Fall 2004

Instructor: Bill Bogard
Office: 228 Maxey
Phone: 5122
Office Hours: 10-12 T; 12-1 W; 9:30-11 TH and by appointment

Welcome to sociological theory! This course looks at theory through selected readings of major theorists, commentary on the history, politics and culture of sociological theory, and through works of literature that illustrate sociological ideas. We will try to answer some the following questions: What is a theory? What is sociological theory? How and why did it begin? What are its philosophical assumptions? What are its major ideas about the nature of society? What are its uses and limits? How can theory be used to explain both everyday life events and changes in the institutional structure of society?

The goal of this class is a practical one: to prepare you to write and defend your senior thesis by giving you practice in formulating sociological problems and theoretical explanations of them. As a whole, the course is organized around the broad question of the historical transitions from feudal to modern to postmodern societies. For each of these transitions we will read a novel that marks it literary terms. The novels will serve to generate problems and conflicts that we will analyze using the concepts of specific theories and theorists. Related to issues of historical transition, we will also be exploring reasons for the emergence of scientific sociology, the formation of capitalism and industrial society, the nation-state, political revolution and class conflict, as well as examining long-standing debates about the relation between the individual and the group, and the role of values in sociological analysis. By the end of the semester you should have a good working knowledge of the intellectual history of your discipline, the important problems sociology investigates, the typical kinds of theoretical responses it offers.

TEXTS:

  • Lemert, Charles (ed.). 1998. 3rd Ed. Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings (Boulder: Westview Press).
  • Seidman, Steven. 1998. Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern Era (Oxford: Blackwell).
  • Sholokov, Mikhail. 1966. And Quiet Flows the Don (New York: Vintage).
  • Kafka, Franz. 1968. The Trial. (New York: Schocken Books).
  • DeLillo, Don. 1986. White Noise. (New York: Penguin Books).

Please bring all assigned readings with you to class on the days we will be studying them!

ON RESERVE:

I have placed the following books on 3 hour reserve in the library to use as resources throughout the semester:

  • Ritzer, George. 1988. Classical Sociological Theory (New York: Knopf.
  • Turner, Jonathan H. 1992. The Structure of Sociological Theory (Chicago: Dorsey).
  • Kinloch, Graham C. 1977. Sociological Theory: Its Development and Major Paradigms (New York: McGraw-Hill).
  • Collins, Randall. 1985. Three Sociological Traditions (New York: Oxford).
  • Anderson, R.J. J.A. Hughes and W.W. Sharrock (eds.). 1987. Classic Disputes in Sociology (London: Allen and Unwin).

EVALUATION:

1) Two papers, approximately 7 pages each. Due dates are given in the schedule. Each paper is worth 20% of your final grade. I want you to accomplish two things in each paper: 1) clearly formulate a sociological problem, based on our readings for that particular part of the course, and 2) identify the theoretical frames, concepts, and propositions which serve to explain the problem. By "sociological problem" I mean essentially the same thing that C. Wright Mills meant: a personal trouble or conflict that is somehow connected to broader historical and socio-economic structures (to explain exactly "how" is precisely the role of a theory). The novels we are reading will be the "sources" of those personal troubles (for example, the novel And Quiet Flows the Don contains many stories of personal conflict within families. How would a particular sociological theory or set of concepts explain or account for those conflicts?). The paper itself should begin with an exposition of theory (e.g., "Marx, in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, writes that private property alienates one not only from other human beings, but from one's own actions and perceptions….," or something similar, followed by a brief explication of what Marx means by this). There are several ways to proceed here, and I will discuss them in class. Only after this exposition is carried through (about half the paper) should you begin your analysis of the specific problem you've identified in the novel. Although you are only required to use the assigned readings for your paper, some of the selections from theorists in the Lemert reader are very brief (e.g., only 2-3 pages on Baudrillard vs. more than 20 on Marx). If you utilize shorter selections, your paper must be based on at least two different theorists. Finally, although you are certainly encouraged to use the Seidman book to the fullest, all papers must include substantial referenced material from the Lemert reader.

A note on how to interpret my grades: I love to give A's, but I believe that grade has to mean something, and I award them only for deserving papers. I evaluate papers on both their form and their content; good ideas, in my estimation, cannot be expressed in bad or boring prose. An "A" paper, in addition to addressing a significant problem and presenting a sophisticated argument, must also possess virtually flawless spelling, grammar, and style (when in doubt about style, use a style manual like Diana Hacker's, available in the bookstore). It must also demonstrate a close reading and correct understanding of the authors we study in class. A "B" paper is generally strong overall but has minor, correctable problems in one or more of these areas. You can interpret a "B" as my judgment that your paper is adequate and that with a little work could be superior. Please note: I will not give an "A" to any paper that contains typos, grammatical errors, or style problems (including referencing problems). A "C" on your paper indicates inconsistent quality in both form and content, and should be cause for some concern on your part. Anything below a C- on your papers is, in my opinion, inadequate, and you should see me immediately. I do not allow rewrites. I will, however, consider drafts of papers provided that they are given to me at least 72 hours in advance of the due date. In general, I grade papers on the sociological importance of the problem selected, theoretical sophistication (argument, analysis, critique, etc.), and quality of writing and expression.

2) Final paper or project (20%): For the final, you have the option of either writing another paper with the same format as that described above, or to do an alternative project. Alternative projects can be in almost any format--art, fiction, photography, poetry, video or film, multimedia, etc. I will give you more details and provide many examples of alternative final projects in class. If you choose to an alternative to a traditional paper, you will need to get my approval a week in advance of the due date, convince me of its value and relevance to theory and the issues we raise in class, and keep me closely informed of its progress. Faculty outside the sociology department are used to help me evaluate the quality of alternative projects.

3) Present/discuss the novels (20%). Along with a group of two or three other students, you will lead a class discussion of a section of one of the novels. The task of discussion leaders is to identify main themes or passages in the novels that relate to the theories we have been studying. How would Marx explain the situation of the Cossacks in Sholokov's novel, the circumstances that draw them into the war, that divide brother from brother and husbands from wives and children? How would Weber describe K's plight in The Trial? What concepts in Baudrillard help us understand the disaster sequence in White Noise? Discussion leaders should meet before class to divide the labor, map out strategies, develop questions and topics, etc. Your performance will be evaluated both by me and your fellow students. Evaluations are based on both collective and individual criteria. Collectively, your group must discuss significant questions about the readings that bear directly on sociological theory, divide the time between group members effectively, and involve the class in the discussion. Individually, we will be looking at the significance of the points you raise, the ways you link problems in the text to theories we have studied, and the quantity of your participation. Finally, don't hesitate to be creative. Use of media, powerpoint, small groups, etc., are all fine, although not required (keep in mind that over-reliance on technologies like powerpoint can be tedious). An "A" in this portion of the course indicates high performance on all these criteria. Presenting groups will be assigned by random drawing the first week of class.

4) Quizzes (10%). On occasion and unannounced, I will give quizzes on the reading material at the beginning of selected classes. Quizzes will be short and generally involve true/false answers, identification of concepts and theorists, and fill in the blank type statements. Keeping up with the readings obviously is the best way to do well on quizzes.

5) Attendance (10%). I expect regular attendance and, given the size of the class, I will pass around attendance sheets. Any unexcused absences will result in the loss of this portion of your final grade. Multiple unexcused absences could result in failure of the course. Excused absences only include what the college normally allows: illnesses and emergencies, sports events, etc., but not things like workloads in other classes, early departures at the end of the semester, poor organization of time, etc.

Grading summary:

Papers (2):
Final Paper or Project
Discussion of Novel:
Quizzes:
Attendance:
20% each = 40%
20%
20% (instructor/peer evaluated)
10%
10%

Schedule of topics and readings:

9/1 W Introduction

The Path to Modernity

Discussion frames: social class, ideology and collective representations, private property, industrialism, capitalism, political economy, nationalism and internationalism, war revolution, religion and social life, the family, bourgeoisie and proletariat, alienation, individualism

9/6 Lemert, pp. 1-27
Seidman, pp. 1-15

9/8 Seidman, pp. 19-54 (Comte, Marx)

9/13 Lemert, pp. 29-70 (Marx, Addams)

9/15 Seidman, pp. 55-70 (Durkheim)
Lemert, pp. 70-99 (Durkheim)

9/20 Sholokov, Part I

9/22 Sholokov, Part II

9/27 Sholokov, Part III
Lemert, pp. 211-213 (Lenin), 259-261 (Gramsci), 263-266 (Mao)

9/29 Sholokov, pp. Part IV

Modernity

Discussion frames: bureaucracy, the Law, rationalization, fragmentation, individualism, the origins and construction of the self, alienation and reflexivity, power, status, the unconscious, race, language, civilization, masculinity and femininity

10/1 Paper #1 Due at 5:00 pm in my mailbox

10/4 Seidman, pp. 70-90
Lemert, pp. 99-125 (Weber)

10/6 Lemert, pp. 157-185 (James, Du Bois, Gilman, Cooper, Simmel, Cooley), 220-225 Mead)

10/13 Lemert, pp. 125-148 (Freud), 225-237 (Merton)

10/18 Kafka, Chapters I-III

10/20 Kafka, Chapters IV-VI

10/25 Kafka, Chapters VII-X

Interlude -- American Theory and Critical Theory

Discussion frames: grand theory, social action, institutions, functions and social structures, anomie and alienation, culture, everyday life, the social construction of reality, face to face communication, intersubjectivity, objective vs. subjective sociology, hegemony, power, language and communication, repressive desublimation

10/27 Paper #2 Due 5:00 pm in my mailbox

11/1 Seidman, pp. 93-120 (Parsons)
Lemert, pp. 297-308 (Parsons, Merton)

11/3 Seidman, pp. 121-168 (Postwar American Theory)
Lemert, pp. 383-388 (Berger and Luckmann), 331-337 (Goffman), 435-440 (Bourdieu)

11/8 Seidman, pp. 171-213 (Critical Theory)
Lemert, pp. 380-383 (Habermas), 388-390 (Smith), 390-397 (Wallerstein)

Postmodernity

Discussion themes: the sign and language, relativism, power and the self, sexual identity, race and gender, simulation, cyborgs, information society, disaster culture, media, identity politics, the fragmentation of social theory, literature and theory

11/10 Seidman, pp. 214-252 (The French Poststructuralists)
Lemert, pp. 148-156 (de Saussure), 409-413 (Foucault)

11/15 Lemert, pp. 465-476 (Foucault, Baudrillard), 522-526 (Haraway)

11/17 Seidman, pp. 253-298 (New Social Movements)

Thanksgiving Break

11/29 Lemert, pp. 505-520 (West, Gates), 535-568 (Collins, Anzaldua, Weeks, Butler)

12/1 DeLillo, Part I

12/6 DeLillo, Part II to Chapter 28

12/8 DeLillo, Chapter 28 to end

12/13 Final Paper/Project Due 5 pm in my mailbox