Sociology 319

Midterm Examination

March 2, 2000


Note:  Answer each of the three parts to the examination – within each part you have choices.  The examination has a total of 75 points.


A. Short Answer.  Select two of the following topics and briefly explain each.  (2x15=30 points).


1.      For Simmel, describe how interaction in urban settings differs from that in more traditional settings.

2.      What is structuration theory?  Briefly outline some of the main differences of this theory from earlier theories.

3.      Explain one of the major contradictions or double binds of feminist theory.

4.      The action theory of Parsons begins with the unit act.  Explain.

5.      In the article “On Face-Work” Goffman outlines various procedures by which social actors present face and the social self.  Describe some of these procedures.

6.      Explain how the ideas of de Tocqueville are sociologically relevant.

7.      Cohen considers Dewey to have made a significant contribution to social theory.  Explain.


B.  Quotes.  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.  (15 points).


1.      The mind is simply the interplay of such gestures in the form of significant symbols.  We must remember that the gesture is there only in relation to the response, to the attitude.  One would not have words unless there were such responses.  Language would never have arisen as a set of bare arbitrary terms which were attached to certain stimuli.  Words have arisen out of a social relationship.  (George Herbert Mead).

2.      The term face may be defined as the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact.  Face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes—albeit an image that others may share, as when a person makes a good showing for his profession or religion by making a good showing for himself.  (Erving Goffman).

3.      We shall speak of “action” insofar as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to his behavior—be it overt or covert, omission or acquiescence.  Action is “social” insofar as its subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course.  (Max Weber).

4.      Modernity opens up the project of the self, but under conditions strongly influenced by standardising effects of commodity capitalism.  (Anthony Giddens).


C. Essay.  Select one of the following topics and write an essay on this topic.  (30 points).


1.      Several of the writers (e.g. Mead, Simmel, Goffman, Giddens) discussed in the first half of the class have a theory or perspective on the “self.”   Briefly describe and compare two of these perspectives.

2.      Proponents of rational choice theory argue that it is in the sociological tradition and can be used to build an overall theory of society.  Explain what rational choice theory is and how it can be used to explain social phenomena.  Illustrate with examples.

3.      Feminists argue that the conception of the social is too narrow in much social theory.  Explain with examples from the social theories we have discussed this semester.

4.      Explain how Simmel’s analysis of modern society has similarities to the approach of other sociologists, but also differs in essential ways.

5.      By referring to social theories discussed in the course, explain the significance of Cohen’s statement “minds lack the capacity to perform social actions” in “Theories of Action and Praxis”?