Sociological And Psychological Perspectives

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Sociological and psychological perspectives

Sociological and psychological perspectives


What can sociology offer to the field of social work as a genuine aid to its technique? It would be fairly simple to point out that no small contribution has already been made by its accumulations of historical and descriptive data. Its explorations into societary origins, its careful tracing of the parts of cultural evolution, its statistical and fact-finding researches into numerous phases of con- temporary life, all have unearthed a great body of concrete materials constantly used by social workers as background for immediate problems. Every case that arises can be understood only in the light of its social setting; and to sociology is due much of the credit for making possible a knowledge of the present-day family, the present-day city, and a host of present-day organizations and institutions with which social service administration must deal (Collins 1994). If sociology had done no more than to serve as a fact-gatherer of materials so essential to the operative areas of social work, it would have been an important factor. Its contributions in the field of theory, however, are potentially far greater than these in the capacity just mentioned.

Charles L. Clark

A sociological analysis of Clark's case may conveniently begin with the key provided by summer's two concepts of the re-group and the mores. From his youth this man has been a member of various criminal gangs and communities, outside of the environs of "respectable" society. Each of these has been to him a we-group characterized by its distinctive mores, habits of life and thought that set it apart from the conventional world. Among its members exists a consciousness of kind and community of interest that has drawn them into closer fellowship with one another. At the same time they have developed antagonisms, hostili- ties and oppositions to those outside their world. These are attitudes which are ultimately expressed in the characteristic warfare between organized police and courts on the one hand and the criminal world on the other (Babbie 2003). This constitutes a conflict situation whose method of adjustment is that of strife. So far as society is concerned it is adjusted from time to time by the process of Clark's elimination, by removing him entirely from the scene of action and placing him in prison. In his case as in thousands of others this proves to be no real solution. It gets rid of him temporarily but settles nothing permanently. It is a state of isolation in which he is cut off from normal contacts with the world of which he should be a useful part. The social distance between himself and the members of that other world is thereby increased.

In prison he has neither the opportunity nor the desire to learn their ways to which society insists he must conform. The result is that he cultivates a dual role each of which reinforces the other. To his own criminal group he is a hero, a great man who has suffered martyrdom ...
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