Social Problems in America: Costs and Casualties in an Acquisitive Society

Social Problems in America: Costs and Casualties in an Acquisitive Society

Social Problems in America: Costs and Casualties in an Acquisitive Society

Social Problems in America: Costs and Casualties in an Acquisitive Society

Excerpt

The listing of names on the title page is a consequence of alphabetical accident; it does not signify inequality of participation. Our book is a joint product, and both of us accept full responsibility for every chapter.

In our teaching of "social problems," we have been impressed with the seeming lack of continuity between one topic and the next in many textbooks. A "social problems" course often provides a Cook's tour of personal and social pathologies rather than a systematic analysis of the significance of the symptoms held up to view. We wondered whether sociological theory could impart a coherent framework to the social problems field. We concluded that this was possible if sociologists were willing to chop conventional topics up and recombine them in new ways.

This we have done in the present book. The result is somewhat disconcerting--even to us, the authors. When we look at the table of contents, we see no familiar "Alcoholism" or "Family Disorganization" staring back. As a colleague, who saw the galley proofs, pointed out, he would not have known that ours is a social problems textbook were it not for the title. Truth to tell, however, most of the familiar problems are in the book. Look at the index if you are skeptical. We hope that the theoretical advantages of our framework will justify the far-reaching revisions we have made in the usual organization of social problems courses.

A second difficulty with many social problems textbooks is that they often seem dull to the student. Partly this is because of the telephone-directory organization just mentioned: the subject seems to change very rapidly. Partly it is because very few sociologists can write six hundred pages of scintillating exposition. Recognizing our literary shortcomings and yet wishing to present the material in as interesting a manner as possible, we decided to use illustrative readings. Do not be deceived, however. This is not just a collection of articles. We systematically defined for ourselves the characteristics of an illustration called for by our conceptual scheme and then scoured the literature to find an article that would meet our demands. Despite the small propor-

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