globally consolidated! 3.c. Accompanying these mergers and their interlocking boards of directors (the true owners of corporate stock) is a vastly increasing inequality of wealth. 5

6 3.d. How does the concentration of wealth effect democratic practice? i. Plutocracy and oligarchy (rule of the rich and of the few) ii. Campaign financing (Citizens United, see text p.41) iii. Lobbying and special interests iv. Political infiltration from big business (creating a Power Elite) 6

7 Monsanto, Inc., a huge industrial-agriculture corporation, has deep ties between it s board of directors and political appointments. So, where do America s (and many of the world s) social problems come from? According to the text authors, they derive from a system of corporate and political power that is restricted to a very small proportion of society. This is the classic conflict theory explanation of social problems. 7

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