My pedagogical strategies aim to instill in students not only specific knowledge of a given subject, but also a sense of the wider world around them. Most important, I want students to leave our classes together with the critical skills and temperament necessary for informed participation in an interdependent and globalizing world. Open-ended discussion, close readings, and writing assignments that lend choice and voice to students all contribute to this greater purpose.
I include here the course descriptions of a few classes I teach at Grinnell College. Please contact me directly for complete copies of course syllabuses.
Contemporary Sociological Theory
This course provides a deep analysis of key themes in classical and contemporary social theory. Though partly a survey course covering important figures and theories in the sociological canon—for example, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber—the course is foremost concerned with how sociologists frame and understand real world problems. We will also learn how social theory and the discipline of sociology, generally, adapts and evolves alongside political, economic, and cultural shifts, domestically and globally.
Inequality, Capital & Class
In this course, we will engage with traditional and contemporary debates on the role of class in allocating resources and influencing life chances within capitalist society. We will necessarily interrogate the ways in which an individual’s class position informs and reflects experiences associated with race, gender, and sex, among other identities. Ultimately, we will consider the weight or force of class analytics in explaining social and economic inequality in the modern era.
Introduction to Sociology
The purpose of this course is to offer an introduction to the contemporary issues sociologists study and how they go about their work. Central to our readings and discussions will be the challenge of social and economic inequality in modern society. This focus on inequality originally motivated the founding of the discipline, and it remains a subject of greater sociological concern in light of the increasing divide between rich and poor in America and around the world, generally. We will pay special attention to the ways in which material conditions shape and reflect various forms of identity and experience, especially in regards to race, culture, and gender.
Neoliberalism: Ideology, Crisis & Resistance
The term “neoliberalism” is typically associated with initiatives and strategies intended to reorganize the functions of the state in line with corporate interests, and in ways that diminish life chances for poor and working people and increase inequality, overall. But how did this shift in policy preferences come about? Where did it emerge, and why, and with what implications, domestic and global? What is “new” about neoliberalism? How does it differ from what came before? The course sets out to answer these questions with a look into increased competition between industrial powers in the US and Western Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. The course continues with an assessment of the technological, financial, and communications innovations that followed, and which reverberate to this day. We will also seek to connect these innovations and related shifts in the functions of the state and actions of political and economic elites to a series of global economic crises.
Sociology of Global Development
This course investigates conditions of development in world historical perspective. We will begin, first, with a discussion of political and economic practices pursued initially by Great Britain, and how these practices eventually came to influence the shape and pace of development in France, Germany, and, eventually, the U.S. through the turn of the twentieth century. We will then assess what paths late developers have taken. We will interrogate the ways in which dominant political and economic models frame expectations for development in the modern era, and with what impact in everyday lives of ordinary citizens, in positive and negative ways. The central concern throughout will be to consider which states develop, in which circumstances, and why.