SOC116 The History of Sociological Thought (Social Theory)

Mills College, Fall 2012
Instructor: Dan Ryan
danryan at mills dot edu
510-430-3242 Vera Long 105

Lecture MW 11-12:15PM GSB 118
Office Hours M, T, W by Appointment


Theories of Social Order: A Reader, Second Edition. Edited by Michael Hechter and Christine Horne. NOTE: first edition is on reserve in the Olin Library (301 T3966 2003)


The written work for this course will consist of several short assignments (reading reactions and the like) and a semi-major essay for each section of the course and a final exam. Attendance and participation taken for granted. Insufficient participation "costs" 5 and exemplary participation "earns" 5. Credit breakdown between assignments and essay is approximate.

Section Task Percentage Task Percentage
Markets Assignments 6 Essay 12
Self Assignments 6 Essay 12
Networks Assignments 6 Essay 12
Hierarchy Assignments 6 Essay 12
Course Final Exam 28

Each missed class beyond two will result in a deduction of 4% of the total possible course grade. Late assignments may be submitted for half-credit; instructor reserves right to provide no feedback on late assignments.

Academic Integrity

Customary academic standards academic integrity (including proper bibliographic citation) apply.  It is your responsibility to know what these are and to follow them.  Collaborative learning is encouraged, but work that is submitted under your name as a demonstration of your skills and competence must represent YOUR work.  Plagiarism, as defined under the Mills College Honor Code, will be cause for, at a minimum, a failing grade in this course. Please consult with instructor if you have any questions, or even the slightest doubt, about how to follow these requirements. When in doubt, cite.


Every effort will be made to make this class accessible for students regardless of disability. Students with needs for accomodation should contact for Students with Disabilities (Cowell Building, x2130) and inform the instructor in order for access to be arranged adequately and promptly.


NOTE. The schedule below indicates when I expect we will be reading/discussing the readings in the course text book. Other recommended readings (and even the occasional required reading) may be added to the online syllabus from time to time (with plenty of notice and instructions on how to obtain the readings). We may fall behind this schedule from time to time. I will try to always mention what we are reading next at the end of each session. In any case, though, it is the student's responsibility to (1) read things on time, and (2) keep abreast of where we are in the course schedule.

W 29-Aug : Introduction to Theory & the Course

Locating the course in the curriculum and your education; previewing the trajectory we'll follow; laying out expectations and course requirements; hearing from participants.

  1. Hechter & Horne, "Preface" pp.xi-xiv.
  1. Access course digital library
  2. Post an introduction in the course forum
  3. Fill out media use survey.
  4. Write up Exercise 1 on cooperation and coordination

W 5-Sept: Preliminaries, the Problem of Order and Sociological Theory

Two goals: situating "the problem of order" in historical context; staking out initial claims for "the social." We'll accomplish both by thinking through some history and starting to fill our conceptual backpacks with some terms like public goods, free riders, externalities, social contract, cooperation, and coordination.

  1. Collins, Randall. "The Irrational Foundations of Rationality" (DL) (Notes)
  2. H&H: "The Problem of Social Order" pp 1-5
  3. Wrong, Dennis. 1994. "The Problem of Order from Hobbes to the Present," pp. 14-36 in The Problem of Social Order: What Unites and Divides Society. (DL)

M 9-Sept: What is Theory?


  1. H&H "What is Theory?" pp. 7-11
  2. Hedstrom, Peter. 2005. "Dissecting the Social"
  3. H&H "Motives and Mechanisms" pp. 17-22
  4. Have a look at this time line of social theory
  5. Assignment: Draw a diagram of some sort that illustrates some aspect of this material.

Nature, nurture, context, biography, culture, situation, action.

W 11-Sept: Weber on Social Action

Weber on how to untangle a hair-ball.

  1. Weber, Max. 1921. "Types of Social Action," from Economy and Society.

Sometime this week, listen to Philosophy Talk episode on "Cooperation and Conflict"

M 16-Sept: Public Goods, Cooperation, Surveillance, Social Control, and Reciprocity

Fehr and Gintis on the importance of the social.

  1. Fehr, Ernst and Herbert Gintis. 2007. "Human Motivation and Social Cooperation"
  2. Class Activity: Public Goods Game
W 18-Sept: Evolutionary Psychology and Social Theory

Kanazawa introduces evolutionary psychology. Nature, nurture, context, biography, culture, situation, action. Perhaps start by reading first several pages in Platek, et al., then work through Kanazawa.

  1. Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2001. "De Gustibus Est Disputandum"
  2. Goetz, Aaron T., Todd K. Shackelford, and Steven M. Platek. 2009. "Introduction to evolutionary psychology: A Darwinian approach to human behavior and cognition," pp. 1-21 in Platek and Shackelford (eds.) Foundations in Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience (DL) Mills 612.8233 F7714 2009

M 23-Sept: The Individual as a Solution to the Problem of Order


  1. H&H: "Solutions to the Problem of Order: Individuals" pp 41-45
W 25-Sept: The Self as a Product of Society


  1. Marx, Karl. 1845-6. "The Production of Consciousness,” from The German Ideology.
  2. Mead, George Herbert. 1934. "Play, the Game, and the Generalized Other," from Mind, Self, and Society.
M 30-Sept:


  1. Emile Durkheim. 1912. "The Origin of Beliefs," from The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life
  2. Fleck, Ludwick. 1935. "Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact," from Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact.
W 2-Oct:


  1. Cohen, Dov and Joe Vandello. 1998. "Meanings of Violence"

See also
Nisbett, Richard E. and Dov Cohen. 1996. Culture of honor : the psychology of violence in the South. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. (ML 303.60975 N724c 1996)
Cohen, Dov and Joe Vandello. 1998. "Meanings of Violence." The Journal of Legal Studies , Vol. 27, No. S2 (June 1998), pp. 567-584 (JSTOR)

Essay on Self and Social Order around now.

M 7-Oct
W 9-Oct
M 14-Oct: Hierarchy
  1. Hechter & Horne: "Hierarchies" pp 82-87
W 16-Oct: The State and Social Order
  1. Hobbes, Thomas.  1651.  "Leviathan"

M 21-Oct: Hierarchy and the State
  1. Engels, Friedrich. 1884. "The Origin of the State"
W 23-Oct: Hierarchy and Organizations
  1. Weber, Max. 1921-2. "The Types of Legitimate Domination"
  2. Willis, Paul. 1981. "Learning to Labor"
  3. Perrow, Charles. "Why Bureaucracy?" (DL)

See also
Perrow, C. Organizational Analysis: A Sociological View

M 28-Oct: Markets
  1. H&H, "Markets," pp. 134-139.
  2. Wikipedia Editors, Market.
  3. Hayek, Friedrich A. 1976. "Cosmos and Taxis"
  4., "Fight of the Century"
  5., "Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem
W 30-Oct: Markets
  1. Schelling, Thomas C. 1978. "Micromotives and Macrobehavior"
  2. Smith, Adam . 1776. "The Division of Labor"

IN CLASS: Markets and Agents

M 5-Nov
  1. Axelrod, Robert.  1984.  "The Evolution of Cooperation"
  2. Axelrod, Robert.  1984.  "The Live-and-Let-Live System in Trench Warfare in World War I

W 7-Nov : Markets
  1. Zimmer, Carl. 2007. "From Ants to People, and Instinct to Swarm"
M 12-Nov Groups
  1. Goffman, Erving. 1977. "The Arrangement between the Sexes"
  2. Freud, Sigmund. 1930. "Civilization and Its Discontents"
  3. Durkheim, Emile. 1897. "Egoistic Suicide"
  4. Durkheim, Emile. 1897. "Anomic Suicide"
W 14-Nov
  1. De Tocqueville, Alexis. 1848. "Individualism and Free Institutions"

M 19-Nov


  1. (optional) Hechter, Michael H. 1987. "Principles Of Group Solidarity"
  2. Coleman, James S. 1990. "The Emergence of Norms"
  3. (optional) Horne, Christine. 2001,4. "Group Cohesion and Metanorms"
  4. Centola, Damon, Robb Willer, and Michael Macy. 2005. "The Emperor's Dilemma"
  5. (optional) Hechter, Michael, Debra Friedman, and Satoshi Kanazawa. 1992. "The Attainment of Social Order in Heterogeneous Societies"

M 26-Nov Networks


  1. Gellner, Ernest. 1987. "Trust, Cohesion, and the Social Order"
  2. Gluckman, Max. 1955. "The Peace in the Feud"
W 28-Nov


  1. Simmel, Georg. 1922. "The Web of Group-Affiliations"
  2. Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. "The Strength of Weak Ties"
M 3-Dec


  1. Varshney, Ashutosh. 2001. "Ethnic Conflict and Civil Society: India and Beyond"
W 5-Dec TBA


M 10-Dec TBA