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.