Sociology 319

Final Examination

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, April 25, 2000


Note:  Answer each of the three parts of the examination – within each part you have choices.  The examination has a total of 100 points.


A. Short Answer.  Select three of the following topics and explain each in a paragraph or two.  (3 x 15=45 points).


1.      Explain what critical theorists meant by “administered society.”

2.      What is the dialectic of enlightenment?

3.      According to Marcuse, what is one-dimensional about contemporary society?

4.      Explain the meaning of ideal speech for Habermas and what its importance is.

5.      How could Habermas’s system and life-world provide a means of integrating agency and structure?

6.      What is the sociological significance of the distinction between core, periphery, and semi-periphery in Wallerstein’s world systems analysis?

7.      Althusser considers capital to be a relationship, not a thing.  Explain the importance of this for structuralist perspectives.

8.      Explain what Wright means by assets and how he develops his analysis of class structure from this.

9.      What is the difference between postmodernism, postmodern condition, and postmodernity?  Explain and provide examples.

10.  Give an example and explain how social reality may be constructed by images or spectacles. 

11.  What are three main differences between postmodern and modern sociological perspectives?


B.  Quote.  Select one of the quotes.  Write a short explanation of the quote, discuss the concepts in the quote and show how the ideas in the quote relate to the sociological perspective of the author of the quote and to sociological theory as a whole.  (15 points).


1.      In One-Dimensional Man (p. 9), Herbert Marcuse notes:


We are again confronted with one of the most vexing aspects of advanced industrial civilization: the rational character of its irrationality.  Its productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts, to turn waste into need, and destruction into construction, the extent to which this civilization transforms the object world into an extension of man’s mind and body make the very notion of alienation questionable.  The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment.  The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced.


2.      Jürgen Habermas notes the following with respect to discourse ethics (from Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, p. 199): 


Creatures that are individuated only through socialization are vulnerable and morally in need of considerateness.  Linguistically and behaviorally competent subjects are constituted as individuals by growing into an intersubjectively shared lifeworld, and the lifeworld of a language community is reproduced in turn through the copmmunicative action of its members.  This explains why the identity of the individual and that of the collective are interdependent: they form and maintain themselves together.   Built into the consensus-oriented language use of social interaction is an inconspicuous necessity for participants to become more and more individuated.  Conversely, everyday language is also the medium by which the intersubjectivity of a shared world is maintained.  Thus, the more differentiated the structures of the lifeworld become, the easier it is to discern the simultaneous growth of the autonomous individual subject and his dependence on interpersonal relationships and social ties.  The more the subject becomes individuated, the more he becomes entangled in a densely woven fabric of mutual recognition, that is, of reciprocal exposedness and vulnerability.  Unless the subject externalizes himself by participating in interpersonal relations through language, he is unable to form that inner centre that is his personal identity.  This explains the almost constitutional insecurity and chronic fragility of personal identity–an insecurity that is antecedent to cruder threats to the integrity of life and limb. 


3.      In “Global Debt and Parallel Universe,” ( Jean Baudrillard argues:


Some of the most recent of these exponentially developing parallel worlds are the Internet and the many worldwide webs of information. Each day, in real time, the irresistible growth (or outgrowth perhaps) of information could be measured there, with numbers representing the millions of people and the billions of operations that they cover. Information now expands to such an extent that it no longer has anything to do with gaining knowledge. Information's immense potential will never be redeemed and it will never be able to achieve its finality. It's just like the debt. Information is just as insolvable as the debt and we'll never be able to get rid of it. Collecting data, accumulating and transporting information all over the world are the same thing as compiling an unpayable debt. And here too, since proliferating information is larger than the needs and capacities of any individual, and of the human species in general, it has no other meaning but that of binding humankind to a destiny of cerebral automation and mental underdevelopment. It is clear that if a small dose of information reduces ignorance, a massive dose of artificial intelligence can only reinforce the belief that our natural intelligence is deficient. The worst thing that can happen to an individual is to know too much and, thus, to fall beyond knowledge. It is exactly the same thing with responsibility and emotional capacity. The perpetual intimation of the media in terms of violence, suffering, and catastrophe, far from exalting some sort of collective solidarity, only demonstrates our real impotence and drives us to panic and resentment.


C. Essay.  Select one of the following topics and write an essay on this topic.  (40 points).


1.      Critical theory incorporates ideas from Marx and Weber, yet also deals with some of the issues such as consciousness and personality that we studied in the first half of the semseter.  Write an essay outlining what you consider to be the main sociological contributions of critical theorists, commenting on how they attempt to integrate the different aspects of sociological thought.

2.      The issue of needs is addressed by various writers in different ways – e.g. Marcuse, Giddens, Baudrillard.  Write an essay comparing their approach to the issue of human needs and how these can be analyzed in contemporary society.

3.      Write an essay explaining how Habermas considers communicative action to be a means of overcoming distorted communication and creating the possibility of human creativity and progress.

4.      Explain how world systems analysis builds on a Marxian approach to human history but develops different approach to historical sociology.

5.      Structuralism contrasts dramatically with the theories of action that were examined in the first half of the semester.  Explain.

6.      Write an essay outlining the various structural approaches to class structures in capitalist societies.

7.      What are the main contributions of postmodernists to social theory? 

8.      Baudrillard argues that in contemporary hyperreality, there has been an implosion of social reality and simulation.  Explain what this means.