Sociology 530y: Selected Topics in Social Processes presents

Instructor: Paul DiMaggio (258-1971)

Time: 9:00am-12noon, Tuesday

Place: 2-C-8 Green Hall

|Readings|Objective|Focus|Requirements|Week 1|Week 2|Week 3|Week 4|Week 5|Week 6|

Readings: Readings on closed reserve (i.e., borrow and photocopy, then return) in Sociology Department mailroom. I will put two copies of each reading in the seminar box at least one week before the seminar meeting. This system only works if seminar members do not remove papers for any other reason than immediate reading or photocopying.

Objective. This mini-seminar is the companion to Organization Theory, which was offered during the first half of this semester, but it has also been designed to work as a stand-alone course. The objective is to introduce major themes in the study of social organization, including some old classics and some cutting-edge research, and in so doing to provide an overview for the curious and a basis for students who want to take comprehensives or teach courses in this area to pursue further work independently.

Focus . This is the first time I have offered a course in Social Organization. The subject is broad-indeed, one can make a reasonably strong argument that its boundaries are similar to those of sociology as a discipline-so the reading is necessarily selective. Moreover, because there isn't really a canonical reading list, the selections are more personal than they are when I offer seminars in more strongly institutionalized subfields.

I emphasize an approach that combines formalism with thick empiricism, employing the tension between the two to illustrate the capacity of theoretically informed analyses to reveal the logic of historically situated social groups and events. The mini-semester's readings identify ideal-typical forms of organization and dynamic processes, acquaint you with formal models designed to represent these forms and processes, and exemplify in different ways the use of these concepts and methods in combination with intensive archival or ethnographic research to cast light on particular social groups or historical shifts. The goal is to leave you with a set of analytic tools that can be (and have been) applied fruitfully to extremely diverse empirical problems.

The first two weeks of the course focus on organizational forms, with introductions to four: hierarchies (especially bureaucracy, reviewed from the Org. Theory miniseminar; markets; voting systems; and systems of generalized reciprocity, a/k/a "networks," with particular attention to the latter). Cases include Chilean business elites and Nashville country-western musicians.

The third and fourth weeks highlight generic social processes that are implicated in most significant social change. In week 3 we explore the interface between demographic and ecological processes in contexts ranging from bureaucratic career structures, the rise of Impressionism in France, social capital in a U.S. community, and the English Revolution. In week 4, we explore the nature of social control, with examples ranging from the NFL to the Medici.

Finally, the last two weeks are devoted to empirical studies of social-organizational change. Week 5 features research on contemporary change in the firm and in the system of relations among business enterprises. Week 6 moves to broader historical explanation, with cases ranging across early modern England, late 19th-century France, and the Ottoman Empire.

Requirements . Students are expected complete require readings thoroughly in advance of the class meeting for which they have been assigned and to participate actively in class meetings. Emphasis is on mastering and responding critically and creatively to the seminar's material. No term paper or research project is required.

Each student will prepare four memoranda of 3-4 pages reporting his or her reactions to the readings, to be completed before the seminar meets and turned in at the time of the seminar meeting. (No credit will be received for memoranda handed in thereafter.) Treat memoranda as writing and thinking exercises, not as finished products. Use them to engage each week's materials and respond with questions, criticisms and new ideas that they suggest. Memoranda should be used to develop ideas informally over time and to put into words impressions that seem worth developing. (Don't include your notes on the readings or describe the argument the way you would in a term paper-you can assume I've read the papers and will know what you are talking about.) The memos also provide an opportunity for individualized feedback and communication on an ongoing basis outside the seminar.

Enrollment is open to any graduate student in Sociology, any other social-science department or the Woodrow Wilson school, and, upon application, to undergraduate sociology majors.


Week 1, Tuesday November 4: Comparative Structures: Bureaucracy, Markets, Voting, and Networks


Week 2, Tuesday November 11: Comparative Structures: Networks, Roles, and Reciprocity


Week 3, Tuesday November 18: Organizing Processes: Ecology and Demography


Week 4, Tuesday November 25: Organizing Processes: Social Control in Complex Systems


Week 5, Tuesday December 2: Theory in Action: Understanding Organizational Change


Week 6, Tuesday December 9: Theory in Action: Historical Explanation


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