510: Theories and Perspectives - Classical Sociological Theory

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1 Department of Sociology, Spring 2009 Instructor: Dan Lainer-Vos, phone: Office Hours: Monday 11:00-13:00, 348E KAP Class: Tuesday 4:00-6:50pm, Sociology Room, KAP (third floor) 510: Theories and Perspectives - Classical Sociological Theory This course provides an introduction to key classical sociological thinking. We will review the writings of Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and a few of their prominent disciples. These thinkers, working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, established sociology as an academic discipline. Living in a period of great economic, political, and social transformation, these thinkers attempted to understand the emerging new social order and the condition of life in modernity. The questions they raised, the problems they identified, and even some of their solutions still shape our understanding of society. The structure of the course follows the different approaches of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. Marx s sociological theory is emancipatory. As such, it claims to speak in the name of certain oppressed groups (in Marx s case this group is the proletariat, but we will examine other examples, such as Marxist Feminist theory). This point of view is not just a matter of moral principle: Marx believed that society is best understood from the point of view of the oppressed. Moreover, he believed that properly understanding this point of view offers a key for social change. The role of sociology, from this perspective, is not just to understand society, but to fundamentally emancipate it from oppression hence their name. Durkheim attempted to establish sociology after the model of positivist natural sciences. Positivist theoreticians, including Durkheim, do not claim to speak in anybody s name. They believe their authority to speak derives from scientific expertise. Instead of linking themselves to different groups, they believed that the best view from which to understand society in from above. Only from this perspective, they believed, can objective sociological knowledge be accumulated. Durkehim did not believe in emancipation. To the extent that he was interested in social change, he sought reform rather than revolution. The role of sociology, from this perspective, is to positively apply scientific method toward discovering and describing the rules that govern societies hence the term positivism. Weber s sociological approach breaks away from both emancipatory and positivist thought. Weber s perspective can be described as critical theory. Unlike emanicipatory theoreticians, Weber does not claim to speak on behalf of any oppressed social group but he does not adopt the positivist point of view from above either. In fact, Weber and other critical theoreticians doubt the very possibility of an objective representation of society. They do not believe in neither emancipation (which they characterize as a dream which turned into a nightmare), nor in reform (which they characterize as the pragmatism of the 1

2 mouse on the turning wheel). Disillusioned with the promise of emancipation and positivism, Weber is deeply ambivalent about the role of sociological theory. This overly schematic description of the three main sociological approaches that will be studied in class hides more than reveals. What is society? What is it made of? What is the dominant relations in society? And how should societies be studied? During the semester, we will try to understand Marx, Durkheim and Weber s answers to these questions. Course Requirements and grading There will be a midterm and final writing assignments. The mid-term assignment will be worth 40% of your grade and the final assignment exam will be worth 50% of your grade. The remaining 10% will be awarded on the basis of class attendance and participation. You must show up to class in a timely fashion, and having already read the materials assigned for that week. Please make sure to use my office hours. The material covered in this class is not easy and is often more complex than it seems at first reading. If you have problems attending my office hours, we can schedule an alternative time to meet via . Readings: There are 5 books required for the course. 1) Robert C. Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972); 2) Émile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society. (N.Y.: The Free Press, 1984 [1893]); 3) Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York, The Free Press, 1912); 4) Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (N.Y.: Charles Scribnher s Sons, 1958 [1904-5]); 5) Gert, H.H. and C. Wright Mills (Eds.) From Max Weber (Oxford, 1991). Readings that are not in these books (marked with an asterisk in the syllabus) will be available online (blackboard). Course Outline and Readings Week 1+2 (August 25, September 1): Introduction (Sharon Hays) Part I. Emancipatory Theory: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Marxist feminism Week 3 (September 8): The materialist conception of history 1) Contribution to the Critique of Hegel s Philosophy of Right: Introduction, M-E, pp ) Theses on Feuerbach, M-E, pp ) The German Ideology, M-E, pp (from The premises from which we begin until Communism ). 4) Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, M-E, pp

3 Week 4 (September 15): The theory of alienation 1) Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, M-E, pp ) The Holy Family, Alienation and Social Classes, M-E, pp Week 5 (September 22): The theory of exploitation and the dynamic of capitalism 1) Wage Labour and Capital, M-E, pp ) Capital Vol. 1, Chs. 1, 6, 7, 10: Commodities, The Buying and Selling of Labor Power, The Labor Process and the Process of Producing Surplus Value, The Working Day, M-E, pp , ) Capital Vol. 1, Chs. 26, 27, 31, 32: The so-called Primitive Accumulation, Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land, Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist, Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation. M-E, pp Week 6 (September 29): Classes and State 1) The Communist Manifesto, M-E, pp ) Capital Vol.3, Classes, M-E, pp ) The Eighteen Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, ) Critique of the Gotha Program, M-E, pp Mid-term assignment will be distributed in class Week 7 (October 6) The problem of women 1) Engles, Friedrich. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, M-E, pp ) Heidi Hartmann, The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, pp. 1-42, in Women and the Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism, edited by Lydia Sargent. Boston: South End Press.* 3) MacKinnon, Catherine, A Desire and Power: A Feminist Perspective, pp , in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana and Chicago: the University of Illinois Press.* 4) Rubin, Gayle the Trafic of Women: Notes on the Political Economy of Sex, pp , in Renya Reiter (Ed.) Toward and Anthropology of Women, Monthly Review Press.* Mid-term assignment is due in class. 3

4 Part II. Positivist Theory: Émile Durkheim and (not quite positivist) Erving Goffman Week 8 (October 13): The study of social facts and the problem of solidarity 1) What is a Social Fact, pp in The Rules of Sociological Method.* 2) Book I: The Method of Determining this Function pp in The Division of Labor in Society. 3) Book III: The Abnormal Forms, pp in The Division of Labor in Society. 4) Preface to the Second Edition, pp. xxxi-lix. Week 9 (October 20): Collective Representations 1) Introduction, Definitions of Religious Phenomena and of Religion, pp in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. 2) Book 3: The Principle of Ritual Attitudes, Conclusion, pp , , in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Week 10 (October 27): The Cult of Individual and The Self as a Sacred Object 1) Anomic Suicide pp , in Suicide.* 2) The Dualism of Human Nature and its Social Conditions, pp in Essays on Sociology and Philosophy, edited by Kurt H. Wolff. Harper Torchbooks, 1960.* *3) Individualism and the intellectuals pp in Emile Durkheim On Morality and Society.* 4) Erving Goffman, Supportive Interchange, Remedial Interchange, pp in Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. Harper Colophon Books, 1971.* Part II. Critical Theory: Max Weber Week 11 (November 3): Ethical Philosophy, Science and Politics 1) Politics as a Vocation, pp , in From Max Weber, edited by 2) Science as a Vocation, pp , in From Max Weber, edited by 3) Objectivity, pp in The Methodology of the Social Sciences, edited by Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch. Free Press, 1964.* Week 12 (November 10): Rationalization and disenchantment 4

5 1) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp , pp ) The Definition of Sociology and of Social Action, Types of Social Action, pp. 4-26, in Economy and Society, Vol. 1.* Week 13 (November 17): Class and Rank 1) Status Groups and Classes, pp , in Economy and Society, Vol. 1.* 2) Ethnic Groups, pp , in Economy and Society, Vol. 1.* 3) Class, Status, Party, pp , in From Max Weber, edited by 4) Capitalism and Rural Society in Germany, pp , in From Max Weber, edited by Week 14 (November 24): Week 15 (December 1): Thanksgiving No Class Domination and bureaucracy 1) The types of legitimate domination, pp , in Economy and Society vol. 1.* 2) Religious Groups (Sociology of Religion), pp , , , in Economy and Society vol. 1.* 3) Bureaucracy, pp in From Max Weber.* Final assignment is distributed in class Week 16 (December 8): No Class Final Assignment is due 5

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