Social Problems and Inequality (Solving Social Problems)

Alessio, John C.
Ashgate, Aldershot
9781409419877 (hb)

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Cover of book This thought provoking book deals with many pertinent subjects which would be relevant to many courses where the discussion of sociological theories is required. An understanding of the social construction of inequalities is critical to many disciplines outside of distinct sociology courses including midwifery, nursing, health visiting, social work and policing studies. Included throughout the book is a quick insight, or revision for some, approach to some of the major sociological theories including feminism, Marxism and symbolic interactionism. Importantly the author discusses how these affect us all on a macro societal level but adds personal perspectives and insights into how these can affect us on a more personal everyday level.

It is always good to see new concepts discussed and any chapter entitled "Gender , Race, Ethnicity and the Isms" was always going to be intriguing. The topical and pertinent discussion about assumptions we make and the perceived and real inequalities faced by those who suffer a "looks based stigma" was novel. The chapter deals with ageism, ableism, sexism and racism but have added the concept of "lookism" to my teaching materials.

Written by a US author dealing with US political and criminal systems and different ethnic groups it is still highly relevant to an international audience. Where there are discussions about discrimination about Hispanics or Native Americans other countries can easily insert other marginalised groups within their own communities. Likewise we can replace references to debates involving Barack Obama and his opponents to other political figures within our own countries' political systems.

The book is not overly political but it is written by an author passionate about social problems and inequality. There are recommendations for change offering micro and macro solutions to global problems. The author starts with a critical discussion on early childhood socialisation and parenting skills. He suggests approaches involving personal changes that could lead to a community organising for change. He then suggests short and long term agendas for global change offering the reader the opportunity to be "President of the United States for a day" whilst arguing that some of the changes he suggests are achievable by the average citizen and could still make a significant difference to the world. Any sociology textbook that can be read in one session is an exceptional book. Chapters can be read as individual chapters - students on a criminology and criminal justice course say may only want that chapter but it is recommended that the book is read as a whole as it does adopt a where have we come from /where are we going next approach to social inequalities.

The social problem and inequality agenda is complex and there are no easy solutions but is it was so pleasing to see the book was inspiring and challenging as well as insightful.

As we begin another academic year teaching the next generation feel inspired to revamp some teaching materials as a result of reading this book and it contains new teaching methods to highlight to those who may not remember other times and think that all those hard won gains in breaking down social inequalities were always there or for those students who feel they cannot make a difference in the world-always useful!

Bernadette Gregory
De Montfort University