The paper studies the transformation of the conceptual apparatus of modern social sciences, characterized by a shift from a socially-problematic to a risk-prognostic analysis. The author shows that these conceptual and theoretical changes are conditioned by the internal logic of sociology development, which has gradually transferred in the analysis of social phenomena from the study of unfavorable effects of social changes and symptoms of social deviations to the reasons that cause socially problematic situations.
An approach based on the personal responsibility of “problem” individuals and social groups for their exclusion from normal social life was formed within the framework of social psychology and it is defined by a medical-criminological model that affirms the existence of “universal criteria for normality” and, accordingly, standards of behavior. In the framework of this approach, which was clearly manifested in social Darwinism, the main focus of problem-oriented studies is focused on the external symptoms of social ailments and the “deviant behavior” of individuals and social groups, or factors of their unsuccessful socialization, interpreted as a source of social problems. Theoretical and practical analysis shows consistency of the modern turn in understanding social problems, which is characterized by shifting the focus of research to an institutional-systemic level that generates conditions for the reproduction of social deviations and deprivations.
According to the author, the analysis of risks in a sociological perspective takes over the baton of the development of problem-oriented research in social sciences. Modern sociology of risks was formed within the framework of critical reflection on the ideas of U. Beck (who understands risk as a rational strategy for transformation of uncertainty into certainty) and it is represented by sociocultural, constructivist, neo-institutional, administrative approaches. What unites these approaches is that risks are treated as products of social interactions that are deeply embedded in social structures, dependent on the external context and the conditions for the formation of subjective perceptions of risks, and the degree of vulnerability of different social groups, determined by their place in the social hierarchy of society. The critical direction in risk theory focused on the problem of risks interconnection and a system-institutional arrangement of society, emphasizes disproportionate vulnerability to the risks of various social groups, based on socio-structural inequalities, as well as imperfection of organizational structures created to minimize risks due to their greater fitness to the established institutional design, than to the challenges that they face due to their specific activities.