SOC 610. Contemporary Social Theory

20th century theories: functionalism, conflict, in teractionism, exchange, structural, phenomenological, existential, world systems, and critical.

What is social theory? What is the purpose of social theory? How can social theory help us understand how individuals, groups, social structures, and the natural environment interact as a historical and cultural project? These are some of the basic questions we will explore this semester through an examining of several contemporary social theories, including symbolic interactionism, subcultures, cultural theory, social control, post­structuralism, and more recent theoretical critiques of neoliberalism. In this course, you will develop critical thinking and writing skills through a series of response papers focused on the assigned readings, in addition to a final research paper that explores a social theory of your choosing. Students will gain experience in reading and responding to social theories and learn to place these thinkers within the history of western thought. The course is reading heavy; you will have to budget your time accordingly to finish the assigned readings before class. We will be covering original social theory works, so be ready to spend some time conceptually digesting the material. Group work and discussion are also core aspects of this course. Discussing social theory can be intellectually stimulating, but it requires conceptual thinking and critical thought. Taking your time reading the assignments will insure that you are prepared for engaged discussion and group work.


Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Edward Said, Orientalism

Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty

Margaret Somers, Genealogies of Citizenship