January 3, 2003

· Sociology

This semester I’m teaching two sections of Soc 300, “Sources of Sociological Theory”. Here’s the syllabus [pdf].

Whenever I teach this course, I run into three main problems. The first is that the course is required for majors, which means almost everybody in the class is only there because they have to be. This does not make things easier for the Professor.

The second is that, even with Arizona’s grindingly long semesters, it’s hard to cover as much as one would like. A consequence of this is that we read a pretty conventional group of authors—- Smith, Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel. There’s a mountain of other really good stuff there’s no time to get to. I suppose I could do more if I relied on secondary sources or a textbook, but I’m reluctant to do that in an upper-level undergraduate course of this kind.

The third problem is that 19th century social theory is essentially a historical project, and it’s very difficult to get 19-year-old Arizonans interested in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, or even to grasp the scale of the social transformations of the past 250 years or so. So I’m constantly looking for ways to do both of those things. Here’s the pop-quiz I gave them on the first day last semester:

  1. To the nearest 50 million, about million people live in the United States today, and about million people lived in Europe around 1800.

  2. To the nearest 250,000, about people live within Phoenix’s city limits today, and about people lived in Paris around 1800.

  3. To the nearest 25, there are about cities in the U.S. today with a popuation of more than 100,000. In Europe around 1800, there were about cities of this size.

  4. To the nearest five inches, the average height of recruits to the British Royal Navy in 1800 was .

  5. In 1800, the journey from London to Glasgow (about 350 miles) took at least hours.

  6. In 1800 a typical American General Store carried about separate products. In 1985, a typical American supermarket carried about separate products. In 2000, a typical American supermarket carried about separate products.

Click here for the answers.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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