The first quarter of this sequence focuses on key texts for liberal political and state conceptions. We explore the distinctly modern liberal claim that society or groups of associated individuals make states for their own protection and the governance of their affairs. We interrogate authors on questions concerning individuality, liberty, equality, the limitation of state power, the importance of political stability, the value of democratic participation in governance, the role that organized society plays in political life, and the degree to which social and political relations vary historically-- among other issues. Winter Quarter focuses on the work of central figures in modern political economy and social theory. The course highlights the organization of economic process and the ways in which it relates to social and political relations and institutions. The central questions are these: How historically distinctive is the modern form of capitalist economy? Do human beings "naturally" act in certain ways in the economy and society? To what degree can we rely on individual self-control? Is inequality an inevitable outcome of capitalist economic development? What is the role of power in economic life? How should we think about the relationship between political power and economic practice? Spring Quarter analyzes the way in which selected themes from the first two quarters work themselves out in the history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Broadly, we consider the role and place of violence in liberal thought and practice. Problems of individual psychological violence as well as social and political violence are considered.
“Self, Culture, and Society” introduces students to a broad range of social scientific theories and methodologies that deepen their understanding of basic problems of cultural, social, and historical existence. The sequence starts with the conceptual foundations of political economy and theories of capitalism and meaning in modern society. Students then consider the cultural and social constitution of the self, foregrounding the exploration of sexuality, gender, and race. Finally, students critically examine dominant discourses of science, individuality, and alterity, keeping an eye towards the application of social theory to contemporary concerns.
Contemporary culture is awash in scientific claims about the human condition. As evident in best-sellers like Freakonomics, Moneyball, and The Tipping Point, a data-driven conception of social life is occurring not just in the higher echelons of business or government, but in popular discourse as well. This course provides an introduction to this "positivist" approach. The Autumn Quarter starts by introducing students to the various ways that social scientists think about the world. Examples include theoretical models from Milton Friedman, Thomas Schelling, and John Nash; path-breaking experiments from Stanley Milgram and Daniel Kahneman; and quantitative research on topics ranging from voting to gun violence to baby names. Through these works, students will learn how researchers theorize about social phenomena. In the Winter Quarter, students will be introduced to social science research tools. They will learn how to collect data, conduct experiments, and make causal inferences from statistics. Using the General Social Survey, the National Election Studies, and other surveys, students will gain hands-on experience working with large data sets. In the Spring Quarter, students will conduct their own substantial research project. Students will learn how to translate their ideas into research questions, their theories into testable hypotheses, and their findings into meaningful conclusions. By year's end, students will develop a critical perspective on many perennial social questions and, ultimately, acquire "quantitative literacy," essential skills in an increasingly data-driven world.
Two sections within the "Social Science Inquiry" sequence will each offer a different topical focus: one section on formal theory ("Social Science Inquiry: Formal Theory" SOSC 13110-13210-13310) and one section on spatial analysis ("Social Science Inquiry: Spatial Analysis" 13120-13220-13320). If you would like to be considered for one of these sections, please indicate your interest in your cover letter.
This sequence takes an empirical, scientific approach to understanding the functions of the mind. Drawing on psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, and a number of other social as well as biological sciences, the course examines how the mind operates at multiple levels of analysis (e.g., biological, psychological, societal) and across a variety of time scales (e.g., exploring processes that unfold over the course of milliseconds as well as those that unfold over millennia). We examine issues such as how people apprehend reality, the development of thought across the life span, the impact of social contextual factors on mental processes, the ideal of rationality and systematic deviations from that ideal, how different languages and cultures represent different ways of seeing and thinking about the world. Cross-cutting these specific topic areas is a sustained exploration of the process by which contemporary social science is conducted. For example, we consider what constitutes a legitimate social scientific question, what counts as valid empirical evidence, and how data are used to test theories and to support causal claims.
What is justice? What makes a good society? What is the best form of government? What is the relation between a good citizen and a good human being? When are obedience, resistance or revolt justified? What is the role of religion in politics? This sequence explores such fundamental questions through classic writings from Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas and from the works of the great founders and critics of modernity such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, and DuBois. Writing before our departmentalization of disciplines, they were at the same time sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, economists, and moralists; they offer contrasting alternative conceptions of society and politics that underlie continuing controversies in the social sciences and in contemporary political life.
Global Society is organized around three essential areas for making sense of a globalized world: social thought, population, and social change. The sequence is designed to cultivate an understanding of social science research that extends beyond experiences and processes that are particular to Western civilizations. The curriculum will expose students to a long-standing, globally expansive canon within the social sciences and teach students to distinguish cultural particulars from universal concerns.
This sequence uses the American historical experience, set within the context of Western civilization to (1) introduce students to the principles of historical thought, (2) probe the ways political and social theory emerge within specific historical contexts, and (3) explore some of the major issues and trends in American historical development. This sequence is not a general survey of American history. Autumn quarter examines the basic order of early colonial society; the social, political, and intellectual forces for a rethinking of that order; and the experiences of the Revolution and of making a new polity. Winter focuses on the impact of economic individualism on the discourse on democracy and community; on pressures to expand the definition of nationhood to include racial minorities, immigrants, and women; on the crisis over slavery and sectionalism; and on class tensions and the polity. Spring quarter focuses on the definitions of Americanism and social order in a multicultural society; Taylorism and social engineering; culture in the shadow of war; the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender; and the rise of new social movements.
European Civilization is a two-quarter sequence designed to use close readings of primary sources to enrich our understanding of Europeans of the past. As we examine the variety of their experiences, we will often call into question what we mean in the first place by “Europe” and “civilization.” Rather than providing a narrative of high politics, the sequence will emphasize the contested geographic, religious, social, and racial boundaries that have defined and redefined Europe and its people over the centuries. We will read and discuss sources covering the period from the early Middle Ages to the present, from a variety of genres: saga, biography, personal letters, property records, political treatises, memoirs, and government documents, to name only a few. Individual instructors may choose different sources and highlight different aspects of European civilization, but some of the most important readings will be the same in all sections. The two-quarter sequence may also be supplemented by a third quarter, in which students will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth a particular topic in the history of European civilization. Topics in this third quarter of the sequence may include women in European history, religion and society, Church and State, the Enlightenment, the transformation of the Roman World, or other focused topics on cultural, economic, social, political, or religious aspects of European history.
This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This three-quarter sequence approaches the concept of civilization from an emphasis on cross-cultural/societal connection and exchange. We explore the dynamics of conquest, slavery, colonialism, and their reciprocal relationships with concepts such as resistance, freedom, and independence, with an eye toward understanding their interlocking role in the making of the modern world. Themes of slavery, colonization, and the making of the Atlantic world are covered in the first quarter. Modern European and Japanese colonialism in Asia and the Pacific is the theme of the second quarter. The third quarter considers the processes and consequences of decolonization both in the newly independent nations and the former colonial powers.
This two-quarter sequence aims to expand students’ exposure to an array of texts—theoretical, historical, religious, literary, visual—that address the fundamental place of gender and sexuality in the social, political, and cultural creations of different civilizations. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. The first quarter offers a historical examination of bodies, sex, and gender. Through a series of readings that include historical primary sources and examples of cultural production from antiquity to the present, we will investigate how bodies across a variety of cultures become sexed and gendered. In particular, we will ask how the very categories of sex and gender not only produce social meaning from bodies and their anatomical differences but may also be complicit in acts violence, oppression, and colonization. Thematically we will pay attention to the emergence and critique of the distinction between sex and gender; resistances to the gender binary; the relationship between gender, power, and authority; feminism and critiques of Western feminism; the category of woman as an object of scientific knowledge; and the flourishing of and violence against trans life. Finally, while we will be dealing with historical accounts in this course, the aim is to understand how the regulation of bodies in the past has informed and may challenge our understanding of the diversity of embodied experience in the present. The second half of the civ sequence will extend our earlier interrogation of bodies, sex, and gender into an examination of sexualities and socialities. Through an encounter with theoretical texts, literature, and art, we will investigate a series of important critiques of biopower, or statist strategies for regulating bodies and controlling populations. These interventions include critiques of nationalism, colonialism, capitalism, and heteronormativity, all of which, as we will see, contribute to our understanding of sexuality. Throughout the course, feminist and queer critique will fundamentally frame our analyses of power, desire, and sexuality.
This two-quarter sequence explores how human rights have been constructed across transnational, imperial, national, and local spaces in a variety of civilizational vernaculars while exposing students to their contested genealogies, limits, and silences. The sequence is primary source driven and discussion based, with readings drawn from a range of texts from the political and the legal to the literary, aural, and visual. The first quarter begins with a set of conceptual problems and optics designed to introduce students to the critical study of human rights, opening up questions of the universal, human dignity, and the political along with the practices of witness and testimony. It is followed by two thematic clusters. "Anti-Slavery, Humanitarianism, and Rights" focuses on the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to historicize notions of dignity, sympathy, and witness. "Declarations as a Human Rights Genre" examines revolutionary eighteenth-century rights declarations in France, the United States, and Haiti against the aspirations of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Four thematic clusters structure the second quarter. "Migration, Minorities, and Refugees" examines minority rights, the evolution of legal norms around refugees, and human trafficking. "Late Twentieth Century Human Rights Talk" explores the contestations between rights claims in the political-civil and socio-economic spheres, calls for sexual rights, and cultural representations of human rights abuses. "Global Justice" considers forms of international criminal law, transitional justice, and distributive justice. "Indigenous Rights as Human Rights" takes up the relatively new domain of the rights of indigenous peoples and how they relate to contemporary human rights practice.
Available as a three-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter-Spring) or as a two-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter or Winter-Spring). This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This sequence surveys the social, economic, and political history of Greece ot the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), the Roman Republic (509 to 27 BC), and the late antiquity (27 BC to the fifth century AD). The first quarter surveys the social, economic, and political history of Greece from prehistory to the Hellenistic period. The main topics considered include the development of the institutions of the Greek city-state, the Persian Wars and the rivalry of Athens and Sparta, the social and economic consequences of the Peloponnesian War, and the eclipse and defeat of the city-states by the Macedonians. The second quarter surveys the social, economic, and political history of Rome, from its prehistoric beginnings in the twelfth century BCE to the end of the Severan dynasty in 235 CE. Throughout, the focus is upon the dynamism and adaptability of Roman society, as it moved from a monarchy to a republic to an empire, and the implications of these political changes for structures of competition and cooperation within the community. The third quarter surveys the five centuries between the establishment of imperial autocracy in 27 BCE and the fall of the Western empire in the fifth century CE.
Jewish Civilization is a three-quarter sequence that explores the development of Jewish culture and tradition from its ancient beginnings through its rabbinic and medieval transformations to its modern manifestations. Through investigation of primary texts—biblical, Talmudic, philosophical, mystical, historical, documentary, and literary—students will acquire a broad overview of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness while reflecting in greater depth on major themes, ideas, and events in Jewish history. The Autumn course will deal with antiquity to the medieval period; the Winter course will begin with the early modern period and continue to the present. The Spring course will vary with a special topic.