Sociology 311: Contemporary Sociological Theory

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Pierre Bourdieu
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Tai chi
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George Herbert Mead
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John A. Macdonald
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Sociology 311: Contemporary Sociological Theory
Winter 2014
Stan Knapp
2041 JFSB
Phone: 422-3590
Office Hours: 3:00-4:00 MW
Email address: [email protected]
Diana Brown
Email address: [email protected]
Office Hours:
Course Objectives
Course objectives center on the four primary aims of a BYU Education: a) spiritually
strengthening, b) intellectually enlarging, c) character building, and d) lifelong learning and
service (Aims of a BYU Education, 1995). Both teacher and students should expect to teach and
learn with/by the Spirit throughout the course and while religion will not be discussed constantly
in class both teacher and student should teach and study the “subject matter bathed in the light
and color of the restored gospel.” Intellectual mastery of essential sociological theory is required
and will be the result of both the teacher’s and the students’ “ambitious commitment ... to
rigorously study academic subjects in the light of divine truth.” Both course instruction and
student independent study should seek to produce students “capable of competing with the best
students in their field.” Course materials, discussion, and assignments are also aimed at helping
students develop strong academic skills, including sound reasoning abilities (including the ability
to discriminate “things that matter most from things of lesser import” and “the ability to engage
successfully in logical reasoning, critical analysis, moral discrimination, creative imagination,
and independent thought”) and the ability to communicate effectively (including the ability to
“articulate honestly and thoughtfully their commitments to Christ and to his Church”). Course
instruction will also aim to build strong character and the desire to continue lifelong learning and
service (All quotations from Aims of a BYU Education, 1995).
Course Learning Outcomes
 Students will know the basic ideas and arguments that inform contemporary sociological
inquiry, especially the philosophical foundations, some basic features of philosophy of
social science, and the development of classical theory.
 Students will become conversant with the conceptual and philosophical foundations of
the major theoretical perspectives of sociology.
 Students will be able to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of each theoretical
Appelrouth, Scott and Laura Desfor Edles. 2012. Classical and Contemporary Sociological
Theory: Text and Readings. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Hughes, John A. and W.W. Sharrock. 2007. Theory and Methods in Sociology: An Introduction
to Sociological Thinking and Practice. New York: Palgrave.
Articles available through BYU Course Electronic Reserve (password: kna311)
Final grades will be based on three exams (100 pts. each), regular reading assessments
(100 pts.), a writing-to-learn portfolio (75 pts.) and course participation (40 pts.). Final grade
distribution will be based on percentage of total points earned (A= 93%; A- = 90%-92%; B+ =
87% - 89%; etc.)
Exams will be given in the testing center and will focus on the material covered since the
last exam. The final exam will cover material since the last exam and may include several
comprehensive essay questions. Exams may consist of multiple-choice, matching, definitions,
true-false with justification, short answer, and essay questions. Essay answers will be evaluated
in terms of the depth of analysis offered, the comprehensiveness of the answer, and the clarity of
understanding shown. Standards will be such that without keeping up with the reading, regular
attendance and participation, students will not receive high marks. Exams cannot be made up
unless the student has discussed their situation with me before the exam is given. Exams
will be given as noted in the course outline and any changes will be announced at least two class
periods in advance of the exam.
Course Participation
Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged
assignments, and spitting out answers. Learning is not a spectator sport. Students must talk
about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their
daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. (Chickering and Gamson, Seven
Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education)
Theory is all about ideas. Learning sociological theory requires learning to “think
sociologically.” This course aims to help students to learn to think sociologically through
reading sociological theory, class and study group discussion on theoretical issues, and writing
about ideas. Learning to think requires more than just reading about ideas. It also requires
critical questioning and engaging in a dialogue with others about ideas. Dialogue is encouraged
through general class participation and through study group participation.
General Class Participation: For each meeting I will prepare some lecture material for
presentation to the class and will take the lead asking questions to both probe your understanding
of the assigned reading and stimulate group discussion. General participation in such discussions
is required and will be a part of your final grade. The most important way for students to
participate is through reading the material beforehand, asking questions about it, and being
prepared to answer questions about it. Other ways to participate will include providing
additional examples of concepts or ideas discussed in class, discussing ways in which the ideas
either do or do not make sense to you, challenging/critically examining the presentation of the
concepts in your assigned readings, etc. Familiarity with the assigned reading is essential for
constructive participation and understanding of the course material.
Study Group Participation: Participation in a study group is required and 5 pts. for each
section of the course will be assigned for active participation in a study group. Active
participation in a study group requires meeting and discussing course material for at least one
hour each meeting. Active participation also means meeting at least twice each exam period,
coming to each meeting having read the material, and preparing handouts to assist other members
of the study group. Handouts may consist of summary answers to questions from the study
guide, outlines of chapters, definitions and examples of key concepts in a chapter, matching lists
of authors and book titles, etc. I encourage cooperative work and dividing up responsibilities
amongst the members of the group. Evaluation of study group participation will be made after
each exam period with each individual reporting what they and other members of their group did.
Reading Theory and Reading Assessment
Doing well in a theory course requires that students do the assigned reading before
coming to class. Typically there is a lot of reading assigned in theory courses. Learning how to
read well is important in becoming a competent sociologist but it is absolutely critical in
becoming proficient in sociological theory. Although some readings may be more challenging
than others, all of the readings have been selected because of their capacity to facilitate student
learning and understanding independent of class discussion. With proper effort each student
should be able to access the assigned readings and come to class prepared to ask questions and
discuss the ideas presented. All of the readings, however, require active, engaged reading rather
than passive reading. For best results, I recommend that you NOT plan on reading in front of the
television, reading while listening to your favorite music, reading late at night when you are tired,
reading in a comfortable chair that will easily put you to sleep, or just reading with a highlighter
and passively marking sentences as you go. Instead, read at a desk, read with a pen that you can
write in the margins and write notes with, or read at a computer in which you can enter your
reading notes. Reading theory is often difficult and demanding work but it is also the most
important work of the course. You must learn to do it well!
For some of the more difficult readings, a study guide has been prepared to assist students
in their attempts to understand the assigned reading. Be sure to make a copy of the study guide
and use it as you work your way through the reading material. The study guides will also help
prepare you for the reading assessments.
To encourage completion of assigned readings prior to class there will be a reading
assessment or reading quiz for each assigned reading that students will be required to complete
prior to attending class. The reading assessment will be posted on Learning Suite and will be
required to be completed at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of each class period. The
reading assessment will be open book and will typically consist of multiple-choice questions.
The questions will be designed such that only those students who have read the assigned material
will be able to do well on the quiz. Although the quiz is open book, students are expected to
complete the quiz individually without the assistance of other students. All of the reading
assessments for the course are worth 100 pts. or 1/5 of the total course grade. To compute the
points earned we will take the percentage of reading assessment points earned and translate it
into points toward the final grade (i.e., if you earn 89% of the reading quiz points then you will
get 89 points toward your final grade).
Writing-to-Learn Portfolio
Learning to think sociologically also requires writing about sociological ideas. In order to
facilitate learning sociological ideas and ways of thinking each student will be required to
construct a portfolio of informal writing about the ideas discussed in the course. For each week
of the semester students will be required to write at least one entry of at least two pages (doublespaced) minimum. I encourage you to write with a computer but entries may be handwritten (if
legible) as well. These writing assignments are aimed to assist students to learn the course
material and to think critically about it. Therefore, all entries must be written specifically for this
course. No material previously written for another course may be used as a portfolio entry. Most
entries will require students to decide what and how they want to write. However, periodically
throughout the course I may provide directed writing assignments to be added to the portfolio.
Evaluation: Formal evaluation will take place during the class period prior to an exam.
Portfolios will be turned in and each student will read, evaluate and give suggestions for
improvement on two portfolios. Evaluating two portfolios is required to earn full credit. The
portfolio will be worth 25 pts. for each section of the course.
Criteria for Evaluation: 1) Consistency of writing (One entry each week=A); 2) Total
length of entries (2 pages per week=A); and 3) Quality of entries.
Format: Each entry must include a title and begin on a new page. Each entry must
include the day of week and full date the entry was written. Again, the date indicates the day the
entry was completed (not started, not mostly written, but actually finished). Each entry must be a
minimum of at least two pages double-spaced, normal 12 point font with normal headings and
Quality of Writing: Quality will be determined based on an assessment of the effort put
into the entries, the extent of critical thinking exemplified, originality and creativeness, and basic
features of good writing. High marks are reserved for those portfolios showing evidence of
thinking. Entries that are nothing more than summaries of class lectures or course readings are
not acceptable! You must show your own thinking about the ideas in your writing. Finally,
portfolio entries should demonstrate critical thinking about the ideas and not your personal
feelings or reaction to course material. Avoid subjectivizing your writing. In other words, your
writing should be less about you and more about the ideas. They should be written in such a way
that you could imagine someone disagreeing with you. For example, if I write something like, “I
really like how Marx characterizes the alienation of modern life.” Then, someone can’t come
along and say, “I disagree. I don’t think you like Marx.” If your entry is about you, then it is not
demonstrating critical thinking. If, however, you were to say, “I think Marx’s description of
alienation in modern life is very insightful because…” and then proceed to give reasons for why
you think Marx is on to something, then someone could disagree with you.
Style: Normally the audience should be another student in the class, but the audience may
also be yourself, the instructor, a friend or parent, the general public, etc. Writing style should be
informal but not sloppy. This means that you should not spend an inordinate amount of time
preparing a perfect essay with a thesis statement, introduction, body and conclusion. The entries
are working drafts of your ideas on paper, not finished essays. Your entries should, however, be
easily accessible to the reader (generally another student) with a clear presentation of your train
of thought. Spelling, grammar, and clarity of writing are important but not as important as they
would be for a formal writing assignment. (I recommend sitting down at a computer and just
writing without worrying about writing style, format, and so forth. After you’ve finished writing,
reread with the idea of assessing how clear your writing has been. Make any necessary changes
and move on.)
Ideas for Writing to Learn Portfolio
1) Take a key concept or sociological theory and write about how it relates to the gospel. In what ways do
the gospel and the sociological ideas relate? Do the gospel and sociology converge into similar ideas? Or
are they divergent in key places? What does the gospel have to offer sociologists on this issue? What does
sociology have to offer disciples of Christ on this issue?
2) Take issue with some idea in the reading or course discussion. Show understanding of the idea and then
show how you disagree.
3) Take an idea or set of ideas presented in the course material and apply it to society, a social institution,
your own personal life, or something else. How does this idea help to make sense of the world around us?
How does it increase our understanding?
4) Take an idea or set of ideas presented in the course material and apply it to society, a social institution,
your own personal life, or something else. What are the implications of this idea for how we live our lives?
Does this idea help us know how we should organize our society, social institutions, etc.? What are things
we should change to make society better?
5) What should be the role of sociology in the world today? Do you agree with a theorist’s understanding
of what sociology should be and what it should do? What will (or should) sociology be like in the 21st
century? What will be (or should be) the role of sociologists (social scientists) in the 21st century?
6) Speculate on where you think society (or some aspect of society) is heading. What will it be like in the
21st century? Do the sociological ideas you are learning today help make sense of what life will be like in
the near future? Do they help explain why society is changing in the way that it is?
7) Take a key concept and write to a fellow student that is having trouble understanding it. Try to define
and explain the concept to them. Provide an example or two that will help to facilitate their understanding
of the concept.
8) Describe how the various ideas of the course relate to one another. Connect ideas presented in one part
of the course with ideas presented in another part. How are these ideas central to how sociologists
understand the world?
9) Write an essay response to a study guide question(s). What are your thoughts on the issue? Do you
agree or disagree with the author? Why?
10) Take some current event in the news and discuss how it relates to some feature of the course. How do
sociological ideas you are learning in the course shed light on this issue? What do you think?
11) Compare and/or contrast the ideas from the course material with ideas learned in other classes. Do
they agree with one another? How are they different? Do the other courses provide examples of the ideas
learned in the course material? Do the ideas in this course provide a basis to critique the ideas learned in
another course?
12) Take a topic (such as family, sports, politics, BYU, whatever) and examine how it appears from the
perspective of a particular sociological theory. Contrast that with another theoretical perspective. Which
do you think is best? Why?
13) Any other ideas you can think of that show some creativity, taking the ideas and issues seriously
(although you could also write something that pokes fun at sociology and tries to be humorous), critical
thinking, and so forth.
Statement on Academic Honesty, Plagiarism, Sexual Discrimination, and Disabilities
Academic Honesty
BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work
and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms,
including plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct. Students are responsible
not only to adhere to the Honor Code requirement to be honest but also to assist other students in fulfilling their
commitment to be honest. See complete statement on academic honesty at
While all students sign the honor code, there are still specific skills most students need to master over time in order
to correctly cite sources, especially in this new age of the internet; as well as deal with the stress and strain of college
life without resorting to cheating. Please know that as your professor I will notice instances of cheating on exams or
plagiarizing on papers. See for specific examples of intentional, inadvertent
plagiarism, and fabrication, falsification.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational
program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title
IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s
policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the University but to students as well. If you
encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the
Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.
Students with Disabilities
Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that reasonably
accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability that may impair your ability to complete
this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (422-2767). Reasonable academic
accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated
with the student and instructor by the UAC. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully
discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and
procedures. You may contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895, D-282 ASB.
Sociology 311: Contemporary Sociological Theory
Course Schedule
Week 1 January 6
Topics: Intro to Course
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 1
Jan. 8
Topics: The Positivist Project
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 2 & pp. 34-38
Week 2 Jan. 13
Topic: Positivistic Science & Sociology
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, pp. 38-43
Williams, “Language & Method in Science” (ECR)
Jan. 15
Topics: Building a Science of Sociology
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, pp. 44-61
Appelrouth, pp. 2-3
Week 3 Jan. 20
Jan. 22
Topics: Theory & Variable Analysis
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 4
Week 4 Jan. 27
Topics: Theory & Constructing Data
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 5
Jan. 29
Topics: Positivism & Contemporary Sociology
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 7
Week 5 Feb. 3
Topics: Theory & Interpretation
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 8
Feb. 5
Topics: Positivism & Interpretive Sociology
Assigned Reading:
Scott Harris, “What Can Interactionism Contribute to the Study of Inequality?”
(Download from BYU Library Catalog, Symbolic Interaction, 24: 2001, pp. 455-480)
Feb. 5 by midnight
PORTFOLIOS DUE (On Learning Suite/Digital Dialog)
(4 entries due; 8+ total pages)
EXAM # 1 (Testing Center: Feb. 6-8)
Week 6 Feb. 10
Portfolio Evaluations Due
Topics: Exchange Theory; George Homans
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 414-428
Feb. 12
Topics: Pragmatism; George Herbert Mead
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 289-307
Blumer Quotes (Learning Suite)
Week 7 Feb. 17
Feb. 18 (Tuesday Class)
Topics: George Herbert Mead
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 307-321
Feb. 19
Topics: Theory & Interpretive Research
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 9
Week 8 Feb. 24
Topics: Phenomenology
Assigned Reading:
Crotty, Phenomenology, pp. 78-86 (ECR)
Ihde, “Illusions and Multi-Stable Phenomena” (ECR)
Feb. 26
Topics: Existential Phenomenology & Goffman
Assigned Reading:
Stanley Raffel, “If Goffman Had Read Levinas,” pp. 179-192
(Download from BYU Library Catalog: Journal of Classical Sociology, 2: July 2002, pp. 179202)
Appelrouth, pp. 479-492
Week 9 Mar. 3
Topics: Erving Goffman
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 467-79
Mar. 5
Topics: Ethical Phenomenology & Emmanuel Levinas
Assigned Reading:
Kunz, “Alternative Paradigm” (ECR)
Levinas Quotes (Learning Suite)
Week 10 Mar. 10
Topics: Levinas & Goffman; What is Sociology For?
Assigned Reading:
Raffel, pp. 192-201
Hughes, pp. 235-241
Mar. 12
Topic: Agency & Structure; Member & Analyst
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, pp. 241-256
Mar. 12 by midnight
PORTFOLIOS DUE (On Learning Suite/Digital Dialog)
(4 entries due; 8+ total pages)
EXAM # 2 (Testing Center: Mar. 13-15)
Week 11 Mar. 17
Portfolio Evaluations Due
Topics: Critical Theory: Expertise and the Market
Assigned Reading:
Bauman, “The Business in Everyday Life” (ECR)
Hughes, pp. 279-285
Mar. 19
Topics: Critical Theory: Horkheimer & Adorno
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 376-404
Week 12 Mar. 24
Topics: Critical Theory: Jürgen Habermas
Assigned Reading:
Giddens on Habermas (ECR)
Appelrouth, pp. 685-694
Mar. 26
Topics: Pierre Bourdieu
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 652-664
Week 13 Mar. 31
Topics: Pierre Bourdieu
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 676-684
Apr. 2
Topics: Poststructuralism; Postmodernism; Michel Foucault
Assigned Reading:
Appelrouth, pp. 606-621
Foucault Quotes (Learning Suite)
Week 14 Apr. 7
Topics: Michel Foucault
Assigned Reading:
Shumway on Foucault (ECR)
Appelrouth, pp. 622-636
Apr. 9
Topics: Poststructuralism & Postmodernism
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 13
Hughes, pp. 325-333, 340-343
Week 15 Apr. 14
Topics: Sociology Today; Critical Theorizing
Assigned Reading:
Hughes, Chap. 15
Knapp, “Critical Theorizing” (Download from BYU Library Catalog: Journal of Family
Theory & Review, September, 2009)
Apr. 15 by midnight
PORTFOLIOS DUE (On Learning Suite/Digital Dialog)
(4 entries due; 8+ total pages)
FINAL EXAM (In class)
Saturday, Apr. 19: 5:45-7:45 p.m.

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