Spring 2001, 6:00-8:05 PM, DDH 101H


Instructor: Dr. Alem Kebede

Office: AA206 Dorothy Danhoe; Office hrs: TRW 11:00-12:00 PM

Phone: 664-2306; E-mail:



-Social Theory: Roots and Branches, Peter Kivisto (ed.), 2000.

-Legitimation Crisis, Jurgen Habermas, 1975.

-The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge, Jean-François Lyotard, 1985.

-Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard, 1995.



In this quarter we shall study classical and contemporary social theories. The major social paradigms, including structural functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, critical theory, feminist, and postmodern theories, will be discussed in some detail. We shall begin the course with a brief discussion of the nature of paradigms in general and sociological paradigms in particular. At this juncture, early attempts to delineate the subject matter of sociology will be the issue of consideration.  Next, the major themes of each sociological paradigm, alongside with the arguments of their outstanding representatives, will be the focus of our deliberation.  In these discussions, without “throwing the baby with the bath water,” we shall adopt a critical stance.  We will conclude the quarter with a discussion of the sociological relevance of the theories considered in class. “The whereto from here of social theory?” will also be the hub of our final talk. 



Grades will be based on two exams (100 points each), two presentations (including summaries and outlines, 25 points each), and a conceptual term paper (100 points).


Grades will be assigned using the standard grading system: 100-90=A, 89-80=B, 79-70=C.  The final grade for the course will be determined as follows: 250-225=A;

224-200=B; 199-175=C.


A term paper should not be less than 18 pages, nor should it exceed 20 pages.  Guidelines for the term paper will be discussed in class.  The papers for this class should meet the standards for referred sociological conferences and ultimately be intended for publication.


There will be penalties for tardiness, absences, and failure to observe due dates.  In extreme cases, the instructor will have the discretion to submit an “I” grade.  Professionalism and quality work are expected from graduate students.  Active participation in class will have an impact on the instructor’s decision on marginal grades.



Discussion of the major sociological paradigms and their representatives will be based on the following outline. When necessary we might slightly deviate from this schedule.  Note the dates of your presentations*, exams**, readings***, and the due date for papers****. 




I. Introduction

            -Kuhn and Paradigms

            -Durkheim and Social Facts

            -Weber and Social Action

            -Simmel and Sociation

            -Read Kivisto pp. 41-46; 66-71; 105-111 (Week 1)***


II. Conflict Theory

            -Karl Marx

            -Max Weber

            -Cornell West*

            -Jean Baudrillard

            -Read Kivisto pp. 5-35; 66-98 (Week 2)***

-Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation (Week 3)***


III. Functionalism

            -Emile Durkheim

            -Talcott Parsons

            -Robert Merton

            -Jeffrey Alexander*

            -Read Kivisto pp. 36-65; 172-199 (Week 4)***


IV. Symbolic Interactionism

            -George Herbert Mead

            -Herbert Blumer

            -W.E. DuBois*

            -Erving Goffman*

            -Read Kivisto pp. 232-246; 144-148; 149-153 (Week 5)***


EXAM I: May 03, 2001**




V. Critical/Conflict Theory

            -Herbert Marcuse*

            -Jurgen Habermas

            -Lewis Coser*

-Randall Collins*

            -Read Kivisto pp. 357-368; 369-375; 200-203; 218-225***

 Habermas’ Legitimation Crisis (Week 6)***


VI. Phenomenology and Ethnomethodology

            -Alfred Schutz

            -Harold Garfinkel

            -Read Kivisto pp. 254-259; 267-277 (Week 7)***


VII. Exchange Theory and Rational Choice Theory

            -George Homans

            -Peter Blau

            -Read Kivisto pp. 287-298; 314-320 (Week 8)***


VIII. Feminist Theories

            -Dorothy Smith

            -Patricia Collins*

            -Judith Butler*

            -Read Kivisto pp. 321-356 (Week 9)***

            -Term Paper Presentations*


PAPERS DUE: June 07, 2001****


IX. Postmodern Theories

            -Jean Lyotard

            -Jean Baudrillard

            -Read Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition (Week 10)***

            -Term Paper Presentations*


FINAL EXAM: June 13, 2001**


ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Dr AlemSeghed Kebede is a graduate of Oklahoma State University (MS: Sociology; MA: Philosophy; PhD: Sociology).  Prior to joining CSUB, he had a visiting assistant professor position at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Alem's research areas include social theory, social movements, and cross-cultural encounters.  His articles have appeared in Sociological Inquiry, Sociological Perspectives, Sociological Spectrum, and Research in Social Movements. Currently, Alem is conducting research on two projects entitled “Grassroots Environmental Movements: A Gramscian Perspective,” and “Jean Lyotard and John Rawls on Pluralism: Themes of Convergence and Divergence.”  His recent published article deals with the notion of “decentered movements”—a concept that he has coined—and the Rastafari.  While at CSUB, Alem has taught Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology, Social Stratification, Social Change, and Advanced Sociological Theories.  During his spare time, Alem loves to train for marathons. He has run seven marathons, including the Boston and New York City Marathons.  Alem is a native of Ethiopia, East Africa, “who has come [to the United States] today and decided to stay tomorrow.”  .