Sociology | Social Change
S215 | 4098 | Barlow


Sociologists often seem to study the “obvious,” common-sensical
domain called “social life.”  Some might ask, “we’re all human
beings, so shouldn’t we know what being human is all about?  Why do
we need an entire discipline committed to telling us what we already
know?” Sociologists, however, begin with the powerful (and
potentially subversive) assumption that “life is not always what it
seems.” Hence, what we think we know—framed by our common sense—is
slanted by our personal biographies and present circumstances.

As human beings, it can be difficult to step outside of ourselves to
observe the patterns and idiosyncrasies that generally characterize
our lives as individuals living in groups.  Realizing that societies
change over time and focusing our energies on how and why such
changes occurred is one way to pull off this ghostly maneuver!

Hence, I propose that in this class we examine how social life has
changed over time in both a U.S. and global setting.  We will begin
by focusing on change in the past; in particular, we will consider
how the Industrial Revolution has irrevocably changed the nature of
work and education.  We will then turn to issues of social change
associated with colonialism, globalization and immigration.  Finally,
we will turn to changes in politics that are often initiated
consciously by social movement organizations.

Hence, in this class, we will frame our examination of change by
discussing what both classical and contemporary sociologists have
said about change, and by considering what it is like to 1) face
dramatic changes that seem or in fact are beyond one’s control and;
2) create changes to bring about desired ends.

Our readings and lectures will force us to engage a wide variety of
material.  We will go from confronting Emile Durkheim's concepts of
mechanic and organic solidarity to submerging ourselves in the
stories of South African activists battling apartheid.  Those who are
open minded, and interested in the world within and beyond U.S.
borders are invited to enroll!