Social Problems

Social problems'' have formed a specialized field within sociology, especially in the USA, at least since the end of the nineteenth century. The European context has always been marked by the concept of the ''social question,'' which was one of the principal sources for the development of sociology as a scientific discipline apart from philosophy, history, political science, and political economy. Unlike US sociology, in the European tradition the concept of social problems was not disseminated in the sociological literature until the end of the 1960s, when it appeared first in books and articles about social work. While the concept today is institutionalized in special sections of sociological associations and in some journals and textbooks, and its use has been spread in public and political discourse, European sociology has always privileged the concept of the social question, with greater emphasis on social inequality and exclusion.

The term social problem'' is used in public and political discussions and refers to very different social situations, conditions, and forms of behavior, like crime, racism, drug use, unemployment, poverty, exclusion, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and madness. However, especially in textbooks and journal articles, it also refers to premenstrual syndrome, ecological problems, stalking, exploitation of natural resources, traffic accidents, or even war, terrorism, and genocide.

Abortion as a Social Problem

Abortion has been legal in the USA and in almost all western European countries since the early 1970s, and in Belgium and Ireland since the early 1990s. Although abortion was legal in the Soviet Union for several years prior to its collapse, abortion politics have subsequently come to the fore in some Eastern European countries […]

Class Conflict

Marx famously stated ”the history of all societies up to the present is the history of the class struggle. In his interpretation, the term class is used to refer to the main strata in all stratified society as constituted by a social group whose members share the same relationship to the forces of production. This […]

Disability as a Social Problem

Common sense takes disability as a simple natural fact, but the sociology of disability emphasizes that disability has to be differentiated from impairment. Not every chronic health condition is acknowledged as disability. There are cultures in which the social fact of disability does not exist. Disability as a social problem has evolved as a product […]

Gambling as a Social Problem

While gambling is widely accepted today as a source of entertainment and recreation, a growing tendency to highlight problematic aspects is also to be noticed. Traditionally, heavy gamblers who sustained repeated losses and other adverse consequences were considered derelict, immoral, or criminal and for much of the twentieth century the prevailing view of excessive gambling […]


The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish origin, in 1944. It was legally defined in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. The Convention states that genocide means . . . acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in […]

Globalization and Global Justice

Globalization has brought about enormous changes in structural and interpersonal relations such that mechanisms of power distribution are in a state of flux. Sociology offers both descriptive and critical accounts of how shifting micro-interactions and macro-structures negotiate material, legal, and political benefits, thereby reshaping identities. These transformations can assist, improve or worsen the well-being of […]

Marginalization of Outsiders

Marginalization is a metaphor that refers to processes by which individuals or groups are kept at, or pushed beyond, the edges of society. The term outsiders may be used to refer to those individuals or groups who are marginalized. The term marginalization is attributed to Park (1928) who coined the expression  marginal man” to characterize […]

Social Problems: Concept and Perspectives

Social problems” have formed a specialized field within sociology, especially in the USA, at least since the end of the nineteenth century. The European context has always been marked by the concept of the ”social question,” which was one of the principal sources for the development of sociology as a scientific discipline apart from philosophy, […]

Social Services

Social services are provisions that society makes to support individuals in need. Developed in the west to supplement family care, social services are found across the world and delivered mainly by social workers in various settings (state, voluntary agencies and commercial enterprises) in a mixed economy of care.” Bureaucratized under the new” managerial-ism and market […]

Social Work: History and Institutions

Since the ideas of the Enlightenment and human rights as well as the negative social consequences of industrialization have given rise to a public discussion on the social question,” many different social activities could be noted. The first international welfare conference as such took place in Paris in 1856, called “Congres internationale de Bienfaisance.” Nearly […]

Social Work: Theory and Methods

Theory construction in social work as a discipline and profession grows out of (1) a theory of the individual and society and the interaction between them; (2) policy/action guidelines for changing problematic situations; and (3) clients, professionals, social services, social movements, etc. committed to carry this change through with the help of specific science-based methods. […]

Welfare Dependency and Welfare Underuse

Welfare dependency refers to the use that people make of publicly provided cash benefits/transfers or human services. Welfare underuse is the term applied when people entitled to publicly provided benefits and services fail to do so. Welfare dependency is a feature of advanced industrial societies with developed welfare states, whose citizens enjoy specific ”social” rights, […]

Ecological Problems

Sociology devoted to local and global ecological problems (like air pollution in cities, the greenhouse effect, or overfishing of the oceans) is active in at least three areas of research: theories of the emergence of ecological problems, environmental attitudes and behavior of the general public, and environmental behavior of corporate actors (business firms, environmental movement […]

Immigration Policy

Immigration policy specifies the laws and practices that allow persons to move permanently to other countries and petition for citizenship or to enter and stay for delimited lengths of time without the right to apply for citizenship. In developed countries, such policies include not only voluntary work and occupation-based and family-based migration but also the […]


Infertility is the physical inability to conceive a child or to successfully carry a child to term. Most medical professionals consider a couple to be infertile if they have failed to conceive after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. Either partner or both may have the reproductive impairment. Between 8 and 12 percent of couples -or […]

Migration: Undocumented/Illegal

Illegal migration involves people moving away from a country of origin to another country in which they reside in violation of local citizenship laws. Entry into the receiving country can be legal (student, temporary work, or tourist visas) or illegal (crossing the border from places other than the legal entry ports). Illegal immigration has been […]


In international law ”refugee” refers to individuals who are residing outside of their country of origin and who are unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The term derives from the Latin refugere —to flee […]

Human Rights

”Human rights are those liberties, immunities and benefits which, by accepted contemporary values, all human being should be able to claim ‘as of right’ of the society in which they live” (Encyclopedia of Public International Law 1995: 886). Human rights are constitutive for the contemporary discourse on the moral nature of society and individuals that […]


”Eugenics” derives from the Greek word eugenes meaning ”good in birth” or ”noble in heredity.” Eugenics was developed in the late nineteenth century and means ideologies and activities aiming to improve the quality of the human race by selecting the ”genetically fit.” It can entail (1) ”positive” strategies to manipulate the heredity or breeding practices […]

Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering (GE; often also called biotechnology) is the technique and science of intervention into the genetic mechanisms of a biological organism. For sociologists of risk (e.g. Ulrich Beck) GE it is a paradigmatic case for risk society. There are two main applications: agriculture and food production, and medical genetics; furthermore, GE is used in […]