Last Fall, I taught graduate classical social theory for the first time. I’m teaching the course again in the coming academic year and I’m trying to decide what, if anything, to change. Last year’s version “worked” on the whole, though there were rough patches. Du Bois, who I had not read before, was a big hit, and I learned a ton from Black Reconstruction especially. This time I’ve upped the Du Bois content to two full weeks. So did the major course themes (“What is the social? How do we make knowledge about it?). My current draft syllabus is here, in case anyone is curious.
Although the course went fine, I remain frustrated with a couple things. First, I can’t figure out how to organically include feminist writing in the syllabus. Last time, I had included some bits of 1980s feminist standpoint theory alongside Du Bois, but the students (rightfully) complained that it felt tacked on, and did justice to neither Du Bois nor feminist thought. The founding fathers remain stubbornly men, and stubbornly not or even anti-feminist.
I’m also never sure how to begin the course – I like starting with a week of what sociology emerged in reaction to/distinction from (classical political thought, political economy), which is how I learned theory, but it’s a very dry, overview week.
For those of you teaching classical social theory, what’s working well for you? Are there particular assignments, readings, etc. that you’ve find surprisingly effective? How much do you incorporate secondary vs. primary texts? Do you include critical commentary alongside the primary texts? For those of you who recently took classical social theory, what worked well for you and what didn’t?
EDIT: I’ve toyed around with the syllabus a bit more. New version here, now including feminist criticism/reinterpretation alongside the major theorists. I’m pretty happy with it, except the absence of obvious readings to include alongside Weber. What are your favorite secondary sources for helping students understand Weber? What are the best feminist readings of Weber?
In a discussion about politics with some students this week–outside of structured class activities!–several were surprised to learn that I wasn’t a fan of Bernie Sanders. How could a sociologist not support Bernie, they wondered (I should have pointed out that some great sociologists actually hold conservative convictions; next time, Gabe!).
This came up in the context of Sanders’ ignominiousreturn to the news following his endorsement of anti-choice Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello. He defended his position by saying:
The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about
And he’s right! But, he then went on to say
If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation. And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.
And I get off the Bernie train at this station. The man who can’t take the criticism of purity built his campaign on the idea of purity on economic populism of the kind that would help white, male workers in formerly union-heavy industries. Asking people to accept an anti-choice candidate as a means to an end for pro-choice policies doesn’t ring a note too discordant from finding wealthy supporters to fund support campaigns of politicians elected to upend economic inequality. Talking to Goldman Sachs should disqualify a Democratic candidate from consideration, but actively supporting an anti-choice candidate should not.
Happy Earth Day! Happy March for Science Day! Today’s Earth day is a bit grim, what with the climate and science being under various forms of attack. Still, as we march and protest and fight back, we must also attend to our own internal problems. Science may not be partisan (or may not have always been partisan), but it’s always been political, which is to say it’s always been about power, who has it, who wields it, what ends it serves, and who gains. One of the more commonplace, everyday kinds of inequality produced by and through science is gender inequality within the academic workplace. For example, a recent study in Research in Higher Education (covered by Bustle here) finds that “women faculty perform significantly more service than men, controlling for rank, race/ethnicity, and field or department” and that this service burden is driven primarily by internal service (to the department or university). A reader asked if scatterplot might do a thread on possible solution to this gendered inequality:
Since this article has been making the rounds, it would be nice to hear about potential solutions above and beyond individual women faculty saying “no.” Do we force unwilling faculty members to do important service functions–even if that means it’s half-assed work that hurts students and other faculty?
I don’t have any great ideas, but I was hoping that some of you all might! My quick thoughts are below the cut, and please add your ideas in the comments.
The first round of the French presidential elections is scheduled for April 23, followed by a run-off between the top two candidates on May 7. Although the dynamic of the race has been volatile, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National (FN) is still expected to make it to the second round, with a strong possibility that she will win a plurality in the first. Moreover, with the French party system currently in crisis, all bets are off, and there is a slim chance that Le Pen might even win the run-off.