Sociology 319

Final Examination

9:00 a.m.12:00 noon, April 21, 2003

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 briefly explain. 

(3 x 15 = 45 points).


  1. In the text, Abell lists three assumptions of rational choice theory.  Briefly explain these.


  1. Rational choice theory is usually considered an extreme individually-based approach.  Yet Coleman argues that collective action emerges from rational choice.  Explain his approach.


  1. According to Erik Olin Wright’s version of rational choice Marxism, exploitation can emerge in ways other than extracting surplus labour from workers.  Explain.


  1. Explain two problematic aspects of the sex-gender distinction.


  1. Women may form a sexual class.  Explain what this means and comment on the sociological usefulness of such an approach.


  1. What do critical theorists mean when they argue that modern, capitalist, democratic societies are totalitarian?


  1. Explain or provide examples of how Frankfurt school theorists extended the concept of commodity exchange beyond that of Marxism.


  1. What does Habermas mean by distorted communication and comment on its sociological significance?


  1. What is postmodernity?


  1. Postmodern theorists view identity differently than earlier social theorists.  Explain or provide an example.



B.  Quote.  Select one of the quotes on the attached page.  Write a short explanation of the quote, discuss the concepts in the quote and show how the ideas in the quote relate to the perspective of the author and other relevant sociological theory.  (20 points).



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

(35 points).


  1. Explain how some Marxist-feminist writers address feminist critiques of Marxist social theory and incorporate feminist approaches into Marxism.


  1. Demonstrate how Marcuse uses elements from earlier social theorists to build a model of modern society as one-dimensional.


  1. Communication is central to the social analysis of Habermas.  Explain how Habermas deals with issues that concerned earlier social theorists, but addresses them through his theory of communicative action.


  1. Rationality is an overriding concern of critical theorists and rational choice theory.  Describe and compare their approaches.


  1. Explain why feminist social theorists might be critical of Frankfurt school theorists (critical theory) or rational choice theory.


  1. “Post-modernist theorists convincingly critique earlier social theory but their explanations of social issues that concerned earlier theorists are less convincing.”  Comment and critique.


  1. Both critical and postmodern theorists attempt to explain the contemporary social world, but in different ways.  Analyze similarities and differences in their approach.


  1. The theoretical approach of Habermas may provide a means of avoiding the seemingly pessimistic outlook of earlier critical theorists or postmodernists.



Quotes for part B.


  1. Coleman.  A major strategy taken by actors in attempting to internalize norms in another actor is to do so by modifying the self whose interestes that actor will attempt to maximize by his actions.  This is an indirect strategy, for it does not attempt to inculcate directly the belief that certain actions are right and others wrong.  The strategy is to change the self and let the new self decide what is right and what is wrong …    from James Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory, middle of p. 291. 


  1. Marcuse.  Today this private space has been invaded and whittled down by technological reality.  Mass production and mass distribution claim the entire individual, and industrial psychology has long since ceased to be confined to the factory.  The manifold processes of introjection seem to be ossified into almost mechanical reactions.  The result is, not adjustment but mimesis: an immediate identification of the individual with his society and, through it, with the society as a whole.  From Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 2nd complete paragraph, p. 10. 


  1. Baudrillard.  Were the Twin Towers destroyed, or did they collapse?  Let us be clear about this: the two towers are both physical, architectural object and a symbolic object (symbolic of financial power and global economic liberalism).  The architectural object was destroyed, but it was the symbolic object which was targeted, and which it was intended to demolish.  One might think the physical destruction brought about the symbolic collapse.  But in fact no one, not even the terrorists, had reckoned on the total destruction of the towers.  It was, in fact, their symbolic collapse that brought about their physical collapse, not the other way around.   From Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers, pp. 47-8.


  1. Habermas.  Since moralities are tailored to suit the fragility of human beings individuated through socialization, they must always solve two task at once.  They must emphasize the inviolability of the individual by postulating equal respect for the dignity of each individual.  But they must also protect the web of intersubjective relations of mutual recognition by which these individuals survive as members of a community.  To these two complementary aspects correspond the principles of justice and solidarity respectively.  The first postulates equal respect and equal rights for the individual, whereas the second postulates empathy and concern for the well-being of one’s neighbor.  From Jürgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, middle of p. 200.