Sociology 304 - Issues in Modern Sociological Theory

Winter 1999

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

Classes: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m., CL315.

Office Hours: Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, Thursday, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m., or by appointment.


  1. Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights
  2. Nancy Folbre, Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of Constraint
  3. Allucquère Rosanne Stone, The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age
  4. Arthur Kroker, various essays to be distributed as handouts or on the web site.
  5. Additional materials on reserve in the Library or on the web site.


The notes and assignments from Winter, 1998 are in one section of the web site and the notes for this semester will be in the Winter, 1999 section of the web site

Assigments and Grading:

Each of the three sections of the class will have one short paper and an examination on that section. The final examination will not be a comprehensive examination on the entire class but will primarily focus on the materials in the last section of the class. The schedule of due dates for assignments and grading is as follows:

February 4

Midterm Examination on Kymlicka

15 points

February 9

Paper on Kymlicka

15 points

March 16

Midterm Examination on Folbre

15 points

March 23

Paper on Folbre

15 points

April 20

Assignment on new technologies

15 points

April 20

Final examination on Stone and Kroker

15 points


Discussion and participation

10 points



100 points

Note: Students with special needs should identify themselves to the instructor within the first two weeks of the semester.

Calendar Description:

An examination of selected controversial themes and issues concerning the main concepts of sociology, the major tendencies of contemporary sociological thought, and the historical antecedents of modern theory. Current issues of sociological analysis and theory construction will be stressed. Themes and issues to be dealt with will vary from time to time as individual faculty members alternate in teaching the course. The prerequisite is any 200-level course in sociology or permission of department head.

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, and (iii) the virtual class and cyber culture. These issues will be organized around the three textbooks for the class. While none of the three texts are by sociologists, each analyses important issues that should be considered by those concerned about the future of Canadian society and each develops approaches that are useful in sociological studies.

In the first section of the class, the ideas of the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka will be examined. Rights for members of minority groups have often been overlooked within liberal and other political theories and group rights 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 issues that Kymlicka examines are especially relevant in Canada today, where bilingualism and multiculturalism, as well as the rights of First Nations, are important issues.

The second section of the class will examine issues related to the costs of social reproduction in society, as distinct from the costs of production of commodities. Folbre, the author of Who Pays for the Kids? is an economist who presents a feminist analysis of social reproduction, an approach that she distinguishes 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 will be discussed in the context of Folbre's theories of family labour, patriarchal power, structures of constraint, individual and group choice, sources of collective action, and economic development.

In the concluding section of the class, we will discuss some of the social issues related to the new technologies, virtuality, and cyberspace. These will be approached at two levels: (i) through the stories and theoretical approach of Allucquère Rosanne Stone, and (ii) through the theory of the virtual class, as laid out by the Canadian postmodern political and social theorist Arthur Kroker. Through a series of stories and theoretical arguments, Stone examines how individuals create new forms of identity, interaction, and community as they work and play with the new technologies. 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."


Paul Gingrich

January 7, 1998


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