Sociology is the study of human conduct from the perspective of the history and the “anatomy” or structure of the group. The focus is on how people coordinate their activities to reach individual and collective goals in a wide range of institutional settings. Sociological analysis explores social situations from the standpoint of the social statuses, roles, meanings, and norms that make behavior reciprocally predictable and organized. Sociology investigates how such patterns of interdependent activity originate and what sustains them, why they take one shape instead of another, how some types of patterned behavior change more rapidly than others, how such patterns or institutional forms are related to one another, and how people justify and explain what they see themselves doing.
Sociology regards patterns of social relations as embedded in the historical process and learned as customary behavior—as institutional practices. Therefore, the sociological perspective is closely linked to comparative historical and cross-cultural studies of social institutions and to psychological studies of human learning.
Sociological study is motivated by skepticism toward commonsense explanations of social behavior. The sociologist transforms conventional wisdom into questions that can be examined in a disciplined, systematic way by asking: what is the evidence for these propositions, under what conditions might they be confirmed, and how might they be disconfirmed with contrary evidence?
The department strives to introduce students to alternative ways of thinking and asking questions about sociocultural and interpersonal phenomena. Those who are curious and puzzled about why and how things in the social universe work as they do, who are willing to be skeptical about the self-evident, obvious, and taken-for-granted truths of common sense, and have a high tolerance for ambiguity usually find our courses more interesting and challenging than those searching for ultimate meanings or looking for the final, absolute answers.
The department’s program contributes to a general education in the arts and sciences by surveying sociology’s basic modes of thought and strategies of inquiry. A vast amount of public and private decision-making in contemporary society is based on social research such as public policy evaluation; media, opinion, and marketing surveys; census studies; and population analyses. To cope with life in a modern society and to make independent judgments, an educated citizen should have a critical understanding of what social science research does to, for, and about him or her. Toward that end, many sociology courses provide hands-on experience with modern social research procedures.
To fulfill college or divisional distribution requirements, students should enroll in Sociology 211, Introduction to Sociology, followed by another course in the department. Upper-division courses introduce students to the core fields and paradigmatic issues of sociological theory and research.
Requirements for the Major
- Sociology 211.
- Sociology 311.
- Sociology 470.
- Any five additional units of sociology.
- Junior qualifying examination. This requirement is satisfied by submitting a paper analyzing two research monographs in an area of substantive interest, preparatory to senior thesis work. Instructions are available on request and in the sociology folder on the courses server.
Recommended: Mathematics 141 is recommended and will apply to the Group D requirement. Further work in mathematics and in other fields in the Division of History and Social Sciences is strongly recommended for students planning to continue their studies at the graduate level or in professional schools.
Sociology 211 - Introduction to Sociology
Full course for one semester. An introduction to sociological
perspectives on patterns of human conduct ranging from fleeting
encounters in informal gatherings to historical processes of
institutional persistence and change. Topics of discussion and research
include the stratification of life chances, social honor and power in
human populations, and the differentiation of these populations by
gender, race, age, ethnicity, and other characteristics both achieved
and ascribed; the integration of differentiated roles and statuses into
systems capable of maintaining their structure beyond the life span of
living individuals, and capable as well of revolutionary and
evolutionary social change; and the interrelationships of familial,
economic, political, educational, and religious institutions in the
emerging world system of late modernity. Prerequisite: sophomore
standing or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference and computer
Sociology 242 - Organizations, Stratification, and Race
Full course for one semester. Economic sociologists view economic
activity as socially structured via networks, corporate hierarchies,
associations, and state bureaucracies, as well as by systems of
impersonal exchange. This course examines the social and institutional
structures of economic life, and their effects on stratification, race,
and the African American community. Topics include the rise of the
corporation and "internal labor markets”; the role of unions, ethnic
enclaves, and employment networks in allocating economic resources; the
effects of civil rights law on corporate practice; the creation and
transformation of welfare states; and how markets, public
bureaucracies, and community organizations shape economic and political
opportunities for African Americans. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or
consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 244 - Race and Ethnicity
Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to the
sociology of race and ethnic relations, with particular emphasis on the
socially structured situations of African Americans. The course surveys
general theoretical approaches to race and ethnicity, and applies them
to specific historical developments in American race relations and the
African American community. A central objective is to understand the
conditions under which segregation, racial hierarchies, and racial
conflict emerge. Topics include identity formation and assimilation;
ethnic competition, internal colonialism, and split labor markets; the
development of the racial state; residential segregation and the
“underclass”; the role of schools and prisons in regulating labor
markets; and the civil rights movement and the welfare state.
Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 280 - Social Movements
Full course for one semester. Why do some social movements fail, while
others succeed? The goal of this course is to introduce students to
sociological theories of social movement success and failure. Through a
review of classical and contemporary theories and case studies of
women’s liberation, gay liberation, abortion, civil rights,
environmentalism, and the peace and disarmament movements, we will
identify key analytical questions and research strategies for studying
contemporary social movements in depth. Among the perspectives reviewed
will be classical approaches (de Tocqueville, “mass society,” and
“relative deprivation”), as well as more recent perspectives that focus
on rational choice, resource mobilization, political process, and new
social movements. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the
Sociology 311 - Research Methods
Full course for one semester. The primary objective is to provide
background for empirical research in the social sciences. Specific
objectives include deepening understanding of the logic of inference by
exploring the relationship between empirical observations and causal
models and introducing basic research techniques. Topics include the
logic of inference, the nature of evidence, and a nonmathematical
introduction to quantitative social analysis, emphasizing regression.
Prerequisite: Sociology 211. Conference.
Sociology 318 - The Sociology of Gender
Full course for one semester. Gender is a central organizing principle
in social relations, giving rise to institutions and social practices
that distinguish between men and women on the basis of apparent
difference and inequality. This course develops the sociological
analysis of gender systems in contemporary American society. It engages
key theoretical and empirical approaches to gender, moving beyond
individual, biological, and psychological approaches to analyze how
gender is regulated and (re)produced by social norms and institutions.
Topics include sex segregation of the labor market, sex differences in
pay and job preferences, childhood socialization and education, power
and the division of labor in families and households, and male-female
interaction. The central theme throughout the course is to understand
how gender roles and attitudes shape social structure, and how gender
inequalities are maintained in everyday social situations.
Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Sociology 320 - Feminisms: Comparative Perspectives on Women’s Activism
Full course for one semester. The goal of this course is to introduce sociological analyses of women’s movements via an exploration of feminism. Through a review of classical and contemporary theories and case studies, we will identify key analytical questions and research strategies for studying the dynamics of contemporary women’s activism. Among the perspectives reviewed will be classical approaches to social movements (emphasizing mass society and relative deprivation), as well as more recent perspectives that focus on resource mobilization, the political process, framing, and transnationalism. We will examine how feminism emerged as a movement and how it changes as it moves across borders and generations. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 328 - Foundations of Social Psychology
Full course for one semester. Social psychology is an interdisciplinary field that concerns the relationship between social structure and individual action. This course provides a broad introduction to the theoretical perspectives and research problems of contemporary social psychology from sociological perspectives. The course is organized around four dominant theoretical strategies: social structure and personality, symbolic interactionism, cognitive social psychology, and structural social psychology. We examine how each theoretical strategy treats the relationship between groups and the individual, and the structures and group processes that emerge from interactions among individuals and groups. Topics include self and identity, intergroup relations, race and gender as status characteristics, stereotyping and discrimination, social exchange, and trust. The emphasis throughout the course is on understanding the principal theoretical and methodological assumptions of each perspective and their application to one or more substantive questions. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Sociology 337 - The Collapse of Communism
Full course for one semester. The collapse of communism opened up a new
terrain for sociologists: the formerly closed societies of Eastern
Europe. This course explores the shape that states, markets, and
societies are taking in this region. We use sociological theories and
tools to understand transitions from communism. Are these societies
developing along a common transition path? How has their engagement
with the West diverged from initial expectations? The substantive areas
that we examine include activism and protest; authoritarianism; social
policy; gender and national identity construction; criminal networks;
and the influence of Western actors and organizations. Prerequisite:
Sociology 211. Conference.
Sociology 340 - American Capitalism
Full course for one semester. This is a comparative historical course
on the development of American capitalism, focusing on the rise of mass
markets and giant corporations as its dominant organizing principles.
We survey theoretical approaches used to explain American capitalism
and engage historical analyses of the key turning points in the
development of our economy. A central objective is to document the
existence of more efficient, democratic, and decentralized alternatives
to the type of capitalism that came to prevail in the United States.
Topics include the role of culture, politics, and finance capital in
the development of the corporation; the rise and fall of cooperative,
regionally based systems; mass production; populist responses to
economic centralization; American labor; and state regulation.
Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Sociology 345 - Regulation
Full course for one semester. This course addresses the problem of regulation and its design from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. It will begin with the Chicago School critique of economic regulation. It will use that critique as a foil for critically reexamining both the rise of regulation in the Progressive and New Deal eras and the “deregulation” movement of the late 20th century. It will then focus on the regulatory forms currently under consideration, ranging from regulation by information, private and public certification schemes, and cap and trade systems, to self-regulatory systems, “soft law,” and deliberative or experimentalist governance. Throughout, we will develop three critical themes: how regulation makes rather than interferes with markets; how to design regulatory arrangements that upgrade rather than suppress competition; and how decisions about regulation are decisions about the kinds of economies, economic development and industrial orders we will pursue. Course prerequisites: Sociology 211; or at least sophomore standing and one of the following: Economics 201, Political Science 210, Political Science 220); or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Sociology 350 - Sociology of Science
Full course for one semester. Science and technology play an
increasingly important role in society, social change, and economic
life, influencing how we understand our environment, organize economic
activity, and enact public policy. Yet science, knowledge, and
technology are themselves developed to serve conflicting interests and
social projects. This course examines the position of science in
society. It examines how science shapes social norms and action, and
how science and knowledge are products of their social organization and
context. Topics include the nature of knowledge, the boundaries of
public and private science, the diffusion of technology, the role of
innovation in economic growth, the construction of scientific practices
and facts, scientific careers, and the effects of gender and racial
stratification on science. Students in this course will become familiar
with the core theoretical approaches in the sociology of science and
technology, and gain a deeper understanding of the social construction
of science. Prerequisites: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor.
Sociology 355 - Economic Sociology
Full course for one semester. This is a course on the sociology of
markets and economic activity in capitalist societies. Its core goal
is to understand how rational, economic activities are facilitated,
modified, or impeded by collective commitments and social institutions.
We address how variation and change in the social structures of
economic life are produced, and the consequences for cooperation,
rationality, justice, and economic development. Topics include
contracts, networks, associations, and hierarchies as core structures
of economic life; the construction of markets and industries;
cooperative alternatives to the corporation; the role of culture,
power, and identity in private enterprise; cross-national differences
in capitalism; innovation; and globalization. Prerequisite: Sociology
211 and one upper-division course in sociology or consent of the
instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 357 - Political Sociology
Full course for one semester. This course provides a general overview
of sociological theories of political transformation. Its focus will be
on strategies used in modern society to justify, contest, or remedy
persistent inequality. The first part of the course examines attempts
to theorize the relationship between social change and the state. The
second part of the course examines sociological theories of political
activism and public opinion formation. Students will prepare a research
paper examining the role social movements or the media play in shaping
politics. Conference. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the
Sociology 363 - Sociology of Culture
Full course for one semester. The course surveys recent sociological
studies of cultural production. It surveys how cultural materials are
used to establish and maintain boundaries that differentiate among
middle class status groups in contemporary America; how diverse
organizations such as museums, art galleries, and record companies
manage the production and distribution of cultural symbols for a
diversified market. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the
instructor. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 377 - Friendship, Status, and Social Pressure
Full course for one semester. This course studies friendships between individuals and friendship groups and intimate relationships, applying social psychological theories of interaction and group processes. What happens when friends interact, and how do friendships affect other areas of people’s lives? We examine the effects of hierarchies of status and power and of norms and social pressure on friendships and intimate relationships. How do social categories like gender, race, and class affect friendships? What are the unwritten rules of behavior among friends in different situations, and what happens when we violate them? While we study friendships at all ages and in many different settings, this course has a special emphasis on friendship in childhood and adolescence and in school settings, as this is the time and place when most of us learn the rules and patterns of interaction among friends and peers. We also examine intimate relationships in adolescence and adulthood as a special case of friendships. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Sociology 380 - Networks and Social Structure
Full course for one semester. Social network dynamics
influence communities, neighborhoods, families, work life, and
innovations. Network theories of social structure view actors as
inherently interdependent, and examine how social structure emerges
from regularities in this interdependence. This course focuses on
the theoretical foundations of structural network dynamics, and
identifies key analytical questions and research strategies for studying
network formation, organization, and development. Attention is paid to
both interactionist and structuralist traditions in network analysis,
and focus is on the core principles of balance and
centrality, connectivity and clustering, power and hierarchy, and social
structure writ large. Substantive topics include social mobility
and stratification, group organization and mobilization, patterns
of creativity and innovation, resource distributions, decision-making,
and the organization of movement and belief systems. This course
couples theoretical and substantive themes with methodological
applications. Time is spent on the
process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting social network
data. Prerequisite: Sociology 211 or consent of the instructor.
Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
Sociology 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one year.
Sociology 481 - Special Topics
One-half or full course for one semester. Work is restricted
to special fields in sociology—demography, communication analysis, and
community surveys. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and
approval of instructor and division.