Sociological Theories

Fordham College Fall 2005
Mondays & Thursdays 11:30-12:45 PM: C Block
Dealy Hall 303
Instructor: E. Doyle McCarthy
[email protected]
Office:Dealy 405A (718) 817-3855
Office hours: Mondays & Thursdays 2-3 PM and by appointment
Course Description:
A required course in the sociology major & minor. Also recommended for
students with interest in social philosophy and in the history in nineteenth and twentieth
century social thought. The course is also recommended for students in American Studies
as it treats, among other topics, Alexis de Tocqueville on democracy, Max Weber on
Protestantism, Thorstein Veblen on the consumption of the America’s leisure classes.
The materials treated in this course are ideas and theories of leading thinkers from
Karl Marx to sociology’s classical writers (Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim)
and texts concerning Western industrial nations of the modern period: the rise of
industrial capitalism in the West and its principal social forms (its legal forms,
institutions of social control, etc.), the rise of the modern nation state, bureaucracies, its
rational secularity, its forms of community and organization. Some theories of late
modern societies (the “postmodern turn”) are also discussed in the last weeks of the
Selections from a number of central texts (primary sources) are read and studied,
including Marx’s Capital, Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,
Durkheim's Suicide, and Simmel’s Philosophy of Money.
Required Books:
George Ritzer Classical Sociological Theory 4th edition. McGraw Hill.
This is the principal text for the course. Weekly assignments are from this book
and brief selections of primary sources handed out in class.
E. Doyle McCarthy Knowledge As Culture: The New Sociology of Knowledge 1996.
Weekly readings, beginning in mid-November, come from this book.
Its subject matter are the changes in classical theory since mid-century and the reasons
for these changes.
Course Requirements:
10 pts. for class attendance & participation: attendance is required in this course and
will influence your final grade (10 pts.).A maximum of 2 absences (not consecutive) is
permitted without written excuses from a doctor or the infirmary.
30 pts. in-class essay tests (10 pts each) given during the semester; one will serve as the
midterm on the week of October 11-18; the final essay is usually given with the final
Journal or log (35 pts) kept on the weekly readings:
Assignments are given out each week and are usually due in class a week later;
always bring your log to class the day it is due;
students are responsible for keeping the logs in a folder or notebook where all the
logs and weekly grades are recorded; this is important, since the final grade for
the log is only recorded at the end of the course.
Each assignment is about 4-5 sides of a page or 2-3 wordprocessed pages.
I will periodically collect the logs unannounced. You will lose credits (1-2 pts.) if
the work is done hastily, if it is too brief, if it is late or missing.
PLEASE NOTE: All late work in your logs is downgraded, no exceptions.
Monday December 19, 9:30-11:30 AM:
Final test 25 pts. short answer format (multiple choice, true/false, fill-ins, etc.) on the
entire course. Please note, there are no exceptions to this requirement; the exam is
not given on any other day.
Outline of Course Topics and Assignments:
Please Note:
Mon. Sept 5 holiday, Labor Day.
Mon. Oct. 10 Columbus Day holiday
Wed-Sun. Nov 23-27 Thanksgiving holiday
Mon. Dec. 12 Last day of classes
Tues-Wed Dec 13-14 Reading Days
Week 1:
Social Theory: Reflections on the Condition of Modernity
What is sociology & sociological theory? The Age of Enlightenment and early social
theory; Comte’s Positivism and the first sociologists; what do the terms—modernity,
industrial society, capitalism mean? And how have they been used?
Week 2-3:
Marx and Marxisms: the developments of nineteenth century socialisms in
Europe and England. Theories of capitalist development, of class conflict, of ideology,
and a social theory of collective consciousness.
Week 4-6:
Classical Sociology in Europe: 1890-1930.
Durkheim of social solidarity, deviance and anomie, and the social sources of religion.
His social theory of suicide.
Max Weber on the origins of capitalism; bureaucracy; rationalization of the West; and of
social and political authority.
Simmel of marginality, urbanism, secrecy & betrayal, and the philosophy of money.
Week 7-9:
Classical Sociology in America
Tocqueville on democracy;
Veblen on the conspicuous consumption of the leisure classes;
G.H. Mead and American pragmatist thinkers on the social self;
W.E.B. Du Bois on the “double consciousness” of the African-American.
Week 10-14 After Modernity: Social Theory at Century’s End
Using as a guide, my book Knowledge As Culture, we will trace the impact of social and
cultural changes on the rise of “cultural sociology” at century’s end. Using the ideas
studied in this course (from Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Mead, and others) we will analyze
together why and how social theory has changes from its origins in modern social science
of the period 1890-1930.
One of the many purposes of this exercise is to show how each of us can use the
sociological imagination and become social theorists. In fact, becoming a critical and
self-reflexive person—who engages in an analysis of one’s world and oneself—has
become a vital capability for people today to live and to work effectively in the world of
late modernity. How we got here and why this is so are some of the questions addressed
in this course.