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BOSTON COLLEGE
Instructor: Eve Spangler
Sociological Theory (SC215)
402 McGuinn
Spring, 2012
Ext. 2-4146
Class Meetings: Tuesday, Thursday: 10:30 – 11:45 a.m., Carney 202
Office Hours: Thursday: 3:00 – 4:00 p.m., Wednesday: 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
and by appointment
Sociology 215 is designed to introduce students to three of the major figures in the
development of the social sciences: Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Together,
these writers have established the groundwork for most of our present ideas of how social order,
particularly the modern social order, is possible. We are also indebted to them for many of the
fundamental strategies we use in studying society. The works of these authors will be examined
from both a chronological and a thematic perspective. The bulk of the assigned readings consist
of primary sources. Recent research based on the theoretical and methodological insights
provided by Marx, Weber, and Durkheim will also be discussed.
SECTION I: KARL MARX
January 17 – February 21
Section I is devoted to the work of Karl Marx. The "discovery of society" -- which is the
theme of the course as well as the textbook title -- begins with Marx's recognition of the
systemic, interrelated character of the major institutions of society. Marx saw, moreover, that
while society's institutions formed a system, their "fit" with one another was far from perfect -and that the internal contradictions of society provided a source of social change. Finally, Marx's
analysis provides a moral critique (immiserization, alienation) of capitalist society.
Required Readings
Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky. The Discovery of Society. (Random House, 8th
edition), Introduction, Chapters 1, 2, 5, 11,15, 16.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, "The German Ideology, Part I," "The Manifesto of the
Communist Party," Wage Labour and Capital," and "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis
Bonaparte," in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (Norton, 1978).
Recommended Readings
Robert C. Tucker. The Marxian Revolutionary Idea (Norton, 1969), Chapter 1.
Thomas B. Bottomore. Karl Marx (Prentice Hall), Introduction.
Peter Worsley. Marx and the Marxists (Tavistock, 1981).
BOSTON COLLEGE
Sociological Theory (SC215)
Spring, 2012
Examinations
First take-home exam, drawn from the study questions, will be collected on:
Tuesday, February 21
SECTION II: MAX WEBER
February 23 – April 3
This section begins with Weber's comparative study of the major world religions. It is here
that Weber's work most closely approximates "an argument with the ghost of Marx." Weber's
sociology of religion poses three major problems: to describe the elective affinity which exists
between the experiences of a religious community and their belief systems; to identify the social
and economic consequences of theological beliefs; and to describe the transmutation of the
religion developed by the "adepts" into the daily practice of the lay community. Embedded in
Weber's sociology of religion is the notion of the controlled comparison -- a starting point for
examining Weber's contribution to the methodology of the social sciences.
Weber's
methodological concerns, expressed in his development of "ideal types," are traced through his
work on social inequality. This section closes with a review of Weber's political and ethical
commitments.
Required Reading
Collins and Makowsky, Chapters 4, 7 – 10.
Max Weber. "Introduction," "The Social Psychology of the World Religions," "The
Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism," "Class, Status, and Party," "Science as a
Vocation," "Politics as a Vocation," in Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds). From Max Weber.
(Oxford).
Recommended Readings
Dennis Wrong (ed.) Max Weber. (Prentice Hall, 1970), Selections by Loewith, Leuthy,
Antoni, Blau, Roth.
Alvin Gouldner. "Anti-Minotaur: The Myth of Value Free Sociology," (1962), on-line
reserves.
Frank Parkin. Max Weber . (Tavistock, 1981).
Henry Adams. The Education of Henry Adams (Houghton Mifflin, 1918), Chapter 25: The
Virgin and the Dynamo.
BOSTON COLLEGE
Sociological Theory (SC215)
Spring, 2012
Examinations
The second exam, drawn from the study questions, will be collected on:
Tuesday, April 3
SECTION III: EMILE DURKHEIM
April 10 – May 3
Emile Durkheim's work completes our discovery of the social system. Like Marx,
Durkheim accorded great importance of the division of labor as a source of social development.
Like Weber, he assigns crucial importance to religious practices in maintaining social solidarity.
Durkheim's work also represents a model of theoretical and methodological procedures that
remains current. Lastly, Durkheim's analysis of the political possibilities of mass societies is
tinged by both the optimism of Marx and the pessimism of Weber.
Required Readings:
Collins and Makowsky, Chapters 3, 6,12, 13, 14.
Emile Durkheim. Suicide. (Free Press), Introductory materials, Book 3.
Emile Durkheim. The Division of Labor in Society. (Free Press) Introductory Materials,
Book 1, Chapters 1-3, Conclusion.
Recommended Readings
Robert A. Nisbet. Emile Durkheim. (Prentice Hall, 1965), Introductory essay by Nisbet.
John Horton "Order and Conflict Theories of Social Problems," on-line reserves.
Peter L. Berger. The Sacred Canopy . (Doubleday, 1967), Chapter 4.
K. Thompson. Durkheim. (Tavistock, 1981).
Examinations
The third exam, will be cumulative and serve as the course final. It, like the previous two
exams, is drawn from the study questions. The final exam will be due during the finals
period regularly scheduled for this class.
BOSTON COLLEGE
Sociological Theory (SC215)
Spring, 2012
ACADEMIC INTEGRITY
Academic integrity is a standard of utmost importance in this class.
academic integrity in written work are posted on the BC website at:
Guidelines for
www.bc.edu/ integrity
If you have any questions pertaining to the academic integrity guidelines, please come and
talk with me or with the teaching assistant. If you are caught violating BC policies on academic
integrity, you will receive a failing grade for the assignment and the appropriate Dean will be
notified in accordance with the rules set forth by the university.
REQUIREMENTS
The course is designed to permit ample time for both lectures and discussions. Students
will be expected to participate in classroom discussions and to complete three take-home exams.
NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED UNLESS PRIOR ARRANGEMENTS HAVE
BEEN MADE -- there will be no after-the-fact extensions. Attendance is required. Final
grades will be computed to reflect four components: 1/4 for each of the three exams, 1/4 for class
participation.
The assigned books are available at the college book store.
Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky. The Discovery of Society. 8th edition. McGraw
Hill, 2009.
Robert C. Tucker (ed). The Marx-Engels Reader. Norton, 1978.
Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds.) From Max Weber. Oxford University Press: 1958.
Emile Durkheim. Suicide. Free Press, 1951.
Emile Durkheim. The Division of Labour in Society. Free Press, 1933
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