Sociology | Introduction to Sociology
S100 | 3737 | Robinson

How do sociologists look at the social worlds we all inhabit? In this
course we’ll learn that sociologists have a unique point of view–the
sociological perspective. Through this lens we’ll look at everyday
rituals of deference and domination, solidarity and boundary marking,
conformity and resistance. The sociological perspective can help us
to understand connections between self and society, private troubles
and public issues, deviance and normality, order and conflict, and
continuity and change. We can use the sociological mindfulness that
this perspective gives us to explore how meanings are negotiated,
races constructed, genders forged, sexuality policed, work defined,
underclasses contained, deviants shamed and families shaped. We can
also use the sociological perspective to become aware of how our
culture, institutions, families and friends shaped our lives and to
explore what our responsibility is to change society for the better.

The overall aim of the course is to introduce a way of looking at the
world--a sociological perspective or framework with which to ask
meaningful questions about societies and their organization.  Four
specific features of the course derive from this broad goal.  First,
I assign only original scholarship by sociologists, rather than a
textbook, as readings for the course.  Reading original works by
sociologists will give you the best sense of how a sociologist would
approach a particular problem and work it through in terms of its
origins, effects, and broader implications.  Second, to challenge the
tendency to view problems facing people in contemporary society as
solely the result of individual flaws and virtues, I will encourage
you to consider how social structural features of the society (e.g.,
the organization of the economy, political systems, the sexual
division of labor) affect these problems.  Third, although the main
focus of the course is on U.S. society, materials on other societies
will be introduced to show which features of our society are unique
to the United States and which are common to all societies.  Fourth,
through in-class exercises, surveys, and discussion, we will explore
and become more aware of our own assumptions about society. The
readings will consist of three paperback books and a reader.