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This collection of focused essays is directed at several levels of students of social problems. It is accessible to the uninitiated, who are not familiar with the constructionist literature, and aimed at those who are not particularly interested in subtle theoretical and empirical issues of concern to academics studying social problems from constructionist perspectives. Some readings focus on the construction of problems by scientists and other professionals; others examine the work of social activists, mass media, and social service personnel. Among the topics included are studies of social inequalities and individual deviance; a comparison of the images of social problems in the United States with those in other countries; and an examination of the importance of politics and power in constructing public images of social problems.
Constructionist perspectives have become the leading theoretical approach for sociology and allied fields in studying social problems. Yet constructionists' impact on the teaching of social problems has been far less dramatic. Undergraduate courses on social problems are often subject to a theoretical barrage of eclectic perspectives. Just as the first social problems textbooks did almost a century ago, textbooks continue to present a series of unrelated chapters, each devoted to a particular social problem. Social Problems is an effort at systematic analysis rather than random thought on the subject.
Social Problems presents detailed case studies demonstrating how constructionist perspectives can actually be applied to understand particular social problems. While these articles can be read alone, the editors have organized these selections to correspond with the chapter topics in the second edition of Donileen Loseke's Thinking about Social Problems, an accessible introduction to constructionist approaches. At the same time, some instructors who use this edited collection might wish to provide their own mix to the selection process. Many of the contributions make multiple points and so reasonably could be used to illustrate other basic texts or classic studies in the field of social problems.
Preface I. Examining Social Problems Introduction 1 The Changing Meanings of Spanking - Phillip W. Davis 2 Bullying as a Social Problem in Great Britain - Frank Furedi 3 The Problem with the Earthquake Problem - Robert A. Stallings 4 Reality Television Constructs Crime - Gray Cavender II. Claims-Makers and Audiences Introduction 5 Audiences Evaluate Statistics - Joel Best 6 Promoters of Hate Crime Legislation - Valerie Jenness and Kendal Broad 7 Psychiatrists Construct Homosexuality - Stuart A. Kirk and Herb Kutchins 8 Television Talk Shows Construct Morality - Kathleen S. Lowney III. Constructing Conditions Introduction 9 Smoking Problems in Japan - Jun Ayukawa 10 Crime Frames and their Sponsors - Theodore Sasson 11 Framing in the Fathers' Rights Movement - Gwyneth I. Williams and Rhys H. Williams 12 Factory Farming as a Social Problem - Karl R. Kunkel IV. Constructing People Introduction 13 The Rhetorical Appeal of Random Violence - Joel Best 14 Prostitutes Respond to AIDS - Valerie Jenness 15 Science Constructs PMS - Anne E. Figert 16 Multicultural Education as Moral Drama - Shan Netson-Rowe V. Constructing Solutions Introduction 17 The Homeless Mentally 111 and Involuntary Hospitalization - Donileen R. Loseke 18 Constructing a War on Drugs - Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine 19 Urine Testing and Social Control - William J. Staudenmeier 20 The Size Acceptance Movement - Jeffery Sobal VI. Social Problems and Everyday Life Introduction 21 Constructing the Need for "Low Fat" Food - S. Bryn Austin 22 Pregnant Women as a Social Problem - Carol Brooks-Gardner 23 Constructing Sexually Marginalized Catholics - Donileen R. Loseke and James C. Cavendish 24 The Beliefs of Recovery Religion - Kathleen S. Lowney VII. Social Problems and Troubled People Introduction 25 Medicalizing Childhood - Dorothy Pawluch 26 Teaching Gifted Children - Leslie Margolin 27 Constructing Insanity in Involuntary Commitment Hearings - James A. Holstein 28 Formula Stories and Support Groups for Battered Women - Donileen'R. Loseke VIII. Evaluating Constructionist Perspectives on Social Problems Introduction 29 "Crack Babies" and the Politics of Mothering - Jacqueline Litt and Maureen McNeil 30 The Symbolic Meanings of "Pedophile Priests" - Philip Jenkins 31 Horror Stories and the Construction of Child Abuse - John M. Johnson 32 Constructing the "Jewish Problem" in Nazi Germany - Ronald J. Berger