Social analysis means taking the time, habit, to question what is happening in the world around us. It means asking questions about society and looking for answers about what's going on and who it affects. Social analysis not only helps us develop a critical awareness of the world, but also to lead us toward social justice. When analyzing these questions it often brings out other links, or connections between different social issues, and this helps us dig beneath the surface, and find out what is really going on in society.
For example, when discussing coffee, one might want to find out were it comes from, how are the workers treated, what process it goes through to get to you. You also might want to ask yourself about the health hazards of caffeine, sugar, or whitener etc. Social analysis tries to make clear how basic needs of life are being transformed into commodities. It helps show us where the market is violating people's fundamental rights, like clean air, clean water, and proper health care.
Social analysis also helps us become critical, which means becoming conscious, aware, and questioning. It helps us develop an attitude to want to get to the bottom of things. As well it may also lead to unsuspected connections between issues. Social analysis also leads to actions on behalf of justice, and opens up the need for political analysis, which is in turn a basic task of developing the organizations of civic society and finding workable solutions.
Commodification or reification, is the tendency to reduce a person, relationship or turning something into an object of economic value, a commodity to be sold in the marketplace. For example, the basic need of decent, affordable housing has been commodified into a consumer item, which is only available to those who can afford it.
Social costs, are costs caused mainly by industries, businesses, and large corporations, such as air and water pollution, as well as soil contamination, that often go unrecognized and end up being paid by the community at large. What social analysis does, is help us analyze these conditions that usually go unrecognized and help us make sure that the ones making the profit out of the situation, also takes care of repairing the damage they cause.
Social structures, are not visible to the naked eye, but are just as real as the structure of any building. We can identify social structure by considering the complex relationships involving:
-patient, health worker, doctor, hospital;
-consumer (tenant or buyer), landlord, developer;
-citizen, industry, regulator, newspaper.
Social analysis takes straightforward and common relationships and considers them not as separated, isolated units but as a whole, as parts of a structure. It unveils the more general structures that define or confine these common relationships, that define the meaning and set the limits of our daily activities. In some cases these structures can be helpful or harmful in their effects on people.
Popular beliefs and patterns of thought also influence the shape of society. If popular belief of issues were always right, then there would be no need for social analysis. Unfortunately this is not the case, in fact most beliefs tend to be based on scattered bits of information or even misinformation. This is why social analysis is critical. It questions whether official truth is always true. The results may well stand in sharp contrast to popular beliefs.
Just about every social issue has a long history, and has been studied many times before. When doing a historical analysis, the object is to view the past not as the good old days, but critically, with an eye for the effect on the present. Most social issues have a history that contributes to the problem currently at hand, and if understood, can help to explain and deal with the problem.
Concentration of ownership is the basic...