Sociology 201
Contemporary Social Theory
Spring 2003

Professor Thomas Cushman
Pendleton East 334
Office Hours: Monday, 10- 12, Thursday, 3-5 

This course examines major social theories, with an emphasis on theories of modernity and postmodernity. A central concern of the classical sociological theorists such as Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, and Weber was to explore the social and cultural consequences of the transition from traditional to modern societies. We will revisit these theoristsí views on modernity and examine contemporary theories which continue their project. In recent years, disciplinary boundaries have become more fluid and sociology has become more open to thinkers in other fields such as philosophy and literary theory. We will examine these interdisciplinary efforts as well. There are three basic objectives for the class: to help you develop the capacity to read and "unpack" complex theoretical texts, to develop a vocabulary of key analytical concepts, and to develop the capacity to use these concepts to interpret social and cultural phenomena.

Course Readings

The following books are required and can be purchased at the bookstore.

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom
Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization
Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust
Anthony Giddens., The Consequences of Modernity
Jean Baudrillard, America

A number of articles are on e-reserve and are indicated as such in the course schedule 

Course Requirements and Assignments

Attendance and participation is required of all students and will factor into the grade. Students who miss four or more classes will receive no credit for the attendance and participation part of their grade. All students are required to do short weekly assignments. These are to be turned in after class each week as evidence of attendance. They are not to be emailed to me and they will not be accepted late.

There will be two 6-8 page essays on topics to be provided, a take home mid-term examination, and a take-home final examination. No late papers or examinations will be accepted, unless by previous arrangement. This is a firm policy.

Students are responsible for all reading and lecture material on exams. Papers and exams will be graded rigorously according to the highest professional standards and according to the official grade scale as put forth in College Legislation. Grammar and writing style are considered in the determination of grades on papers.

Course Schedule


I. Continuing the Classical Tradition: Marx, Durkheim, and Weber as theorists of modernity
Max Weber, "Excursus on Markets," in Economy and Society ®
Edward Tiryakian, "Dialectics of Modernity: Reenchantment and Dedifferentiation as Counterprocesses." Pp. 78-94 in Haferkampf and Smelser, eds. Social Change and Modernity. ®

II. Georg Simmel
Georg Simmel, "The Metropolis and Mental Life" and "The Conflict in Modern Culture," in Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms ®
Georg Simmel, "Female Culture" in Georg Simmel: On Women, Sexuality, and Love. Guy Oakes, ed. ®

III. Sigmund Freud
Civilization and Its Discontents, in entirety 

IV. Frankfurt School of Critical Theory
Dodd, Chapter 3
Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, Aspects of Sociology, "The Masses" and "Culture and Civilization." ®
Herbert Marcuse, "Liberation from the Affluent Society" in Critical Theory and Society: A Reader. Stephen Bronner and Douglas Kellner, eds. ®
Theodor Adorno and Marx Horkheimer, "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" ®

V. Erich Fromm
Escape from Freedom, in entirety 

VI. Erving Goffman
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, in entirety

VII. Anthony Giddens
The Consequences of Modernity, in entirety

VIII. Zygmunt Bauman, I
Modernity and the Holocaust, in entirety

IX. Zygmunt Bauman, II
Globalization, in entirety

X. Postmodern Social Theory (Siedman, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Richard Rorty)
Jean Baudrillard, America, in entirety
Other articles, T.B.A.