Fall 2012; Tues/Thurs, 11-12.20; DP 4069
Office Hours: Tues & Thurs 12.30-1.30pm
Teaching Assistant: Ariane Hanemaayer,
Course Outline ........................................................................................................................... 2 Course Objectives ...........................................................................................................................................................2 Course Format .................................................................................................................................................................3 Reading Material ..............................................................................................................................................................3 Workload ..........................................................................................................................................................................4 Additional Instruction.....................................................................................................................................................4 Reading Schedule ...................................................................................................................... 5 Course Policies .......................................................................................................................... 8 Assignments .....................................................................................................................................................................8 Grading Scheme ..............................................................................................................................................................9 Help with Assignments................................................................................................................................................ 10 Mandatory Notices & Regulations ............................................................................................................................. 10 Paper Topics ............................................................................................................................ 12 Bibliography ............................................................................................................................ 15 Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
Sociology shows us how individual experiences are shaped by the social and historical context we live in. It
helps develop what C. Wright Mills called “the sociological imagination” – an individual’s ability to understand
his or her life and problems in the context of broader social structures or historical trends. From your
Introductory Sociology courses, you should all be aware of some of the ways society affects the individual,
through our cultural expectations, or through social structures such as class. Social theorists try to develop an
overall explanation of these social forces – they try to see how the system as a whole works, based on the
fundamental ideas they think are most important. For some, the best way to understand society is to analyse
its economic structures; for others, we need to understand the cultural background of a community, in order
to interpret the actions of its members. Social theories therefore contain concepts and methods that explain
particular events or developments in society.
This course provides an introduction to four of the foundational thinkers in social and economic theory, each
of whom helped lay the foundations for all subsequent social thought. Adam Smith (1723-90) is seen as the
founder of modern economics, deriving his social theory from the idea of an individual’s rational self-interest.
Karl Marx (1818-83) criticized Smith for his lack of historical perspective; for Marx, human behaviour is
shaped by the logic of specific social relationships, not some transhistorical essence. Max Weber (1864-1920)
falls between Smith and Marx, recognizing the importance of history and social relationships, but returning to
a focus on understanding the social action of individuals. Finally, Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) presents a
radical challenge to Smith, Marx, and Weber, by asking how society as a whole was able to maintain itself on
the analogy of a biological organism. These four thinkers have shaped contemporary debates on social,
economic, and political policies; understanding their contribution will help you make more sense of the
modern world.
Course Objectives
‘Classical Social Theory’ is a required course for Sociology majors, and is a prerequisite for higher-level
social theory courses offered by the department. It builds on the overview of Sociology acquired in Soc 100,
‘Introductory Sociology,’ which is a prerequisite for this course. The skills and knowledge we aim to
develop in this course will provide a solid foundation for other Sociology courses; for those who are not
Sociology majors, these skills may be useful in other contexts. There are three main types of objective:
1. Specific Knowledge:
We will introduce you to the basic concepts, methods, arguments, and conclusions of four theorists who
are considered foundational in shaping the way we think about the social sciences: Smith is seen as the
founder of modern economic theory, whilst Marx, Weber, and Durkheim shaped the way modern
sociologists think about the world. All four are treated as points of reference by subsequent writers on
society. Understanding their claims and the way they developed an interpretation of society will give you
insights into the origins of contemporary debates about social and economic policies, and explore the
origins of the modern world. It is just as important to understand the ideas of those you disagree with as it
is to understand those you like.
2. Theoretical Methods:
Our four theorists are all distinguished by specific methodological innovations: each starts from unique
premises and builds an argument in his own way. Their conclusions are the logical consequence of their
starting points. By unpacking their logic and methods, you will develop your ability to make a coherent and
consistent argument about society, and therefore be able to present your own opinion about contemporary
problems in a more rigorous and convincing way.
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
3. Critical & Creative Skills:
The texts we read are dense and complicated; they are not always easy to understand. You will be expected
to puzzle out the meaning of specific concepts, or identify the logical stages of the arguments made in
these texts, as well as building your own claims in extended written papers that interpret these texts. These
skills will be useful in any course involving paper-writing. In addition, these skills are tested directly in
entrance exams for graduate studies and professional schools, such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and
GMAT. If you are considering such courses, some of the exercises we practice in seminars will help
prepare for such examinations, and are modelled on the sort of tasks found in them.
Course Format
This course includes a combination of Tuesday lectures and Thursday seminars. From 27th September
onwards, we will be meeting in two separate rooms for seminars; you will be assigned to a seminar group in
the week before; you should go to your designated seminar room on Thursdays. Both lectures and classes
will be organised around a series of primary-text readings, which are available as pdfs on eClass.
Tuesday Lectures will be focused on getting across specific knowledge about the theorists we read,
and walking you through their arguments. The goal of lectures is to ensure that you have a sound
overview of the material we are reading. Powerpoint slides from lectures will be made available on the
eClass website after class.
Thursday Seminars will give you chance to analyse the material we read, and to develop your own
critical reading and writing skills. You will be working in small groups to unpick the meaning and
structure of particular passages of text. You will also have chance to apply the theories we encounter,
by talking about current events in the light of what we have learnt. As we will be in separate groups
for the seminars, I will put a brief summary of key points of information on the eClass website;
however, this will only be a general outline, so you’ll need to attend class to get all the details.
You are expected to read the set texts in advance of class; we will discuss the material in class, but I will
assume that you are familiar with the material I describe. You can approach lecture and seminar readings
differently. Lecture readings are slightly longer, but you should focus on getting a broad overview, rather than
identifying every logical step; you can read more quickly. Seminar readings are shorter but more difficult: when
reading them, try to identify and define the most important concepts and work out the logical connections
between different parts of the argument. You must ensure that you bring copies of the set reading to our
seminar sessions. If you fail to do so, the class participation component of your grade will be penalised.
Reading Material
The course will be centred on readings from primary texts, i.e. extracts from the writings of Smith, Marx,
Weber, and Durkheim. Learning about these theorists from their own works ensures that you get the most
accurate possible picture of their work, as well as developing your reading skills through having to puzzle out
their meaning for yourselves. These texts will be available as pdfs on the course eClass website; you will
also find a full bibliography later in this syllabus, should you wish to purchase the books for yourself and read
more from them.
We will not be working from a textbook. However, if you want a general overview of the writers and ideas
in the course, I recommend The M aking of Social Theory by Anthony Thompson (Oxford University
Press). This is an optional extra: you are not required to buy or use it. A small number of copies are
available at the University bookstore; if they run out of copies, please let me know, so I can order more. Do
not rely on this or any other book to support your claims in papers: you should draw evidence directly
from primary texts.
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Richard Westerman (
In a typical week, you will read 40-50 pages of primary text from Smith, Marx, Weber, or Durkheim; this
may be slightly more or less in some weeks. Lecture readings are slightly longer, but require less intense
analysis than seminar readings: because seminar participation is part of your grade, you will need to read the
latter carefully enough to comment. You will write 10-12 pages in total for the two papers (5-6 pages per
paper) in the course, and complete four reading comprehension assignments, each of which should take
you approximately an hour each to complete. Similar tasks in professional-school exams are allotted 35-45
minutes for slightly more questions, but you won’t be under exam conditions. For full details of assignments,
see below, p.8 and p.12-15.
Because of the amount and difficulty of the reading, the amount of writing, and the importance of class
participation, this course has a relatively heavy workload for a 200-level course. You should therefore
consider seriously whether or not you are willing to put in the work required for a good grade. For
sociology majors who are required to take this course, it is also offered by other professors in this semester
and in Winter, who teach it differently; if you feel that my approach would not be suitable for you, you
might consider taking the course with them. Others of you may have taken Soc 100 and decided to throw
in another Sociology course because Intro was relatively light. If so, this may not be the course for you; you
might prefer one of the department’s other interesting offerings. If you are prepared to do the work, I hope
you will find your ability to read critically and to express your ideas logically will grow along with your
knowledge of the classics of social theory.
Additional Instruction
I will be available in my office (HM Tory Building 6/22) between 12.30 and 1.30 on Tuesdays and
Thursdays. I am unlikely to be available on other days, as I will not be on campus, but feel free to try. You
can also email me or the Teaching Assistant with any questions you may have. We will get back to you in
two to three working days. If you haven’t received a reply by then, feel free to email again. I do not answer
emails over the weekend: if your email arrives after Friday afternoon, you probably won’t get a reply before
Monday. I’m happy to help if you are having difficulty understanding the text, knowing what to do for an
assignment, or just want to know more about a particular topic or author.
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Papers and assignments should be submitted in class, with the exception of the final paper, which should be
submitted to the Sociology Department office in Tory 5-21 by noon on 13th December.
Tues 25th Sept:
Reading Comprehension 1.
Tues 16th Oct:
Reading Comprehension 2.
Tues 30th Oct:
Written Paper I: Smith & Marx.
Tues 13th Nov:
Reading Comprehension 3.
Tues 4th Dec:
Reading Comprehension 4.
Weds 12th Dec:
Written Paper II: Weber & Durkheim
Adam Sm ith (6 th -20 th September)
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is usually seen as the founding text of modern economic theory. Smith starts
from the assumption that he can predict what individuals are going to do in specific circumstances – they will
usually act according to their rational self-interest. We’ll be analysing his account to see how he uses his
method to explain the growth of the division of labour, the division of society into certain classes, and the
economic progress of a nation. However, Smith was not just an economist: his first major work, The Theory of
Moral Sentiments, uses a similar individualistic method to explain how we are socialised, and what role morals
have in society. We’ll read some passages from this to get a complete picture of Smith’s social theory.
Thurs 6th Sept
Introduction (Lec):
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, I.1-4.
Tues 11th Sept:
The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (Lec):
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, I.7-20; 32-34; 53-65; 351-2.
Thurs 13th Sept:
Class Conflict (Sem):
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, I.; 72-77; 88-90; 132-3; 136-40; 152-8; 275-8.
Tues 18th Sept:
Bringing up Baby (Lec):
Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 9-19; 78-81; 109-116; 127-32; 158-61; 212-6;
Thurs 20th Sept:
The Moral Economy (Sem):
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations I.367; I.477-80; II.301-9; Theory of Moral Sentiments 826; 181-5; 231-4.
Tues 25th Sept:
Writing Class:
Download and look at worksheet from eClass in advance of workshop on writing.
Karl M arx (27 th Sept – 18 th O ct)
Karl Marx’s thought is particularly difficult to summarize: he combined German philosophy, French
socialism, and British political economy. Marx’s thought has been enormously influential: the Soviet Union
and the People’s Republic of China both cited his work as the foundation of their societies, and he has
inspired countless revolutions over the past century. We’ll be focusing on the substance of his social theory:
we’ll unpack his theory of history and social development, before examining his analysis of contemporary
capitalist society, and concluding by looking at his arguments for revolution and communism.
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
Thurs 27th Sept:
Selling Your Soul? (Sem):
Marx, ‘Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts’ in Karl Marx: Selected Writings 83-95;
selected quotes from John Locke & Adam Smith.
Tues 2nd Oct:
The Riddle of History Solved (Lec):
Marx, ‘The German Ideology,’ in KMSW 175-84; 187-90; 192-5; ‘Preface to a
Critique of Political Economy,’ in KMSW 424-7; Capital, 667-73; 676-81; 685.
Thurs 4th Oct:
Consumer Society (Sem):
Marx, Capital I.43-8; 76-87.
Tues 9th Oct:
The Exploitation of the Workers (Lec):
Marx, Capital, I.145-53; 164-72; 180-90; 296-99.
Thurs 11th Oct:
Class Conflict (Sem):
Marx, ‘Communist Manifesto’ section 1 in KMSW 245-55; Capital 318-20; 334-7;
Tues 16th Oct:
The Collapse of Capitalism (Lec):
Marx, Capital I.300-4; 372-5; 380-5; 574-6; 589-604; 713-5.
Thurs 18th Oct:
Necessity or Utopia? (Sem):
Marx, ‘Communist Manifesto’ in KMSW 255-71; ‘18th Brumaire’ in KMSW 329-32.
M ax W eber (23 rd O ct – 8 th N ov)
With Max Weber, we return from Marx’s focus on economic social structures to the realm of individual
action. However, Weber goes beyond Smith’s single variable of individual self-interest, and suggests that other
motives – including cultural and religious values – might be behind our action. An interpretive sociology that
tries to explain these motives will give us insights into the overall structures of any given society. We’ll
combine discussions of Weber’s methods with some of the studies he did (such as The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism) that show his method in action. We will conclude by looking at his rationalization
hypothesis – his claim that modern society has become increasingly rationalized, and his definition of this.
Tues 23rd Oct:
Interpretive Sociology (Lec):
Weber, Economy & Society, 3-13; 19-26; Weber, Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of
Capitalism, 39-43; 53-56; 69-73.
Thurs 25th Oct:
Actions and their Consequences (Sem):
Weber, Protestant Ethic, 13-19; 36-38; 102-9; 120-5.
Tues 30th Oct:
Class, Status, Power (Lec):
Weber, Economy & Society 921-39.
Thurs 1st Nov:
Power & Domination (Sem):
Weber, Economy & Society 53; 212-20; 241-5.
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Tues 6th Nov:
Rationalization & Modernity (Lec):
Weber, Economy & Society 71-2; 85-9; 118-20; 136-8; 654-8; 956-8; 973-5 Protestant
Ethic xxviii-xxxiii.
Thurs 8th Nov:
The Ethics of Reason (Sem):
Weber, Politics as a Vocation, 309-13; 352-69; Science as a Vocation, 138-41; 143-45;
Émile Durkheim (13 th N ov – 4 th Dec)
Like Weber, our final theorist, Émile Durkheim, noticed a statistical difference between Protestants and
Catholics – but where Weber had argued that Protestantism led to wealth, Durkheim point out that it also
entailed significantly higher rates of suicide. Durkheim sought to explain this by looking to society as a whole:
his method starts from the assumption that we should try to understand the system of society as a complete
and integrated totality, in which every part has a function.
Tues 13th Nov:
Supporting the Team (Lec):
Durkheim, Elementary Forms, 21-2; 33-44; 207-16; 374-80.
Thurs 15th Nov:
Individual & Society (Sem):
Durkheim, Elementary Forms, 216-25; 303-4; 313-21; 330-1; 390-1.
Tues 20th Nov:
The Social Aspects of an Individual Act (Lec):
Durkheim, Suicide, 46-51; 152-6; 168-70; 217-21; 241-3; 254-8; 278-87.
Thurs 22nd Nov:
Social Forces (Sem):
Durkheim, Suicide, 208-213; 306-20
Tues 27th Nov:
The Functional Analysis of Society (Lec):
Durkheim, Division of Labour in Society, 11-16; 31-34; 38-43; 60-64; 68-71; 83-86; 1015; 126-8; 132; 200-5.
Thurs 29th Nov:
The Sickness of Society (Sem):
Durkheim, Division of Labour in Society, 291-4; 301-8; 310-13; 318-26.
Tues 4th Dec:
Conclusion (Lec):
Durkheim, Division of Labour in Society, xxv-xlvi.
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Your final grade will be calculated by a combination of three different elements:
25% each for two 5-6 page papers (50% total writing): You will write focused papers comparing
and analysing the writers we study. These papers will measure your ability to make clear, concise
explanations of complex ideas, drawing on substantial textual evidence to make your case. You will
have the opportunity to analyse texts from a number of different angles, such as argumentative
method, rhetoric, conceptual exposition, and so on.
10% each for four reading comprehension passages (40% total reading comprehension): You
will answer 20-25 questions requiring close reading and analysis of short passages. Questions may
include asking you to identify the sorts of arguments being presented, or the specific claims being
made, amongst others. The passages will all be taken from the writers we study in the course, but may
not be from passages we discuss in class. These will be in the form of a ‘take-home’ exam: they will
be released on eClass on the Thursday preceding the deadline.
10% Seminar Participation: You should take part in class discussions in a way that demonstrates
you have read and thought about the texts we are discussing. You are not expected to give perfect
answers in these discussions; it’s just as good to ask a question about part of the text you didn’t quite
understand. Attendance at Thursday seminars is compulsory. If you miss more than two
seminars, you will lose one-twelfth of your participation grade for every extra session missed.
You will notice that all your writing and reading assignments are due on Tuesdays, i.e. lecture days. This is to
give you more chance to be fully prepared for discussion in Thursday seminars. Assignments submitted after
the deadline will be penalized 1/3 grade for every day past the deadline. Thus, a paper deserving an A grade
would fall to an A- if one day late, a B+ if two days late, etc. I will not accept papers more than a week late
without special circumstances. For more detail on how your papers are graded, including a list of minor
penalties applied for specific infractions, you can consult the Paper Grading Guide on the course eClass page.
Deadlines ensure that everyone is treated and graded under equal conditions. If you have a genuine
reason for being unable to hand in your work or complete it on time, you should let me know as soon as
possible. If you know in advance that you won’t be able to complete a task on time, you should let me know
as early as possible: we can easily make special arrangements. If you miss a deadline without making
arrangements beforehand, email me at the earliest possible opportunity. Please provide some
documentary evidence for your excuse, such as a Statutory Declaration Form (obtainable from your Faculty
office). For example, if you show me your notes and plans for your paper, I will be more inclined to believe
that circumstances beyond your control intervened to stop you completing it, rather than disorganization. I
encourage you to use a free, automatic backup service such as Dropbox ( when
writing your papers. Used correctly, Dropbox and its ilk will automatically backup your paper every few
minutes, even as you are working on it. Because of this, I will not accept computer crashes as an excuse
for failing to submit your paper on time: you should be sure to back up everything as you write it.
Nevertheless, all human life is struggle and despair: sometimes our plans come to naught, and unexpected
personal matters intervene. Because of this, you are granted one 48-hour extension for written papers and
one 48-hour extension for comprehension tasks. Thus, if using your extension, you will submit the task in
class on Thursday instead of Tuesday. You may not use your paper extension for comprehension exercises,
nor vice-versa. If you have not already used it, you do not need to wait for permission to activate it, nor do
you need to explain why you are using it: it is entirely at your discretion, to help you take responsibility for
organizing and planning your own work. Simply inform me by email by 9 a.m. on deadline day.
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Grading Scheme
Reading comprehension tasks will consist of 20-25 questions; your scores on these will be added up. The
scores will be added up and used to calculate a percentage, which will then be converted to a letter grade
before being factored in to your final grade. This somewhat-convoluted method is intended to allow some
flexibility of grade boundaries, so that I can curve properly if the tasks prove much too hard or too simple; as
this is the first year using these tests, I anticipate the need to calibrate them to a degree. With the caveat that
these boundaries may change depending on class performance overall, the approximate boundaries are:
Written papers will be graded on a letter scale, because the idea of using percentages to assess writing
is too stupid to merit further consideration. In general, I grade on the premise that it should not be too
difficult to achieve a grade in the B range (B-, B, B+), provided you have done the reading and attended
classes; a grade in the A range, however, requires a little more original insight, or especially attentive reading
and argument. You might think of the difference in this way: a B+ paper may have ‘nothing wrong’ with it,
but an A-range paper must have ‘something right’ about it. The general boundaries are as follows, but you
should be aware that grading papers is not an exact science:
A range: Paper goes beyond simple summary of the main points of the texts; it makes an
original interpretative or argumentative claim, and/or identifies and concentrates on underlying
themes in the texts, and/or manages to draw together an author’s claim as a whole by focusing
on (for example) methodological, logical, philosophical, or rhetorical aspects of an argument. It
relies on close reading of important textual quotations to support its case.
B range: Paper provides a competent, accurate, and comprehensive summary of the main
points of the paper, with few relevant mistakes, and supported by direct quotation from the
text. Whilst not providing great insights, the paper does enough to give a decent account of the
general approach of the writers we are studying. At the top end of the range (B+), the paper
will be very well organized, with plenty of textual evidence; it will make no significant errors.
C range: Paper makes some effort to deal with the material at hand, but may (amongst other
flaws) omit sections, fail to support its claims, fail to use direct evidence from the primary
texts, fail to connect its paragraphs together, or make significant errors.
D range: Paper makes little or no effort to connect its claims to the text, or relies on broad
generalizations about the text without specific evidence, or makes numerous superficial and
incorrect statements about the authors. It will be disjointed, and will show no real engagement
with the ideas we discuss.
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Your Participation grade will reflect your contributions to class discussions during Thursday seminars. In
short: the more you speak, the better your grade will be. However, your contributions should be
thoughtful, demonstrating that you have read the set texts and made an effort to understand them; you
should also be courteous and respectful of the opinions of others, especially those with whom you
disagree. Participation grades are not dependent on getting the right answer every time: you can contribute
to discussion just as effectively by saying which parts of an argument you don’t understand. The class
participation grade should encourage you to practice working out the meaning of texts yourselves. If
you show that you are willing to contribute to this ongoing task, you will score more highly.
Help with Assignments
Whilst I cannot give too much help on reading tasks without giving away the answers, we will be practicing
the skills used in them during seminars. I am happy to provide some guidance when you write papers: I will
answer specific questions, look over a short outline (in bullet-point format, or on the Paper Planning
Worksheet on eClass), or read an introductory paragraph. I cannot and will not read complete drafts of
your paper: this would provide an unfair advantage. In addition, shortly before papers are due, I will organize
an optional paper workshop. This will give you an opportunity to have fellow-students read your draft, and
provide comments on it. If you wish to attend these workshops, you will need to prepare a draft of your paper
in advance, so your peers can look over it. Attendance at such workshops is entirely optional, and play no
part in determining your class participation grade; you will not be penalised for non-attendance, nor will
you gain credit for attending. Finally, I’ve prepared a guide with further tips on reading, writing, and finding
extra resources to help you understand the texts and topics we cover; it can be found on eClass.
Mandatory Notices & Regulations
In its infinite wisdom, the University decrees that the following regulatory notices be included in every
syllabus and course outline.
Required Notes:
Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar.
Academic Integrity:
The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students
are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the
University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the
Code of Student Behaviour (see and avoid any behaviour that could potentially
result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an
offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from University.
Learning and working environment:
The Faculty of Arts is committed to ensuring that all students, faculty and staff are able to work and study in
an environment that is safe and free from discrimination and harassment. It does not tolerate behaviour that
undermines that environment. The department urges anyone who feels that this policy is being violated to:
• Discuss the matter with the person whose behaviour is causing concern; or
• If that discussion is unsatisfactory, or there is concern that direct discussion is inappropriate or
threatening, discuss it with the Chair of the Department.
For additional advice or assistance regarding this policy you may contact the student ombudservice:
( Information about the University of Alberta Discrimination and
Harassment Policy and Procedures can be found in the GFC Policy Manual, section 44 available at
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Plagiarism and Cheating:
All students should consult the “Truth-In-Education” handbook (
regarding the definitions of plagiarism and its consequences when detected. Students involved in language
courses and translation courses should be aware that on-line “translation engines” produce very dubious and
unreliable “translations.” Students in language courses should be aware that, while seeking the advice of
native or expert speakers is often helpful, excessive editorial and creative help in assignments is considered
a form of “cheating” that violates the code of student conduct with dire consequences. An instructor or
coordinator who is convinced that a student has handed in work that he or she could not possibly reproduce
without outside assistance is obliged, out of consideration of fairness to other students, to report the case to
consult; also discuss this matter with any tutor(s) and with your instructor.
Recording of Lectures:
Audio or video recording of lectures, labs, seminars or any other teaching environment by students is allowed
only with the prior written consent of the instructor or as a part of an approved accommodation plan.
Recorded material is to be used solely for personal study, and is not to be used or distributed for any other
purpose without prior written consent from the instructor.
Dealing with problem s
Of course, sometimes everything comes tumbling down at once. You have four midterms, you fall sick, and
your boyfriend or girlfriend leaves you for your best friend. If this happens, it’s better to let me know as
soon as possible. I’m happy to help you get back on your feet and make allowances, provided you can show
me that the problems are genuine, not just the result of too many late nights on Whyte Avenue. Therefore,
please provide documentation for any illnesses or other external problems. If your problems are more
general, such as a lack of organisation or an inability to concentrate, then I’ll want evidence that you are
developing a strategy to overcome these problems. You should also consult the Student Counselling
service (, who have lots of experience in
helping people get things in order. At any rate, whatever the issue, it’s much easier to deal with it when it
arises, rather than leaving it until three weeks after the term ends.
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O verview
Written papers serve two purposes. Firstly, they are meant to show me you’ve understood and thought
about the material we cover in class. Secondly, they practice and develop your ability to express your
ideas in clear, rigorous language, and develop your own structured argumentative case - in this sense,
writing papers is a learning exercise as much as a test of what you can already do. You should focus your
papers on the theories we encounter. Whilst you may by all means present your own interpretation, papers are
not meant to be a platform for you to pontificate in general terms. If you wish to give your own opinion,
do so with direct textual support, and by analysing the concepts we discuss. Never, ever, ever make vague,
unsubstantiated claims about the nature of reality – such as ‘this wouldn’t work because it’s against
human nature.’ Essays that do this tend to have trouble climbing as high as a D grade.
Your papers should be 5-6 pages long. Use common sense in formatting your papers. ‘5-6 pages’ does
not mean ‘four pages and one word in 14-point font with 5cm margins all round.’ You may be surprised to
learn that it’s quite easy to detect when a student has used this cunning strategy to make a paper look longer.
Use 1.5-line or double spacing and a standard 11 or 12-point font (e.g. Times New Roman). Margins should
be 2.5cm all round. Expect 350-400 words per page.
Don’t forget to use direct quotations from primary texts: this is the evidence to support your claim. Don’t
quote from secondary literature or outside sources (e.g. Thompson). This is not relevant to the sort of
skills I want us to develop in this course: you should be reading the texts we study as closely as possible, and
trying to explain them on their own terms. Be sure to give full citations, indicating the title of the piece
you’re quoting from, the author, and the exact page. When quoting from an piece in a collected volume,
remember to give the title of that particular piece. (Many of the Marx pieces are from the Selected Writings:
please give the name of the individual piece you’re quoting.) Full publication details of the volumes we’ve used
are in the bibliography at the back. Don’t waste paper: you don’t need a separate title page or ‘Works Cited’
page, and you shouldn’t waste half a page with your name, the course number, title etc.
Late papers will be penalized one-third of a grade for every day overdue – thus, an A- would become a
B+ on the first day late, then a B on the second day late. Papers more than three days late will receive only a
grade and a single line of comments. Papers more than a week late will not be accepted.
I am happy to help in planning your papers, and will look over your outline plan or your introductory
paragraph if you bring it to office hours. You might want to try putting your plan on the Paper Planning
Worksheet available on eClass. I’ll also be happy to clarify any particular points you may have – you could
email me or Ariane for help. There will also be a series of Workshops in which you will be reading over
one another’s drafts and providing helpful comments on them. However, I cannot and will not read
through your complete draft myself: as there are not enough hours in the day to offer this to everyone, I
cannot give an unfair advantage to a small number of people.
For each assignment, you should choose one of the numbered questions. Stick to answering the
question; do not invent your own question or go off topic unless you have a particular love of the letters
D or F, and enjoy seeing them emblazoned on your papers. Beneath each question, I have added a number of
prompts and suggestions in italics. These are intended only to stimulate your imagination. They are in no
particular order, and are certainly not the basis of a coherent plan. You do not have to answer them all, and
doing so would not guarantee you a good grade. However, if you think about them when planning your paper,
you will have a better idea of some of the areas I expect you to cover in the paper, and some of the sorts of
problems you might try to solve in your essay.
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
Paper I: Smith & M arx – Tues 30 th O ctober
1. How far do Smith and Marx differ on the way they understand class in market societies?
What is class? What are the main classes each analyses? How do they reach their definitions of those classes? How are they
related to ideas of price, value, or production? What sort of conflicts might be inevitable between different classes? How do
they define the actions and interest of different classes? What is the relation between classes and broader social structures in
each theory? How far can individuals act against their class interests? What would a classless society look like? Is such a
society possible? How do classes differ from earlier forms of social organization, e.g. feudalism?
2. What, for Marx, is wrong with capitalism?
What is capitalism? How does Marx define it? Is Marx completely negative about capitalism? What is the historical role of
capitalism? How does it compare to feudalism? Why is the M-C-M’ cycle inherent to it? Why must capitalists always search
for more surplus value? Why is this futile? What are the effects on the workers? How does the change in the composition of
capital affect the workers? What happens as technology improves? What is the end result? What role does the Communist
party have in his account?
3. Why did Smith write a Theory of Moral Sentiments instead of a ‘Theory of Morality’?
How does Smith differ from Aristotle and Rousseau? Is he trying to describe the perfect system of morality, or how we acquire
moral feelings? How does this affect the way he views morals? What method does he use to explain the way our morality
developed? What overall picture of morality does he present? Is he more “scientific” or “philosophical”? How does his account
of the development of morality support his more general claims about society? What role does the moral philosophy of TMS
have for the economy of ‘Wealth of Nations’? What argumentative advantages does he get from this method of describing
4. “The sphere that we are deserting, within whose very boundaries the sale and purchase of labour
power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality,
Property, and Bentham.” (Marx, Capital, p.172) Why does Marx think that Smith’s picture of free
exchange is a fictitious Eden?
What is the role of history in Marx’s theory? Where does Smith think capitalism came from? How does Marx criticise this?
How did it happen that some people are stock-owning capitalists, whilst others are labouring proletarians? How does Marx
relate the capitalist present to the feudalist past, and the expropriation of the peasants? How does this undermine Smith?
What sort of power imbalances does Marx identify? What causes them? How does Marx’s vision of capitalism as a whole
differ from Smith’s, and why?
5. Why is Marx so keen to undermine Smith’s claims that modern society is somehow “natural”?
What does it mean to say something happens ‘naturally’? Can we change it? What happens if we interfere with the laws of
nature? How does Smith use the idea of ‘nature’? How is it tied in with his notion of ‘a system of perfect liberty’? What is
the role of human nature for Smith’s argument? What would it mean if bourgeois society were entirely ‘natural’? How far
does Marx’s historical perspective change this? Are the actions of the bourgeoisie and proletariat ‘natural’? Is alienated
labour ‘natural’? How does Marx try to go beyond claims about human nature? How do social relationships replace human
nature in Marx’s analysis?
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
Paper 2: W eber & Durkheim – W eds 12 th Decem ber
1. What are the limits of objective knowledge of society for Weber and Durkheim?
In what ways is Weber’s interpretative sociology both “subjective” and “objective”? How far can the ideal type help
make it more objective and scientific? Why does Durkheim rely so heavily on “facts”? What counts as a social fact?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? What basis of evidence does each have for his claims?
2. Why does Weber think rationalisation counts as progress?
What does it mean to “progress”? What will happen when a “more rational” business competes with a “less rational”
one? What is rationalisation? How can it be observed in the economy, law, and the state? How is rationalisation at a
social level the result of individual rational actions? What problems are there with rationalisation, e.g. in the
bureaucracy? What is rationality? How does Weber differentiate different types of individual rationality?
3. Why, for Durkheim, are societies held together with organic solidarity ‘better’ than those held
together by mechanical solidarity?
What is solidarity, and how are its two forms different? How do they hold together societies differently? How well does
each cope with individuality? How does each cope with population growth? Why are the bonds of mechanical solidarity
weaker than those of organic? Why is the division of labour such a good source of solidarity? Why is solidarity as such
so important for him? What are social forces, and how does Durkheim argue for their existence?
4. Why do Weber and Durkheim disagree on the role of religion and morality in society?
How does each begin to analyse religion or morality? How far do they focus on doctrines and beliefs, and how far on
institutions and rituals? Why? Does religion operate at the level of the individual or of society? What differences do
Weber and Durkheim see between Protestants and Catholics? Why is Weber so interested in getting inside the minds of
early Protestants? Why does Durkheim focus on written codes or collective practices? How is this tied to their different
methods of explaining society? What are their methods?
If you choose question 5, 6, or 7, you must refer to at least two of the four authors we have
studied; at least one of them must be Weber or Durkheim.
5. What holds society together for these writers?
What is society? How can we talk about something we can’t point to directly? Is society the result of lots of different
interactions by individuals, or a description of the way we all work together, or something ‘sui generis,’ that we must just
assume is there? How can we describe social bonds? How far are we free without society? What would bring individuals
to stay in society if there weren’t such social bonds? What sort of shared beliefs hold us together? Should we analyse
society as a whole, the actions of individuals, or the social relationships organizing society?
6. How do these writers know there’s something ‘wrong’ with society?
How far can a ‘scientific’ description of society show us problems? Is it just the case that the way we describe society is the
way it is and should be? Or can we identify problems? How does Smith use the idea of “natural” outcomes to criticise
government intervention? How does Marx use the idea of immanent contradictions to predict the fall of capitalism? Why
does too much rationalisation become a problem for Weber? In what ways can we talk about “pathological” forms of the
division of labour for Durkheim? Is it possible to develop a normative moral critique of society on a descriptive
sociological analysis?
7. How far are we truly individual for these writers?
Do we have any natural individuality? What sort of things develop our character? What is individuality? What sort of
things guide or constrain our action? How far do cultural or religious motives affect choices we make? How do we
develop things like conscience? What interest does society have in our individuality? How far can we analyse the actions
of an individual only by reference to that individual, rather than to broader social context? What analytical advantages
could we have from looking at individuals? What theoretical alternatives are there?
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (
Durkheim, Émile (1979) Suicide: A Study in Sociology, trans. John A. Spaulding & George Simpson (New York:
Free Press).
Durkheim, Émile, (1984) The Division of Labour in Society, trans. W.D. Halls, (New York: Free Press).
Durkheim, Émile, (1995), The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. Karen E. Fields, (New York: Free Press).
Marx, Karl, (2000) Karl Marx: Selected Writings, 2nd edn, ed. D. McLellan (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Marx, Karl (1954) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol 1, trans. S Moore & E Aveling (Moscow: Progress)
Smith, Adam, (1976) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press).
Smith, Adam, (1982) The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D.D Raphael & A.L. MacFie, (Indianapolis: Liberty
Weber, Max, (1958), ‘Science as a Vocation,’ in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H.H. Gerth & C.
Wright Mills (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Weber, Max, (1978) Economy & Society, 2 vols. trans. G. Roth & C. Wittich (Berkeley: University of California
Weber, Max (1992) The Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons, (London & New York:
Weber, Max, (1994), ‘The Profession & Vocation of Politics’ in Political Writings, ed. & trans. P. Lassman & R.
Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Soc 212: Classical Social Theory
Richard Westerman (