Social problems are linked in complex, dynamic, and interconnected webs. As a result, "solving" social problems creates both opportunities and constraints that, in turn, generate other problems through a process that I term the "chaining of social problems." This argument depends on the understanding of the role of unanticipated consequences, a point made by Robert Merton, and subsequently by Lewis Coser in his 1968 Presidential Address to the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). I consider four methods by which problem solutions can create further problems: incrementalism, slotting, counter-movements, and unintended effects. To explore how social problems are chained I examine twentieth-century episodes of political subversion and regime disloyalty in the United States, examining five moments of contention and their effects: the Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920, the Brown Scare of 1940 to 1944, McCarthyism from 1947 to 1954, attacks on the New Left from 1965 through 1971, and the aftermath of 9/11 from 2001 to 2005.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science