GENERAL SOCIOLOGY
cod. 1002998

Academic year 2019/20
1° year of course - Second semester
Professor
- Laura GHERARDI
Academic discipline
Sociologia generale (SPS/07)
Field
Discipline filosofiche, psicologiche, sociologiche e antropologiche
Type of training activity
Basic
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit
in ITALIAN

Learning objectives

Know the major theories of sociological thought, starting from the thought of classical authors up to the most recent developments. Know the basic sociological lexicon. Know the different and varying perspectives from which the main theoretical streams approach the distinctive themes of the sociological debate and apply them to contemporary society (descriptor 1 and 2). Develop sociological imagination. Know the main topics and the assumptions underlying the different perspectives and their evolution throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Develop learning capacity, especially through understanding how a sociological theory is structured, the comparison between many perspectives on one same theme, and the frequent interdisciplinary connections (descriptor 5). The same objective is also met through the writing of a short text of critical commentary that concurs to the final exam, and which allows to exert both autonomous critical judgement (descriptor 3) and communicative capacities (descriptor 4).

Prerequisites

Capacity to understand the main arguments exposed in texts about contemporary society.

Course unit content

The course is an introduction to classical and contemporary sociological thought. It proposes a track – which articulates authors, theories, categories, and themes in sociology – towards the understanding of contemporary collective life. Particular attention is paid to interdisciplinary connections and on the comparison between sociological perspectives that are divergent, based on assumptions, articulation of theories, methods of research and analysis on the ethical/political level.
By reading excerpts of the works of classical and contemporary authors and the in-depth study of key topics in contemporary sociological debate, the course intends to stimulate sociological imagination as well as its application.

Full programme

The first section of the course (6 ECTS) is dedicated to classical authors, to the theoretical perspectives and to the topics that have signaled the birth and development of sociology in the 19th century. The genesis of the disciplines is analyzed, its distinctive dimensions together with structural functionalist theories, conflict theories and of the agent. For every theoretical perspective that is proposed, the assumptions, the main arguments, the main categories, the themes and the major contemporary developments are laid forth. Among such themes, particular attention will be paid to the process of socialization, to institutions – from the family through the school system to organizations – and to inequalities. Specific in-depth studies will be offered about major figures of the discipline who have marked history, among whom Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Simmel, Mead, Parsons and the intellectuals of the school of Frankfurt.

The second section of the course (6 ECT) is dedicated to the in-depth study of contemporary authors and of the topics upon which present day international sociological debate centers. Theories about post-industrial and post-modern society, globalization, rational choice, gift are analyzed. For each theoretical perspective that is proposed, assumptions, arguments and main categories are highlighted. The different perspectives are compared on similar topics such as: power, culture, globalization, social and cultural change, justice. Such topics, in turn, are analyzed according to the key analytical categories of the discipline with attention to interdisciplinary dialogue. From the sociology of contemporary –circumstantially exemplified by interdisciplinary critique–, a special focus will be made on the topic of justice, which is particularly relevant for the sociological debate at the ethical/political level. Specific in-depth studies will be offered on some of the authors mentioned in the first section of the course, among whom Bourdieu, Goffman, Habermas, Bauman, Beck, Giddens, Boltanski.

Bibliography

For the final examination (12 ECT), attending and non-attending students are required to prepare one of the following texts, chapters and sections as indicated during the lessons:
RITZER G. Teoria sociologica: radici classiche e sfide contemporanee, Apogeo, Milano 2012
SMELSER N.J., Manuale di sociologia, quinta edizione, Il Mulino, Bologna 2001
GHERARDI L., La dotazione. L’azione sociale oltre la giustizia, Mimesis, Milano 2018

For the final examination (6 ECT), attending and non-attending students are required to prepare one of the following texts, chapters and sections as indicated during the lessons:
RITZER G. Teoria sociologica: radici classiche e sfide contemporanee, Apogeo, Milano 2012
SMELSER N.J., Manuale di sociologia, quinta edizione, Il Mulino, Bologna 2001

The list of topics that have been studied in class and short excerpts of the works of some of the major classical and contemporary authors will be made available online on Elly (digital platform).

Teaching methods

Oral lectures, during which the general contents of the course and the critical analysis of excerpts of the works of major classical and contemporary authors will be discussed. The excerpts of the works that have been discussed in class will be made available online on Elly (digital platform). Interactions among students and with the teacher is warmly stimulated through the proposal of discussion times, at the end of every lesson, about the contents that have been studied. At the end of the course, a list of the major authors, themes and categories studied in class will be published online on Elly. Students will be able to showcase autonomous critical judgement, understanding and learning capacity also through the writing assignment of a short text of critical commentary (8-10 pages, only for the 12 ECT).

Assessment methods and criteria

The written exam is a 45 minutes test which consists in 3 open queries about topics inherent to the course. Upon completion of the test, the student is required to hand over their exam along with a short written critical commentary (8-12 pages, only for the 12 ECT) that they will have written about an issue chosen at their own discretion, taken from the book La dotazione. L’azione sociale oltre la giustizia, listed in the bibliography.

Grading:

Fail: less than approximate or wrong knowledge about the topic
18-21: elementary knowledge of the topic, and/or improper knowledge, partial capacity for presentation and argumentation.
22-25: Fair knowledge of the topic, fairly solid presentation and argumentation capacity
26-29: Good knowledge or very good knowledge of the topic, good or very good presentation and argumentation capacity.
30: precise knowledge of the topic, optimal presentation and argumentation capacity
30 cum laude: precise knowledge of the topic, optimal presentation and argumentation capacity, pertinent personal re-elaboration of the knowledge

Note

The critical commentary text (12 ECT) is to be written in compliance with the rules of academic writing. The structure is composed of an introductory section to the aspect to be treated, a development/argumentation section and a conclusion. Elaboration notes should be inserted as footnotes; all references should be duly signaled (even references from online sources), direct quotations are place in inverted commas; the bibliographical and websites references are written at the end of the text. Originality of the contribution is highly appreciated, that is, contribution which feature personal reflexivity from the student in commenting an aspect chosen at their own discretion from the book La dotazione. L’azione sociale oltre la giustizia, listed in the bibliography

Other information

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