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Origins of Social Problems

Sociologists have long studied the problems facing society in order to discover their root causes and effects. The origins of social problems can sometimes be murky, however. Are problems the fault of the individual exclusively, or can society play a role? That is a fundamental question within sociology that may never be adequately answered. The problem of obesity is a classic example of a social problem. This paper will examine the causes and effects of obesity in American culture and will argue that it is an urgent social problem that must be addressed. However, we will also examine what the roles of the individual and of society are in engendering and solving this problem. Is obesity and individual or a collective problem? This is one of the most important questions facing America today.

Robert Heiner, in his book Social Problems: An Introduction to Critical Constructionism, tackles the root causes of the pernicious problems facing our society. According to Heiner, social problems are: (1) acts and conditions that violate the norms and values present in society and (2) societally induced conditions that cause psychic and material suffering for any segment of the population (Heiner, 9). These two differing factors set up a dichotomy in the way we can approach problems. We can view problems as individual problems or societal problems. The person-blame approach assumes that the individual is at fault for the problem and that the only way to rectify the problem is by enacting change in the individual. This is an inherently seductive approach, especially in our American culture which is so focused on the individual and their ability to change their life for the better through hard workùthe magical American Dream. The system-blame approach involves placing the blame for a problem on society at large and not on the individual. This approach is a more difficult one, because to solve a problem involves effecting society-...

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Origins of Social Problems. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:13, February 22, 2017, from