Soc 611

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Prof. Jackie Orr
Maxwell 310C
[email protected]
Office hours:
Wed., 2-4 pm
443-5758 (o)
SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
SOC 611
FALL 2015
The Sandman: Overture #2 (Gaiman/Williams, 2014)
This course is both an advanced introduction to animating concepts and questions in sociological
theory, and a selective intellectual history that situates theories of society within specific cultural,
political, and economic contexts. Both these aims constitute impossible tasks for a single semester’s
syllabus. So this course is a necessarily limited and incomplete attempt to be broad-ranging and
comprehensive. Our primary focus is limited to the works of European and North American authors
over the last 150 years.
Questions we will bring to the readings include: What role do ‘science’ and ‘objectivity’ play in the
theoretical imagination of sociologists? What theoretical stories are told about the relations
between individual experience/agency, and broader social structures or collective forces? How is
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power theorized? How does the theory address (or ignore) structured differences re: gender, race,
ethnicity, class, sexuality, or nationality? How are such differences theorized in relation to structures of
power or the production of knowledges? What are the epistemological assumptions of the theory: what
gets to count as 'real,' 'true' or 'valuable' knowledge, and why? What aspects of the social world does
the theory make central and visible, and what aspects does it exclude, erase or render invisible?
Finally, how can intimate contact with this intellectual history and these theoretical concerns influence
our own practices of research and sociological storytelling? How do we begin to name the political and
economic, cultural and historical, biographical and embodied contexts shaping our own theoretical
desires and practices?
Course requirements:
This is a graduate-level seminar, and each student is expected to engage in a sustained, serious way with
all assigned readings, and to actively prepare for and participate in seminar discussions each week.
Students will write five 5-page analytic reaction papers during the semester, and one 10-12 page essay
at semester’s end. Each of the five short papers will focus on one week’s readings, and is due at the
beginning of class on the day we will discuss those readings. No late papers will be accepted. For
sociology Ph.D. students, at least two of the five essays must be written on the early “classical” theorists
(Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Freud, and Gilman/DuBois). All students must turn in their first essay no later
than October 6. Specific essay guidelines will be provided.
The final 10-12 page essay will be an expansion of one of the earlier five essays. A more complete set of
guidelines for the final essay will be handed out in class.
Books:
The following required texts are available at the Student Bookstore, Schine Student Center:

W.E.B. DuBois. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

Emile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Trans. by Karen E. Fields. New York, The
Free Press, 1995.

Michel Foucault. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1979 [2nd
ed. 1995].

Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: The Feminist Press, 1973.

Michael Omi and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the
1980s. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today. 5th ed. Cambridge, MA: WileyBlackwell, 2013.

Robert C. Tucker., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
1978.
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
Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. by Talcott Parsons. New
York: Routledge, 2002.
Course Reader: A required course reader is available for purchase at Copy Center in Marshall Square
Mall (Phone: 472-0546). Please ask for reader #1008. All articles in the course reader are marked in the
syllabus with an [R]. A small number of articles in the first weeks of the course will be available only on
Blackboard; they are marked in the syllabus with a [BB]. Please print out all Blackboard articles and bring
with you to class.
Blackboard: Starting with the week of October 27, all course articles (not including reading assignments
in the required books) will be available on Blackboard. These readings are marked in the syllabus with
[BB].
Plagiarism & Academic Integrity
Plagiarism in this course will be treated as a severe trespass of the honesty, labor, and commitment
required of graduate students in their academic work. It is a basic expectation that all the written
work you hand in for this class is written by you, and that all sources and supporting materials are
clearly and accurately cited. Plagiarized work will receive a failing grade, and anyone who plagiarizes
risks failing the course, with a final grade that identifies the failure as due to plagiarism. You are
responsible for knowing SU’s Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures, see:
http://academicintegrity.syr.edu/academic-integrity-policy/
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September 1
Openings
September 8
Why Theory?
I want to propose low theory, or theoretical knowledge that works at many
levels at once, as precisely one of these modes of transmission that revels
in the detours, twists, and turns through knowing and confusion, and that
seeks not to explain but to involve. (Halberstam, 15)
C. Wright Mills. “The Promise” in The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University
Press, 1959, pp. 1-24 [R].
Barbara Christian. “The Race for Theory,” Cultural Critique, no. 6 (Spring 1987), pp. 51-63 [R].
Charles Lemert. “Social Theory: Its Uses and Pleasures” in Lemert, ed., Social Theory: The
Multicultural and Classic Readings. 4th ed. Westview Press, 2010, pp. 1-20 [R].
Raewyn Connell. “Empire and the Creation of a Social Science,” and “The Silence of the Land,”
Chs. 1 & 9 in Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science.
Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2007, pp. 3-25, 195-209 [R].
Judith Halberstam, “Low Theory,” Ch. 1 in The Queer Art of Failure, Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2011, pp. 6-25. [R]
Steven Seidman, “Afterword” in Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today, 5th ed., pp. 342344.
I.
DISCIPLINARY FATHERS AND MODERN FOUNDATIONS
September 15
Reading Marx
The crucial point is not to reach agreement on what Marx wrote, but to
prolong the question that he created, that of this capitalism whose hold it is
a matter of combating. (Pignarre & Stengers, 12)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 22-35.
Karl Marx. “Theses on Feuerbach” in Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 143-145.
Karl Marx. “Manifesto of the Communist Party” in Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 473-491.
Louis Althusser. “Preface to Capital Volume One” in Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1971, pp. 71-81 [R].
Karl Marx. Capital, Volume One in The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 294-343, 351-361, 431-438.
contemporary use:
Philippe Pignarre & Isabelle Stengers, Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell. New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 16-35 [BB].
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Robin D. G. Kelly. “A New Look at the Communist Manifesto.” Race Traitor nos. 13-14 (Summer
2001). Special issue on Surrealism in the USA [R].
September 22
Reading Weber
As Weber attests, the rational subject is daring, calculating, temperate,
shrewd, and devoted….Those subjects whose social differences mark them
as outside the rational and place them within the margins of political and
economic spheres represent the underside of rationalization, that location
left untheorized by Weber… (Ferguson, 100)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 48-60.
Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp. xxviii-xlii (Author’s Intro), pp.
13-80, 102-125. [Note: Pp. #s are for the 2001 Routledge edition. If you have a different
edition of the book, page numbers will be different]
Max Weber. “The Bureaucratic Machine,” “What Is Politics?,” and “The Types of Legitimate
Domination” in Charles Lemert, ed., Social Theory: The Multicultural & Classic Readings, 2nd ed.
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999, pp. 104-115 [R].
contemporary use:
Roderick A. Ferguson, “Nightmares of the Heteronormative: Go Tell It On the Mountain versus
An American Dilemma,” Ch. 3 in Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique.
Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2004, pp. 82-109 [R].
September 29
Reading Durkheim
We hear the heartbeat of [Elementary] Formes in Durkheim’s stunning
theme throughout: that religious life (la vie religieuse) both expresses and
constructs the logical life (la vie logique) of humankind. We hear it in the
audacious claim…that the elemental categories in which we think—time,
space, number, cause, class, person, totality—have their origins in
religious life. (Fields, xxv)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 36-47.
Karen E. Fields. Introduction to The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Emile Durkheim.
New York: The Free Press, 1995, pp. xvii-li.
Emile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, pp. 1-18, 84-95, 141-157, 190-241,
418-448.
contemporary use:
Sasha Roseneil, “A Moment of Moral Remaking: The Death of Diana, Princess of Wales,” in
Frank Webster, ed., Culture and Politics in the Information Age: A New Politics? London:
Routledge, 2001, pp. 96-112 [BB].
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October 6
Reading Freud
The uncanny is the return, in psychoanalytic terms, of what the
concept of the unconscious represses: the reality of being haunted
by worldly contacts. (Gordon, 55)
Stephen Frosh. “Social Repression" in The Politics of Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to
Freudian and Post-Freudian Theory. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, pp. 38-60 [R].
Sigmund Freud. “The Return of the Repressed in Social Life” in Lemert, ed., Social Theory, pp.
142-145 [R].
Sigmund Freud. “On Dreams” and “Observations on Transference-Love” in Peter Gay, ed., The
Freud Reader, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1989, pp. 142-151, 165-172, 378-387 [BB].
contemporary use:
Avery Gordon. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1997, pp. 31-60 [R].
II. Early U.S. Con/Texts: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Sociology
October 13
Establishing U.S. Sociology
So woefully unorganized is sociological knowledge that the meaning of
progress, the meaning of ‘swift’ and ‘slow’ in human doing, and the limits
of human perfectability, are veiled, unanswered sphinxes on the shores of
science….So long as the world stands meekly dumb before such
questions, shall this nation proclaim its ignorance and unhallowed
prejudices by denying freedom of opportunity to those who brought the
Sorrow Songs to the Seats of the Mighty? (Du Bois, Souls of Black Folks,
186)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 2nd ed., pp. 93-100 [BB].
W.E.B. DuBois. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Bantam Books, 1989, pp. vii-xxv
(“Introduction” by Henry Louis Gates), pp. xxxi-xxxii, 1-29, 43-52, 62-76, 114-145, 177-187.
W.E.B. DuBois. “The Souls of White Folk.” Reprinted in Monthly Review 55, no. 6 (November
2003): 44-58 [BB].
W.E.B. DuBois. The Philadelphia Negro. Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson, 1973, pp. 1-9, 58-65,
385-397 [R].
Earl Wright II and Thomas C. Calhoun, “Jim Crow Sociology: Toward an Understanding of the
Origin and Principles of Black Sociology via the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory.” Sociological
Focus Vol. 39, no. 1 (2006): 1-18. [BB] and available at this link:
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http://earlwright2.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Wright_Calhoun_Jim_Crow.153120254.p
df
Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Yellow Wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “A Suggestion on the Negro Problem,” American Journal of
Sociology, vol. 14 (1908-9), pp. 78-85 [R].
October 20
Functionalist Feedback: The Cybernetics of Social Systems
I want to begin to explore…Parsons’ metaphysics from a curious
standpoint…its literary style….All social theory thus far has had some
literary form, which is to say, it is written in some style. Since form and
content are fused, it may be possible to discern part of what a theory
means by examining not only what it says but also how it says this.
(Gouldner, 199)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 67- 79.
Talcott Parsons. “The Superego and the Theory of Social Systems” (1952) in Social Structure
and Personality. New York: The Free Press, 1970, pp. 17-33 [R].
Alvin Gouldner. "Making the World Whole: Parsons as a Systems Analyst" in The Coming Crisis
of Western Sociology. New York: Avon Books, 1970, pp 199-209 [R].
Stephen Pfohl. Images of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History. 2nd edition. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, pp. 236-240 [R].
Jackie Orr, “’Keep Calm!’ for the Cold War…” ch. 3 in Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic
Disorder, Durham: Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 81-164 [BB].
III. Contesting Authorities, Theorizing Crisis
October 27
Power-Reflexive Sociology
Any style of empiricism involves a metaphysical choice—a choice as to
what is most real… (Mills, 67)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 97-104.
C. Wright Mills. The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press, 1959, pp. 5075, 165-194 [BB].
Alvin Gouldner. The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, “Preface,” pp. 3-35, 481-512 [BB].
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Randy Martin, Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor and the Professional
Turn. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2011 [BB].
Students for a Democratic Society. “Participatory Democracy” in Lemert, ed., Social Theory, pp.
352-356 [BB].
Betty Friedan. “The Problem That Has No Name” in Lemert, ed., Social Theory, pp. 356-359
[BB].
Frantz Fanon. Excerpts from The Wretched of the Earth. NY: Grove/Atlantic, 1968 [1961]. [BB].
November 3
Feminist Interruptions
[F]eminist theory has changed the way sociology thinks about the
operation of power in society…Yet, as this very moment, questions that
push us beyond the boundaries of what we comfortably accept as
legitimate forms of theory, epistemology, and methodology that were once
so effectively raised by feminist theory are being raised again. They are
being raised, however, largely outside the parameters of U.S. sociology, in
poststructuralist, postcolonial and transnational analysis and by
sociologists elsewhere. (Ray, 463)
.
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 205-225.
The Combahee River Collective. The Combahee River Collective Statement: Black Feminist
Organizing In the Seventies and Eighties. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press,
1986, pp. 3-18 [BB].
Dorothy Smith. The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1987, pp. 1-36, 45-100 [BB].
Patricia Hill Collins. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of
Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990, pp. 3-39, 201-237 [BB].
Patricia Clough. “Affect and Control: Rethinking the Body ‘Beyond Sex and Gender.’” Feminist
Theory vol. 4, no. 3 (2003): 359-364 [BB].
Raka Ray. “Is the Revolution Missing or Are We Looking in the Wrong Place?” Social Problems
vol. 53, no. 4 (November 2006): 459-465 [BB].
November 10
Rethinking Racial Formations
[D]espite its uncertainties and contradictions, the concept of race
continues to play a fundamental role in structuring and representing the
social world. The task for theory is to explain this situation. (Omi & Winant,
55)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., 226-238.
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Michael Omi and Howard Winant. Racial Formations in the United States 2nd ed. New York:
Routledge, 1994, pp. vii-xii, 1-13, 48-159.
Tomas Almaguer. Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994, pp. 1-16, 205-213 [BB].
Gloria Anzaldua. Borlderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 3rd ed. San Francisco, CA: Aunt
Lute Books, 2007 [1987], excerpts [BB].
Roderick A. Ferguson. “Immigration and the Drama of Affirmation,” Ch. 5 in The Reorder of
Things: The University and its Pedagogies of Minority Difference. Minneapolis, MN: University of
Minnesota Press, 2012, 147-179 [BB].
November 17
Collective discussion of student essays
November 24
Thanksgiving break – no class
IV. Post-Structuralism? Post-Modernism? Post-Sociology?
December 1
Power/Knowledge/Bodies: Michel Foucault
We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative
terms: it ‘excludes,’ it ‘represses,’ it ‘censors’…. In fact, power produces: it
produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The
individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this
production. (Foucault, 194)
Steve Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., 175-187.
Michel Foucault. “Preface to Anti-Oedipus” in Michel Foucault: Power, ed. by James Faubion.
New York: The Free Press, 1994, pp. 106-110 [BB].
_______. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books, 1979, pp.
135-228.
_______. “Right of Death and Power over Life” [from The History of Sexuality, vol. 1] in The
Foucault Reader, ed. by Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, pp. 258-272 [BB].
Monica J. Casper and Lisa Jean Moore. “Introduction: The Bodies We See, and Some That Are
Not Here,” Ch. 1 in Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility. New York: New York University
Press, 2009, pp. 1-20 [BB].
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December 8
Post-disciplinary [email protected] Century
The hyperspace of multinational postmodernism expands through the
physiologies of all first world subjects….All citizen-subjects are becoming
strangely permeated, transformed—and marginalized…. As previously
legitimated centers unravel from within, cityscapes degenerate,
consciousness and identity splinter, the revolutionary subject who rises
from the rubble is mutant: citizen-subject of a new, postmodern
colonialism—and de-colonialism—active all at once. (Sandoval, 36)
Steven Seidman. Contested Knowledge, 5th ed., pp. 159-174.
Donna Haraway. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late
Twentieth Century” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York:
Routledge, 1991, pp. 149-181 [BB].
Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New
York: Penguin Books, 2004, pp. 18-32, 189-227. [BB]
Chela Sandoval, “Fredric Jameson: Postmodernism is a Neocolonizing Global Force,” Ch. 1 in
Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2000, pp. 15-36,
[BB].
December 14
Final essays due by 4 pm
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