Sociology | Social Change
S215 | 3753 | 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 not
just discuss what has changed; we will identify patterns and
anomalies of change across organizations, institutions and culture.
Our journey will force us to explore the realms of politics,
education, and the economy, as well as morality, conceptions of
gender and perspectives on race.  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!