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Making Sense of Social Problems: New Images, New Issues

Joel Best and Scott R. Harris, editors
Making Sense of Social Problems: New Images, New Issues
ISBN: 978-1-58826-855-6
ISBN: 978-1-58826-880-8
ISBN: 978-1-62637-430-0
2013/335 pages/LC: 2012017855
Social Problems, Social Constructions
Also in the series: Confronting Homelessness: Poverty, Politics, and the Failure of Social Policy by David Wagner with Jennifer Barton Gilman,and Judging Victims:  Why We Stigmatize Survivors, and How They Claim Respect by Jennifer L. Dunn, Responding to School Violence: Confronting the Columbine Effect, edited by Glenn W. Muschert, Stuart Henry, Nicole L. Bracy, and Anthony A. Peguero, editors, and Meth Mania: A History of Methamphetamine by Nicolas L. Parsons.
"Well suited for an introductory sociology course, particularly one focused on Social Problems.... [It] offers sociology students a wide variety of cases to develop their critical thinking skills."—Kyla Walters, Teaching Sociology

"Thoughtful, accessible, and engaging.... This volume shows readers the power and value of the constructionist approach to social problems."—Kent Sandstrom, North Dakota State University

"Uses cutting-edge case studies to explore how social problems come to be regarded as such. There really is nothing else like this on the market."—Kathryn Fox, University of Vermont


Internet addiction. Cell-phone-distracted drivers. Teen suicide. Economic recession. The health risks of trans fats. The carefully selected collection of case studies in Making Sense of Social Problems is designed to help students understand and critically evaluate a wide range of contemporary social issues.

The cases are organized to highlight a series of key elements:
    • why "objective" claims deserve critical attention
    • how advocates bring attention to issues
    • why expert interpretations may change over time
    • the role of the media in shaping or distorting concerns
    • the consequences of public policy

The introduction, conclusion, and section notes provide a coherent framework for the text. Reflecting the promise of the constructionist approach, the result is a powerful set of tools for systematically investigating social problems. It can be used to advantage as a "stand-alone," as well as with such texts as Joel Best's Social Problems.


Joel Best is professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. Scott R. Harris is professor of sociology at Saint Louis University.


  • Studying the Construction of Social Problems—S.R. Harris.
  • Teen Suicide: A Tale of Two Communities—M.L.O’Leary and J. Best.
  • Cell Phone Use While Driving: Defining a Problem as Worthy of Action—P.F. Parilla.
  • The Pet Grief Industry: Framing the Problem of Pet Death—N. Berns.
  • The Movement Linking Vaccines and Autism: Parents and the Internet—V.W. Perez.
  • Old Skeletons, Pagans, and Museums: Why Ancient Human Remains Are a Bone of Contention—T. Jenkins.
  • Wankers, Inverts, and Addicts: The Scientific Construction of Sexuality as a Social Problem—L.E. Gordon.
  • Murdered Mothers: The Social Construction of Troubling Statistics—K.R. Johnson.
  • Predicting Financial Collapse—J. Barnshaw.
  • Abortion and Adoption: "Choosing Life" and the Problem of Regret—J.L. Dunn.
  • The Evolution of Internet Addiction—D. Schweingruber and M. Horstmeier.
  • Breaking News on Nancy Grace: Violent Crime in the Media—B.A. Monahan and R.J. Maratea.
  • In the Shadow of Saturated Fat: The Struggle to Get Trans Fats Noticed—R.J. Bacon.
  • Casinos and Smoke-Free Legislation: Claimsmaking About Policy Outcomes—J.K. Harris.
  • Global Policy Outcomes: Comparing Reactions to Post-Tsunami Aid—L. Letukas.
  • Three Questions for Constructionism—S.R. Harris and J. Best.
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