Classical Sociological Theory Fall 2022
General Overview: Below is a list of questions for each of this semester’s readings. These questions are designed to help you engage with the author’s ideas and to draw your attention to the key issues. Your answers should be typed and range between 250 and 300 words. In addition to the questions, I ask you to list around three quotes you find important and give a short 250 to 500-word summary for each reading. Each section also includes a list of key concepts. Please provide a short definition AND example for each idea listed under the “key concepts” sub header. Before each test, you will turn in all the author overview questions (including quotes and key concept definitions and examples) for each reading that will be covered in the upcoming test. Author overviews will be due via D2L at 8am on the due date.
Test questions will be based on the content covered by the reading questions. Before each test you will meet during class time to compare answers with other student’s. We will call these “reading groups.” On the designated day, the class will be divided into groups of three or four people. These groups will discuss and compare answers to each of the reading questions. Each group member is expected to arrive to the meeting with all author overview questions completed and ready to share with the group. Remember, author overviews will have been due at 8am the day of the reading group. If you are absent or otherwise unprepared to contribute to the group, you will receive a 0 for this assignment.
Can I work in Groups? You are very welcome (even encouraged) to work in groups. This stuff is hard, and you can help each other. BUT your work must not be the same. If your answers are too close to those of other students, you will receive a 0 for the assignment and possibly a failing grade for the class.
Outside Sources & Citations: There is no need to cite the assigned readings. Only outside sources must be cited. You are welcome to use outside sources, but do so at your own risk. There are many poor summaries and interpretations of this semester’s readings (particularly on YouTube). I suggest you stick to books and webpages that end with edu. I also suggest that you ONLY use these sources when you are at a total loss. Should you decide to use outside sources, you MUST provide a full ASA style citation (including the web address if applicable). List citations under your answer for each individual question even if you use the same citation again in the next question. Warning: Do not plagiarize your outside sources or each other. I will know.
How, you ask? See the section “What is Turn-it-in” below.
Turning in Your Work: Each author overview will be due at 8am the day of the reading group. This is to ensure that you have completed your work before meeting with others. Your work will be submitted via D2L and evaluated through Turn-it-in.
What is Turn-it-in? In case you don’t know, turn-it-in is a software program that checks your work against published books, the internet, others in this class, others in previous classes, and papers turned in at other universities. The program generates an originality report that indicates the percentage of original material in the document. If I deem your originality report
unsatisfactory, you will receive a zero for the whole assignment and possibly fail the class. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Evaluation: I will not be providing in-depth feedback on these assignments. I am not concerned with the accuracy of your interpretations or answers. I will check that you have completed the assignment, have not plagiarized, and have put in the requisite effort. I will not indicate that you got the right answer. Author overviews will receive one of four grades.
25pts: This grade indicates that everything looks like it should. You’ve provided sufficiently in- depth answers to each section and addressed each key concept. Your work is well formatted and free from significant grammar and spelling errors and any citations are ASA. Turn-it-in indicates that your work is original.
15pts: This grade indicates that your work meets minimum acceptable requirements. All questions are answered, but answers might be short or do not show much innovative thought. Other issues may include: You have citations but they’re not ASA, there are lots of grammar or spelling errors, work is sloppy or not well formatted.
5pts: This grade indicates that your work needs significant improvement. You may have unanswered questions, poor formatting, poor spelling/grammar, missing citations, etc. Basically, you’ve phoned it in.
0pts: If you get a zero, you should come talk to me immediately. This indicates that your work is unfinished or otherwise unsatisfactory. Turn-it-in may have indicated plagiarism.
Reading Questions and your Final Portfolio
Your reading questions will comprise a significant portion of your final portfolio. This assignment will have three parts. Part 1 is a completion of all your reading question answers, revised, and corrected (25pts). Part 2 will be answers to three questions that ask you to compare theories or principles discussed over the course of the semester (25pts each, 75pts total). Each question will necessitate a three-page response for a total of 9 pages (or so). Part 3 will be a short (1-2) page reflection on what you leaned this semester (5pts).
Reading Questions for Test 1
The German Ideology
1. How did the development of modern societies through the division of labor lead to various forms of ownership, and what are some examples Marx and Engels give of the various stages of ownership?
2. What do Marx and Engels mean when they write: “The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people’s imaginations, but as they really are … ”?
3. Pick an example of something that you consider to be a ruling idea in modern society. If you were Marx or Engels, how would you explain where this ruling idea came from?
Manifesto of the Communist Party:
1. The Manifesto of the Communist Party is well known for its revolutionary zeal, but we often think of the proletariat as the revolutionary force. However, Marx and Engels suggest that the bourgeoisie also came about through revolution. In your own words, explain how the “bourgeoisie played a most revolutionary part.”
2. In one of the most eloquent passages of the Manifesto, Marx and Engels write: “But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons—the modern working class—the proletarians.” What “weapons” are Marx and Engels talking about, and how did the bourgeoisie “call into existence” the proletariat?
3. How do the bourgeoisie create “a world after its own image?” What are the consequences for those who resist?
4. In your opinion, would the measures laid out on page 60 really bring about “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”?
5. Marx and Engels suggest that as capitalism has developed, the bourgeoisie has sown the seeds of its own destruction. Yet, many critics point to the undeniable fact that capitalism still exists and communism has struggled to survive. Where do you fall? Do you find Marx and Engels’s argument convincing?
1. Marx begins this excerpt with the subject of commodities. What are commodities, according to Marx, and how is their value determined?
2. What does Marx mean when he refers to labor-power as the amount of labor “socially necessary” to produce a commodity?
3. In your own words, define commodity fetishism and its relation to labor. Then, pick a popular commodity and describe how it is fetishized today. If possible, paste a link to an advertisement on the web that you think captures its most fetishized properties.
Key Concepts (provide definition and an example):
Alienation Bourgeoisie Capitalism Communism Dialectic Division of Labor Exchange Value Feudalism Ideology
Means of Production Mode of Production Petty Bourgeois Primitive Communism Proletariat
Reading Questions for Test 2
The Division of Labor:
1. Durkheim argues that the division of labor produces a particular kind of social solidarity. In your words, describe this process and how this form of solidarity differs from what Durkheim refers to as mechanical solidarity.
2. In the last section of the reading, Durkheim describes two pathological forms of the division of labor, one of which is anomic. What is anomie, and how can it result from the division of labor?
3. In your own words, what do you think Durkheim means by “collective consciousness”? Give a concrete example of a contemporary version of collective consciousness that exerts control over us as individuals.
Key Quotes: Short Summary:
1. Durkheim begins the reading by pointing to the high suicide rates in Vienna following a financial crisis in 1873. But he goes on to write that financial crises or, more specifically, poverty resulting from them cannot be the sole culprit of high suicide rates. What evidence does he give to support his conclusion?
2. Why does crisis, whether it be a financial downswing or, seemingly paradoxically, an upsurge in wealth, leave society “momentarily incapable of exercising” its moral influence?
3. Durkheim concludes the reading by contemplating on why anomie and, consequently, anomic suicide has become normal; that is, it has become a constant or “chronic” occurrence. Do you agree with Durkheim that anomie has reached a level of normalcy in modern society? Think of at least one concrete example of a current form of anomie (not necessarily anomic suicide) and describe how it might be analyzed as a social fact.
The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism:
1. Weber argues in the beginning of the reading that the economic rationalism found among Protestants is not found among Catholics. What do you think he means by economic rationalism, and what are some of the reasons he gives for why it is not common among Catholics?
2. Weber argues that only a “provisional description” of the spirit of capitalism can be used to begin his study. To which document does he turn to uncover this provisional description, and what about the document exemplifies the “spirit”?
3. Weber concludes the reading by writing: “The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so.” In other words, capitalism has become “disenchanted.” Rather than think of a concrete example of how the modern world has become disenchanted, can you think of an example of something that has its own “calling” still intact?
Key Concepts (provide definition and an example):
Altruism Anomy Bureaucracy
Collective Conscious Disenchantment Egoism
Elective affinity Fatalism
Mechanical and Organic Solidarity Morals
Protestant Ethic Rationalization/Rationalism
Reading Questions for the Final W. E. B. Du Bois
The Souls of Black Folk:
1. Define spiritual strivings for African Americans at the dawn of the 20th century a little more than three decades after the emancipation. How might these cultural/spiritual strivings linger in the hearts, minds, souls, and lived experiences of African Americans?
2. In what ways might the “problem” of being an African American resonate/reverberate in contemporary culture?
3. Consider, imagine, and describe how you believe the metaphor of the veil plays out in our everyday lives.
4. What does being “gifted with second-sight in the American world” mean for African Americans in the contemporary United States?
5. Consider and decode the challenges associated with having to navigate the world through the lens of “double consciousness.”
6. What particular and degrading effect does double consciousness and its “waste of double aims” have on the psyches and being of those who navigate life under the auspices of this dynamic?
7. What is the goal of the Negro’s “spiritual strivings” according to Dubois at the end of the chapter, and how do we understand its salience in our efforts to be activists, ambassadors, and/or allies in liberation efforts?
The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Volume 1
1. What is the “repressive hypothesis” according to Freud? Why does Foucault doubt this hypothesis?
2. What caused the “age or repression”? What were consequences of this repression?
3. How does sex become “inserted into systems of utility” (page 24)? How do social institutions help make this happen?
4. What are “two great systems concaved by the West for governing sex” (page 39)? How does each accomplish this goal?
5. What does Foucault mean by “the machinery of power that focused on this whole alien strain did not aim to suppress it, but rather to give it an analytical, visible, and permanent reality” (page 44)?
6. How did “that sex was constituted as a problem of truth”? (page 56)
7. How does this “problem of truth” lead to “knowledge-power”? Give some examples!
1. Deconstruct the meaning and significance of the epigraph to Mills’ essay.
2. Answer question 1 further by exploring the first two sentences in Mills’ introductory paragraph.
3. Pages 15-17 “sketch out” the character of white ignorance per Mills’ theoretical examination, taking care to note a distinction between the phenomenon he defines from Goldman’s essay on “social veritistic epistemology.” Why is Mills’ distinction critical to understandings of “ignorance,” and how might this new way of seeing help us to understand the our different experiences.
4. What does Section II of the essay help us to understand about the development of critical racial consciousness in tandem with our efforts to create a more just world.
5. Use each of the principles outlined in section III of Mills’ essay as an opportunity to explore the types of micro/macroaggressions BIPOC people face when navigating white spaces.
Key Concepts provide definition and an example):
Pick five ideas that you see as the key concepts for EACH author.
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