You are on page 1of 7

Classics of Sociological Theory Sociology 211

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. Karl Marx, Thesis 11 Professor Wendy Christensen Office: 402 Adams Hall Contact: or 725-3268 Office hours: Tuesdays 11-12pm, Thursdays 2-4pm, and by appointment. Course Description: Sociological theory is the set of approaches developed by sociologists for understanding society. In this class we will analyze selected works by the founders of sociology. The course starts with the key ideas and theories of the three most foundational theoristsEmile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. Taking a historical view of the origins of sociology, we will read other works by Harriet Martineau, Marianne Weber (Max Webers wife), and Michel Foucault that are foundational to sociological thought. Taking a critical lens on the canon of sociology theory, the course also includes the works of W.E.B. Du Bois on racial inequality, and Dorothy E. Smith and Patricia Hill Collins on gender inequality. In our reading and discussion we will aim on the one hand to understand each theorists view of society, the social order and social change, the key concepts they use and the main theoretical propositions they put forward. In addition we will discuss the assumptions and logic of their theoretical constructions and the implications of their ideas for understanding race, class, gender and sexuality. Throughout the course we will seek to understand how classical social theory remains relevant for understanding the problems of our twenty-first century society. Our goals are: To understand the origins of sociology in the social upheavals and transformations that characterized the emergence of modern, western society. To gain familiarity with the major founders of sociological thought through reading their original writings. To understand the contemporary relevance of classical theoretical concepts and apply these concepts in order to analyze contemporary events and issues. To critically compare different theories about the fundamental nature of society and the processes of social change. To evaluate the role of the classical canon in the discipline of sociology. READINGS The following books are available for purchase at the Bowdoin Textbook Center: Bois, W. E. B. Du. 1999. The Souls of Black Folk (Norton Critical Editions). W. W. Norton & Company. Durkheim, Emile, and Lewis A. Coser. 1997. The Division of Labor in Society. Free Press.

Page 1 of 7

Weber, Max, and Stephen Kalberg. 2010. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Oxford University Press, USA. Engels, Friedrich, Karl Marx, and Robert C Tucker. 1978. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: Norton. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Pantheon.

Additional required readings are available on the library reserves website. Readings must be completed before class on the day that they are due. If a reading is listed under Monday, October 17 then it must be completed before class on October 17. You will need to complete the readings the day before class in order to prepare for class discussion. Note: Because the required readings are dense and often difficult to understand, reading selections will often need to be read at least twice before class. Please plan accordingly. I reserve the right to add (and to omit) readings during the course of the semester. I will always let you know the week before if I am making any changes to the readings. How to get in touch with me: Email is a great way to reach me with any questions. I will respond to your email within 24 hours. You are strongly encouraged to stop by office hours at least once during the semester, or make an appointment to see me at another time. If my office door is open at any other time, youre welcome to stop by. POLICIES Assignments: (1) Weekly Discussion Participation: Beginning on Week 2 of the semester, each student is expected to participate in the discussion on CourseKit ( at least once before Wednesdays class meeting. a. What counts as a post? i. A question, informed by the class material (readings, lectures), that you would like to pose to the class. ii. An answer, informed by the class material, to the professors question, or to another students question. iii. A link to a news article, blog post, image, video etc. that is related to that weeks material, and a brief description of why it is related. b. What does not count as a post? i. Anything that is too brief (I agree or good question etc.), or anything that is not explicitly tied to course material. (2) Analysis Papers: (3-4 pages each) During the semester you will write 5 papers analyzing the previous weeks theorist(s). You may choose which 5 of the 6 papers you will submit. You are strongly encouraged to front-load these papers. The papers should be well organized, concise, and make it clear that you understand the theorists main ideas. Each paper should do the following: 1. Essentialize: What do you see as the essential concepts, ideas, insights of this theorist and how are they connected? 2. Improvise: What are the implications you see which the author does not or did not bring out in relation to other theorists as well as in relation to actually explaining an example from the real the social world?

Page 2 of 7

(3) Final Exam: There will be an in-class final exam on December 16th at 2pm. The exam will consist of short and long essay questions. More details to follow. Grading Criteria: A B C D F Final Grades: 20% 20% 40% 20% Written work: All assignments must be double-spaced, with 1 inch margins, and 12 point font. Acceptable fonts are Times, Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, or Helvetica. Pages must be numbered. On the first page include your full name, date, and the name of the assignment. It is always a good idea to put your name on each subsequent page someplace in case a page is separated from the others. Double-sided printing is welcomed. Dont bother with a title page as they waste paper. Online Discussion Participation Attendance and Participation Five Analysis Papers Final Exam Shows mastery of the course material and demonstrates exceptional critical skills and originality. Demonstrates a thorough and above average understanding of the material. Demonstrates a thorough and satisfactory understanding of the material. Demonstrates a marginally satisfactory understanding of the basic material. Does not demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of the basic material.

Late and missed assignments: Work must be handed in, in class, on the day it is due. If you cannot make class that day, you must email me the assignment before the class begins. Late assignments will only be accepted with prior consent (given on a case-by-case basis), and will lose a letter grade for each day they are late. Attendance: Attendance is required. You may miss two classes without penalty, assuming that you turn in the days assignment prior to class. Each absence beyond the second will result in your grade being lowered. If you must miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the notes and assignments from another student. If You Need Help: Do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance. The key to success is to head off problems before they turn into emergencies. The sooner you get in touch with me about an issue, the sooner we can work to solve it together. Special accommodations: If you require special accommodations to participate in, or to complete the work in this course, please let me know within the first two weeks of class so that we can make the necessary arrangements. Academic honesty: I fully expect you to follow the Bowdoin College Academic Honor Code. Anytime you are required to turn in individual work I expect that what you turn in will be written solely by you and will be unique from that of your classmates. Students who attempt to pass off the work of others as their own or assist others in doing so will receive zero points for the work and will be subjected to disciplinary action as determined by the college. Please ask if you have any questions about what is and is not acceptable. CBB has put together a guide about avoiding academic misconduct at Additionally, the Bowdoin Library has an online guide for citing sources

Page 3 of 7

properly at SCHEDULE Week 1: Introduction to Sociological Theory Monday 9/5 Welcome and Introductions Wednesday 9/7 Read: Durkheim, . (2011). What is a Social Fact? In P. Kivisto (Ed.), Social Theory: Roots and Branches (pp. 43-48). Weber, M. (2011). Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy. In P. Kivisto (Ed.), Social Theory: Roots and Branches (pp. 68-73).

Week 2: The Historical Origins of Sociology Monday 9/12 Read: Seidman, S. (2008). The Idea of Science of Society: The Enlightenment and Auguste Comte. Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today (pp. 5-15). ISBN: 978-140517001 Marx, Thesis on Feuerbach (Tucker p. 143)

Wednesday 9/14 Read: Martineau, H. (2007) How to Observe Morals and Manners and Society in America In Lengermann, P. M. and Neibrugge, G. (Eds.), Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory 1830-1930 (pp. 46-63)

Analysis Paper 1 Due Week 3: Introduction to Marx Monday 9/19 Read: Marx, Alienation and Social Classes (133-135, Tucker) Marx, Selections from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (70-81 and 93-101, Tucker)

Wednesday 9/21 Read: Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (147-200, Tucker)

Week 4: Marx and the Communist Manifesto Monday 9/26

Page 4 of 7

Read: Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto (469-500, Tucker) Film, 7pm, VAC Beam Room: Marx Reloaded (2011) Wednesday 9/28 Read: Marx, Wage Labor and Capital (203-217, Tucker) Marx, The Coming Upheaval (218-219, Tucker)

Analysis Paper 2 Due Week 5: Introduction to Durkheim Monday 10/3: Read: Durkheim, E. (1979) Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Translated and edited by John A. Spaulding and George Simpson. New York: the Free Press (pp. 1-13. 35-53, 171-173, 179-189, 197-202, 241-257, 321-325, 378-384.)

Wednesday 10/5: Read: Durkheim, Division of Labor, Introduction (Coser) and Preface to the First Edition (xi-xxx), and Introduction (1-8)

Week 6: Durkheim and Labor Monday 10/12 Read: Durkheim, Division of Labor (11-24 end before section III, 31-44 and 60-64, 77-86, 122-123)

Week 7: Durkheim and Labor Monday 10/17 Read: Read: Durkheim, Division of Labor Anomic Division of Labor (291-322) and Another Abnormal Form (323-328) Durkheim, Division of Labor (126-131, 149-154, 162-165, 172-174, 187-195) Wednesday 10/19

Analysis Paper 3 Due Week 8: Introduction to Weber Monday 10/24 Read:

Page 5 of 7

General Introduction (vii-xvii) and Introduction to the Translation (1-49) by Kalberg in Webers The Protestant Ethic

FILM, 7pm, VAC Beam Room: Brazil (1985) Wednesday 10/26 Read: Religious Affiliation and Social Stratification Spirit of Capitalism and Luthers Conception of Calling (61-97) in Webers Protestant Ethic

Week 9: Weber and Work Monday 10/31 Read: The Religious Foundations of This-Worldly Asceticism Selections: 101-123 (stop before section B) and 141-159 in Webers Protestant Ethic

Wednesday 11/2 Read: The Sect, Democracy, Tolerance, Freedom of Conscience, and a Cosmos of Abstract Norms, Bureaucratization, Democracy, and Modern Capitalism, and The Impersonality of the Market and Discipline in the Modern Capitalist Factory (413-430) in Webers Protestant Ethic Kolbert, E. (2004, November 29). Why Work: A hundred years of The Protestant Ethic. The New Yorker, 154.

Analysis Paper 4 Due Week 10: Foucault: The Discursive Turn Monday 11/7 Read: Chapters 5, 6, 7 in Foucaults Power/Knowledge Wednesday 11/9 Read: Chapters 8, 10, 11 and Afterward in Foucaults Power/Knowledge Film, 7pm, Adams 406: W.E.B. Du Bois: A biography in four voices Week 11: Critical Theory: Black Theory Monday 11/14 Read: Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1-54, 167-170, 230-234) Wednesday 11/16 Read: Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (54-104)

Page 6 of 7

Week 12: Critical Theory: Black Theory Monday 11/21 Read: Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (105-164, 263-272) Analysis Paper 5 Due Week 13: Critical Theory: Feminist Theory Monday 11/28 Read: Collins, P. H. (1986). Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought. Social Problems, 33(6), S14-S32. Weber, Marianne Reflections on Women and Womens Issues (Feminist Foundations)

Wednesday 11/30 Read: Sprague, J. (1997). Holy Men and Big Guns: The Can[n]on in Social Theory. Gender & Society, 11(1), 88-1047. Collins, P. H. (1992). Transforming the Inner Circle: Dorothy Smiths Challenge to Sociological Theory. Sociological Theory, 10(1).

Analysis Paper 6 Due Week 14: Conclusions Monday 12/5 Read: Connell, R. W. (1997). Why Is Classical Theory Classical? American Journal of Sociology, 102(6), 15111557.

Wednesday 12/7 Read: Smith, D. Contradictions for Feminist Social Scientists in Writing the Social

Final Exam: 12/16/2011, 2:00pm

Page 7 of 7