Sociology 304

Winter 1999

Issues in Modern Sociological Theory

Instructor: Paul Gingrich, CL 217, 585-4196,

Schedule: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.


Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights

Nancy Folbre, Who Pays for the Kids: Gender and the Structures of Constraint

Allucquère Rosanne Stone, The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age

Arthur Kroker, various essays to be distributed as handouts or obtained on the web.

Class Description: In the Winter 1999 semester, three different issues in contemporary society and social theory will be examined: (i) multiculturalism and minority group rights, (ii) the costs of social reproduction, (iii) the virtual class and cyberculture. These issues will be organized around the three textbooks for the class. While none of the three texts are by sociologists, each of these texts present analyses of issues that anyone concerned with the future of Canadian society should consider.

First, some of the ideas of the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka will be examined. Minority group rights have often been overlooked within liberal and other political theories and are sometimes considered to be in opposition to individual rights. In Multicultural Citizenship, Kymlicka argues that certain minority rights are both consistent with and contribute to liberal democracy. The social issues that Kymlicka examines are especially relevant in Canada today, where bilingualism and multiculturalism, as well as the rights of first nations, are important parts of political and social debate.

The second section of the class will examine issues related to the costs of social reproduction, as distinct from the costs of production. Folbre, the author of Who Pays for the Kids? is an economist who presents a feminist analysis of social reproduction, an analysis that distinguishes itself from both neoclassical and Marxist political economic analysis. In the class we will discuss how individuals, groups and societies reproduce population, labour force and social structure. These are discussed in the context of Folbre’s theories of family labour, patriarchal power, structures of constraint, individual and group choices, sources of collective action, and economic development.

In the concluding section of the class, we will discuss some of the social issues related to virtuality, cyberspace, and related new technologies. These will be approached at two levels: (i) through the theory of the virtual class, as laid out by the Canadian postmodern political and social theorist Arthur Kroker, and (ii) through the stories and theoretical approach of Allucquère Rosanne Stone. Kroker presents a broad overall view of the powerful virtual class that has emerged on the basis of new technologies, where the will to virtuality "becomes the primal impulse of pan-capitalism, the mediascape, and post-history." Through a series of stories and theoretical arguments, Stone examines how individuals create new forms of identities as they work and play with the new technologies.

Assignments: Each of the three sections of the class will have one short paper and an examination. Each section of the class will be separate and the examination for that section will complete the section. There will be no comprehensive final examination. Each paper and examination will be worth 15 points (6 x 15 = 90 points) and there will be 10 points for discussion and participation (total of 100 points). Approximately one month will be devoted to each of the three sections, so that the three examinations will be around the first week of February, the middle of March, and in the final examination period.

Notes on Web Site. If you wish to look at the Social Studies 306 notes from the Winter, 1998 semester, these are available on the web site:

For Winter, 1998, the materials will be similar to those on the web site.


Paul Gingrich

November 17, 1998