Human Behavior in the Social Environment: A Macro, National, and International Perspective

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Rudolph Alexander Jr.

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    Preface

    After receiving a bachelor's degree in criminology and corrections in December 1981 from Sam Houston State University, I shifted into social work at the University of Houston. In the summer of 1982, I took my first social work course, with a focus on human behavior in the social environment (HBSE). A dynamic professor taught this course, but I was impressed equally with the course's provisions of foundation knowledge for future social work courses. As a result, I have always believed that a course in human behavior in the social environment is critical to truly understanding social work practice, social welfare, and social policy courses. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) prescribes the content that must be covered in HBSE courses, as it does for all social work courses. CSWE says HBSE must provide content about theories and knowledge of human bio-psychosocial development, including theories and knowledge about the range of social systems in which individuals live (families, groups, organizations, institutions, and communities). Further, HBSE must provide an understanding of the interactions between and among human biological, social, psychological, and cultural systems as they affect and are affected by human behavior. Moreover, HBSE must provide content on the impact of social and economic forces on individuals and social systems. Furthermore, HBSE must provide content about the ways in which systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving optimal health and well-being. In sum, HBSE represents social work's position that human behavior and the environment act upon each other. Individuals positively and negatively impact the environment, and the environment impacts individuals positively and negatively. Equally, other social systems (families, groups, organizations, institutions, and communities) are affected by the environment, and reciprocally the environment affects these systems as well. Most social work programs divide HBSE into two courses within their curriculum—a micro course and a macro course. This textbook focuses on macro HBSE.

    Organization of This Book

    As a macro HBSE textbook, this book's primary focus is social institutions, organizations, and communities. The introductory chapter, Chapter 1, provides a foundation by defining social work, social environment, and human needs. It explains why human needs exist and what causes human needs. Additionally, this chapter discusses human needs in the international communities, particularly those extremely poor communities wracked by considerable human rights violations, as defined by the United Nations. At the end of the chapter is the conceptual framework that I have identified as world systems theory. Overall, the book is grounded in world systems theory as it provides, in part, an understanding of core, semiperiphery, and periphery societies, which one researcher has applied to communities and the extent to which communities are core, semiperiphery, and periphery communities. Chapter 2 discusses human needs in more depth, particularly those caused by poverty, race, gender, natural disasters, violence, crime, ethnic cleansings and genocide, and wars. Also, natural disasters are discussed as they have a serious impact on human needs and communities, such as Hurricane Katrina's impact on the New Orleans communities and the mental health impact on residents. Chapter 3 discusses a number of theories that explain macro HBSE, including social systems theory, community theory, social disorganization theory, routine activity theory, migration theory, inequality theory, feminist theory, power theory and social independence theory, social learning theory, reference group theory, role theory, and Black's theory of law. These theories are loosely grouped as community theories, human conduct theories, inequality theories, and group theories. Chapters 4 and 5 contain discussions of social institutions, including the family, education, religion, medicine and health, the news media, and law. Chapter 6 discusses organizations and their impact, good and bad, on human needs. Chapter 7 discusses urban communities, and Chapter 8 discusses rural communities. Last, Chapter 9 has discussions about several developing countries.

    Outstanding Features of This Textbook

    First, this book tightly follows CSWE outlines for HBSE. To that end, the primary chapters, those on organizations, social institutions, and communities, include a section on knowledge and theories, followed by one on the impact of economic and social forces on these topics. In its discussion of families, this textbook includes military families and their needs. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, numerous veterans have returned with posttraumatic stress disorder and domestic violence issues. This textbook examines the impact of natural disasters on human and community needs, such as a major flooding in North Dakota and hurricanes in Florida and New Orleans. For instance, mental health professionals have documented the rise in suicides and depression in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Moreover, this textbook discusses human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in international communities and their impact on human needs. As an illustration, the genocide that occurred in Rwanda devastated families. However, some female survivors in Rwanda have been able to rebuild farms and increase the yield for coffee beans. In fact, these women are better farmers than their male relatives were. Economically and politically, women in Rwanda have benefited from tremendous advances following the genocide that took many of their relatives. Last, this book provides a theoretical discussion of terrorism or terrorist activities, void of the emotionality attached to it. Many American movies and television programs intended for entertainment comprise plots involving terrorists who seek to harm Americans. As has been said, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. Social scientists have formulated a theoretical model to predict which countries will have terrorism due to economic and political oppression within these countries.

    By reading this book, students will acquire knowledge and theories involving families, organizations, and communities. Students will also acquire an understanding of the economic and political forces impinging on families, organizations, and communities. Equally, students will understand the almost reciprocal nature of these macro institutions' impact on human behaviors.

  • Appendix A: United Nations Millennium Goals to End Poverty

    Scope of Millennium Development Goals and Targets
    Goal 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    Target 1. Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
    Target 2. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
    Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education
    Target 3. Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling
    Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women
    Target 4. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels by 2015
    Goal 4. Reduce child mortality
    Target 5. Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under 5
    Goal 5. Improve maternal health
    Target 6. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
    Target 7. Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
    Target 8. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
    Goal 7. Ensure environmental sustainability
    Target 9. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources
    Target 10. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
    Target 11. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    Goal 8. Develop a global partnership for development
    Target 12. Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable, and nondiscriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally
    Target 13. Address the least developed countries' special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction
    Target 14. Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states
    Target 15. Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
    Target 16. In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth
    Target 17. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
    Target 18. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies—especially information and communications technologies

    Appendix B: United Nations Definitions Involving Crimes against Humanity

    War crimes means (a) grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention: (i) willful killing; (ii) torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; (iii) willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; (iv) extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; (v) compelling a prisoner of war or another protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power; (vi) willfully depriving a prisoner of war or another protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial; (vii) unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement; or (viii) taking of hostages; and (b) other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts: (i) intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities; (ii) intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects—that is, objects that are not military objectives; (iii) intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units, or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of armed conflict; (iv) intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the natural environment, which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated; (v) attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings that are undefended and that are not military objectives; (vi) killing or wounding a combatant who, having laid down his arms or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion; (vii) making improper use of a flag of truce, of the flag or of the military insignia and uniform of the enemy or of the United Nations, or of the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions, resulting in death or serious personal injury; (viii) the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory; (ix) intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science, or charitable purposes; historic monuments; or hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives; (x) subjecting persons who are in the power of an adverse party to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind, which are neither justified by the medical, dental, or hospital treatment of the person concerned nor carried out in his or her interest and which cause death to or seriously endanger the health of such person or persons; (xi) killing or wounding treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army; (xii) declaring that no quarter will be given; (xiii) destroying or seizing the enemy's property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war; (xiv) declaring abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party; (xv) compelling the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent's service before the commencement of the war; (xvi) pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault; (xvii) employing poison or poisoned weapons; (xviii) employing asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases and all analogous liquids, materials, or devices; (xix) employing bullets that expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope that does not entirely cover the core or is pierced with incisions; (xx) employing weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare that are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or that are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict, provided that such weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare are the subject of a comprehensive prohibition and are included in an annex to this statute, by an amendment in accordance with the relevant provisions set forth in articles 121 and 123; (xxi) committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (xxii) committing rape; sexual slavery; enforced prostitution; forced pregnancy, as defined in article 7, paragraph 2 (f); enforced sterilization; or any other form of sexual violence also constituting a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions; (xxiii) utilizing the presence of a civilian or another protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations; (xxiv) intentionally directing attacks against buildings, material, medical units and transport, and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with international law; (xxv) intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions; or (xxvi) conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities.

    Crime of aggression is determined by articles 121 and 123 (future amendments as adopted by the United Nations) that define the crime and set out the conditions under which the court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime. Such a provision shall be consistent with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.

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    About the Author

    Rudolph Alexander, Jr., is a full professor in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University. He began his academic career as a criminal justice major, receiving an associate's degree in criminal justice from Armstrong State College and a bachelor's degree in criminology and corrections from Sam Houston State University. His advisor at Sam Houston State University held a DSW, and she recommended graduate studies in social work. Hence, he received an MSW from the University of Houston and later a PhD in social work from the University of Minnesota.

    His scholarly work consists of about 60 articles in peer-reviewed social work and criminal justice journals. His primary focus has been the influence of law in shaping social work and criminal justice policies. In 2008, Dr. Alexander was invited to participate in a symposium at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, where he presented a paper titled “Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in the United States: Theoretical Perspectives.” This presentation was revised into an article and accepted for publication in a University of Oxford journal, Forum on Public Policy. He was invited back to the University of Oxford in 2009 for a conference on social justice. Dr. Alexander has published five books, including Counseling, Treatment, and Intervention Methods With Juvenile and Adult Offenders (2000), Race and Justice (2000), Understanding Legal Concepts That Influence Social Welfare Policy and Practice (2002), To Ascend Into the Shining World Again (2002), and Racism, African Americans, and Social Justice (2005).


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