Social Work Internships

social work…be good….do good….

The Consequence of Blaming the Individual

The Consequence of Blaming the Individual
1. Person-Blame Distracts Attention Away from Institutions
When one uses only the person blame approach, it frees the government,
the economy, and the educational system (among other institutions) from
blame. The person blame approach ignores the strains that are caused by
inequalities within the system.

2. Person-Blame Makes it More Difficult to Institute Systemic
By excluding the existing order from blame it makes it that much harder to
initiate change in economic, social, or political institutions. By replying on a
personal-blame approach, societal conditions such as norms that are racist,
sexist, or homophobic go unchallenged.

3. Person-Blame Allows the Powerful to Control Dissidents
Blaming the individual allows the government to “control” dissidents more
easily. Deviants are sent to prisons or hospitals for rehabilitation. Such an
approach directs attention away from the system.
It eliminates the individual under consideration.
Replying on a personal-blame approach legitimizes social programs aimed
at individuals. It encourages treatment of the individual in terms of
counseling, behavior modification, or psychotherapy.

4. Person-Blame Reinforces Stereotypes
Person blame also has the potential to reinforce stereotypes. (e.g., the poor
are poor because they are lazy.)

The person-blame approach tends to support the Social Darwinist position
that people are placed in the system according to their ability or inability.

C. The System-Blame Approach
System-blamers argue that societal conditions are the primary source of
social problems.
They may suggest that the key to understanding social problems is
understanding the distribution of power in society.

D. Problems with The System-blame Approach
1. Sometimes Individuals are the Problem
Blaming the system also presents problems for social scientists as well.
Ultimately the system is made up of people. Society results from the
interaction of individuals. Individuals are sometimes aggressive, means, and
nasty (Eitzen, 2000:14). Systemic explanations for social problems is only
part of the truth. The system-blame approach may, therefore, absolve
individuals from responsibility for their actions.
When a robber breaks into your house, damn the problems with the system.
You have problems with that particular individual.

2. System-Blame: A Dogmatic Approach?
Blaming the system is only part of the truth. Blaming the system tends to
assume a very rigid dogmatic approach to the understanding of society. It
tends to present a picture that people have no free will (Eitzen, 2000:15).

E. Why Use the System-Blame Approach?
Since most people tend to blame individuals, we need a balance.
Since institutions are human creations, we should change them when they no
longer serve the will of the people. Democratic conceptions of society have always
held that institutions exist to serve people, not vice versa. Institutions, therefore,
are to be accountable to the people whose lives they affect. When an institution,
any institution, even the most “socially valued” — is found to conflict with human
needs, democratic thought holds that it ought to be changed or abolished (in
Eitzen, 2000: 15-16). Accepting the system-blame approach is a necessary
precondition to restructuring society along more human needs.


Eitzen, D. Stanley., Maxine Baca Zinn, and Kelly Eitzen. Smith. Social Problems. 11th ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2009. Print. The hallmarks of this text are its focus on five themes: the structural sources of social problems; the role of the U.S. in global social problems; the centrality of class, race, gender, sexuality, and disability as sources of inequality.


Written by tusksowk

April 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm

%d bloggers like this: