Social Disorganization Essay
According to city-data.com the crime rates in Passaic, NJ are much higher compared to those cities that surround it. Theses cities include Wallington, Hasbrouck Heights, and East Rutherford. Data shown in city-data.com shows that the city of Passaic has more than double the crime rate than Wallington, Hasbrouck Heights and East Rutherford. But why? I believe that the reason crime rates are higher in Passaic than in the cities I mentioned above is because of the environment. The social disorganization theory states that the reason crime is committed is because of the environment a criminal is in. To find out if this is true I would have to do surveys and interviews in the city of Passaic.
Passaic is a city that is filled with minorities, drugs, gangs, and poverty. I know this because I live in Passaic. I have witness drugs being sold and homeless people asking for money. Fights happen all over the city. Gun shootings between two opposing gangs happen at random anywhere. Poverty is seen all over the city. Divorce rates are high. Most importantly though is the fact that minorities rule the population this makes for many disorganized communities This is why i believe crimes rates in Passaic are higher in Passaic than those in other cities.
Let's take Wallington as an example. In Passaic there is a bridge that separates Passaic from Wallignton. Once you cross that bridge the difference is very noticeable. The houses are nicer, the roads are fixed, there are no homeless people on the pavements, the streets are quieter and there are much more less minorities. Passaic is the complete opposite and so are the crime rates. According to city-data.com Passaic has more than double the crime rates than Wallignton. This data supports the social disorganization theory.
In order for me to show that crimes rates are high in Passaic because of the environment I would have to do surveys and interviews in Passaic and in Wallington. The way I would go about doing this is quite simple. Create surveys to give to residents of Passaic and do random interviews. I would speak to a professor at my local community college so he can help me get volunteers for this research. The surveys and interviews would consist of questions that ask why is crime rates so high in Passaic and lower in Wallington.
I believe the answers to these surveys and interviews would really show that the social disorganization theory could be applied to my question of why crime rates are so...
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Read this article to learn about the meaning, characteristics and causes of social disorganization!
Life is a process of continuous adjustment and readjustment. The social organism is always undergoing a change necessitating adjustment of its different parts.
When the various parts of society are properly adjusted, we have social order and a well organised society, but when they fail to adjust themselves to the changing conditions, the result is social disequilibrium or disorganisation leading to social problems.
Since social disorganisation puts the society out of gear, it has been an important subject of study in sociology. However, before we study social disorganisation, it would be fruitful to study social order as its study is helpful in understanding the nature of social disorganisation.
I. Social Order:
The problem of social order has been one of the major concerns of Sociological theory. The importance of social order in sociology can be ascertained due to the following reasons: (a) order is itself something positive and its opposites can be understood only with reference to it; (b) the functioning of human society requires order as a pre-condition; (c) the existence of social order cannot be taken for granted and (d) the analysis of the problem of order is helpful in understanding the nature of disorder in its various aspects.
The term social order can mean a number of things:
(a) It refers to the control of violence in social life;
(b) It refers to the existence of reciprocity or mutuality in the social life;
(c) it refers to the element of predictability in the social life;
(d) Social order refers to consistency and
(e) Social order also entails persistence.
Percy S. Cohen refers to four main types of theories to explain the existence of social order.
These theories have been briefly described below:
The theory emphasizes the use or threatened use of physical coercion or the use of symbolic and moral coercion. According to this theory, order exists in society largely as a result of the power which some men have to command compliance from others.
If they do not comply with these commands, they are threatened with some form of physical punishment, deprivation of property, resources or rights or with some social stigma or supernatural sanction.
This theory can explain various aspects of social order. Men generally control their impulses and follow the social norms because they are afraid of the consequences of acting otherwise. In some instances, men are consistently reminded of the moral need to conform to social norms and values. Men carry out their obligations and expect others to do the same because the failure to do so will be punished by authority.
The coercion theory can also explain disorder, conflict and change. In all societies, there are at least two types of conflict: first, there is a conflict between men contending for positions of power and second, there is a conflict between the powerful and the powerless.
During such periods of conflict, various types, of disorders take place. In such conditions, social change may also take place. This theory explains order in its various aspects and also explains the breakdown of social order and the occurrence of change.
Coercion theory has a few serious weaknesses, which are as follows:
1. In case coercion is considered as necessary condition for social order, it can easily be refuted by examining those societies where order exists without a single centralized authority which can use force. These are the tribal societies which have been termed as ‘stateless’ or ‘acephalous’. In such societies there are hardly any positions of authority and there are no, political units. The ethnographic facts of such societies appear to refute the argument that coercion is a necessary condition for social order.
2. In the short run, the exercise of power may achieve some degree of social order but in the long run, it is bound to give rise to opposition or the use of violence to overthrow it. In case coercion is necessary, though not sufficient, for the maintenance of social order, then it would appear to be true that the weakening of coercive power is a sufficient condition for occurrence of social disorder or change. This is difficult to test empirically for there is no society in which coercion disappears altogether.
This theory has two main variants:
(1) The first explains the social order as resulting from a contract between men who find it in their interest to have some social arrangements. This view point emphasizes that men cannot achieve their objectives without the co-operation or at least the dependability of others.
(2) The second version of the interest theory is far more subtle and complex than the first. It states that social order results from the unintended consequences of many men separately pursuing their own interests; it is not true that men discover that order is in their collective interests and then establish it, rather they establish it unwittingly and discover later that it is in their interests.
This theory can also account for disorder and change in the following way: when circumstances arise which are not covered by the existing rules then disorder and conflict follow, until the need for new rules is recognized. The interest theory is quite significant in the development of sociological theory.
The main merit of the theory is that it does conceive of social phenomena in terms of causal processes which are, to some extent, independent of human will. It can explain the occurrence of disorder and change, for the adjustment of interests is never fully achieved.
There are two main defects of this theory:
(a) The first defect has been expressed by Emile Durkheim and latter Talcott Parsons. The defect is that the theory does not explain the derivation of interests. Both Durkheim and Parsons argue that interests, to some extent, are given by society itself; that is, their existence presupposes social order.
(b) The theory assumes that men adjust to the conduct of one another with almost perfect freedom, their choice being limited only by nature and by the need to take note of one another’s conduct. No consideration is given to the power which some men have to determine or influence the manner in which others will take account of their own wishes. In short, the theory lays so much stress on the unintended consequences of actions that it overlooks the degree to which some intentions are more significant than others.
The value consensus theory:
This theory stresses that order is based on some minimal consensus on certain values which are predominantly moral but may also be technical and aesthetic. The basis of this theory is that whenever men are committed to the same values, they also recognize a common identity as against others. Commitment to values enables men to devise means for reconciling or adjusting conflicting interests and for turning coercive force into legitimate authority.
This theory can explain disorder and change in the following way:
(a) no man is totally committed to common standards and some people, because of their upbringing are never fully committed. When circumstances change radically, many people will abandon their commitments.
Thus, there are always individuals who are ready to deviate and they are large in number when circumstances encourage this, (b) The second possible cause of the disorder and change occurs when there is a clash of values due to contact between different societies and when new values emerge which are incompatible with the old.
This theory is hardly new as it was advanced by August Comte and to some extent by Emile Durkheim. Comte argued that disorder in society was due to a lack of consensus on certain fundamental ideas and principles concerning the desired type of society and the proper means of administering it.
He was of the view that consensus was reduced by the growth of the division of labour, which prompted sectional differences and conflict. Durkheim rejected much of the arguments put forth by Comte. He considered that a unified system of ideas and morals was possible only in a relatively simple, undifferentiated society.
He recognized that the division of labour prompted differences and conflicts. He pointed out that the differences also provided a new moral conception of interdependence. In a highly differentiated society, there could be no consensus based on detailed moral rules and the acceptance of total system of ideas. However, there could be a consensus on certain diffuse moral values which prescribed limits within which different set of rules could exist.
If this theory states that consensus is a sufficient condition for the creation and maintenance of social order, then it is rather weak. First, it fails to explain how some consensus can be reached without social order. Secondly, it is also false as an explanation of the continuity of order, for example, there may be widespread consensus in modern society on the desirability of higher living standards; but this is as likely to provoke conflict as to solve it.
But if the theory states that some degree of consensus or commitment to common values is a necessary condition for social order, it is far more acceptable. In a simple sense, the theory is almost indisputable for human social life is not conceivable unless men have some common standards and are committed to maintaining them.
In a more significant sense, the theory states that underlying the acceptance of some common rules is the commitment to certain broad principles concerning the desirability of these rules. This implies that there’ is a possibility of choosing between one set of principles and another. However, this may be true in some complex civilizations but not in case of the simple societies.
This theory has been strongly supported as an explanatory theory by Comte and Parsons. However, some scholars like Mannheim and Marx have held rather Utopian notions concerning the possibility of establishing a complex society on the basis of a vast consensus. Critics have pointed out that a commitment to common values and ideas in complex societies is unlikely to be extensive even where it is powerful.
The Inertia theory:
This theory of social order is different from all the others in that it seeks only to explain one aspect of social order, namely, element of continuity or persistence in social life. It is also different in that it does not refer to a single factor or process but to any number of them. The theory asserts that if social order exists, it provides the conditions for its own continuation. This appears to be tautological in that the notion of social order implies that of continuity.
Although the theory cannot be accepted as such, when formulated more clearly and precisely it emphasizes the point that some of the causal processes of social phenomena are often circular. This theory implies that when social order is maintained; it tends to resist pressures for disruption and change, at least from within.
This theory can be combined with any of the others:
Coercion, interests and value consensus can each be introduced as factors within the theory or model which uses the assumption of inertia or equilibrium. In fact, all three elements can be combined within a theory or model of an ongoing social order.
A survey of the four theories leads to important conclusions. These are: (a) none of these theories can really explain the origins of social order, (b) Each of these theories explains how social order persists and how it breaks down and changes. For each theory states a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for the continuity of any social order, once it exists.
All social order rest on a combination of coercion, interests and values. This does not mean that every type of social order is dependent, to the same extent, on each of the three factors. In fact, they differ very much in the extent to which they emphasize these different elements.
II. The Meaning of Social Disorganisation:
Social disorganisation is the process opposed to social organisation. Social organisation, Some Fundamental Concepts’, is an orderly relationship of parts. The significance of this orderly arrangement lies in what it does. When the parts of social structure do not perform their functions efficiently and effectively or perform them badly, there occurs an imbalance in society.
The social equilibrium is disturbed and society gets out of gear. Emile Durkheim defined social disorganisation as “a state of disequilibrium and a lack of social solidarity or consensus among the members of a society.” W.I. Thomas and Florien Znaniecki conceived of social disorganisation as “a decrease of the influence of existing rules of behaviour upon individual members of the groups.”
According to Mowever, social disorganization is “the process by which the relationships between members of a group are shaken.” Stuart A. Queen, Walter B. Bodenhafer, and Ernest B. Harper described social disorganisation in their book ‘Social Organisation and Disorganisation’ as the counterpart of social organisation.
According to them, just as social organisation provides the means by which a society maintains its unity and cohesion through effective control of its members, and, hence, functions smoothly; social disorganisation causes a weakening of group solidarity, loss of control over its members, and, therefore, conflict and disintegration.
According to Ogburn and Nimkoff when the harmonious relationship between the various parts of culture is disturbed, social disorganisation ensue. According to R.E.L. Faris, “Social disorganization is a disturbance in the patterns and mechanisms of human relations.According to Elliott and Merrill, “Social disorganisation is the process by which the relationship between members of the group are broken or dissolved.”
Thus on the basis of these definitions it may be said that social disorganisation refers to serious mal-adjustments rather than un-adjustments in society so that they fail to satisfy the needs of the individuals satisfactorily. Society, as we know, is the web of social relationships. In an organised society social relations have some patterns and mechanisms. When the relations become disordered or disintegrated there is social disorganisation.
In a well organised society the various institutions are in a harmonious adjustment or, in other words, there exists functional balance between the various elements of the social structure. When there is a lack of adjustment and balance and institutions do not function in a manner that satisfies all the individuals, we can speak of social disorganisation.
Social disorganisation, therefore, is to be considered in terms of functional disequilibrium, it is disequilibrium within customs, institutions, groups, communities and societies. Comparing social disorganisation with social organisation Queen and Harper write, “If social organisation means the development of relationships which persons and groups find mutually satisfactory, then disorganisation means their replacement by relationships which bring disappointment, thwarted wishes, irritation and unhappiness.” Social disorganisation often brings personal disorganisation, since a person is a social creation and his “self” a social product.
It may be, however, noted that no objective criteria for measuring the degree of disorganisation are available; whether a situation represents organisation or disorganisation is largely a matter of subjective judgment. For example, divorce may be thought of as signifying family disorganisation. Actually it may be due to a better knowledge of the divorce laws and altered attitudes towards marriage.
Characteristics of Social Disorganisation:
The main characteristics of social disorganisation are the following:
(i) Conflict of Mores and of Institutions:
As we have studied earlier every society has its mores and institutions which regulate the life of its members. With the passage of time, these mores and institution become obsolete. New ideals arise and new institutions are formed. The existing mores come into conflict with new mores.
Some people want to replace them by new ones. This destroys consensus in society. With the destruction of consensus, social organisation breaks up and social disorganisation ensues. In the Indian society we can see such conflict of mores and institutions.
If, on the one hand, there are critics of caste system, on the other hand there are its staunch supporters. There is a strong difference of opinion on a number of other issues like divorce, family planning, untouchability, love-marriage, joint family system, women education, widow remarriage, education etc.
On the one hand, we denounce caste system while on the other we apply casteism in the selection of candidates for political offices, recruitment to public services and admission to educational institutions. There is much confusion of mores in our society and so we are passing through a state of social disorganisation. Elliot and Merrill called social organisation fundamentally a problem of consensus and when there is disagreement concerning mores and institutions, the seeds of social disorganisation have been sown.
(ii) Transfer of Functions from one Group to Another:
In an organised society the functions of different groups are defined and predetermined. But as society is dynamic, the functions of one group are transferred to another. Thus most of the functions once performed by the family stand transferred today to nurseries, schools and clubs. This has caused family disorganisation. Thus transfer of functions from one group to another is characteristic of social disorganisation.
Man today thinks in terms of self. The functions of different groups are determined in purely individualistic terms. Under the impact of individualism every person thinks upon all the important matters of life from his individual viewpoint. The young men and women want to take decisions on such important matters as marriage, occupation, recreation and morality in accordance with their individual prejudices, interests and attitudes. This trend has set in a dangerous process of social disorganisation.
(iv) Change in the Role and Status of the Individuals:
In an organised society the roles and status of people are defined and fixed. Their functions are well defined and they carry on the tasks allotted to them. They enjoy the status in accordance with their role in society. A primitive society suffers less from disorganisation because it is stable and its members follow the professions allocated to them.
But in course of time our norms change which also brings a change in the roles and statuses of the people. They no longer are treated as fixed and the people begin to choose from amongst the different role which causes disequilibrium. Thus the women are no longer confined to homes.
They work in offices. This change in the roles of women has caused family disorganisation. The Government of India is making efforts to raise the status of the lower classes which has led to disorganisation in the caste system. Faris writes, “Social disorganization is the disruption of the natural relation of persons to a degree that interferes with the performance of the accepted tasks of the group.”
Symptoms of Social Disorganisation:
Social disorganisation is an indication of the existence of diseased or disruptive elements in society. Just as a disease is known by its symptoms, so social disorganization may be known by its symptoms. Mabel, A. Elliot and Francis E. Merrill have pointed out that social disorganisation may be of three types i.e., disorganisation of the individual, the family, and community. Among the symptoms of personal disorganisation they included juvenile delinquency, various types of crime, insanity, drunkenness, suicide and prostitution.
Among the symptoms of family disorganisation they included divorce, illegitimate births, desertion and venereal disease. Among the symptoms of community disorganisation they included poverty, unemployment, crime and political corruption. It may be, however, noted that no definite distinction can be made among the three types of disorganisation because they are interdependent.
Calvin F Schmid listed the following symptoms of disorganised communities: high rate of population mobility, high rates of divorce, desertion, illegitimacy, dependency, delinquency and criminality, a disproportionately high rate of males, a low rate of home ownership, high rates of suicides, commercialized vice and death from disease and alcoholism.
Herbert A. Bloch divided the symptoms of social disorganisation into two categories:
(1) The sociological, and
(2) The literary-ideological. He divided the sociological symptoms into three classes: individual, family, and community. By literary-ideological symptoms he meant certain tendencies appearing in literary and artistic works which indicate a disturbed state of mind. Among these tendencies he mentioned nostalgic themes and themes dealing with personal frustration and rebellion or protest. Queen, Bodenhafer and Harper included in their list of social disorganisation, unemployment, poverty, sickness, homelessness, insanity, and feeble-mindedness.
Faris has enumerated the following symptoms of social disorganisation:
(2) The decline of sacred elements;
(3) Individuality of interests and tastes;
(4) Emphasis on personal freedom and individual rights;
(5) Hedonistic behaviour;
(6) Population heterogeneity;
(7) Mutual distrust;
(8) Unrest phenomena.
III. Causes of Social Disorganisation
Social disorganization has been and is always present in every society. As indicated above man since the dawn of civilization has been confronted with social problems of diverse nature. A society in which each structural element is functionally equilibrated with all the others is purely a hypothesis. If social disorganization is a widely prevalent phenomenon, then the question arises as to what leads to it.
(i) Division of Labour:
According to Emile Durkheim, extreme division of labour is the cause of social disorganization. Division of labour is generally productive of social solidarity; but when it becomes excessive and complex then solidarity diminishes or disappears and social equilibrium is disturbed. Extreme division of labour gives rise to economic crises of all kinds, class struggles, and industrial strife, and leads to the demoralization of individuals, the family, and the community. “In short” as Koenig puts, “it produces an abnormal, anomalous situation in which the different parts do not integrate but are at cross purposes with each other and a state of normlessness.”
(ii) Violation of Social Rules:
According to W.I. Thomas and Znaniecki, when the rules and regulations of society fail to keep individuals under control, social disorganisation sets in. In society there are always individuals who violate social rules. This has a disorganizing effect upon social institutions, and unless the violations are checked; they may eventually lead to the death of institutions. According to Elliot and Merrill, “Without social values neither social organisation nor social disorganisation would exist.”
The changes in social values come into conflict with old values. The new values take time to adjust themselves in society. In the meantime social disorganisation spreads. The Traditional social values in Indian society have undergone a major change. As a result a major conflict between the old and new values has been created. Consequently, one sees the process of social disorganisation working rapidly.
Industrialization creates conditions leading to social disorganisation. The effects of industrialization on family structure and relationships. Industrialization as seen in system had led to capitalism, exploitation and class conflicts. It has also contributed to unemployment, crime, immorality, family disorganisation, urbanisation and its evils.
(iv) Cultural Lag:
Ogburn maintained in Social Change that disorganisation is caused primarily by the unequal rates of change in the different parts of culture, resulting in a conflict between them. The disproportionate rates of change in various elements of the functionally interdependent component system of a changing social structure produce a condition of disequilibrium. This uneven change is due to the fact that inventions and discoveries are made more frequently in certain parts of culture, usually the material parts, than in others.
Science and technology, while bringing a more efficient material culture, more knowledge, and a higher standard of living, produce social disorganisation as well. Thus Ogburn says, “When 10,000 musicians are thrown out of jobs as a result of ‘canned’ music through the sound film introduced in cinemas, the result is the disorganisation of orchestras, and musicians who cannot find employment.”
Modern technology is changing at a rapid rate and creating important social changes with which our institutions have not yet caught up. Ogburn by analysing various social problems such as unemployment, poverty, crime, race conflict, family disorganisation and labour problems has shown that social disorganisation issues from the irregular changes of our culture.
(v) Natural Catastrophes:
According to Ogburn, technological inventions, however, must not be considered the only cause of social disorganization, Ecological disturbances, i.e., disturbances in the relationship of man to his environment, including such natural phenomena as disease, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and various other catastrophic phenomena of nature, may also have a disorganizing effect on society.
When the Black Death visited England in 1348, it is said, it destroyed between a third and a half of the entire population in a little over a year. The effect of natural catastrophes on social organisation was great in the past; at present such catastrophes are more easily controlled.
We now have more knowledge with which to control or check epidemic, to build earthquake proof houses and to dam rivers against floods. However, recent experiences with floods in India suggest that the influence of geographic factors on social organisation should not be under-estimated.
Besides natural catastrophes there may be other types of crisis too which can cause social disorganisation. Thus the sudden death of a leader may create a crisis and throw the society out of gear. The murder of Mahatma Gandhi created such a crisis for India. A crisis may become cumulative as a result of a series of events taking place from time to time, the partition of India was a cumulative crisis.
The differences between the Congress and Muslim League went on increasing, hatred between Hindus and Muslims went on aggravating and communal clashes took place from time to time. The fire of communalism gradually spread. In the end the country had to be partitioned. Both the Indian and Pakistani societies were faced with serious problems which could not be solved even to this day.
While war is the result of social disorganisation, it is also its cause. War disturbs the economy of a country and introduces confusion and disorder in society. War leads to scarcity. There is economic crisis during the war period. It inflates the prices and the people resort to hoarding and black-marketing.
Further, war consumes the young men of the country. As a result young women are widowed. They are left with none to support them. That tends to weaken the sexual ties. War also affects the male-female ratio. Social values are also injured.
(vii) Maladaptation of Inherited Nature to Culture:
Ogburn mentions another cause of social disorganisation and it is the lack of adaptation of man’s inherited nature to the environment of group and culture. Man’s nature is modified very slowly through changes in the germ plasm, whereas culture is altered with comparative rapidity.
Group life implies cooperation and respect for the rights of others, yet the aggressive, acquisitive tendencies of man are not readily accommodated to the restrictions imposed by the group. The social environment may thus impose requirements on man which he finds most difficult to fulfill. The life in modern urbanised society is highly competitive and very taxing causing many individuals to become demoralized or to suffer breakdowns.
It may also be noted that in modern societies, whereas the epidemic diseases have been brought under control, other physical disabilities, circulatory disorders, cancer and various degenerative conditions have become more common. The increase in these diseases is a product of the modern way of life.
Nervous tensions that are induced by the stresses and strains of social change are thought to be primarily responsible for much of the high blood pressure, faulty heart action and gastric ulcers. The mental disorders are also considered to be directly related to the modern way of life. It may be said that these diseases are the price that men pay for social change.
At the end, it may be said that social disorganisation is a process prevailing all over the world. In actual fact no society is completely organised. Some elements or the other of disorganisation are to be found in every society. When these elements grow more numerous their disorganised character becomes more apparent than others.
All societies are changing rapidly accumulating numerous cultural lags at every point. In the family, in the industry, in the government, in the school and in the church a number of cultural lags can be seen.
The traditional informal controls have failed to regulate the behaviour of individuals in modern society. Many people fail to internalize a coherent system of values and behaviour controls. They become disorganised and are diagnosed as mentally ill.
It may also be referred that some sociologists regard social disorganisation as a natural process than as a malady. Maladjustment or non-adjustment of different parts of social structure may prepare a way for a new social structure to emerge. Social disorganisation may thus prove beneficial to erase the old edifice and construct a new one.
But the new structure should be erected before social disorganisation can destroy the entire social fabric. Social disorganisation is a disease of society which must be treated rapidly and effectively before it becomes chronic and destroys the social organism.
IV. The Nature of Social Problems:
Social problems are the conditions threatening the well-being of society. Lawrence K. Frank in an article ‘Social Problems’ in the American Journal of Sociology defined a social problem as “any difficulty of misbehaviour of a fairly large number of persons which we wish to remove or correct.” Paul B. Harton and Gerald R. Leslie defined it as “a condition affecting a significant number of people in ways considered undesirable, and about which it is felt something can be done through collective social action.”
Richard C. Fuller and Richard R. Meyers define a social problem as a condition which is defined by a considerable number of persons as a deviation from some social norm which they cherish. According to Lundberg and others, “A social problem is any deviant behaviour in a disapproved direction of such a degree that it exceeds the tolerance limit of the community”.
According to Green, “A social problem is a set of conditions which are defined as morally wrong by the majority or substantial minority within a society.” Social problems are situations or conditions which are regarded by society as threats to its established ways or to its well being and, therefore, needing to be eliminated or alleviated.
These situations are deplored by many people. They are the symptoms of social maladjustment. Social problems cause dissatisfaction, suffering and misery. Societies are not always harmonious. They face one another with hostility and suspicion. Therefore, several cases of maladjustment or un-adjustment present themselves in society. It is the purpose of Sociology to study such cases and discover the underlying causes.
Subjective Element of Social Problems:
Whether a particular situation is a social problem or not, is largely a matter of subjective judgment. One society may regard a situation a problem, while another may not so regard it. In the same society too what is regarded a problem today may not be so regarded tomorrow because of change of conditions and attitudes.
Social problems are what people think they are and if situations are not defined as social problems by the people involved in them, they are not problems to those people, although they may be problems to philosophers or scientists or to outsiders. Thus prostitution was no social problem in ancient Greece, where the earnings of priestess-prostitutes built and maintained the religious temples.
In ancient India caste system was no problem. The several castes accepted their hereditary status as fixed from the beginning, and their religion sanctioned their acceptance of hereditary status. Slavery in America would have never become a social problem had it not been challenged. In this way a particular situation does not become a social problem unless and until it is considered morally wrong by the majority or at least by a substantial minority.
However, inspite of this subjective nature of social problems, there are some social problems which are universal and permanent. War, crime, unemployment and poverty have always been regarded major social problems by all societies in all times. This goes to show that men everywhere have possessed the same basic drives and have had to deal with the same kinds of environmental and social conditions. That is why many of the social problems of today are identical with those of olden times.
Every social problem implies three things.
Firstly, that something should be done to change the situation which constitutes a problem;
Secondly, that the existing social order will have to be changed to solve the problem;
Thirdly, that the situation regarded a problem is undesirable but is not inevitable. The people deplore the situation because they think that it can be reformed or eliminated.
It may also be noted that a situation becomes a problem only after the people become aware that certain cherished valuations are threatened by conditions which have become acute. Without such awareness no situation can be identified as a problem. This awareness can be known when the people begin to say that “something ought to be done” to remove the situation.
When the people say “something ought to be done” they also propose that ‘this and that should be done.” Herein ends and means are discussed and alternative solutions proposed. Untouchability became a social problem in India only after it was realized by the people that it constitutes a threat to the social unity and that something ought to be done to abolish it.
Classification of Social Problems:
Some sociologists have made an attempt to classify social problems. Harold A. Phelps classified them under four categories corresponding to the four major sources, i.e., economic, biological, bio-psychological and cultural. Among the problems stemming from economic causes he listed poverty, unemployment, dependency etc.
Among those arising from biological sources he included physical diseases and defects. Among the problems emanating from psychological sources he included neuroses, psychoses, epilepsy, feeble mindedness, suicide and alcoholism. Among the problems deriving from cultural sources he included problems of the aged, the homeless, and the widowed; divorce, illegitimacy, crime and juvenile delinquency etc.
In America the Report of the President’s Committee on Recent Social Trends attributed social problems chiefly to inadequacies in physical heritage, biological heritage, social heritage and social policy.
Under physical heritage were included problems like depletion and conservation of natural resources, under the second category, i.e., biological were included problems of population quantity, quality, growth, decline and flexibility, as well as problems of eugenics and birth control.
In the third category (social heritage) were included problems involving technological changes, unemployment, business cycles and depression, education, politics, religion, public health, law of enforcement and minority groups. Under social policy were included problems of planning and reorganizing economic, social political life and institutions.
However, none of the problems listed above can be said to belong exclusively to any single category. Thus poverty may be due lo disease, a biological source; or to inadequate vocational preparation, which is a cultural source. Several causes may be celled for any other social problem.
Unemployment may be due to social policy or lo physical heritage. War may be due to economic sources or to cultural ones. The causes of each social problem lie not in one source but in many sources and, therefore, to find an adequate solution to a problem it is necessary to investigate all the causes.
V. The Causes of Social Problems:
No problem is due to a single cause. As stated in the preceding paragraph social problems have no single or simple cause. Each problem has a complex history and is usually due not to one but to many causes, which are sometimes even difficult to determine. Among the several causes no priority can be ranked.
War, poverty, crime or unemployment does not offer single or simple explanation for their occurrence. Sometimes one problem is so interwove with other problems that it cannot be solved apart from them, for example, the problems of crime cannot be solved without solving the problem of poverty and the problem of poverty cannot be solved without solving of problem of illiteracy. In other words, social problems should be considered in their complex totality and only then they will be understood and dealt with effectively.
Attempts to find out a single cause:
Inspite of the fact that no problem is due to a single cause some sociologists have nevertheless, made an attempt to find out a single explanation for a problem. Even to the laymen the notion that a problem is due to a simple and single cause is widespread.
Lombroso, the father of modern criminology, was of the view that the criminal behaviour is inborn and is primarily a biological phenomenon. He said that the criminal has definite physical stigmata, or anomalies, such as a symmetrical cranium, long lower jaw, flattened nose etc. He represents an atavistic type, or a throwback Lo primitive man.
The view of Lombroso that criminally is biologically determined was disproved by Charles Gorin, the English statistician, who proved that the criminals in no way differ from the non criminals in physical characteristics. Henry H. Goddard, an American psychologist, asserted that crime is due primarily to mental deficiency, especially feeblemindedness.
But his assertion was soon negated by various researches. Some sociologists point out that emotional imbalance or glandular disturbance is to be considered the primary cause of criminal behaviour. But their assertion also has been disproved by many criminologists.
The Dutch criminologist held the view that crime is a result mainly of the abuses or presence of the capitalist system. However, his view finds few adherents today. Montesquieu pointed out that the causes of crime are the geographical factors like climate, weather etc., but Cohen has rejected this view and asserted that the conception of Geographical school is more imaginative than factual.
The commonly accepted view about crime today is that there is no single cause of crime; for individuals become criminals for different reasons. Though some common factors may be present in many cases yet in almost every instance the combination of factors is unique. A situation or circumstance may cause one person to turn to criminally but may not affect another similarly.
The criminal behaviour is due to a number of interrelated factors involving environment and personality. Walter C. Reckless remarked that criminology may be forced to abandon the hopeless search for general causes of crime and be satisfied with establishing the relative importance of certain conditions associated with criminal behaviour.
What is true of crime is also true of other social problems like unemployment, poverty, suicide, war etc. No single or simple explanation can be offered for their occurrence. Unemployment may be due to bad economic planning, industrialization or inadequate system of education.
Poverty may be the result of poor conservation of natural resources, biological disabilities of the people or capitalistic system. Suicide may be due to mental un-adjustment, family disputes or evil social customs. Similarly, war may be due to the aggressive nature of people, economic conditions or imperialistic aspirations of some people.
Thus it is apparent that the particularistic interpretation of social problems ascribing them to a single cause is wholly inadequate. The origin of social problems lies not in a single cause but in many causes which cannot be put under a single theory.
A problem may be due to a combination of physical, biological, mental and cultural factors or any one of them. No hard and fast rule can be laid down about the causes of social problems. As discussed above a situation or condition may affect different people in a different way. People living under the same conditions do not necessarily behave in the same manner.
It does not, however, mean that any effort to find out the cause of a social problem is vain, but, on the other hand, it points out to the necessity of finding out all the causes of a problem and not to rest content with a single or clear cut explanation of it. Only after we have found out all the causes of a social problem, it can be adequately solved.
According to Lundberg and others, interferences with communication among the members of a community produce deviant behaviour. Interferences with communication may arise on account of two factors (i) Personal factors like feeble-mindedness, physical disability etc., and (ii) Social factors like urbanisation, industrialisation, immobility, conflicting codes and standards, and weak social institutions.
It may be that a particular factor is a primary source whereas the other factors are secondary, but which is the primary source, opinions differ on it. Thus P.A. Parsons held that the incomplete adjustment of man to material resources is responsible for his problems, whereas A. B. Wolfe maintained that the fundamental social problem is one of population. Ogburn contended that many social problems are the result of the failure of the original nature of man to adjust itself to constant changes in culture and its institutions.