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Wa Lee

on 28 September 2016

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Early Theorists
Social problems as a function of social disorganization (I)

Charles H. Cooley (1864-1929)
William I. Thomas (1863-1947) and Florian Znaniecki (1882-1958)
William Ogburn (1886-1959)
Background (1) - After World War I (1914-1918)
Problems facing the US society
Delinquency and crime
Mental illness
Massive scale of issues - limitation of Social Pathology
Background (2) -
Rapid social changes
- Immigrants and in-migrants
- Cultural conflict (native vs. new)
- Failure to be Americanized

- Deviant subculture not found in rural areas (delinquent gangs in cities)

- Poor working conditions, unemployment due to technological advances (mass layoff)
Background (3) -
Sociology as a discipline
To be more scientific: empirical evidence
Own 'concepts' and 'definitions'
Developed from 'social organization'
Organized - society parts stand in ordered relationship
Disorganized - parts get out of phase
Core concept - '
' that define society parts and the way parts interrelate
Social Pathology Vs. Social Disorganization
Social Pathology
- failure of

Social Disorganization
- From viewing social problem as problem of a '
social category
' to '
the environment
- Study what contribute to the
failure of social rules
, theory development, precision in methodology, seek knowledge than solutions
- More complex, intellectually distinct, systematic explanation
Some definitions:
Primary group relations
Personal, intimate, face-to-place relationships
Source of sentiments, morals ideals (love, ambition, loyalty)
[Rural] family, neighborhood
Secondary group relations
Less frequent, impersonal, institutional values (rational, often 'progress')
[Urban] employment, business
Problem with social control (1) (Charles H. Cooley)
Impact of Migration
Movement from rural to urban
Breakdown of primary group controls
Social disorganization as the disintegration of "
Absence of social standards --> act upon 'sensibility' and other primitive impulses
Problem with social control (2)
- Study US Polish immigrants (1927)
- Social disorganization as the breakdown of 'influence' of rules on individuals (not absence)
- Conflict of cultures x2
Ethnic - Polish vs. US
Generational - Old non-English speaking vs. native born
Problem of migration (1)
William I. Thomas & Florian Znaniecki
Problem of Migration (2)
Polish immigrants either faced no rules or too many rules:
No rules
- no means of defining ones situation
Too many
- rules either unclear or in conflict with each other
How to behave or act in US? Also lack of mutual understanding with native born
Result: Family disorganization
Traditional society - focus on best for the
group - 'WE'
Urban area - focus on what is best for
individual - 'I'
New values: hedonistic, being recognized, economic security and advancement, sexual appeal (stand out)
'Competing definitions and rules' - both fail to influence conducts
Problem of Migration (3)
Theory of social change
Concept of '
cultural lag
Different parts of a culture are interdependent
If parts change at different rates - out of phase / disorder
New tools (material gains) accepted more readily than new ideas (rule of game)
Material culture changes faster than nonmaterial one
Change in

lag behind
advancement in technology
Problem of technology?(1) William Ogburn
New technology created upon certain level of knowledge and expertise reached, a collective contribution to a cultural base
'Growth' of technology as new things invented faster than old one forgotten, some tech (e.g. writings) facilitate this process
Spread of ideas - between cultural group or from one field to another, diffusion combine inventions to new
Process by which non-technical aspects of a culture respond to invention, any retardation causes
cultural lag
Problem of technology (2)
Four stages of technical development
Problems associated with internet
Internet addiction
Cyber bullying
Internet Obscenity
Risk associated with online friends/social network
Internet crime (crime against/perpetuated with computer: theft of weapons, money laundering)
Online infringement of intellectual property right (download)
Exposure of privacy
“I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. That’s number one.”
US President Obama’s advice
Early Theorists
Social problems as a function of social disorganization (II)

Robert E. Park (1864-1944) and Ernest W. Burgess (1886-1966)
Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants
Basis of social organization:
- community, neighborhood, family combine to exercise control over people
Rapid changes in modern society disrupt such influences,
undermine authority of traditional social systems
Problem with 'ecology' (1)
Robert Park and Ernest Burgess
Problem with 'ecology' (2)
Source of social control?
Family and neighborhood
Basis of custom and tradition
Spontaneous and unreflective responses of individuals to them
Discipline and control –
intuition and common sense
More formal social relations and less intimate
Where rational organizations exist, like church, school and courts, with separate functions defined

means for the discipline and control of individuals
Measure of delinquency = Failure of community organization to function
Rapid changes:
Division of labor
Machine industry
Transportation and communication
Old forms of social control represented by the family, neighborhood and local community undermined and influence diminished
Problem with 'ecology' (3)
Weakening of social control - how?
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
The Ecology of Urban Disorganization
Robert E. L. Faris and H. Warren Dunham
Problem with 'ecology' (4)
Weakening of social control
Zone in transition

(Park, Burgess and McKenzie, 1925) -
A zone characterized by boarding houses and
Social problems: vice, poverty, crime, alcoholism, mental illness, broken families
Breaking down primary group controls
– rates of social problems are highest in the center of the city, where social disorganization is highest (rapid social change)
Zone associated with mental illness (social isolation etc.)
Zone I: Central business district.
Stores, business offices, amusement, light industry. Few residents except homeless men on the fringe
Zone II: Zone in transition.
Expanding industrial region on the inner edge. Land values are high due to expected sale, but residential buildings are in a deteriorated state and rent is low. Slums inhabited by unskilled laborers and families.
Zone III: Workingmen’s homes.
Stable population with higher percentage of skilled laborers and fewer foreign-born and unskilled. Intermediate between slums and residential areas. 2nd generation migrated from Zone II.
Zone IV and V: Apartment-house and commuters’ zones.
Upper middle class families. Stable residency.
retain all characteristics (environment)
as different populations (social category: ethnic) flow through

constantly shifting
: Anonymity and social isolation characterize the social relations in this area; no one knows his neighbors and no one cares what they might think or say
Problem of 'gang' (1)
Social Disorganization Approach to Urban Juvenile Delinquency -
Economic composition of local communities is negatively related to rates of delinquency.
Areas characterized by
economic deprivation
High rates of population turnover
(left asap)
Population heterogeneity
(rapid changes in composition made it very difficult to mount concerted resistance against of the influx of new groups)
Shaw , Clifford R. and Henry D. McKay 1942/1969
Junveile Delinquency and Urban Areas
. 2nd edition Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Useful references:
Rubington, Earl and Martin Weinberg. 2011.
The Study of Social Problems. Seven Perspectives.
(7th Edition). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bursik, Robert. 1988. “Social Disorganization and Theories of Crime and Delinquency: Problems and Prospects”
26(4): 519-551.
Kubrin, Charis & Ronald Weitzer. 2003. “New Directions in Social Disorganization Theory.”
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
40(4): 374-402.
Sampson, Robert and Byron Groves. 1989. "Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory."
American Journal of Sociology
94(4): 774-802
To put parts of the system that are out of phase back into equilibrium
E.g. slowing down technical changes (cutting internet?)
Organize the community?
Social Capital!
Over the last two or three decades US civic society has shrunk, and more people are watching TV. Possible explanations for this trend?
More women in the workplace (less community bond; no ‘housewife’)
Increased mobility of families
Changing demographics (single parent, divorce etc.)
Recent development
Social Capital: Old Wine in New Bottle?
Why/How to cultivate social capital?
Dense networks of interaction may broaden the participants' sense of self, developing the "I" back into the "we"
Enhancing the participants' "taste" for collective benefit
E.g. Social Enterprise in Hong Kong?
Social capital and social control
Examples of operationalization
Is social capital measurable?
Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed [Social cohesion and trust]
“people around here are willing to help their neighbors,”
“this is a close-knit neighborhood,”
“people in this neighborhood can be trusted,”
“people in this neighborhood generally don’t get along with each other,”
“people in this neighborhood do not share the same values”
Residents were also asked about the likelihood that their neighbors could be counted on to intervene if:
children were skipping school and hanging out on a street corner,
children were spray-painting graffiti on a local building,
children were showing disrespect to an adult,
a fight broke out in front of their house, and
the fire station closest to their home was threatened with budget cuts.
Sampson, Robert, Stephen Raudenbush & Felton Earls 1997. “Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective Efficacy,” Science 277(5328): 918-924.
Marshall B. Clinard : A Disorganizing Concept (textbook)
'Disorganization' too subjective and vague for analysis
2. Why (only)
social changes are disorganization?
3. Social disorganization = bad? Value judgment?
really exists?
4. Deviant behavior
not necessarily are major threat
to central values of a society (e.g. alcoholism, suicide, crime)
5. Disorganization can be
'highly organized systems of competing norms
' - subcultures are often highly organized
6. Variety of
may contribute, via
, to the unity or integration of a society than weaken it
In addition: Unit of analysis shift to
group dynamic (ecological)
individual (motivation, structural)
; assume stable ecological structure; measurement - bias in official report, disproportional law enforcement attention to certain neighborhood
Problem of technology (3) Example: Digital native vs digital immigrant
Source: techieintraining-melissa.blogspot.com
Prof.Shek, in a radio interview, suggested parents not to install broadband, and 56K was enough for academic study. He insisted not to installed one for his son - to prevent internet addiction, playing games, accessing dangerous information.
The process by which the
authority and influence of an earlier culture and system of social control
is undermined and eventually destroyed
= social disorganization
Formed only in stable environment, instability
(e.g. high mobility)
breakup routines
, and the social organization that rest on it
Every new device
(discovery, invention, idea e.g.
) or
that affects social life and social routine is a disorganizing influence and ultimately demoralizing
Problem of 'gang' (2) - Intervening dimension of social disorganization?
- Follow Shaw and McKay's early work
- Ability of a
community to supervise and control teenage peer groups
(e.g. gangs)
- Delinquency as
primarily a group phenomenon
- Gangs developed from
unsupervised spontaneous play groups
- Cohesive communities better able to control teenage behaviors and
group dynamics
- What leads to weak control of group dynamics???
Intervening dimension of social disorganization?
Sampson, Robert and Byron Groves. 1989. "Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory."
American Journal of Sociology
94(4): 774-802
Sampson, Robert and Byron Groves. 1989. "Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory."
American Journal of Sociology
94(4): 774-802
Problem of...
- social control - primary and secondary group?
- migration?
- technology?
- ecology / environment?
- neighborhood group dynamic (gang)?

Charlie Chaplin Modern Times 1936
Internet and Privacy
'Safe Habour' ruled invalid 6 Oct 2015
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Example: Kowloon Walled City
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Example: Kowloon Walled City
Problem with 'ecology' (5)
Example: Kowloon Walled City
Problem of 'gang' (1)
Problem of 'gang' (2)
Sampson and Groves
Problem of 'gang' (2)
Social capital and social control
Examples of operationalization
Social capital and health!
Full transcript