Sociology 322: Social Theory

Spring 2005. 10-10:50 MWF

17 Newcomb Hall

 

Professor Kevin F. Gotham                                                      Teaching Assistant: Andrea Wilbon

Sociology: 220 Newcomb Hall                                     Sociology: 202 Newcomb Hall

Office Hours: 4-5:00, MF, and by appointment             Phone: 862-3026

Phone: 862-3004                                                                     Email: awilbon@tulane.edu

Email: kgotham@tulane.edu                                                     

 

Course Description     

Sociology 322 is designed as an introductory survey of social theory.  The majority of the course will focus on “classical” or modern social theory, in particular, the pioneering work of Karl Marx (1818-1883), Max Weber (1864-1920), and Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). We focus on these three theorists because they represent three different approaches to understanding the transition from traditional to modern society, the nature of urbanization and industrialization, capitalism and social organization, democracy and individuality, and the dynamics of culture and social change.  We will examine the theories of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim not just as intellectual history, but as sources of unique and powerful systems of thought that continue to have a major impact on our understanding of 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 affecting Europe and the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  In the last few weeks of the course we will focus on contemporary social theory.  We will cover the work of the symbolic interactionism, contemporary neo-Marxian theories, 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. 

 

One 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 a background in social theory.

 

Required Readings

Chapters from Ritzer, George, and Douglas J. Goodman. 2004.  Sociological Theory. Sixth Edition. McGraw-Hill Company.  Available through Blackboard. 

 

Antonio, Robert J. 2003. Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary. Blackwell Publishing.

 

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

 

Robert Bellah. 1973. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society. University of Chicago Press.  

 

Kivisto, Peter (editor). 2005. Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited. Pine Forge. ISBN 1-4129-0559-1. Paper.

 

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. You cannot read the texts like a newspaper or magazine. You should locate a distraction-free environment (far away from the TV, radio, and other interruptions) and set aside a large block of time each day to read and concentrate. 

 

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 other people who are also befuddled and will welcome your efforts at clarification. 

 

I require students to attend all classes 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 of 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 (about 10 pages each), attendance, 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 first exam will cover the material from the first day of class through the end of the tenth week of class.  The second exam will cover all material from the eleventh week through the end of the semester.  In each of the two 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 (Symbolic Interactionism, neo-Marxian 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 two weeks 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.  One copy is to be turned in with a “Social Theory Paper Evaluation” (see last page of syllabus) stapled to the back of the paper. 

 

Finally, ten percent of your grade will be based on my evaluation of your participation in class and six group discussions where each group will answer the questions at the end of each assigned chapter in the book Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited edited by Peter Kivisto.  The class will be divided into 6-7 groups composed of 5-6 people. The membership of these groups will be in alphabetical order and will remain the same throughout the semester.  On the specified days, we will break into groups and each group will analyze the chapter(s).  Everyone is required to read the assigned chapter(s) before we meet and break into groups.  Each group will discuss the reading, asking questions about the text, and identify the main points.  At the end of the discussion each group will turn in a written outline that answers the questions that the Kivisto chapter poses (see end of each assigned reading).  Each unexcused absence for the group discussions will result in the lowering of your participation grade by one letter grade.  On the last day of class you will fill out a confidential evaluation of each member in your group.  This evaluation will ask you to evaluate the intellectual contribution, courteousness, and respectfulness of each member of your group.  

 

All grades, paper assignments, study questions and other important information about the class will be posted on the Blackboard Learning System ((http://http://blackboard.tulane.edu).

 


Course Grades:

Paper #1 (due Feb. 18)                                                            22.5% of final grade.

Test #1 (March18)                                                                   22.5% of final grade.

Paper #2 (due April 29)                                                            22.5% of final grade.

Test #2 (May 5)                                                                       22.5% of final grade.

Class Participation and Friday Discussion Outline (6)     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 University Undergraduate Catalog 2003-2005, p. 16).

 

 

TENTATIVE COURSE SCHEDULE

 

Week 1: Introduction and Background

1/10 (Monday) - 1/12 (Wednesday)


                     “A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Early Years.” Chapter 1 in Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman.  (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

                     “Sociological Metatheorizing and a Metatheoretical Schema for Analyzing Sociological Theory.” Appendix in Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

 

 

Week 1-4: Karl Marx    

1/14 (Friday). Introduction to Karl Max

∙           “Karl Marx.” Chapter 2 in Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman.  (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

∙           “Introduction: Marx and Modernity.” Pp. 1-50 in Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary. Edited by Robert J. Antonio. 2003. Blackwell Publishing. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

 

1/17 (Monday).  NO CLASS. Martin Luther King Holiday. 

 


1/19 (Wednesday) - 1/21 (Friday). Marx’s Theory of Modernity and Social Change

Robert J. Antonio Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary.

∙           Part 1. Marx’s Vision of History: Historical Materialism. (Pp. 51-73). 

                     Part 2. The Juggernaut of Capitalist Modernity (pp. 75-100).

 

1/24 (Monday) - 1/28 (Friday). Analysis and Critique of Capitalism

Robert J. Antonio Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary.

                     Part 3. Marx’s Labor Theory of Value (pp. 101-30)

∙           Part 4. From Manufacture to Modern Industry (pp. 131-52).

∙           Part 5. “Downside of Capitalist Growth.” Pp. 153-174.

∙           Part 6. “Globalization and Colonialism.” pp. 175-194.

 

1/31 (Monday) - 2/2 (Wednesday). Analysis of Critique of Capitalism (continued)

Robert J. Antonio Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary.

∙           Part 7. “New Society Rising in the Old.” pp. 195-212.

∙           Part 8. “Revolutionary Proletariat and the Vicissitudes of History” pp. 213-248.

 

2/4 (Friday). Group Discussion #1

                     Walsh, John P. And Anne Zacharias-Walsh. “Working Longer, Living Less: Understanding Marx Through the Workplace Today.” Pp. 5-37 in Kivisto, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

                     Hand out first theory paper topic. Papers due 2/18 (Friday).

 

2/7 (Monday).  MARDI GRAS BREAK.

 

 

Week 5-7: Max Weber

2/9 (Wednesday) - 2/11 (Friday). Introduction to Max Weber

∙           “Max Weber.” Chapter 4 in Sociological Theory.  (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

∙           Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber. “Introduction” (pp. 1- 77).

 

2/14 (Monday). Religion and the Rise of Modern Western Capitalism  

Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber

                     Chapter XI (pp. 267-301). “Social Psychology of the World Religions .”

                     Chapter XII (pp. 302-322). “Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

                     Chapter XIII (pp. 323-362). “Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions.”

                     Optional Reading:

                     Chapter XIV (pp. 363-385). “Capitalism and Rural Society in Germany.”

                     Chapter XVI (pp. 396-415). “India: The Brahman and the Castes.”

                     Chapter XVII (pp. 416-442). “The Chinese Literati.”

 

 

2/16 (Wednesday) 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.”

 

2/18 (Friday) 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.”

 

2/21 (Monday) - 2/23 (Wednesday). Rationalization and Bureaucracy  

Gerth and Mills. From Max Weber.

                     Chapter IV (pp. 77-128). “Politics as a Vocation.”

                     Chapter VIII (pp. 196-44). Excerpts from “Bureaucracy”

 

2/25 (Friday). Group Discussion #2  

                     Ritzer, George. “The Weberian Theory of Rationality and the McDonaldization of Contemporary Society.” Pp. 38-58 in Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.  Edited by Peter Kivisto. 

 

 

Week 8-10: Emile Durkheim

2/28 (Monday). Introduction to Emile Durkheim

∙           “Emile Durkheim.” Chapter 3 in Sociological Theory. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

∙           Robert Bellah. “Introduction.” Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society.

 

3/2 (Wednesday) - 3/4 (Friday). What is 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.”

 

3/4 (Friday) - 3/7 (Monday). Social Solidarity and the Division of Labor

Robert Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society.

                     Chapter 6 (pp. 63-85). “Progressive Preponderance of Organic Solidarity.”

                     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.”

 

3/7 (Monday) - 3/9 (Wednesday). Suicide


∙           Reread section on suicide in Chapter 3 “Emile Durkheim” of Sociological Theory

 

 

3/11 (Friday) - 3/14 (Monday). Sociology of Religion

Robert Bellah. Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society.

                     Chapter 10 (pp. 149-166) “The Dualism of Human Nature and Its Social Conditions.”

                     Chapter 11 (pp. 167-186). “Origin of the Idea of the Totemic Principle or Mana.”

                     Chapter 12 (pp. 187-224). “Elementary Forms of Religious Life.”

 

3/16 (Wednesday). Group Discussion #3

                     Hornsby, Anne M. “Surfing the Net for Community: A Durkheimian Analysis of Electronic Gatherings.” Pp. 59-91 in Kivisto, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited

 

3/18 (Friday). First Exam

 

3/21 (Monday) - 3/25 (Friday). SPRING BREAK

 

Week 11-12. Symbolic Interactionism

3/28 (Monday) - 4/1 (Friday).

                     “A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Later Years.” Chapter 2 in Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

 

4/1 (Friday) - 4/6 (Wednesday)

                     “Symbolic Interactionism” in Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

 

4/8 (Friday). Group Discussion #4

                     Fine, Gary Alan and Kent L. Sandstrom. “Wild Thoughts: An Interactionist Analysis of Ideology, Emotion, and Nature.” pp. 237-58 in Kivisito, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

                     Kivisto, Peter and Dan Pittman. “Goffman’s Dramaturgical Sociology: Personal Sales and Service in a Commodified World.” pp. 259-79 in Kivisito, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

 

 

Week 13: Contemporary Neo-Marxian Theories

4/11 (Monday).

∙           “Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory.” Chapter 8 in Sociological Theory. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)4/13 (Wednesday).

                     Robert J. Antonio. Marx and Modernity.

                     John Cassidy. “Return of Karl Marx.” Chapter 41.

                     Jeremy Rifkin. “The Connected and Disconnected.” Chapter 42.

                     Thomas Frank. “The Architecture of a New Consensus.” Chapter 43.

                     William Julius Wilson. “Societal Changes and Vulnerable Neighborhoods.” Chapter 44.

                     Mike Davis. “Fortress L.A.” Chapter 45.

                     Saskia Sassen. “America’s Immigration ‘Problem.’” Chapter 46.

                     William Greider. “‘These Satanic Mills’” Chapter 47.

                     John Gray. “From the Great Transformation to the Global Free Market.” Chapter 48.

 

4/15 (Friday). Group Discussion #5

                     Dandaneau, Steven P. “Critical Theory, Legitimation Crisis, and the Deindustrialization of Flint, Michigan.” pp. 187-214 in Kivisto, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

                     hand out second theory paper topic.  Papers due 4/29 (Friday). 

 

 

Week 14-15: Contemporary Theories of Modernity

4/18 (Monday) - 4/20 (Wednesday)

∙           “Contemporary Theories of Modernity.” Chapter 16 in Sociological Theory. (Chapter available under “Course Documents” section of Blackboard)

 

4/22 (Friday). Group Discussion #6

                     Ritzer, George. “The ‘New’ Means of Consumption: A Postmodern Analysis.” pp. 280- 298 in Kivisito, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

 

4/25 (Monday) - 4/27 (Wednesday). 

                     Denzin, Norman K. “The Cinematic Society, the Interview, and the Postmodern Self.” Pp. 299-317 in Kivisito, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

                     Swatos, William H. “Globalization Theory and Religious Fundamentalism.” Pp. 319-340 in Kivisito, Peter (editor). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited.

 

4/29 (Friday). Summary, Review, Evaluations.  All students will fill out two in-class evaluations: (1) a course evaluation, and (2) a confidential evaluation of each member in your group.  The confidential evaluation will ask you to rate the  performance of yourself and the other group members.

 

5/5 (Thursday). 1:00 - 5:00PM.  Second Exam.


Soc. 322. Social Theory

Professor Gotham

Tulane University

 

How to Read the Texts.1

 

The required texts for this semester are not easy to read.  The selections are often long and we are going to cover an enormous amount of material in a very short period of time.  As such, I suggest that you start early and keep ahead of the readings. Come to class with questions about the readings.  If you do not understand something then ask about it. 

 

My main goal is to introduce you to social theory.  I want you to understand the political, economic, and socio-cultural context surrounding the rise and development of social theory.  This will help you make sense of what is social theory, what are the basic components of theory, and why social theory is important.  I have included readings that show how different theorists developed their theories and analyzed societies in general.  I have also included readings that highlight how various theorists conceive of premodern and modern society.  Finally, I include readings that bear on the question of how society can be made a better place.

 

When you read the selections, I would like you to think about four issues:

1. What is the author’s argument

2. How does this argument fit in with their general theory?

3. Does the argument and theory make sense?

4. How could you use this theory to explain happenings in today’s society and in your own life?

Consider these other questions:

1. With whom is the author arguing?

2. What is the position the author is arguing for?

3. What role does the selection you are reading play in the author’s overall theory?

4. What is society according to the author?

5. What is the author’s conception of the individual (e.g, what motivates individuals to act, what is the relationship between the individual and social structure, norms, interests, ideas, ideologies)?

6. What is the author’s conception of social structure?

7. What is premodernity?  What is modernity?

8. What is power?  Who has power?  How is power exercised?

9.  What is the role of the economy, the state, and ideas in the maintenance of society? 

 

 

 


Social Theory Paper Evaluation.

Spring 2005. Gotham.

 

Name:

 

Paper #_____. Question #_____.

 

Paper grade: _____.

 

 

Analysis and Criticism:

 

POOR                         EXCELLENT

 

1          2          3          4          5          Thoughtfulness and organization of essay (e.g., is the essay well conceived and thought out or does it have a rushed and superficial quality to it). 

1          2          3          4          5          Follows the directions of the assignment (e.g.,  answers questions sufficiently).

1          2          3          4          5          Coherence of explanation. Clear statements. Succinct.

1          2          3          4          5          Key terms and concepts are defined and explained.

1          2          3          4          5          Assertions and arguments supported with specific cites to the original works.

1          2          3          4          5          Assertions and arguments supported with specific quotes from the original works.

1          2          3          4          5          Depth of coverage of existing literature and original works.

 

Technical presentation:

 

X denotes that attention should be paid to this problem.

XX denotes that extra attention is warranted.

 

_____ Late paper (one letter grade is deducted for each day the paper is late). 

_____ Paper format: pages numbered in top right hand corner, one inch margins, double-spaced.

_____ Appropriate citation format not followed.

_____ Text is too long or too short.

_____ Redundancy (wordy; can be trimmed without loss of meaning).

_____ Some statements are unsupported (e.g., undeveloped and/or vague statements).

_____ Insufficient coverage of existing literature.

_____ Insufficient depth of coverage.

_____ Typographic errors, misspelled words, punctuation errors.

_____ Incomplete sentences, awkward sentence structure.

_____ Some paragraphs are too long or too short.


Social Theory Paper Evaluation.

Spring 2005. Gotham.

 

Name:

 

Paper #_____. Question #_____.

 

Paper grade: _____.

 

 

Analysis and Criticism:

 

POOR                         EXCELLENT

 

1          2          3          4          5          Thoughtfulness and organization of essay (e.g., is the essay well conceived and thought out or does it have a rushed and superficial quality to it). 

1          2          3          4          5          Follows the directions of the assignment (e.g.,  answers questions sufficiently).

1          2          3          4          5          Coherence of explanation. Clear statements. Succinct.

1          2          3          4          5          Key terms and concepts are defined and explained.

1          2          3          4          5          Assertions and arguments supported with specific cites to the original works.

1          2          3          4          5          Assertions and arguments supported with specific quotes from the original works.

1          2          3          4          5          Depth of coverage of existing literature and original works.

 

 

Technical presentation:

 

X denotes that attention should be paid to this problem.

XX denotes that extra attention is warranted.

 

_____ Late paper (one letter grade is deducted for each day the paper is late). 

_____ Paper format: pages numbered in top right hand corner, one inch margins, double-spaced.

_____ Appropriate citation format not followed.

_____ Text is too long or too short.

_____ Redundancy (wordy; can be trimmed without loss of meaning).

_____ Some statements are unsupported (e.g., undeveloped and/or vague statements).

_____ Insufficient coverage of existing literature.

_____ Insufficient depth of coverage.

_____ Typographic errors, misspelled words, punctuation errors.

_____ Incomplete sentences, awkward sentence structure.

_____ Some paragraphs are too long or too short.



1 This page is adapted from Fligstein, Neil. Sociology 201. Sociological Theory. Syllabus.