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An introduction to the unit. we will discuss the puzzles of our inherently social existence and the pleasures of social theory. More information...
Read: Durkheim, chap. 1, Durkheim, chap. 2*
Write: “Consider social facts as things” (Durkheim 1964 : 14) It is both an axiom of method and rallying cry to pursue the “relentless critique of all that exists” (Marx 1843). What, in your view, calls for a “relentless critique” as a “social fact”? Why? What difference would it make to how people perceived it? More information...
Read: Llewelyn-Davies, Ferguson
Write: Why do Maasai women sing to cows? What does this tell you about the position of the cow in their society? More information...
Read: Weber, Geertz, Adams and Sydie, “Social Action and Social Complexity”
Write: Considering Weber’s distinction between instrumental rationality and value-rationality, why do Redfern residents continue to block the construction of student housing on property once owned by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation? More information...
Read: Mauss, Shipton chaps. 1–4 (pp. 1–47), Polanyi*
Write: The Luo of Kenya earn money in marketplaces, and also represent money as evil and dangerous. If they do believe that money can harm the earner, why do you think they continue to engage with markets? More information...
Read: Shipton, chaps. 5–8 (p. 48–83).
Write: You could say that money “grind[s] the human fabric into the featureless uniformity of selenic erosion” (Polanyi 1947: 115). Accept or reject this thesis, and explain your reasoning by drawing on readings and discussions to date. More information...
Due: Essay due online at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday 14 April.
Read: Marx, Scheper-Hughes, Adams and Sydie, “Radical Anticapitalism”
Write: In Chapter 6 of Capital, vol. 1, Marx discusses the 'free labourer' (Marx 1972: 338). What does this mean? Do you have personal work experience that helps you to understand this? Why does the very freedom of labour make it open to exploitation? More information...
Read: Naveh and Bird-David
Write: Culture is the contemporary term for what Durkheim, Weber and Marx called society. Perhaps then there is no individual who exists a priori to society, just systems and sub-systems and sub-sub-systems… Or as Marx once wrote, “[t]he tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” How would you propose, then, to bring about social change? More information...
Write: Social programs always involve unintended consequences. Discuss whether the kind of relationships Karim describes fall into this category and explain why you see it that way. More information...
Write: Tsing talks of both hope and exploitation. Discuss the role of family in linking these. Are the perspectives of Walmart employees rational? More information...
Read: Levitt (selections to be announced in class)
Write: What, if anything, is similar about the MDC and the microcredit NGOs like the Grameen Bank in terms of what they pursue, how they pursue it, and how community members are involved? What does this tell you about the global context for these local initiatives? More information...
Write: Classic accounts of society and culture emphasized shared institutions and meanings. Can we talk about a global society if it is based on disagreement, inequality and conflict? More information...
Read: To be announced in class. We will discuss the main themes of the class and where we want to go next.
Write: Neil and/or Ryan will post a question on Blackboard. More information...
No class this week. Your take-home final exam is due on Blackboard at noon on 11 June.
With the exception of Levitt's and Shipton's books, all of these readings are included in the reader for this unit. Shipton's book is available as a separate reader. Recommended readings are indicated with an asterisk.
Adams, Bert, and R. A. Sydie. 2001a. “Social Action and Social Complexity [abridged].” In Sociological Theory, 169–86. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.
———. 2001b. Sociological Theory. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.
Bornstein, Erica. 2001. “Child Sponsorship, Evangelism, and Belonging in the Work of World Vision Zimbabwe.” American Ethnologist 28 (3): 595–622. doi:10.1525/ae.2001.28.3.595.
Durkheim, Emile. 1964 . The Rules of the Sociological Method. Edited by George E. G. Catlin. Translated by Sarah A. Solovay and John H. Mueller. New York: The Free Press.
Ferguson, James. 1985. “The Bovine Mystique: Power, Property and Livestock in Rural Lesotho.” Man 20 (4): 647–74.
Geertz, Clifford. 2005 . “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock Fight.” Daedalus 134 (4): 56–86.
Karim, Lamia. 2008. “Demystifying Micro-Credit: The Grameen Bank, NGOs, and Neoliberalism in Bangladesh.” Cultural Dynamics 20 (1): 5–29.
Levitt, Peggy. 2001. The Transnational Villagers. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.
Llewelyn-Davies, Melissa. 1981. “Women, Warriors and Patriarchs.” In Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality, edited by Sherry B. Ortner and Harriet Whitehead, 330–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marx, Karl. 1972. “Selections from Capital, Vol. 1.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 309–43. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Mauss, Marcel. 1990 . The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies [abridged]. Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Naveh, Danny, and Nurit Bird-David. 2014. “How Persons Become Things: Economic and Epistemological Changes among Nayaka Hunter-Gatherers.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20 (1): 74–92.
Polanyi, Karl. 1947. “Our Obsolete Market Mentality.” Commentary (February): 109-117. *
Scheper‐Hughes, Nancy. 2000. “The Global Traffic in Human Organs.” Current Anthropology 41 (2): 191–224. doi:10.1086/ca.2000.41.issue-2.
Shipton, Parker. 1989. Bitter Money: Cultural Economy and Some African Meanings of Forbidden Commodities. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.
Tsing, Anna. 2009. “Supply Chains and the Human Condition.” Rethinking Marxism 21 (2): 148–76. doi:10.1080/08935690902743088.
Weber, Max. 1972 . “On the Concept of Sociology and the Meaning of Social Conduct & Characteristic Forms of Social Conduct [Selections from Economy and Society].” In Max Weber: Basic Concepts in Sociology, translated by H. P. Secher, 29–62. Secaucus, N.J.: The Citadel Press.