Sociology 322: Social Theory

Spring 2002 MWF 11:00-11:50PM

119 Newcomb Hall

Professor Kevin F. Gotham                                                 Teaching Assistant: Jessica Pardee
Sociology: 220 Newcomb Hall                                            Room: 442 Newcomb Hall
Office Hours: 3:30-5:00, Monday and Friday                      Office Hours: 11-1, Thurs, in 202 Newcomb
          and by appointment.                                                  Phone: 862-3026
Phone: 862-3004                                                                Email:

Course Description
Sociology 322 is designed as an introductory survey of sociological theory. It would, of course, be impossible to comprehensively survey all the significant social theorists, much less the many sociological theories, in one semester. Thus, the majority of the course will focus on "classical" or modern sociological theory, in particular, the pioneering work of Karl Marx (1818-1883), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), and Max Weber (1864-1920). We focus on these three theorists because they represent three very different approaches to understanding the transition from traditional to modern society, the nature of urbanization and industrialization, capitalism and social organization, and democracy and individuality. We will examine the theories of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber not just as intellectual history, but as sources of unique and powerful systems of thought that continue to have a major impact on understanding the contemporary world. We will read original writings by these theorists in an effort to grasp concretely how they understood and explained the dramatic societal changes and revolutionary trends affecting Europe and the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In addition to the work of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, there will be readings on neo-Marxian theory, feminist theory, structural-functionalism, and contemporary theories of modernity.

Course Objectives
The objectives of this course are to present an overview of sociological theory in the historical context of its development, illustrate the links between theory and research, and foster a critical understanding of society. This means developing the ability to approach the social world in a deeper and more systematic way, using empirical evidence and logical assumptions in order to answer questions of sociological interest. Social theory is the backbone of the sociology discipline and all major substantive questions of sociological interest are directly related to theory. We will examine different meanings and definitions of theory, how theories are evaluated, and how we can build on past and existing theories to build new ones to investigate society. We will also seek to understand how theories are shaped by the historical context in which they are produced.

Modern Society or "Modernity," as theorized by Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and others is a historical periodizing term that refers to the epoch that follows the 'Middle Ages' or feudalism. Modernity is associated with the rise of industrial capitalism (Marx), the dominance of bureaucratic systems of authority (Weber), and new forms of social solidarity and cohesion (Durkheim). For Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, modern life is a distinctive mode of experience that takes place within a landscape of powerful nation-states, sophisticated mass communication and transportation technologies, changing forms of production and consumption, spectacular wealth and prosperity, and appalling waste and devastation. On the one hand, modern society offers immense possibilities for economic growth, abundance, and human creativity. Extraordinary achievements and innovations in agricultural production, health care delivery, and transportation offer hope that human needs will be satisfied and miseries overcome. On the other hand, modern society is a society of chaos and turbulence, a perpetual clash of conflicting groups and mass social movements, and a world marked by destruction and devastation on an unparalleled scale. "To be modern," as social theorist Marshall Berman notes, "is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are."(1)

In the nineteenth century, modern life developed within a landscape of capitalist economic activity, steam engines, industrial factories, rapid urbanization, bureaucratized nation-states, and new forms of mass media (e.g., telegraphs and telephones). Marx, Durkheim, and Weber experienced modernity as a whole at a moment when only a small part of the world (e.g., Europe and the United States) was truly modern. Over the course of the twentieth century, the processes of modernization have cast a net that no one, not even in the remotest corner of the world can escape. Today, modern life is "globalized" such that the entire world is dominated by automobiles, radio and television, computers, air and space travel, satellite communication, bureaucratic organizations, and multinational aggregations of capital. Modern society is both revolutionary and conservative, homogeneous and diverse, alive to new possibilities for experience and adventure but marked by a dizzying pace of change and upheaval. The miseries and mysteries of modern life, its ambiguities and ironies, its immense variety and richness, its progressive and emancipatory capacities are the subject matter of modern social theory.

What is distinctive about the sociology of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber is their attempt to provide coherent and scientific explanations of historical change and social order, to connect the turbulent present with a past and a future, and to help men and women understand their lives in a constantly changing world, where as Marx says, "everything is pregnant with its contradictory," and "all that is sold melts into air." One of the virtues of social theory is that it can help you connect your life with the lives of millions of people who are living through the trauma and excitement of modernization thousands of miles away, in societies radically different from our own, and with millions of people who lived through it a century or more ago. Another advantage of studying social theory is that it can help you cultivate and develop a "sociological imagination." C. Wright Mills referred to the sociological imagination as the quality of mind necessary to grasp the relationship between individual biography, social structure, and human history. It is the mission of sociology, according to Mills, to help individuals achieve "lucid summations" of what is going on in the world and what is happening in their own lives. Developing a sociological imagination requires background in social theory.

Required Readings

Ritzer, George. 2000. Sociological Theory. Fifth Edition. McGraw-Hill Company.

Tucker, Robert (editor). 1978. Marx-Engels Reader. Second Edition. W.W. Norton and Company.

Bellah, Robert N. (editor). 1973. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society. Selected Writings. University of Chicago Press.

Gerth, H. H., and C. Wright Mills (editors and translators). 1972. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Oxford University Press.

Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Stephen Kalberg. 2002. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company.

Course Expectations and Requirements

This course will generally follow a lecture format. The purpose of lectures is to provide necessary background material (e.g., historical, biographical, and conceptual), exegesis of the original texts, as well as commentary and critique. Readings are to be completed prior to each class meeting for which they are assigned. The readings are extensive, complex, sophisticated, and will require many hours of hard work and effort.

Everyone is encouraged to participate through open discussion and questions, including sharing thoughts and ideas, observations, and assessments during class time. Thoughtful and active participation means attending class regularly and being prepared to discuss the assigned subject matter. In line with that, I ask you to be mindful that education is not a process whereby a professor dumps a bunch of information into the heads of passive receivers (students). Learning is a collaborative process whereby information and knowledge is to be shared between the professor and students. Please do not be worried about asking "dumb questions." If you are confused, chances are there are numerous other people who are also befuddled and will welcome your efforts at clarification.

I require students to attend class regularly and will take roll at the beginning of each class period. Be aware that just because I do not take attendance does not mean that I have overlooked absent students. Four or more unexcused absences will result in the lowering of your final grade by one letter grade. An unexcused absence is missing class without the professor's permission or without presenting a valid excuse within twenty four hours. All students are required to attend all classes unless they are ill or prevented from attending by exceptional circumstances. Preparedness, attendance and participation are expected and will have a bearing on final grades. Be on time to class and do not bring your cell phones. Anybody who has ever spoken in front a group knows that it can be very confusing for a speaker when people wander in and out or when phones ring. I always try to treat students with courtesy and respect. It makes life easier for all of us when you reciprocate.

Your grade for this course will be determined by your performance on two (2) tests, two (2) papers (8-10 pages each), and my evaluation of your participation in class. Each of the two tests will contain a combination of fill-in-the-blank and short-answer questions, and two or more essay questions. Each exam will be worth 50 points. There will be no true/false questions. The comprehensive final exam will cover all assigned readings, handouts, regular lectures, in-class discussions, and all other class activities, from the first day to the last day of the course.

In each of the two (8-10) page papers, you may be asked to compare and contrast the way in which two different theories explain a given phenomenon. You may also be asked to connect the work of one or more classical theorist to some current event(s). Another typical assignment could be to consider the strengths and weaknesses of a contemporary theory (neo-Marxian theory, feminist theory, etc.) in relation to a major concern of the classical theorists. All papers are to be typed, double-spaced, with one inch margins, and page numbers in the top right hand corner. You will have one week to write each paper. Papers will be graded on a scale of A, A-, B+, B, B-,C+, C, C-, D+, D, and D-. One letter grade will be deducted for each day the paper is late. You are to hand in two copies of each paper. Each paper is to be turned in with a "Social Theory Paper Evaluation" (see last page of syllabus).

Finally, ten percent of your grade will be based on my evaluation of your participation in class and seven group discussions where each group will do a textual analysis of a classical treatise and turn in an outline at the end of class. A textual analysis explains what the author's main points are, how they are connected, and offers a critique of the author's argument. The class will be divided into six groups composed of four to six people. The membership of these groups will be established the second week of class and will remain the same throughout the semester. Each Friday we will break into groups and each group will analyze a major chapter or series of chapters from Marx, Durkheim, or Weber. Everyone is required to read the assigned chapter(s) before we meet on Fridays and break into groups (I would recommend that each student put together a brief outline on the chapter(s) before meeting on Fridays). Each group will discuss the reading, asking questions about the text, and identify the main points. At the end of the Friday discussion each group will turn in a written outline that provides a brief summary, critical analysis, and evaluation of the classical text using the following format:

1. Summary. Provide a brief summary outline of what the author is saying. Identify the central questions, main points, and core arguments. Rather than analyzing all the ideas that the author presents, you should focus in depth on one or two significant aspects of the text. Keep in mind that the summaries are not as easy as they seem. A good summary of a book chapter requires an awareness and knowledge of the author's style of thinking, not just the particular facts that are presented to support an argument.

2. Analysis. Analysis involves going beyond what the author says. It means examining relationships between evidence and conclusions, between concepts in the text, and relationships between concepts in the work being analyzed and other texts. Moreover, analysis means identifying and clearly explaining the devices the author uses to convince the reader that he or she is correct. These devices can include logical reasoning (i.e., if/then statements), anecdotes (stories used to illustrate a point), appeals to authority, controlled study, and rhetorical virtuosity (skill at using language: big scientific words, humor, satire, irony, or nostalgia). What is important is that you understand what the author is doing, to be able to analyze the devices being used.

3. Evaluation. How well does the author answer his or her question and verify that answer? This is the realm of criticism and it assumes that you cannot really judge a text until you comprehend what the author is doing and how he or she does it. Evaluation involves answering the following questions:

A. What is the argument of the text?

B. What are the implicit assumptions of the author's argument? Identifying and evaluating an author's assumptions are two intellectual skills most often demanded in sociological theory classes. All authors make assumptions about the way the world works.

C. How well does the author use evidence?

D. Are the conclusions and implications supported by his/her other works?

E. Is the craftsmanship of the writing sound? Do the parts fit into a whole? Is the prose understandable? Do the ideas flow smoothly from one to another?

Mastering the skill of textual analysis will help you write better papers and, more important, help you evaluate more clearly all books and articles you encounter in your academic career and beyond. You are not excused from turning in an outline if you miss the Friday group discussion. Failure to attend the Friday discussion means that you have to turn in an individual outline.

Course Grades:

Test #1 (Friday, February 22) 20% of final grade.
Paper #1 (Friday, April 5) 25% of final grade.
Paper #2 (Friday, April 26.) 25% of final grade.
Comprehensive Final Exam (Wednesday, May 8) 20% of final grade.
Class Participation and Friday Discussion/Analysis Outline (7) 10% of final grade.

I do not give extra credit, extra assignments, nor other opportunities for improving grades. Moreover, I do not negotiate about grades, except when you believe there is an explicit error in the grading procedures. No grades will be determined by a curve.

All students are required to abide by the Tulane University Honor Code. This means that "the presence of a student's name on any work submitted in completion of an academic assignment is considered to be an assurance that the work and ideas are the result of the student's own intellectual effort, stated in her or his own words, and produced independently, unless clear and explicit acknowledgment of the sources for the work and ideas is included. This principle applies to papers, tests, homework assignments, artistic productions, laboratory reports, computer programs, and other assignments" (Tulane Undergraduate Catalog 1999-2001, p. 15).


Weeks 1-2: Introduction to Social Theory.

1/9 (Wednesday) - 1/11 (Friday): Introduction and Background.
- George Ritzer. Chapter 1: "A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Early Years." Sociological Theory.

1/14 (Monday) - 1/16 (Wednesday): What is theory? What is "classical" about classical social theory? Ontologies, Epistemologies, Concepts, Levels of Analysis (Macro/Micro), and Agency/Structure.
- George Ritzer. Appendix: "Sociological Metatheorizing and a Metatheoretical Schema for Analyzing Sociological Theory." Appendix. Sociological Theory.

Weeks 3-7: Karl Marx and the Development of Marxian Social Theory.

1/18 (Friday). Introduction to Karl Marx (1818-1883).
- George Ritzer. "Karl Marx." Chapter 2. Sociological Theory.
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader:
- "Introduction" (Pp. xv-xxxviii).
- "Discovering Hegel" (Pp. 7-8).
- "For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing" (Pp. 12-15).
- "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction" (Pp. 53-65).


1/23 (Wednesday) . Human Nature and the Theory of Alienation.
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader.
- "Preface" to the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Pp. 66-70).
- "Estranged Labor" (Pp. 70-81).
- "Private Property and Communism" (Pp. 81-93).
- "Alienation and Social Classes" (Pp. 133-35).
- "On the Division of Labor in Production," by Friedrich Engels (Pp. 718-24).

1/25 (Friday) - 2/1 (Friday). The Materialist Conception of History.
- read the following for 1/25 (Friday Discussion #1: Introduction to the Materialist Conception of History):
- Tucker. Marx Engels Reader:
- "Speech at Graveside of Karl Marx," by Friedrich Engels (Pp. 681-82).
- "Letters on Historical Materialism," by Friedrich Engels (Pp. 760-68).
- "Marx on the History of his Opinions" (Pp. 3-6).
- "Society and Economy in History" (Pp. 136-42).

1/28 (Monday).
- Tucker. Marx Engels Reader:
- "Theses on Feuerbach" (Pp. 143-45).
- "Coming Upheaval" (Pp. 218-19).
- "Class Struggle and the Mode of Production" (p. 220).
- Begin reading The Grundrisse. Section E. "Pre-capitalist Property and Production" (Pp. 261-76) and finish by Wednesday (1/30).
- Begin reading Part I of the German Ideology (Pp. 146-200). Finish this essay by Friday (2/1)

1/30 (Wednesday) - 2/1 (Friday). Finish reading the following for 2/1 (Friday Discussion #2):
- Tucker. Marx Engels Reader: Part I of the German Ideology (Pp. 146-200).

2/4 (Monday) - 2/15 (Friday). Analysis and Critique of Capitalism.
2/4 (Monday) - 2/6 (Wednesday).
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader:
- Excerpts from the Manifesto of the Communist Party (Pp. 473-91).
- Read the following for 2/8 (Friday Discussion #3: Commodities - use-value, exchange value, and fetishism):
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader:
- Excerpts from Capital, Volume One. Part I, Chapter 1, "Commodities" (Pp. 302-29).
- "Power of Money in Bourgeois Society" (Pp. 101-105).
- "Wage Labor and Capital" (Pp. 203-17).


2/13 (Wednesday) - 2/15 (Friday):
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader. Excerpts from Capital, Volume One.
- "The General Formula for Capital" (Pp. 329-36).
- "The Buying and Selling Labor Power" (Pp. 336-43).
- "The Secret of Primitive Accumulation (Pp. 431-34).
- Optional/recommended reading
- "Cooperation." (Pp. 384-88)
- "Division of Labor and Manufacture" (Pp. 388-403).
- "General Law of Capitalist Accumulation" (Pp. 419-31).
- "Expropriation of the Agricultural Population From the Land" (Pp. 434-35).
- "Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist" (Pp. 435-36).
- "Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation" (Pp. 436-38).

- note: no Friday discussion on 2/15.

2/18 (Monday) - 2/20 (Wednesday). Contemporary Neo-Marxian Theory.
- George Ritzer. "Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory." Sociological Theory. Chapter 8.

2/22 (Friday). TEST #1.

Weeks 8-10: Emile Durkheim.
2/25 (Monday). Introduction to Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).
- George Ritzer. "Emile Durkheim." Chapter 3. Sociological Theory.
- Robert Bellah. "Introduction." Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society.

2/27 (Wednesday). Durkheim's Conception of Sociology.
- Robert Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society.
- Chapter 1 (pp. 3-22). "Sociology in France in the Nineteenth Century."
- Chapter 3 (pp. 34-42). "Principles of 1789 and Sociology."
- Chapter 4 (pp. 43-57). "Individualism and the Intellectuals."
- Optional/recommended reading: Chapter 10 (pp. 149-166) "The Dualism of Human Nature and Its Social Conditions."

3/1 (Friday) - 3/13 (Wednesday). Division of Labor in Society: Mechanical and Organic Solidarity.
- Read the following for 3/1 (Friday Discussion #4: Mechanical and Organic Solidarity):
- Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society
- Chapter 6 (pp. 63-85). "Progressive Preponderance of Organic Solidarity."

3/4 (Monday) - 3/6 (Wednesday).
- Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society
- Chapter 7 (pp. 86-113). "Organic Solidarity and Contractual Solidarity."
- Chapter 8 (pp. 114-33). "Division of Labor in Society."
- Chapter 9 (134-146). "Division of Labor in Society: Conclusion."

3/8 (Friday): Suicide.
- (Note: No Friday Discussion on 3/8).
- George Ritzer. "Emile Durkheim." Chapter, pp. 86-88. Sociological Theory.

3/11 (Monday) - 3/15 (Friday). Sociology of Religion.
- 3/11 (Monday) - 3/13 (Wednesday).
- Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society:
- Chapter 11 (pp. 167-186). "Origin of the Idea of the Totemic Principle or Mana."
- Read the following for 3/15 (Friday Discussion #5):
- Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society:
- Chapter 12 (pp. 187-224). "Elementary Forms of Religious Life."


Weeks 11-14: Max Weber and Comparative-Historical Sociology.
3/18 (Monday). Introduction to Max Weber (1864-1920).
- George Ritzer. "Max Weber." Chapter 4. Sociological Theory.
- optional/recommended reading: Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber. "Introduction" (pp. 1- 77).

3/20 (Wednesday) - 4/5 (Friday). Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
(Note: No Friday Discussion on 4/5).
3/25 (Monday) - 3/29 (Friday). SPRING BREAK.
- 3/20 (Wednesday).
- pp. i-lxxxi in Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Stephen Kalberg. 2002.
- 3/22 (Friday).
- pp. 3-37 (Chapter 1 and 2) in Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Stephen Kalberg. 2002.

4/1 (Monday) - 4/10 (Wednesday):
- pp. 39-101 (Chapter 3 and 4) in Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Stephen Kalberg. 2002.
- pp. 103-125 (Chapter 5) in Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Stephen Kalberg. 2002.
- pp. 127-47 ("Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism," translated by Gerth and Mills).
- pp. 149-64 "Max Weber's Prefatory Remarks' to Collected Essays in the Sociology of Religion (1920).

4/12 (Friday). Natural Science, Social Science, and Value Relevance.
- Read the following for 4/12 (Friday Discussion #6):
- Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber:
- Chapter V (pp. 129-56). "Science as a Vocation."

4/15 (Monday). Class, Status, and Party.
- Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber:
- Chapter VII (pp. 180-195). "Class, Status, and Party."
- Chapter XVI. "India: The Brahman and the Castes." Read only pp. 405-409 on "Caste and Status Group."

4/17 (Wednesday). Domination, Legitimacy, and Authority.
- Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber:
- Chapter IX (pp. 245-252). "Sociology of Charismatic Authority."
- Chapter X (read only pp. 253, 262-64) in "Meaning of Discipline."
- Chapter IV (pp. 77-128). "Politics as a Vocation."

4/17 (Wednesday) - 4/19 (Friday). Rationalization and Bureaucracy.
- Read the following for 4/19 (Friday Discussion #7).
- Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber:
- Chapter VIII (pp. 196-244). "Bureaucracy."


Week 15: Contemporary Social Theory.

4/22 (Monday). American Social Theory in the Twentieth Century.
- George Ritzer. Sociological Theory. Chapter 6. "A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Later Years."

4/24 (Wednesday) - 4/26 (Friday). Contemporary Theories of Modernity.
- Ritzer, George. Sociological Theory:
- Read only pp. 555-78, and 583-86 ("Informationalism and the Network Society" Manuel Castells)) in Chapter 15, "Contemporary Theories of Modernity." Note: do not read "Modernity's Unfinished Project," pp. 578-83, that deals with the work of Jurgen Habermas.

- Feminist Social Theory (Optional Reading):
- Lengermann and Niebrugge. "Contemporary Feminist Theory." Chapter 13 in Ritzer's Sociological Theory. Pp. 443-489.
- Tucker. Marx-Engels Reader. Pp. 734-759. "Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State" (by Engels).

4/26 (Friday, Last Day of Class). Summary, Review, Evaluations. You will fill out two in-class evaluations: (1) a course evaluation, and (2) a confidential evaluation of each member in your group. Each of you will fill out a confidential evaluation form on the last day of class that will ask you to rate the performance of yourself and the other group members.

COMPREHENSIVE FINAL EXAM: May 8 (Wednesday), 8:00AM.