Sociological debates effective Term: Autumn and Spring

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B. ‘Neo-Marxism’

Can Marxism be resurrected, not just as a series of insights or a starting-point, but as a system of thought?

**Althusser L., 1984 Essays on Ideology London:Verso

Benton, T. 1984 The rise and fall of structural Marxism : Althusser and his influence London: Macmillan

*Anderson P., 1977 “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci” New Left Review, 100, pp.5-80

*Castells M. 1978 City, Class and Power Macmillan, London

Kellner, D. “Western Marxism”, 2005, in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.154-174

Layder D. 1994 Understanding Social Theory London: Sage pp.34-55

Mandel E., (Originally 1972) 1999 Late Capitalism London:Verso

*Miliband, R. 1969 The State in Capitalist Society London: Weidenfield and Nicholson

*Wallerstein I., 1991 Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of 19th Century Paradigms

15 Restoring Synthesis: From Interactionism to Post-Structuralism: The Curse of Amnesia.

A. Interactionism

Can true understanding only result from micro-sociology?

**Cicourel, A.V. 1973 Cognitive sociology : language and meaning in social interaction Harmondsworth: Penguin

**Berger P, and Luckmann T. 1967 The Social Construction of Reality Harmondsworth: Penguin

Collins R. 1994 Four Sociological Traditions Oxford:OUP pp.242-290

**Garfinkel H. (Originally 1967) 1984 Studies in Ethnomethodology, Cambridge: Polity

*Gouldner, A. 1970 The Coming Crisis of western Sociology London Heinemann, Ch.10

**Goffmann, E. 1972 Interaction ritual : essays on face-to-face behaviour , Harmondsworth: Penguin

Layder D. 1994 Understanding Social Theory London: Sage pp.57-90

Outhwaite.W, 2005, “Interpretivism and Interactionism” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.110-131

Scott J. 1995 Sociological Theory: Contemporary Debates Aldershot: Edward Elgar ch. 4

B. Forgetting interactionist roots: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism


Ashenden S. , 2005, “Structuralism and Post-Structuralism” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.196-215

*Castells, M. 1983, The City and the Grassroots, London: Edward Arnold

*Giddens A 1984 The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press

*Habermas, J. 1984 2nd Ed. The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. 1, Reason and the Rationalisation of Society Cambridge, Polity Press

*Habermas, J. 1987 2nd Ed. The Theory of Communicative Action Vol. 2, Lifeworld and System Cambridge, Polity Press

*Habermas J. 1988 2nd ed. Theory and Practice, Cambridge, Polity Press

*Joas H. 1996 Creativity of Action Cambridge: Polity Press

*Joas H. 2004 “The Changing Role of the Social Sciences: An Action-Theoretical Perspective” in International Sociology, Vol.19 (No.3)

King A., 2005, “Structure and Agency” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.215-232

Layder D. 1994 Understanding Social Theory London: Sage pp.114-157

Scott J. 2006 Social Theory: Central Issues in Sociology London:Sage, Chapters 4-6

*Wallerstein I. 2004“The Changing Role of the Social Sciences: A Reply to Hans Joas” in International Sociology, Vol.19 (No.3)

16. From PsychoAnalysis to Post-Modernism: The Grandest Weirdest Narrative ever told

A Forgetting Marxist roots: neo-Psychoanalytic Theory

Are Freudians more reliable prophets of resistance to conventional wisdom then Marxists?

**Deleuze G. and Guattari F., 2004, New ed., tr. Hurley R, Seem M, and Lane H.R Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, London: Continuum Introduction by M.Foucault

Elliott, A., 2005, “Psychoanalytic Social Theory” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.175-195

Elliott, A. 2004 Social Theory since Freud, Traversing Social Imaginaries, London:Routledge

B. Post-modernism and the demise of the paradigm

What is a post-modern turn?

How far does internal evidence support the view that the works attributed to Manuel Castells are in fact by three different authors?

Does post-modernism remain a variety of post-modernism, in the same way that “Death of God” theory remains a variety of theology?

**Barth, J. 1967 Giles Goat Boy, London: Secker and Warburg (A novel)

*Castells M. 2002 The Internet Galaxy Oxford: OUP

Crook S. , Pakulski J., Waters M., 1992 Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society, London: Sage

Hollinger R. 1994 Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: A Thematic Approach London: Sage

**Lyotard, J-F., 1986 2nd. Ed. The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Manchester: Manchester University Press

Nicholson L., and Seidman S. eds 1995 Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics Cambridge: Cambridge UP

Scott J. 2006 Social Theory: Central Issues in Sociology London:Sage, Chapters 7-8

Smart, B., 2005, “Modernity and Post-Modernity Part I” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.252-271

17 Summary and Conclusion

Which contemporary sociologists will endure?

Delanty G., 2005, “Modernity and Post-Modernity Part II” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.273-291

*Eisenstadt, S. ed. 2002 Multiple Modernities New Brunswick N,J.: Transaction

*Giddens, A. 1998 The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy, Cambridge: Polity

*Gouldner, A. 1970 The Coming Crisis of western Sociology London Heinemann, Ch.13

Harrington A., 2005, “Conclusion: Social Theory for the 21st Century” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.313-316

Holton R., 2005, “Globalization” in Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP pp.292-312

*Mouzelis N. 1995 Sociological Theory: What went wrong? London: Routledge

Wallace, R.A. & Wolf A. 2005, 6th ed. Contemporary Sociological Theory Pearson N.J, pp. 415-437

Coursework for Sociological Debates

Summative Deadline: Wednesday 23rd April 2008

The Coursework for Sociological Debates will be carried out under the portfolio system, that is to say, we will work on it through formative assessment, then hand them all in for summative assessment on or (preferably) before Wednesday 23rd April 2008. Each one will have an individual headersheet. For formative assessment, hand (with headersheet) directly to Prof.Acton6 by the formative deadline; for summative assessment hand them into registry in the normal way. Remember if you miss the final deadline you get an automatic 0%.

Exercise “The celebrated and the obscure”: 2,500- 4,000 words 25%. Formative deadline: November 29th 2007

Pick two dead7 sociologists, or thinkers important to sociology, one still well-known, the other more or less forgotten (It’s your judgment as to what “forgotten” means, but you have to justify this judgment!). For each writer summarise,

  1. who or what was an important theory or theorist they disagreed8 with

  2. why what they wrote that might (or might not) still be of importance in understanding how people do sociology today.

Finally, indicate why you think one of your choices is still famous and the other is not.

I do know this is a difficult exercise, and you won’t be able to find a textbook to tell you how to answer it. You’ll have to go and read books or articles actually written by the 2 dead sociologists you choose. And you have to choose them – I’m not going to choose them for you.

After getting optional feedback from oral presentation, write it up in 2500 - 4000 words total Approximately one third of your text should be on each writer, and and one third on the comparison.) Use the Harvard system for referencing. Write your own title for the piece.

NOTE 1: Gross failure to use the Harvard system will result in a mark of 50% or less.

NOTE 2: I don’t expect to see downloads from the internet or other plagiarism in formative work. I WILL catch you and there is no point, and I will be really annoyed. Those I catch I will normally refuse any further formative feedback to.

3 “The Essay” 2500 – 3,000 words 30%

Formative deadline 7th February 2008

Either write an essay on one of the questions listed under the topics in the handbook, OR write on one of the following questions:

l) Is a non-feminist sociology still possible?

2) Can we tell the story of society without grand narratives?

3) Do the functions of institutions shape the structure of society, or is it the other way round?

4) Discuss the difficulties of bringing dialectical materialism and psychoanalysis into a single discursive framework. Will the result be sociology?

5) If the person who invented the word “sociologie” is not the parent of the discipline, are there any other plausible candidates for the latter role.

6) Are histories of sociology history or sociology?

7) Discuss Parsons’ view that Weber systematised all that was valuable in Marx.

8) What is the “problem of order”? Why is it a problem?

Lecture 1: Introduction

l) Where does the subject “Sociological Debates” come from ?

The Theory – Institutions divide in post-war British L.S.E. Sociology –

With Institutions being more important

  • Theory (from abroad) as the hand-maiden to practical enquiry

  • And getting the welfare-state up and running Titmuss, Townsend, Cherns, Halsey, Goldthorpe (Elias and Baumann – uninfluential outsiders before their retirements)

2) – and where does TA come from?

Originally a sceptic about sociological theory – studying institutions, not theory.

Taught to grab a theory and then get down to real work. (The reification of theory.)

Looking for a succession of adequate theories – functionalism, interactionism, neo-Marxism, interactionism again, cultural analysis, neo-classicism, trying to make each of them synthetic, following a series of fashions

Slowly and reluctantly realising how classical sociological enquiry had underpinned his work.

But not realising – till re-reading Parsons and Merton, the difference between the History of Sociology (the fashions and the Schools of Thought approach embodied in Haralambos) and systematics.

- but still puzzled by Giddens – an a-historical synthesizer?

Enthused by the 2005 Stockholm IIS Congress. The need to recover work that has been “hidden from history”.

3) The need to reconnect the “The Theory Course” with sociology as a whole. So this is not “The Theory Course” (The Sociological research course is nearer to that if we make an analogy with “theory” in the natural sciences). It is an unabashed history of sociology course – but at the same time an exercise in reflexive sociology.

4) But before we can get there we need to do a bit of generalised philosophical systematics – next week.

To discuss:

The use of Harrington A. ed. (2005) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: OUP as a text-book and as a source of questions and further resources.

How Seminars should work in support of preparing assignments.

How we will organise deadlines and feedback on assessments.

Lecture Two: What do we mean by a debate? What is a counterfactual?

1) Problem – we are not agreed on what we mean by a debate!

Incremental views of the growth of knowledge


Dialectical views of the growth of knowledge.

Even within the anti-dialectical positivist tradition there is recognition of the assymmetry of affirmation and negation (Strawson), leading to Popper’s revision of Ayer’s falsificationist criterion of meaningfulness:

A proposition is as meaningful as the specificity with which you can specify the conditions under which it could be refuted.

But how might that proposition itself be refuted?

A more sociological view suggests that whatever view we adopt about how we ought to argue, in real life it really helps to understand what someone is arguing if you know who they are arguing against.

2) An example : Empiricism and Rationalism

Rationalism – the secular heir of medieval dogmatic theology (vs what would become biblical theology), and of idealism (vs nominalism/realism).

Descartes and the project of a universal grammar (as part of a Universal system)

Empiricist resistance to rationalism: Locke and Hume

(footnote : is Berkeley a possible synthesis of rationalism and empiricism?)

Chomsky and the defence of system-building as an aspiration.

The attempt of later French idealists to synthesis empiricism and rationalism: the myth of the enlightenment

3) Hegel and Dialectics:

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis

Matter as the Antithesis of Spirit: Systematising theology to the point of extinction?

The Social order – state and church –overcoming alienation:

The first sociology of knowledge ?

4) Positivism as an alternative to Hegelian Negationism

Comte’s Postive Sociology (backed up by Quetelet’s “probabilistic statistics”)9

An incrementalist, but still idealist approach

Reifying negation as social change – a phenomenon to be studied (and brought under control) scientifically.

To Discuss:

In what sense is there, or can there be “a science of society”? How do arguments in sociology differ from debates in (a) other social sciences, and (b) ‘natural’ sciences’?

Lecture 3. Who now reads…?

l) Inventing ancestors as a rhetorical device:

- We all do it: few did it as memorably as Talcott Parsons, but even he was quoting Crane Brinton’s “Who now reads Herbert Spencer?” (as Halsey 2004 points out) :

Goldthorpe did it in the first theory lecture TA ever attended. I’m doing it to you now. You think I’m making it up as I go along? No, I’m part of the grand tradition!

But why do we all go back to Parsons? (and not Crane Brinton?)

2) Did Parsons (1937) invent the contemporary discourse of sociology?

His whole case is that he did not: he just consolidated it:

Spenser had posed the questions – but gave “the wrong answers” (ie “positivistic utilitarianism”)

BUT – 4 great authors had given the right answer between them.

Durkheim (contextualising social change, with his positivist heritage toned down).

Marshall (Alfred, NOT T.H!!) (with the economic reductionism screened out)

Weber (specialising on his account of rationality, and downplaying his account of economic conflict, except to assert that Weber incorporated everything worthwhile from Marx)

Pareto: the aristocratic Italian godfather of right-wing economics and sociology (and Parsons’ real hero, at least before 1939? - The role of “The Pareto Circle”)

(Note: Pareto and Marshall are today both better remembered as economists)

3) Parsonian Functionalism:

Parsons (1937) suggests that between them these 4 authors

*bring together subjective and objective elements and thus

*create a “voluntaristic theory of action”

Parsons (1951) consolidates this theory to show how it

* explains the persistence of order and

* explains institutions through their functionality for actors and society and

* allows explanations of social change through pattern variables (eg achievement/ascription and affectivity/affective-neutrality).

Apart from Spenser, Parsons’ fiercest criticism is of Pitirim Sorokin (1928) for suggesting there were many sociologies: Parsons insists there is but one.

4) Is Parsons’ real debate with Spenser and Sorokin – or with Marx?

The conventional wisdom till the 1960s (and the earliest editions of Haralambos) was that the real debate was between revolutionary socialism (Marx) and evolutionary reformism (Durkheim, as the heir of Comte, the man credited with inventing the word sociology.) Then interactionism comes to be seen as an in-between perspective – eventually formalised by Giddens as “The third way” – and Haralambos has for 20+ years given 3 views of everything, of which “functionalism” is just one. You were taught “there are no right answers in sociology.”

So did Parsons lose?

At one level yes – as we will see from all the criticisms poured upon his “abstracted empiricism.” (Mills 1959) But at another level, Parsons (1937) remains the man to beat, the man who set the terms of the debate, the man who sets in train the search for commonality in sociology in a way that will always make the Haralambos/Schools of Thought approach unsatisfying.

And (in the US and the UK at least – until Foucault) we have tended to read both Durkheim and Weber through Parsons’ eyes, as the most important early thinkers. We may disagree with Parsons – but before Foucault we tended to take for granted his account of how and why sociology became important.

  1. So – which debates in Social Science got missed out of the history of sociology?: some suggestions

  • women and feminists (c.f. Addams, de Beauvoir, Rowbotham) – sociology was about science, not about women!

  • “Christian Sociology” in the USA: Sociology was about science, not religion.

  • The National Association for the Promotion of the Social Sciences (1856-1884 in the UK) – amazingly reminiscent of the British Sociological Association – but could not satisfy the workers (Samuel Caldwell Nicholson, print worker, after hearing of a rough ride given to trade unionists at the 1865 Congress of Social Science, says “Why not have a Congress of our own?” – and goes on to found the TUC in 1868. )

Why did NAPSS dissolve itself in 1884?

  • The Scottish Hegelians – an intellectual tradition that became unpatriotic in 1914 – but lived on in McDougall’s Social Psychology – an important source of the persistent racism in contemporary Psychology.

6) So, if we look again at the 19th century, can we find an alternative explanation of why sociology became an important new discipline? And why it was so androcentric (male-oriented) – See next week’s lecture.

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