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Social Problems

An Introduction to Critical Constructionism

Fifth Edition

Robert Heiner

Publication Date - 10 September 2015

ISBN: 9780190236724

304 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Synthesizes conflict theory and social constructionism to help students think critically about social problems


Social Problems: An Introduction to Critical Constructionism, Fifth Edition, synthesizes conflict theory and social constructionism to help students think critically about social problems. A concise, student-friendly alternative to all-encompassing standard textbooks, this book examines a single theoretical paradigm in depth, demonstrating how theory can be used to understand a range of critical social issues.

New to this Edition

  • New discussions on regressive taxation and tax dodging, how inequality is bad for business, the transition from stakeholder to shareholder capitalism, if college is worth the cost, the war on drugs, language that resonates, and high speed rail and other efforts to relieve traffic congestion and consequent pollution
  • An expanded discussion of immigration
  • An extended concluding chapter outlining reforms that can help alleviate many of the social problems discussed in the book
  • A new "Cross-Cultural Perspectives" feature that contrasts U.S. policies with those of other nations
  • New side boxes that highlight important facts or concepts

About the Author(s)

Robert Heiner is Professor of Sociology at Plymouth State University. He is the editor of Deviance Across Cultures: Constructions of Difference, Second Edition (OUP, 2013) and Conflicting Interests: Readings in Social Problems and Inequality (OUP, 2009).

Previous Publication Date(s)

July 2012
March 2009
July 2005


"Social Problems is simple for students to understand; however, it is also a thorough introduction to social problems and to studying inequality. It includes great examples of social problems that students can relate to and provides both an interesting and informative read to anyone picking up the book."--Leslie-Dawn Quick, Old Dominion University

"Instead of giving students the standard survey of various theories, Social Problems allows them to attain a firm grasp of critical constructionism and its application toward studying the social world."--Sean Currie, University of South Florida

"From the opening words, I found the book to be exciting, vibrant, and engaging. As I was reading, I found that I could not put the book down. I have NEVER had that experience with any other textbook. I have previously used 'standard' social problems texts for the course, and would characterize Heiner's book as different from (and superior to) those so-called standard texts. He has managed to skillfully and successfully integrate a variety of material into the current configuration of chapters. I will absolutely adopt this new edition."--Kathy Zawicki, St. Bonaventure University

Table of Contents


    1. An Introduction to the Sociology of Social Problems
    The Sociological Perspective
    Critical Constructionism
    Nonsociological Philosophies
    The Cross-Cultural and Global Perspectives
    Corporate America
    The Media
    The Homogenization of Culture
    The Plan of this Book

    2. Inequality and Capitalism
    An Introduction to Critical Economics
    The Gap between the Rich and the Rest
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Social Mobility
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - The United States versus Other Industralized Countries
    Global Inequalities
    Application: The Gross Domestic Product

    3. Inequality of Life Chances in the United States
    Inequality and Race
    Inequality and Gender
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Addressing Gender Discrimination
    Inequality and Education
    Inequality and Health Care
    Application: Immigration

    4. Problems of the Family
    The Family in Historical Perspective
    The Current State of the Family
    Children: Our Most Precious Resource?
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Child Care
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Family Friendly Policies
    Capitalism versus the Family
    Same-Sex Marriage
    Application: Children Having Children

    5. Crime and Deviance
    Universality and Relativity
    The Cultural Production of Knowledge about Crime
    Crime Scares
    Street Crime
    The American Punishment Frenzy
    The War on Drugs
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Responding to the Drug Problem
    The Medicalization of Deviance
    Street Violence vs. Corporate Violence
    Application: Terrorism

    6. Problems of the Environment
    Technology and the Environment
    Scientific Uncertainty
    Corporate Suasion
    Cross-Cultural Perspectives - Responding to Traffic Congestion
    Inequality and the Environment
    Application: "Overpopulation"

    7 Conclusions