another year, another theory syllabus

I’m teaching graduate social theory again this semester, and I ended up taking a hatchet to the syllabus. This time round we’re looking at things more thematically than chronologically, because I decided I didn’t want to be doing the History of Ideas all the time. Comments, suggestions, incoherent grunting, and bitter laughter at the sad, sad, state of the field are welcome.

Written by Kieran

August 31, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Posted in just theory, sociology

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Great stuff (I like the inclusion of sections 3 and 10, along with the rest of the mix).



    August 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  2. 1. “The Nightmare from Which Are Trying to Awake?”

    How can you say that after last years NCAA tournament?

    2. Intersectionality: No. You. Did. Not.



    August 31, 2010 at 6:28 pm

  3. Excellent syllabus.



    August 31, 2010 at 8:04 pm

  4. some of the hyperlinks have a trailing period, which breaks their functionality

    aside from that technical quibble, i really like this syllabus and fully intend to steal liberally from it if i ever teach graduate theory. as previously expressed in the form of satire, i am extremely sympathetic to shifting from a theorist-centric pedagogy to a theory-centric pedagogy.



    August 31, 2010 at 8:15 pm

  5. Hey Gabriel — glad you like it. Which links are broken? I checked several and they seemed fine.



    August 31, 2010 at 11:02 pm

  6. Looks like a great syllabus, as always. While I’m sympathetic with the theory, not theorist, focus, they’re highly collinear!

    A couple of thoughts:
    – I think Marx ought to come before Weber, not just for chronological reasons but because so much of Weber’s work was animated by his grudging respect for Marx.
    – Don’t use the Cosman translation of Elementary Forms, for two reasons. One, the translator’s introduction to the Fields translation is absolutely wonderful and deserves reading on its own. Two, there’s strong evidence that substantial portions of Cosman’s translation were simply copied out of Fields’.
    – We should really think about cooperation between Duke and UNC on theory offerings – would love to have some Dookies taking my advanced seminar this semester and would love to have some of our students in your classes.


    Andrew Perrin

    September 1, 2010 at 3:40 am

  7. kieran,
    i get the error with all of the links i tried, specifically URLs that appear in the text (rather than hidden in an “a href” tag) and which end in a period. it happens if i’m using Safari and i right-click to “Go to Address in a New Tab”. However if I just left click it (from either Preview or Safari) it works properly.

    you might want to try eliminating the trailing periods (or adding a space) or you can just tell people who have this issue to just read it in Preview instead of directly in the browser.



    September 1, 2010 at 4:34 am

  8. . it happens if i’m using Safari and i right-click to “Go to Address in a New Tab”. However if I just left click it (from either Preview or Safari) it works properly.

    It looks like this is an issue with the way Safari auto-selects the block of text you right-click on — it includes the period, even though this is not part of the URL as it exists in the PDF (which is why it works fine when you just left-click it: the url isn’t broken in the PDF file). Annoying. I’ll take out the full stops.



    September 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

  9. Andy,

    I wasn’t aware of the issues around the Cosman translation. Nasty.

    I agree about the theory offerings. (Especially since both schools are ‘one and done’ for required theory, right?)



    September 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

  10. Yes, we are both “one and done” with requirements, although for the first time in the 10 years I’ve been here, we are finally at least offering an advanced course. But there are actually four theory courses I would like to offer/have available for grad students, in no particular order:
    – History of social thought, rather like our SOCI 700;
    – Current sociological analytic theory, rather like my SOCI 800 and with strains of Kieran’s course
    – Critical theory and postmodernism
    – Theory from other disciplines (e.g., deconstruction, anthro, lit crit, political theory) with an eye toward sociological implications


    Andrew Perrin

    September 2, 2010 at 2:05 am

  11. Re: the Collins and Smith and Intersecting Categories: I use these as well in my Soc of Knowledge course, and realize these are foundational works in this area, but it also occurred to me when last teaching that course that I was teaching the exact same material I had been taught as an undergrad. I see the Glenn on the syllabus and know a lot of contemporary histories and APD work on intersecting categories– any suggestions for fresher theoretical work in this area?



    September 2, 2010 at 11:52 am

  12. Re-teaching this stuff again this year, I’m convinced the the “Manifesto” (especially the Bourgeois and Proletarians” section) is still the most pedagogical thing that Marx ever wrote (in addition to the 3 pages on of the Preface to the Contribution to the Critique…) so I wouldn’t skip it.

    I’m sure there’s a method behind it, but it seems strange to have people read Elementary Forms and Protestant Ethic on the same week. Ann Swidler’s introduction to the latest Beacon Press “Sociology of Religion” is a great contextualizer of Weber’s larger “sociology of culture” project.

    I think it’s cruel and unusual punishment to end the semester with 100 pages of Harrison White and 300 pages of Pierre Bourdieu.

    On White, why have students wrestle through the polymer goo of words? If the subject is “culture and networks” I would consider assigning Pachuki and Breiger or Mische or Ikegami and just having them read the selections from the Martin book that you have on the recommended readings.

    I know that Ann likes Outline, but I think the last word is Logic of Practice (from an exegetical point of view); in any case, reading this book cold turkey is in my view too much (Book I is the relevant “theoretical” part; Book II is great since its the theory at work, but I doubt that many people will get that far, although I would make the “Appendix” on the Kabyle House required). In any case I would consider excerpting it and supplementing it with some excerpts from An Invitation, in particular the parts written by Loic.



    September 3, 2010 at 6:08 pm

  13. Excellent syllabus…


    jessica k.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  14. […] they’re both group blogs with thriving comment sections. The comments on posts in which they debate the contents of a theory syllabus or “ask a scatterbrain” are often as interesting as their topical posts. orgtheory also […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: