ANSO 305(F) Social Theory

This course tries to recapture common ground on the sharply contested plain of "social theory." It begins with pairs of classic anthropological and sociological studies showing how the two disciplines typically approach fundamental problems of human experience and address such key questions as: How do men and women in different societies and epochs construct and maintain social order? How do they allocate authority, responsibility, and blame, as well as social prestige, power, and material wealth? What systems of beliefs and reinforcing symbols do they fashion to come to grips with evil, misfortune, and mortality? What happens when social worlds fall apart? In considering such issues through concrete studies, we will reconstruct the intellectual and social histories of both disciplines, examining in particular how the two disciplines abandoned common ground and language, with sociologists gravitating toward paradigms of scientific predictability and anthropologists toward relativistic frameworks of interpretation. The course explores the confrontations of both disciplines with the troubling puzzles of modernity. It analyzes the contemporary appropriation of the "primitive," as well as the significance of remote anthropological discoveries, often in re-enchanted form, of the same demystified, commercial, bureaucratic processes that sociologists study in the metropolis. Finally, the course examines the migration of ideas from anthropology and sociology to disciplines as diverse as literary and art criticism, philosophy, religion, political science, and history, and the counterflow of ideas back to anthropology and sociology. The course emphasizes the conflict between interpretive frameworks and ways to reconcile and build upon these intellectual differences in order to make sense of the social world. Prerequisites: Anthropology 101 or Sociology 101 and ANSO 205 or permission of the instructor. Expected enrollment: 20.