Social problems

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Friday 12:30 – 14:20

Lecture venue

Course description

This course introduces students to a sociological approach to understanding social problems. It demonstrates how sociological imagination can be exercised with the theoretical perspectives covered, hence we can make sense of and analyze contemporary social problems in a way conducive to possibilities of changes or solutions. Students will be shown why seemingly isolated social problems are not aggregates of personal troubles; more precisely, how sociological perspectives help us shed light on how social problems are always multi-faceted and connected by broader historical and social forces.

In particular, attention is drawn to the way social problems are produced by systems of inequality and power, and are part of the way our society is organized, especially in the midst of social changes. We will conclude the course by reflecting upon how individuals and the society can act and address these social problems.


Course learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have demonstrated the ability to:

1. Look beyond common sense assumptions when examining contemporary social problems; that is:

  • analyze social problems with a range of sociological concepts and perspectives
  • examine how social institutions and systems of power and privilege interconnect with one another, overlap or intersect to create social problems in a processual, dynamic manner
  • see how our social world is socially constructed

2. Engage oneself with one’s own experience in the local or relevant context, and critically reflect upon how one’s personal life experiences are interwoven with the larger picture of social and historical forces as well as social changes.

3. Situate social problems in a global context and reflect on the impact of globalization’s role in creating and shaping social problems.

4. Rethink how one’s perceptions of social problems are shaped and how we can act as catalysts for change.


Documentary reflection10%
Tutorial presentation and participation20%
Essay 125%
Essay 225%

Required reading

Rubington, E. and Weinberg, M.S. (2011) The Study of Social Problems: Seven Perspectives. Oxford: OUP.

Leon-Gueererro, A. and Zentgaf, K. (eds.) (2008), Contemporary Readings in Social Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Course co-ordinator and teachers