Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



In this paper we make the case that a “global turn” in sociology is in order, building on the arguments advanced in David A. Smith’s SSSP Presidential Address. The emergence of global social problems, and the internationalization of social protests, underscore the importance of examining the experiences of countries outside the borders of the United States. Some issues will be fruitfully examined from a global perspective, while others may benefit from a more comparative approach. Empirically, the paper documents the extent to which Social Problems topics, authors and readers were international in scope during the period 2010-2019. Articles appearing in the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology are also examined for purposes of comparison. In addition, the content of fifteen leading social problems textbooks is analyzed. The data suggest that, while there is has been a significant emphasis on US authors and US topics in Social Problems, there is nonetheless a significant international and interdisciplinary audience for research published in this area. Textbooks on social problems, with several notable exceptions, typically relegate international issues to a restricted set of topic areas, such as the environment, climate change and health care. Our findings suggest that too great a focus on the US experience may constrain the sociological imagination and result in a limited sociological toolkit that is ill-suited for understanding the challenges facing contemporary societies. The article concludes with a discussion of the obstacles that need to be surmounted in order to advance a more international approach to social problems.


social problems, global sociology, comparative research



Date Posted: 29 September 2021