This course is about SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY and theories. We distinguish this from activism, social commentary, policy recommendations, empirical research, ideology, and polemics, although all of these can, at times, be found under the heading "theory." We will also be self-consciously focused on the sociological mainstream; an array of courses at Mills is available for introduction to related bodies of theory.1

will introduce students to a variety of sociological theories covering various aspects of modern life. Most social theory is a reaction to previous theories or to significant changes in the world. Because of this, we will begin with some classical theorists (such as Marx, Weber, and Durkheim) and then discuss how subsequent thinkers responded to them. We will also discuss the social, cultural, economic, and technological changes that motivated many writers to create new ways of thinking about the world. All theories must be tested for their explanatory power. To that end, we will apply many of the theories we cover to cotemporary social problems. This course is a broad survey of sociological theory. Although you will not be an expert in any one thinker’s ideas, you will be exposed to many theories and the debates occurring between thinkers. Finally, this course will help prepare you for your senior thesis (in most social science disciplines) by introducing what social theory is and how it is used to frame and interpret a social problem or phenomenon.

Strictly speaking, this course is about sociological thought not "social theory." The latter is the broader category including all manner of writings from the philosophical and epistemological to the political and polemical; it may overlap in places with sociological theory, but it neither subsumes nor is subsumed by it. The course is also not, strictly speaking, intellectual history, though there will be some overlap there too.

Our goals include enhancing your

  1. Ability to effectively read theory texts and make sense of them, parsing difficult rhetoric to extract concepts, claims, and arguments;
  2. Grasp the genealogy of sociological thinking — both the family relations and the family feuds;
  3. "Ownership" of concepts that constitute the core toolkit of the discipline;
  4. Familiarity with the work of certain key thinkers;
  5. Desire that theory you read makes sense, is useful, and can be connected to research;
  6. Standards of logic, coherence, and empirical support for arguments and claims;
  7. Appreciation of "old" ideas so as to disabuse you of the idea that contemporary theories are autochthonous; (shoulders of giants)
  8. Recognition that there is much to read;
  9. Sense of what is on that list and where to start.
  1. Four Revolutions (American/French/Industrial/1848)
    1. Pre-sociology, Comte, Marx
  2. Classical Foundations
    1. Majors : Durkheim, Weber
    2. Minors: Simmel, Freud, duBois, Freud

# Sample Sampler : Micro sociology from James and Cooley to Goffman and Schutz

  1. Mid-century Antinomies
    1. Chicago - Harvard Theories of the world delivered to the 20th Century
    2. Theories of the World Wrought by Events of the first half.Reconceptualization in the face of historical experience (on both socialism and capitalism sides)
    3. Theories questioning the world as it resettled after WWIICritique
    4. Developed micro
    5. Emerging alternatives
    6. Rational Choice Game Theory Network Analysis, Cognitive Sociology
  2. Now What?
    1. Splintering of theory
    2. Globalization
    3. Scientific Sociology


We have three rounds of "orientation."

Sociological Theory in Nutshell

We begin with a short essay that "says it all," if you will: Randall Collins' "The Nonrational Foundations of Rationality" in Sociological Insight — to identify fundamental sociological perspective, our primary problem, and a workable approach to developing a theory of society (as well as what standards we should apply to such a theory). Along the way we'll get introduced to a half dozen or so of the "big ideas" of social science and a number of key thinkers.

You might be thinking what about the other issue: inequality? Why does it exist and how can we get rid of it? Part of the take-away here: this is subsumed under the general struggle between conflicting groups in society. So, don't worry, there's plenty of race, class, and gender — even when it's not explicitly mentioned.

Names and Dates: Some Historical Scaffolding

Already, Collins has mentioned a number of historical figures for which we need some context. By rights we should stop and take a history course or two and maybe one on Western Thought from the Greeks to the Present but there's no time for that. And so we begin by sketching the barest outlines of those parts of human history that form the backdrop to the sociological thinking of the last few hundred years. Some of this material has the pedantic quality of "things you should have learned in school had you been paying attention"2 — when was the English civil war? what was the enlightenment? when was the age of revolution? the industrial revolution? And so on. Get on the same page in terms of our sense of history — what happened and who lived when. Goal is to have a mental time-map of human history and social theory.

EXAM. We'll have a very early "exam" on this stuff because that's the most efficient way to make ourselves fill in these gaps, if only superficially.

A formulation of the Basic Question: The Problem of Order

Our second round of orientation tries to set up the basic conundrum that sociologists (and social scientists in general) have been struggling with since the beginning. This is what we can call "the problem of order." In some cases, we see that there is some order and we want to understand how it happens. In other cases, we think we want some order and we want to know how to get it.

This second orientation will have us reading short selections from Hobbes, Rousseau, and Smith and outlining basic problem of how human nature and organized society interact. Are humans basically selfish and society dependent on coercive control? Or do human beings have the capacity to recognize the advantages of collective welfare to create society through a social contract? Or is society a naturally emergent phenomenon produced through the interaction of naturally selfish entities? We start with three authors we cannot do without familiarity with : Hobbes, Rousseau and Smith. We'll read short selections from each and a chapter by the theorist Dennis Wrong that connects their work with contemporary theories.

The Mission of Theory : Between Prediction, Explanation, and Being Interesting

The first of these introduces us to the ideas of explanatory and cumulative theory. This is intended to turn you into a hard-nosed theoretical thinker who demands ideas that make sense not ideas that feel good. And to develop a sense of the difference between descriptive, normative, and explanatory theory.

Here we will work our way through another first chapter by Randall Collins: "Why is sociology not a science?" from his 1975 work Conflict Sociology.

Collins, Randall. 1975. "Why is sociology not a science?" in Conflict Sociology. New York: Academic Press.
Davis, Murray S. 197x. "That's Interesting!"

Collins argues for a particular kind of theory — cumulative, scientific and predictive. You need not agree with his program; what's important here is to use this chapter as a way of organizing different approaches to theory and different ways of assessing whether a theory is "right" or not. In contrast to Collins' idea about theory, we then read a brilliant piece by Murray S. Davis that argues that what makes a theory worthwhile is that it is "interesting."

Assignment. We will write a short essay addressing the question "Are Collins and Davis saying exactly the same thing or quite the opposite thing?"

  1. With these foundations under us, we'll proceed on the project of building our own social theory. Our first stop will be Karl Marx.

Four Revolutions (American/French/Industrial/1848)

The End of the Enlightenment and the Beginning of Industrialization: Toward a Science of Society

First we remind ourselves of a little bit of history. The American and French, and the scientific and industrial, revolutions gave rise to a new setting for thinking about human society by the mid-19th century. To get from there to here we'll skim a few Wikipedia articles:

Revolutions. French. American. Industrial. 1848. Napoleonic Wars.

From this period (1825-1875) we look closely at one thinker — Karl Marx (1818-1883) — and briefly at another Auguste Comte (1798-1857). Both considered themselves "scientific students of society" and one has been named among "the most influential persons of all time"3 while the other is regularly called the "father of sociololgy." Two dominant styles of thinking about society derive from their work: criticism (Marx) and positivism (Comte).

Comte is perhaps the first person who dreamed of sociology as its own discipline. He's also the "father" of positivism. We will want to know a little bit about what he was up to and what we mean by positivism.

Marx is writing in a tradition known as "political economy" — and it's hard to make sense of his use of this term without doing a little background reading. The Wikipedia articles on Political Economy and neoclassical economics provide a very quick overview. His work introduces us to the antimony of idealism and materialism, the logic of the dialectic, solidifies economic class as a fundamental dimension of social variation, gives us the concepts of ideology, false consciousness. Most important for ongoing development of a theory of society is the idea that conflict and contest is the motor of history and the fundamental character of social life.

Marx's writings can be a hard read, especially in a drive-by course like this and so we will lean on a delightful crutch, Marx for Beginners by Rius, a Mexican political cartoonist. We will then read excerpts from a few "must-read" classics:

  • Rius' Marx for Beginners
  • In an excerpt from "The Manifesto of Class Struggle" we get a picture of what Marx means by the bourgeoisie and his dialectical view of the history of western society.

We will also take a look at a piece that introduces some ideas about ideology and false consciousness and the famous "theses on Feuerbach".

TAKEAWAYS: Comte's dream of a science of society — pros and cons; Marx's fundamental concepts

EXAM. At the conclusion of this section of the course we will have an exam on which we will identify concepts from Marx that have become a part of sociology's toolbox and a set of quotes that any self-respecting sociology student ought to know.

As we wrap up Marx it's important to look around for what else was going on during that first half of the second half of the 19th century.

From the Victorian Age to the Twentieth Century

In the 1850s and 60s Marx is writing his magnum opus, Das Kapital, and Darwin is writing the world-changing Origin of the Species (1859). Over the next few decades England is the dominant colonial power (it's the Victorian age), steam power is transforming how people live, Germany and Italy are uniting, Bismark creates beginnings of modern welfare state, and the U.S. is abolishing slavery, fighting a civil war, and then reconstructing afterward. The American university system expands on the model of the German research university. Herbert Spencer, inspired in part by Darwin, is espousing a theory of society as an organism, variations on which gave rise to the 20th century sociological theory of functionalism. There are theorists writing in this era but we are not reading any of them.

Classical Theory

The Majors

The "classical period" in sociological thought runs from roughly 1890 through 1920 and most of the important figures were born between 1850 and 1860. In terms of lasting contributions and direction setting, Durkheim and Weber are the most important figures and we'll spend significant time on both, focusing on their take-away ideas which remain central to the discipline.

Secondary European figures in this group that you should be acquainted with include Simmel (some would put him in the first group), Pareto and slightly younger Tonnies, Mannheim, Michels, Freud. From the same era but on the American side William James, W.E.B. DuBois and George Herbert Mead made contributions that continue to be used today.

Max Weber

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Weber, Max. "The Spirit of Capitalism and the Iron Cage"
Weber, Max. "The Bureaucratic Machine"
Weber, Max. "What Is Politics?"
Weber, Max. "The Types of Legitimate Domination"
Weber, Max. "Class, Status, Party"
Collins, Randall. "Paradoxes of Power," ch. 3 in Sociological Insight

Emile Durkheim

Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Collins, Randall. "The Sociology of God," ch. 2 in Sociological Insight
Collins, Randall. "The Normalcy of Crime," ch. 4 in Sociological Insight
Durkheim Émile. "Mechanical and Organize Solidarity" (73-77)
Durkheim Émile. "Anomie and the Modern Division of Labor" (77-78)
Durkheim Émile. "Sociology and Social Facts" (78-81)
Durkheim Émile. "Suicide and Modernity" (81-89)
Durkheim Émile and Marcel Mauss. "Primitive Classifications and Social Knowledge" (89-94)
Durkheim Émile. 1912. "The Cultural Logic of Collective Representations" (94-103)

TAKEAWAY. Clear delineation of conceptual legacy of Weber and Durkheim


The "Minors"

At this point we will have all the MAIN ingredients from the classical tradition. But we are leaving out an endless number of important thinkers. We pause and look at a few of their turn of the century contemporaries who are less often read in a theory course, but who had a significant effect on sociological thinking since. We'll look at selections from duBois, Gilman, Simmel Mannheim. This list of whom we omit is long.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. 1898. "Women and Economics" (174-178)
Simmel, Georg. 1908. "The Stranger" (185-188)
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.). 1903. "Double-Consciousness and the Veil" (167-172)
Mannheim, Karl. 1936, 1929. "The Sociology of Knowledge and Ideology" (217-221)

Sample Sampler : Self and Society — Micro sociology from James and Cooley to Goffman and Schutz

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.). 1903. "Double-Consciousness and the Veil" (167-172)
James, William. 1890. The Self and Its Selves" (161-166)
Cooley, Charles Horton. 1902. "The Looking-Glass Self" (189)
Mead, George Herbert. ca.1929. "The Self, the I, and the Me" (224-229)
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1974, 1980. "Structures, Habitus, Practices" (444-449)
Goffman, Erving. 1955. "On Face-Work" (338-343)
Parsons, Talcott. 1937. "The Unit Act of Action Systems" (213-215)
Erikson, Erik H. 1950. "Youth and American Identity" (334-337)
Freud, Sigmund. 1900-39. "The Psychical Apparatus and the Theory of Instincts" (130-133)
Freud, Sigmund. 1930. "Civilization and the Individual" (149-151)
Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1906-11. "Arbitrary Social Values and the Linguistic Sign" (152-160)

Mid-century Antinomies

Capitalism/Socialism, Markets/Hierarchies, Decentralization/Centralization, Structure/Agency

Markets or Hierarchies?

The years between world war I and world war II saw the emergence of communism in Russia and fascism in central Europe, and the great depression everywhere. What Stalin did in the name of socialism and what Hitler did in the name of capitalism (stretching definitions a bit), discredited both "systems." The horrors of the holocaust did the same to garden variety xenophobia and taken-for-granted biases against various groups. Both the left and the right — socialism and capitalism, if you will — were in need of some rehabilitation. Two strands that continue to dominate theory and politics to this day have their starting point in thinkers commenting on the relationship between the state and the economy before and during WWII.

Intellectuals and theorists had to retool in light of the events of the 30s and 40s. On the left there was a pull-back from communism and revolution and on the right a repudiation of fascism.

Dismay over what communism had become under Stalin and the failure of the revolution to spread led large parts of the left to re-think its ideas, morphing into a still left but more tempered version of socialism under the title "social democracy" and eventually giving rise to "the new left."

The center and right also reacted to this reality and a new set of ideas supporting free markets and capitalism without being fascist emerged.

During world war II the economist Friedrich Hayek published the book The Road to Serfdom. Nobody in sociology reads Hayek. But as the intellectual hero of boosters of liberal capitalism and free markets (and the group we call neo-conservatives) and anti-socialists everywhere, more should. We'll touch on him and John Maynard Keynes as their ideas (and the trends and events they were reacting to) form the social backdrop for the social theory that emerged in the post-war period even if sociologists were rarely explicit about that fact.

Keynes, John Maynard. 1920. "The Psychology of Modern Society" (203-205)
Keynes, John Maynard. 1925. "The New Liberalism" (205-206)
Hayek, Friederich. 19xx. Selections TBA

Situation or System?

The Chicago School: Roots of Symbolic Interactionism

Not long after the turn of the century a group of thinkers associated with the University of Chicago's sociology department came to dominate American sociology. Many of them, in fact, traveled to Europe and had either met or attended lectures by the classical trio. Notable figures include: Cooley, Wirth, Park, Burgess, and Thomas. They wrote about urban life, mass media, youth, immigrant experience, race, deviance. One legacy of their work is ethnography as a method. In combination with Mead (who was more a philosopher) and William James (who was a Bostonian rather than a Chicagoan and who lived a few decades earlier) what survived from the Chicago school is a theory of self and society and a conceptual framework we call symbolic interaction. In this part of the family tree Everett C. Hughes and Herbert Blumer who studied with the first generation and who were important teacher of the third generation of Chicago sociologists in the 1940s, a group that included Erving Goffman, and Howard S. Becker.

The major legacies of the Chicago school are (1) the practice of urban ethnography and community studies, (2) theories of the self and social interaction, (3) symbolic interactionism as a "school of thought" and especially a whole tradition in the study of deviance called labeling theory.

Harvard: Systems and Functionalism

Talcott Parsons, a sociologist at Harvard, set the theoretical direction for the next several decades with The Structure of Social Action (1937) in which he attempted to synthesize Weber, Durkheim, Spencer, and Pareto into a single unified theory of human society eventually called "structural functionalism" or just functionalism. We'll look at a single essay by Robert K. Merton, one of the 20th century's most productive sociologists, and a few pieces by Parsons.

Theories of the middle range
Merton, Robert K. 1938. "Social Structure and Anomie" (229-242)
Parsons, Talcott. 1937. "The Unit Act of Action Systems" (213-215)
Parsons, Talcott. 1961-71. "Action Systems and Social Systems" (301-303)
Parsons, Talcott. 1943. "Sex Roles in the American Kinship System" (304-307)
We'll need to do a little more digging around for our take-aways here which are (1) a working definition of what makes a theory "functionalist"; (2)

On the side: Introduction to The Structure of Social Action
Full Text at also downloadable in other formats (kindle, etc.)

Critical Theories and the Roots of the New Social Movements

World War II upset the status quo applecart around race, class, and gender. Ideals of freedom and equality were touted as "what we were fighting for," women of necessity played extra-traditional roles, non-whites had served in the military, the New Deal and the "communist threat" raised consciousness about labor, the GI bill created the largest population of "first generation" college students ever.

In Germany, the Institut für Sozialforschung was founded in 1923 as an adjunct of the University of Frankfurt. It was the first Marxist oriented social research institute. In 1935 it too moved to escape Nazism with it scholars resettling in New York at Columbia. It was re-established in Frankfurt in 1953. The tradition in which these scholars work has come to be called "the Frankfurt School" and "Critical Theory," though neither phrase can be pinned down to indicate a specific position or framework. Figures associated with the Frankfurt School include Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcus, Walter Benjamin. The most influential contemporary "member" of the Frankfurt School is Jürgen Habermas. Has written widely about capitalism, democracy, law, and contemporary politics focusing on the possibility of critical rational discourse. Nice bit of background on critical theory influences of Frankfurt School HERE

Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno. 1944. "The Culture Industry as Deception" (325-329)
Niebuhr, Reinhold. 1932. "Moral Man and Immoral Society" (247-249)
Myrdal, Gunnar. 1944. "The Negro Problem as a Moral Issue" (249-251)
Beauvoir, Simone de. 1949. "Woman as Other" (345-347)
Césaire, Aimé. 1955. "Between Colonizer and Colonized" (348-350)
Fanon, Frantz. 1961. "Decolonizing, National Culture, and the Negro Intellectual" (364-369)
Friedan, Betty. 1963. "The Problem That Has No Name" (361-364)

"The State" as Object of the Sociological Imagination

The trend toward doing serious macro-sociology at the level of the world has been growing since at least the end of WWII (though one finds roots in Weber). The "take" has been the political system as contested between super-powers during the cold-war, the developing world as colonialism gave way, the applications of systems theory to geo-politics, the focused study of states as social actors, and most recently studies of globalization and flows of capital, people, energy, and ideas. This work overlaps with what our sister-scholars in economics and political science and history and ethnic studies are doing. These four readings are not even the tip of the tip of the iceberg; the take-away is Geopolitics and Development

Galbraith, John Kenneth. 1967. "Change and the Planning System" (383-385)
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1976. "The Modern World-System" (399-405)
Theda Skocpol. 1979. "The State as a Janus-Faced Structure" (405-408)
Sassen, Saskia. 1999. "Toward a Feminist Analytics of the Global Economy" (625-629)
Castells, Manuel. 1996. "The Global Network" (620-624)
Kennan, George. 1946. "On the United States and Containment of the Soviets" (287-290)
Rostow, W. W. 1960. "Modernization: Stages of Growth" (294-300)

Three Contemporary Syntheses: Game Theory, Giddens, Bourdieu

Transcending Binary Oppositions: Bourdieu and Giddens


French Theorist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) draws on traditional anthropology and sociology : Weber, Marx, Durkheim, Mauss, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Merleau-Ponty and, Wittgenstein.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1974, 1980. "Structures, Habitus, Practices" (444-449)
TAKEAWAY: habitus, capitals, fields

Structure, Agency, Structuration: Giddens

British theorist Anthony Giddens was a dominant "meta-theorist" in the 70s and 80s. His main works were a reconceptualization of modernity based on re-synthesizing Marx, Weber, and Durkheim with contemporary theorists. He posed the condition of theory as a choice between the primacy of structure and the primacy of agency that could be resolved by his concept of "structuration."

Giddens, Anthony. 19xx. Excerpts TBA

Game Theory

Game theory. Around 1950 we also see the beginnings of an approach that's come to dominate social science — Game Theory — though it is routinely ignored by sociologists. A notable exception is Erving Goffman whose 1969 book Strategic Interaction is one of the most overlooked works of genius in our field. Some sociologists, starting with George Homans at Harvard in the 1950s have done this and we call them "rational choice theorists" within the field of sociology. For a long time the most visible manifestation of this field was exchange theory. Look for names like Peter Blau, James Coleman, Karen Cook. Connects with network theory and social movement theory. Even lefties get into it with Elster and Wright showing up here.
+++Post Modern Theories

A lot of thinkers writing from the 1980s and '90s through the present get lumped together as "post modern theorists." Modernity, it's been said, is what sociology was created to understand. So, one of our tasks here will be to pin down something like a working definition of "post-modern" and a sense of the variety of things we would find in that particular intellectual garden.

Neo-classical economics. It is conventional in sociology to define the field as the opposite of economics and it's not hard at sociology conferences to find sociologists thumping their chests as they knock over straw-person versions of economics that few economists worth their salt would even recognize. It's not an intellectually healthy characteristic. At a minimum, we should do a better job at understanding what we are criticizing. Better still we would approach our sister science with an open mind and see what we could learn from it.

One thing shared with the economists is methodological individualism which we typically trace back to Max Weber (who was also trained as an economist).

Giddens, Anthony. 1990. "Post-Modernity or Radicalized Modernity?" (485-491)

"Theory about how we live now

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2003. "Geo-political Cleavages of the Twenty-first Century" (597-602)
Sen, Amartya. 1999. "Asian Values and the West’s Claim to Uniqueness" (629-636)
Beck, Ulrich. 1999. "World Risk Society" (636-640)
Castells, Manuel. 1996. "The Global Network" (620-624)

We arrive at the end of the semester at "contemporary" theory — that is the theory that's being produced today. In most courses you'd be pointed toward various post-modern and hyper-hyphenated identity theories. I suggest that this misses the mark in terms of where things are going, but there are some thinkers you should be familiar with (not least because they might turn out to be just you cup of tea and warrant further study by you).

Is Sociology a Science?

We begin the substantive part of the course with a consideration of what theory is really like, what's it for, why bother. Randall Collins argues in the opening chapter of Conflict Sociolgy that the field has been something of a flop in terms of accumulating a working theory of society, but that it need not be so. And then, in the opening chapter of Sociological Insight, he lays out some of the pieces and how he would put them together to create a coherent theory of human behavior. We'll read these to give ourselves a long term program and to give us some sign-posts pointing to thinkers we want to learn more about.

Assignment: based on Collins, draw a map or diagram.

Microsociology: An alternative to behaviorism

In the post-war period (post WWII, that is), the motivating questions were "how could the Germans do that?" and "what is the future of the capitalist state?" As the 50s transitioned into the 60s, these were supplemented by questions raised by new social movements (new in the sense that they were associated with the "post industrial" world not rooted in the class (workers and capitalists) struggles of the industrial economy. We'll look at three or four signal pieces that illustrate the beginnings of this tradition. Fanon. Friedan. Frankfurt School.

Roots here of what later becomes feminist theory, queer theory, post colonial,

Two big styles of thinking big in social sciences functionalism structuralism.
Over in polisci pluralism

Various alternatives to Marxism

symbolic interactionism

Two important results from economics and related fields: Arrow Olson.

Where Are We Now?

When does history stop being history and start being "now"? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), time is finite and we have to stop somewhere. The rule I used to figure out what to include or exclude at this point was "what will serve as training for how to read other things?"

As a field, sociology is fairly well fragmented as far as theory goes. We have a whole set of standpoint/identity sub-fields many of which are not proper subsets of sociology but which sociologists use or borrow from. Related to this are various "post-" traditions.

The Future of Sociological Thought

At this point, let's re-read Collins again. Much of what falls under the title "contemporary social theory" is really meta-theory, the history of theory, or social criticism or ideology. In all likelihood all these will continue to evolve. Genuine explanatory theory about how humans behave and how institutions work will be progressively cross-disciplinary in the coming decades. There are two broad trends here. Some sociologists are throwing their lot in with cultural criticism, the splintering of identity-related standpoint and perspective theories, liberation and resistance. Others look to convergence with other social sciences and even natural sciences and mathematics. But unlike 19th century ventures like this which tried to remake sociology on the model of other sciences (as in Comte's social physics), contemporary work dares to be eclectic and borrows widely. There is, of course, still disciplinary imperialism whereby thinkers borrow ideas and then re-frame them in terms of their own discipline, claiming one discipline's old ideas as their own new ones. But turf battles are a dead-weight loss. If you are really in this business so as to understand humans and their institutions, then you can't really care how a given idea is branded.

And so what should the budding social theorist learn about?

What Next

Each member of the class will investigate and report back on one direction in contemporary social theory
Global institutions
law, economics, sociology
animal behavior and machine system behavior.

For a long time we could comfortably take for granted that there were clear boundaries between human and non-human behavior at both ends of the spectrum: animals and humans were different and machines and humans were different. "Society" and "the social" was ours alone and both animals and machines could be treated as tools, resources, parts of our environment. For the next generation of theory this is unlikely to continue.

Norms and institutions and markets
convergence theories (Gintis, etc.)

A final section of the course might point us toward cousin endeavors — just to become familiar with what is meant by various terms that refer to other approaches to understanding human social institutions.

The "cultural turn" and displacement of behaviorism by cognitivism

Rational Choice Theory
Positive Political Theory
[Organizational Theory
Operations Research
Experimental Economics
Social Choice Theory
Voting Theory
Prospect Theory and other theories of the limits of rationality.
Social Movement Theory
Behavioral Economics

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