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What Makes a Problem a Social Problem?

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What Makes a Problem a Social Problem?

There can be problems that are not social problems, in order for a problem to become a social problem, it must either be caused by social factors, be harmful to society or threaten the common view of society. Normally these three scenarios are interrelated, the more the origin of the problem is social in nature, the more people are affected and society is affected. If the root of crime is based on social conditions, for example if crime is caused by racial intolerance, many people will be affected.

There is a difference between a social condition, a social issue and a social problem. First there has to be a social condition, for example globalization, literacy, class. A social condition is a neutral quality that is identified by society. A social condition evolves into a social issue once there is debate on whether or not the social condition is a problem or not. Once a majority of people believe that something needs to be done in order to deal with the issue, it becomes a social problem. A social problem is said to exist if the cause of the condition is social, a social condition is causing harm to society, a social condition is causing society to function in a way that is believed to be harmful or if people agree that a social condition should be changed one way or the other. There are three key perspectives that determine how an individual views social problems in their society.

Conflict, consensus and interactionist are all different perspectives that determine how you view social problems. The conflict perspective emphasizes social conditions that create poverty and inequality among classes. Within society there exist conflicts between various interests. Not everyone can have their needs met. People are systematically harmed or excluded.

The consensus perspective emphasizes social conditions that threaten the perpetuation of society as it is known. The major concerns of this view are too much disorder, too little consensus and institutions that fail to do what they were originally designed to do.

The interactionist perspective views the cause of a social condition becoming a social problem through communication, and definition. The interactionist believes social problems exist because conditions in society are deemed unacceptable. The main issue for the interactionist perspective is how people convince the majority of people that a social condition is a social problem.

Each one of these views helps determines what social values or conditions a person will believe to be a problem and in need of change. These views are necessary to have in debate over if or not a social condition is a problem.

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