Series: SSSP Agendas for Social Justice
Written by highly respected teams of authors brought together by the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), the agendas offer recommendations for action by elected officials, policy makers, and the public around key issues for social justice. The books will be of interest to scholars, practitioners, advocates, and students interested in public sociology and the study of social problems.
SSSP Agendas for Social Justice
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The global fight against the victimization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth has led to a prolific backlash. The LGBTQ+ “safe schools” movement has gotten violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity recognized as a problem by the United Nations (UN). However, this victory has resulted in the greater availability of anti-LGBTQ+ tropes for use as political fodder by bad-faith actors seeking to undermine progress toward the rights of LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, and democratic values, more generally. We are specifically concerned in this chapter with how opportunistic anti-LGBTQ+ state regimes clash with the UN vision for LGBTQ+-inclusive sustainable development, with resulting harm to LGBTQ+ youth. In this first section, we describe the safe schools movement, explain its connection to the UN’s commitment to education justice, and point to how countermovements around the globe endeavor to quash the hard-won achievements of LGBTQ+ rights movements by targeting sexual and gender minority youth. Following the lead of sexual and gender minority youth who have begun to demand safety and dignity around the world, the global safe schools movement is an informal network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) active on nearly every continent. It is concerned with the prevalence and effects of bias-based violence and discrimination against primary and secondary school students who do not conform to socially dominant or expected sexuality and gender norms. The transnational movement is united by two shared goals: to document LGBTQ+ youth experiences through research; and to promote affirming school climates through advocacy.
School segregation—the uneven distribution of students across schools, based on their socioeconomic status (SES), sex, race/ethnicity, or other ascribed characteristics—has important implications for educational inequality, social cohesion, and intergenerational mobility (Bonal and Bellei, 2019). While this topic has drawn special attention in the US, due, in part, to the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court case, between-school segregation is a concern to policymakers and researchers worldwide. School segregation by race dominates much of the research on this topic in the US, but studies of school segregation by SES predominate internationally. This chapter summarizes what we know about betweenschool segregation by SES, describing the strongest international evidence we have, drawing attention to the consequences of segregation and the benefits of integration, and concluding with a discussion of solutions. Residential segregation, migration movements, economic inequalities, and even education policies themselves have shaped a growing process of school segregation between the world’s most disadvantaged students and the wealthiest. School composition matters, and it impacts students’ short- and long-term academic and social-emotional outcomes. Student performance is more strongly related to SES than to other school compositional characteristics, such as gender, immigrant status, or race/ethnicity. Indeed, research indicates that disadvantaged students who attend schools with more affluent peers see a range of positive effects, including increased achievement, motivation, and resiliency (Van Ewijk and Sleegers, 2010; Agasisti et al, 2021). A school’s average SES is highly predictive of its academic climate and instructional quality, both factors associated with educational outcomes.
Climate change is disproportionately affecting Pacific nations, in part, due to their fragile island environments. This change indirectly threatens Pacific languages, with a mass migration of populations occurring and climaterelated language policy still in its infant stage. This work aims to outline the problems and prospects for policy development in this area, with an aim to solving the associated problem of language loss through migration.
The consequences of climate change are vast for small islands and atolls. However, a common misconception is that migration out of a region for climate change only occurs when low-lying areas become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. This phenomenon is indeed a significant danger; for example, it is conceivable that atolls like Tokelau and Tuvalu, whose highest points are, respectively, only 5 m and 4.6 m above sea level, are in immediate danger of being overcome by the sea. Due to the large circumference of the atolls and their overall low elevation, even a fraction of sea-level rise will disproportionately decrease the land available for habitation. However, while a genuine threat, the “sinking” of these atolls is perhaps a lesser overall concern. There are much broader effects of climate change that influence and motivate the migration of indigenous people away from their homelands. Higher average global temperatures cause increases in climate variability, meaning rainfall patterns, temperature, and cyclones become more variable and less predictable. With a significant weather event, the fresh water on a small island or atoll can be contaminated, destroying its natural water source for days.
In a global pandemic, a critical challenge is ensuring widespread access to vaccines to achieve needed levels of population immunity. With the first vaccine rollout in early 2021, 15 COVID-19 vaccines are currently in use worldwide, with Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech doses being the most prevalent. By August 2021, of the 5.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered globally, 80 per cent had gone to high- or upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.2 per cent had been delivered to low-income countries. In high-income nations, one in four people had been vaccinated, a ratio that plummets to one in 500 in poorer countries.
Despite international efforts to address vaccine access, most notably, through the creation of COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), a global vaccine-sharing program, low- and middle-income countries are struggling to procure vaccines in a market cornered by rich nations, who are willing to pay premiums to hoard vaccines while slow-walking financial pledges that COVAX needed to purchase vaccines from manufacturers.
Vaccine inequity is not only a moral problem, but also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating. It affects the entire global community, fueling the rise of new, vaccine-resistant variants and dragging down the economies of rich and poor nations—and vaccinated and unvaccinated populations—alike. Data from the US National Bureau of Economic Research show that due to the interconnectedness of the global economy, COVID-19 outcomes for the entire global economy are highly dependent on poorer countries’ populations getting vaccinated. Richer economies will still bear 49 per cent of the global costs of the pandemic, even if their own populations are entirely inoculated.
Fatphobia—that is, the fear, hatred, and loathing of fat bodies—is pervasive worldwide. Studies show that fat people experience discrimination in employment, education, media, interpersonal relationships, politics, and especially healthcare. Fatphobia starts young and runs deep; fatphobic attitudes have been recorded in children as young as three and become more pronounced with age. Cross-cultural studies confirm that socialization to fatphobia is not limited to North American populations. Data from the Project Implicit study, including over 300,000 respondents from 71 nations, demonstrate consistent pro-thin, anti-fat biases. A recent examination of longitudinal trends in prejudicial attitudes toward a range of stigmatized groups found that between 2007 and 2016, both explicit fatphobic attitudes (for example, acknowledging a preference for thin people over fat people) and implicit fatphobic attitudes (for example, associating negative words and phrases with images of fat people) either remained stable or increased, while stigma toward many other oppressed groups showed a downward trajectory.
Despite these findings, fatphobia is rarely seen as an important social justice issue and global social problem. This is because, unlike other marginalized identities, we are taught to see being fat as a “choice,” specifically, a bad choice. In many countries, fat bodies are viewed exclusively through medical and public health discourses that label fat bodies as diseased and therefore in need of prevention, intervention, and cure, regardless of the risks involved. This creates an environment in which fat people are blamed for their own oppression and makes it socially acceptable to censure, intimidate, harass, and discriminate against fat people because of their weight.
Until the 1970s, violence against women (VAW) was framed as a private issue and remained conspicuously absent from the public sphere and policy debates. Today, owing to decades of protest by women’s movements in different parts of the world, VAW—and gender-based violence (GBV) directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and other non-heteronormative (LGBTQI+) individuals—is widely recognized as a serious human rights violation and a health problem that disproportionately affects women.
Patriarchy, which subjects women and girls to violence because of their sex, is the root cause of VAW and GBV. As the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) put it: [VAW] is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women … [VAW] is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.
Feminists have always challenged the private–public dichotomy, which serves to depoliticize the unequal power relations within the home, where VAW often takes place. The terms used, as discussed by Ertürk (2016), to refer to the problem are instructive of the shifts in how VAW has been framed. The First World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975 made reference to “unity of the family and prevention of intra-family conflicts.” Five years later, at the Copenhagen Conference, a resolution on “battered women and the family” was adopted, and the concluding document made reference to “domestic violence.”
The Global Agenda for Social Justice provides accessible insights into some of the world’s most pressing social problems and proposes practicable international public policy responses to those problems.
Written by a highly respected team of authors brought together by the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), chapters examine topics such as education, violence, discrimination, substance abuse, public health, and environment. The volume provides recommendations for action by governing officials, policy makers, and the public around key issues of social justice.
The book will be of interest to scholars, practitioners, advocates, journalists, and students interested in public sociology, the study of social problems, and the pursuit of social justice.
Today’s most compelling social problems require global solutions. While this claim is not entirely new, we suggest that a series of recent developments may make a global perspective increasingly salient. The COVID-19 pandemic, the ever-more-pressing threats posed by climate change, and the need to address issues of racial justice have propelled global issues to a new level of common-sense understanding. As Karl Mannheim (1970) suggested, historical events can shape the experience and perspective of generations. We feel that the combination of the pandemic, climate change, and Black Lives Matter may coalesce to shape the future of sociology. This may well be a moment in which there is a turn toward issues of global social justice, not just for one segment of sociologists, but for the discipline as whole. In this chapter, we argue for more attention to global issues in terms of research, teaching, and activism.
The global COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 showed that some social issues are irreducibly global in scope. New waves of COVID-19 break out in localities and countries around the world as our global economic and social system makes it exceedingly difficult to cordon off nations, even geographically isolated places, such as New Zealand.
The pandemic also demonstrated the power of international scientific cooperation in compelling new ways: biomedical scientists have collaborated with remarkable speed across national borders; detailed genetic analyses revealed the direction of international flows of the infection; scientists shared data on genome sequences; international consortia collaborated on vaccine research; and clinical vaccine trials enrolled patients from multiple countries.
What does it mean to study and understand a global social problem from the perspective of global sociology? When invited to share some thoughts on this question for the 2022 Agenda for Social Justice, we realized that any perspective or direction for such problem-solving that we might articulate would first require substantial problem “dis-solving.” How we frame the problem in the first place shapes how we examine and understand it. In this chapter, we revisit a common discourse in sociology that distinguishes between a “social” and a “sociological” problem. This discourse suggests that there is an inherent aspect of sociology’s disciplinary logic and orientation toward representing society that leads it to question, rather than reinforce, the framing of problems deployed by administrative disciplines. Then, we challenge the underlying assumption of this argument by highlighting examples of sociology’s pernicious entanglement with administrative disciplines. We reflect on two critical agendas working not only within, but also beyond certain confines of, global sociology to discuss how each frames global sociology itself as a sociological problem—one that often reproduces structural inequalities too. We then discuss what it means to frame public sociology as a global social problem from a transnational perspective and explain how doing so can contribute to greater precision in research on the complexities of, and possibilities for, social change. We suggest that such a perspective may also help identify and create networks of critical global sociologies that transcend national borders
Opium originated in lower Mesopotamia in 3,400 BC and was used in many regions of the world throughout history before making its way to the US. It was not until the 1860s that opium-based drugs, such as morphine, were used by Civil War doctors to treat the pain of wounded soldiers. The Bayer Company later introduced heroin as a cough suppressant and an alternative to morphine, with the US government placing restrictions in the 1910s–1920s that outlawed heroin and required a prescription for opioids. The Controlled Substance Act was passed in the 1970s, which created five different groupings, or schedules, for all substances based on their medical use, potential for abuse, and safety.
Opioids are a class of drugs used to treat pain and include both prescription medications (for example, OxyContin, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl) and heroin. Misuse or abuse of opioids can lead to an addiction, which is clinically referred to as opioid use disorder. The opioid crisis began in the 1990s with the development and increased prescription of OxyContin to treat pain. US-based drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma assured that patients would not develop an opioid use disorder and pharmaceutical sales skyrocketed, with aggressive marketing strategies and plans to expand sales globally. That decade ended with a rising number of fatal overdoses directly related to the use of prescription opioids.
While efforts focused on the global seizure of pharmaceutical opioids, the unattended effect was rising global opium production, which resulted in an increase in heroin with low cost and high availability.