The American Sociologist

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 14–22 | Cite as

Joseph Gusfield and Social Problems Theory

  • Joel Best


Joseph R. Gusfield was a key figure in the emergence of constructionist social problems theory. His approach was characterized by: his determination to identify the cultural, structural, and historical context of claims; attention to the choices among alternatives that shaped how problems were defined; and the rhetoric used by advocates. He highlighted the role of ownership–the ability to define the terms in which social problems are constructed. His work is also notable for its skepticism regarding social scientists’ theorizing.


Joseph R. Gusfield Ownership Social constructionism Social problems theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DelawareNewarkUSA

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