गुरुवार, 19 फ़रवरी 2009

Defining Social Problems

Dr. John S. Mahoney

I. We have addressed the historical involvement of Sociology in the definition and study of social problems and noted that early studies were done with the ultimate purpose of making the world a better place to live in. We also conducted a brief review of the theoretical perspectives involved in viewing social problems. We now turn to some of the conditions which must be met for a social problem to exist.

II. Not all social conditions become elevated to the status of "social problem." For example, here are some "objective conditions" which exist today, and as you will see, not all of them are considered to be social problems.

Environmental Pollution Resource Depletion Limited Energy Supplies Education Corporate Corruption Unemployment Poverty Drug Abuse Family Decline, (Increased Divorce, Family Abuse, etc.) Nuclear War Crime Racial/Ethnic/Sexual Discrimination Health Care Aging Moral Decline Weakening Institution of Religion Government

Each of the above represents an existing condition which threatens the well-being of the United States and, in some cases, the entire world. Also all are objective conditions that really exist! But we all realize that many of them draw relatively little public concern-- Why?
III. If you review a variety of social problems texts, you find that there is general agreement that four conditions must be met before an objective reality in the greater society becomes elevated to the special status of "social problem." They are:

1. The objective condition must be perceived to be a social problem publicly. That is, there must be some public outcry. People must become actively involved in discussing the problem. Public attention becomes directed toward that social condition.
2 The condition must involve a gap between social ideals and social reality। That is, the condition must run counter to the values of the larger society. At the beginning of the 20th century alcohol abuse was perceived to be a very serious social problem, responsible for family breakdown, abandonment of children, accidental death at work, and violence in society. A "Temperance Movement" emerged that further consolidated public opinion to a point that people wanted to do something about it.
३. A significant proportion of the population must be involved in defining the problem. (A large proportion of the population must be concerned about the condition… It must have national attention. If only a small segment of the population gets involved you have an interest group pushing for the general public to do something about the condition-- not a social problem).

4. The condition must be capable of solution through collective action by people. If no solution is perceived possible, people will resign themselves to their fate. A good example is government bureaucracy-- If everyone takes the attitude that "you can't fight city hall", government bureaucracy doesn't emerge as a social problem. Rather, it is a part of life that everyone must live with.

IV. OK, so lets say that a certain objective reality exists. Also, lets, agree that each of the above conditions is met. There are still other factors which will determine the degree to which something comes to be perceived as a social problem. These are all very logical--
1. If people affected by a condition are influential, or powerful, the condition is more likely to be considered a social problem than if those affected are not influential. When a condition begins to affect the white middle class, particularly those able to influence government policy, or the content of the mass media, the chances of it being considered a social problem increase substantially.

Example: Hard drug addiction had been a lower class, black problem for some time before it reached the suburban white middle class। But when it began to affect middle class kids, we see the emergence of a new social problem!

2. A condition affecting a relatively small segment of the population is less likely to be considered a social problem than if it has adverse effects on a much larger segment of society.

Example: The poverty of Native Americans has received much less attention than the poverty of Black Americans. Why? Native Americans are a relatively small and isolated segment of the U.S. population. African Americans are a much larger minority and are much more visible. The poverty of African Americans also has a greater impact on the middle classes than that of Native Americans.
3. A rapid increase in the number of people affected by a social condition is also important-- perhaps even as important as the number of people affected!

Example: People become accustomed to the prevailing levels of crime, pollution, and urban congestion-- But a sharp increase in the intensity of any of these leads to elevated public concern. One airline crash every year is grounds for concern, but not for the definition of a social problem. But, five crashes in one month will get the public's attention!
4. The mass media also plays an important role in the selection and definition of social problems. It gives selective attention to certain conditions. The liberal press will highlight certain issues while the conservative press will select others.

Example: A good example is the controversy over the Monica Lewinsky affair. The liberal press lamented it, but maintained that the larger issue was the quality of the job that the President was doing. The conservative press saw it as a basic flaw in the moral fabric of the presidency and counter to the values of the larger society. On this issue, the general public seems to have sided with the liberal position if public opinion ratings of the President's job performance are to be believed.

5. Finally, ideology plays an important role in determining which conditions are singled out as social problems.
Example: If the general population has adopted a Marxist ideology, then such things as corporate power, militarism, imperialism, etc. will be perceived as serious social problems in the U.S. However, if the public, as a whole, holds conservative values then "big government," "national defense," and "declining morality" will be perceived as social problems.
Ideology also determines how a social problem is defined। Conservatives and liberals agree that America has a poverty problem-- but they do not agree on a specific definition of the problem, nor do they agree on how the problem should be solved.

Example: Conservatives will perceive poverty as being caused by lack of intelligence, lack of motivation, lack of the ability to delay gratification, and other personal characteristics of those who are poor. Thus, they will tend to defend the system, or in the case of radical conservatives, will argue for a dismantling of the "welfare state" and a return to the free market system.
Liberals emphasize the lack of opportunity and structural factors in the system. The system must be adjusted to open up opportunity. Radical liberals will advocate overthrowing the current system of government and establishing something entirely new.
Cited from:
http://www.people.vcu.edu/~jmahoney/define.htm, Dated:05-02-2009

Corruption in Education system in India – A UNESCO Report

India’s education system is mired in corruption and a high rate of teacher absenteeism in the country was a key factor for it according to the new global study. The UNESCO’s International Institute of Educational Planning study on corruption in education released recently says that 25% teacher absenteeism in India is among the highest in the world, second only after Uganda that has a higher rate. The global average of teacher absenteeism is about 20%.
Teacher absenteeism does not just affect quality of education; it is also a huge drain on resources resulting in the wastage of 22.5% of education funds in India the study said. Politics in teacher appointments and transfers is a major reason for teacher absenteeism according to a professor at National University for Education Planning and Administration.
The study identifies the absence of well established criteria for teacher recruitment a uniform policy on promotion, remuneration and deployment as some of the main reasons identified for teacher absenteeism. However the report found married teachers to be more regular at job than unmarried teachers.
In Bihar two of every five teachers were reported absent the figure in UP was reported to be one-third of the total teachers। However in states like Gujarat and Kerala the figure was lower than 15% the report based on several small studies.
Teachers also believe highly in private tutoring a practice identified by UNESCO as unethical. It does not complement learning at school and leads to corruption the report said. The practice of ghost teachers and involvement of teachers in mismanagement of schools were other gray areas identified in the Indian education system.
Another indictment of the sorry state of Indian education was the view held by students that cheating in examinations is their traditional right। In India universities cheating is now well-established. The fees for manipulating entrance tests ranges between $ 80 to $ 20,000 for popular programmes such as computer science, medicine and engineering the report said.
Cited from:

बुधवार, 18 फ़रवरी 2009

Domestic Violence Against Women

"…the wife: however brutal or tyrant she may unfortunately be chained to-though she may know that he hates her, though it may be his daily pleasure to torture her, and though she may feel it impossible not to loathe him- (he)can claim from her and enforce the lowest degration of a human being ,that of being made an instrument of an animal function contrary to her inclinations." John Stuart Mill
The above lines reflect the brutality that one out of every three women has to face at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles in their homes around the globe। Domestic violence can be described as when one adult in a relationship misuses power to control another. It is the establishment of control and fear in the relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. It is basically an abuse of power. The abuser tortures and controls the victim by calculated threats, intimidation and physical violence. Although men, women and children can all be abused, in most cases the victims are women. In every country where reliable, large-scale studies have been conducted, results indicate that between 16 and 52% of women have been assaulted by their husbands\partners. These studies also indicate widespread violence against women as an important cause of morbidity and mortality. These physical attacks may also include rape and sexual violence. Psychological violence includes verbal abuse, harassment, confinement and deprivation of physical, financial and personal resources. For some women emotional abuse may be more painful than the physical attacks because they effectively undermine women's security and self-confidence.
Violence within the home is universal across culture, religion, class and ethnicity। The abuse is generally condoned by social custom and considered part and parcel of marital life .An example of this can be seen through the gist of a popular Spanish riddle: Question: What do mules and women have in common? Answer: A good beating makes them both better."
The statistics reveal grim picture of the realities prevalent in developing and developed countries alike.
In the United States a women is beaten every 18 minutes; between 3 million and 4 million are battered each year, but only 1 in 10 cases of domestic violence is ever reported.
In the United Kingdom, 1 in 3 families is a victim of assault and 1 in 5 a victim of serious assault, according to a recent report by the home office.
In Austria, in 59%of 1500 divorce cases, domestic violence is cited as a cause in the marital breakdown.
In India the records of National Crimes Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs government of India revealed a shocking 71.5% Increase in cases of torture and dowry deaths during the period from 1991 to 1995 .In 1995, torture of women constituted 29.2%of all reported crimes against women.
In Bangladesh, half of the 170 reported cases of women murdered between 1983 and 1985 took place within the confines of the homes.
The question arises why women put up with the abuse in the home? The answer lies in their unequal status in society। They are often caught in a vicious circle of economic dependence, fear for their children's lives as well as their own, ignorance of their rights before the law, lack of confidence in themselves and social pressures. These factors effectively force women to a life of recurrent mistreatment from which they often do not have the means to escape. The sanctity of privacy within the family also makes authorities reluctant to intervene, often leads women to deny they are being abused. This is equally common in the higher as well as in the lower segments of a society. A woman who files a charge of abuse is often forced to drop it by her husband's family if she wants an uncontested divorce. Social prejudices reinforce domestic violence against women. They are treated as their spouses' property; husbands assume that this subordinate role gives them right to abuse their wives in order to keep them in their place. Against this background is the tradition of dowry, an expectation of gifts and cash from the bride's family, one can imagine the anxiety these expectations may cause to a woman and the consequences she has to face if it is inadequate. Women's physical and mental health is often permanently damaged or impaired and in some cases violence can have fatal consequences as in the case of dowry deaths in India. Physical torture as well as mental torture usually occurs on a regular basis causing suffering and inflicting deep scars on the psyche of the victims and their families. Many assault incidents result in injuries ranging from bruises and fractures to chronic disabilities. Domestic violence has devastating repercussions on the family. Mothers are unable to care for their children properly. Often they transmit to them their own feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness and inadequacy. Violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation in world today. We need to think and ponder as how this form of degradation of women can be stopped. It needs support from all quarters be it government, NGOs and women themselves. There is also a need to improve women's economic capacities that include access to and control of income and assets and also share in the family's property. The government should strengthen and expand training and sensitization programs.