Sociology | Topics in Social Organization
S410 | 24097 | Bartley

Topic: Consumers, Corporations, and Capitalism

(Open to upper-level Sociology majors and to other upper-level
students with the permission of the instructor)

Can consumer decisions make a difference in terms of promoting global
justice or protecting the environment?  What do Fair Trade labels on
coffee really mean?  Is “corporate social responsibility” an oxymoron
or a meaningful trend?  Is Wal-Mart a good or bad thing for consumers,
workers, and communities in the U.S. and abroad?  How do the global
commodity chains that generate our clothes, food, cellphones, and
iPods really work?  Who are the people that make these products, and
what are their social worlds like?  Why are companies adopting
voluntary labor and environmental standards, and what difference does
it make?  Are we living in a consumerist culture, and if so, at what

These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed in this
seminar.  We will focus on developing a sociological perspective on
economic life (broadly defined), with a particular focus on recent
changes in the governance of markets and the linkages between local
decisions and global trends.  Students will read materials from both
scholarly and popular sources, contribute actively to discussions
during the seminar, and conduct case study research that extends the
course material.