Lee Clarke logo

Lee Clarke

Fall 2014

Calendar of class meeting times and readings


Introduction to Sociology

Everyone must log into sakai.rutgers.edu


Contact info

Clarke Office hours

Course number: 920:101:Sections 35-40 Lectures: Mondays & Thursdays, 10:05am-11:00am, Scott Hall 135

Your TA's syllabus is on Sakai


35, Monday 825-920am, CA-A3
36, Monday 825-920am, FH-B3
37, Thursday 825-920am, FH-B5
38, Thursday 825-920am, FH-B3
39, Monday 1145-1240pm, MU-210
40, Thursday 1145-1240pm, FH-B5

All of the readings for this course are online. Be sure to get the readings well in advance of when you need them. We will not discuss every one of them in class, but you are responsible for reading and studying every document that I mention in this "calendar."

Some of the readings are in PDF format, which requires special software. That software is probably already on your computer but if not, you can get it here for free. Some of the documents may only be available to Rutgers students. All of those readings are on Sakai--http://sakai.rutgers.edu. You will need your "netid" and password. Click here to get those. I am not technical support, so do not mail me asking how to log in, etc.

If there is no link to a reading in the calendar below that means you have to find it on Sakai. Most of the time you can find a reading by the author's last name, then the title. Thus: "Clarke_panic.pdf." Note that a few of the readings are locked so that they can't be printed. I don't know how to fix that. Sorry. You will see a lot more readings than I'm requiring you to read. That's because I use different readings in different semesters. You're only responsible for the readings I put on this calendar and any readings your TA requires. Read the rest to make you a more interesting person; but they won't be on the test.

Intro home September





Introduction to the course

Today, I'll talk about my approach to teaching the class, the tests, and generally how the course will proceed.


Introduction to Sociological Thinking

A classical statement of what sociological thinking is about comes from C. Wright Mills. The "sociological imagination" is fundamentally about understanding human behavior in context.


Mills, The Promise


More thinking about sociological thinking

Much sociology seems obvious. It doesn't have to be that way. A master sociologist, Peter Berger, introduces you to some of the beauty of sociology. Look for what he says is distinctive about sociology.

One of the key ideas in this section, and throughout the course, is the idea of social structure, which concerns patterns of relationships between positions.

Check out this article by David Brooks, The Organization Kid. Look for aspects of the students' lives that are beyond their control. What about the patterns of relationships in their lives makes them who they are? As you read this article try to start thinking in terms of the contexts of the students' lives, not just their individual psychologies.



How do you get a personality? What is the deal about nature and nurture anyway?

The main theory we'll talk about is called symbolic interaction theory. A key part of that theory is the idea of how the expectations of others get inside people. On this, read Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman, Socialization (you will need a dictionary to understand this article)

Carol Brooks Gardner, in Passing By, looks behind the curtain of some rules about gender, particularly how men and women act in public.


Berger and Luckman, Socialization

Gardner, Passing By


Continuation of previous material


Socialization & authority

Social order isn't possible if people don't follow rules. But there are surely limits to this observation. How do we know what those limits are?

In Philip Zimbardo's "Pathology of Imprisonment," pay attention to the conditions that lead people to behave one way rather than another. Why did the experiment come to an end? What does this work tell us about human nature?

Zimbardo slide show -- Go through the "slide show" of the Prison Experiment

Sakai: Zimbardo, Pathology of Imprisonment




Where is culture and what does it do? A sociologist named Garfinkel tells us interesting things about background understandings. Similar insights have been developed by Horace Miner, an anthropologist who observed a tribe that he found strange, and by Conrad Kottak, an anthropologist with astute observations about modern college classrooms. Remember, as you read these things, as yourself, "why are the animals behaving this way?"


Miner, Body Ritual Among The Nacirema

Kottak, Teleconditioning


Culture, continued

Today, we will revisit the question, Where does beauty come from and what does sociology have to say about that?

Twilight Zone, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder






Intro home October




The Idea of Deviance

A central concept here is "context dependency." Howard Becker shows how important context is in his article "Becoming a marihuana user." Be alert to what is social in his explanation of how people get high.

In Wayward Puritans, Kai Erikson, tells us about how deviance is a social product. Look especially at how he uses Durkheim, and at how the reaction to behaviors shapes the meaning of those behaviors.

If you have the measles we can see evidence of it in a microscope. But how can you tell if someone is mentally ill? You can only look at their behavior, and not the underlying "cause." This leads to interesting ideas.

If experts say "you're crazy" can you be cured?, David Rosenhan finds out in his article "Being sane in insane places."


Becker Becoming a marihuana user

Erikson Wayward Puritans

Rosenhan On Being Insane

Take the ideas you glean from Becker, Erikson, and Rosenhan and apply them to the following videos. What's going on here? Look especially at the reactions of people. What do you think is going on in their heads? What things might they tell you if you could interview them?

Frozen Grand Central

Trafalgar Square Freeze



Quiz 1

Please bring pencils with erasers. Be on time. Figure the bus system in your schedule--assume it won't work properly. If you come late you'll be in a heap of trouble.



Social change & suicide

Suicide is one of the most individual acts possible. Even when the members of a cult kill themselves it is the individual and not the group that does the action. Yet there are aspects of suicide that can only be understood by using a group perspective.

One of the main ideas here will be that of the "social fact." Here's a statement from the fellow who made up the term. And here's a statement from an interpreter of that fellow.

Also read Kathleen Gerson's, Dilemmas of Involved Fatherhood. As you read her article, identify the social facts in her argument. Note: you probably won't be able to print this article.


Gerson Dilemmas of Involved Fatherhood



Special treat today. RU Police Officer Richard McGilvery will join us. He will talk with us about Virginia Tech and also the effect that the tragedy had on higher education in general. He will also talk about security at Rutgers. Read from Virginia Tech Review Panel (on Sakai):

Summary of Findings
Timeline of Events
Mass Murder at Norris Hall




Continuation of suicide material

American culture prizes fame and money. Most of us think we would be happier with a lot of both. In fact whether they lead to happiness depends on the social situation that people find themselves in. Jeff Goodell, Who's a Hero Now?


Goodell Jeff Mining Heros


Social stratification

How well off are we as a society? There are several ways to assess that.

The distribution of income is one way to measure the health of a nation.

Some visual representations of the distribution of income.

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, divines some data and comes to provocative conclusions



More stratification

Schooling is the way forward for social mobility. We tell ourselves that merit is how a fair society should sort people out. Not always the case, though, is it?

On tracking see Maureen Hallinan and Jeannie Oakes, Homogeneous or Heterogeneous Grouping: The Tracking Debate.


Barbara Ehrenreich is a famous author who went to work in some tough jobs. She gives her report in Nickled and Dimed, a selection of which we'll read.


Hallinan and Oakes

Ehrenreich, Nickled and Dimed

Ehrenreich's resources on Nickled and Dimed



Society & Ethnic Notions

The University of Virginia has a project on American Slave Narratives. Read (even listen to!) the narrative of Fountain Hughes.

Here, you can find the entire narrative in Mr. Hughes' voice.

One of the themes we'll talk about in this unit is the connection between images and behavior. Check out the clip of Marilyn Manson being interviewed by Michael Moore; the file is called "Moore and Manson.wmv." Note that this file is in windows media video format. I don't know if other computers can play it. If you have something other than a Windows-driven computer, go to a lab to see the video.


Race & ethnicity

How do you tell people of different races apart? F. James Davis has some important insights in "Who is black? The one-drop rule examined." Where else might the one drop rule apply?

Today's lessons are partly about culture and partly about social structure. I'll also explain more fully the connections with Ethnic Notions.


Davis, James, Who is Black?


Intro home November


Quiz 2

Bring pencils. Be on time.


Political symbolism & social problems: Where do social problems come from?

This is about how social problems get constructed. An example is the emerging "drowsy driver" problem. Here is a government document on the issue; read the section called "III: characteristics of drowsy driving crashes."

The symbolism of numbers and statistics is important in creating social problems. Read Joel Best, on "The Worst Social Statistic Ever" and "Monster Hype." Both of Best's articles are on Sakai.


Authorities & rationalities

On bureaucracy, authority, and rationality.

On charisma, read Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. In case you haven't heard King's magnetic voice, here's a snippet from another speech.




Formal organizations

The History Place has an excellent timeline on the development of the Holocaust. You do not have to study this timeline for the test. But I encourage you to look through it carefully.

Think about how these people were able to separate their daily lives and what was going on inside the camp.

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz's death camp--Birkenau--on making his camp more efficient than Treblinka.


Society & formal organizations

People naturally ask the question of whether something like the Holocaust could happen "here." A high school teacher once ran a fascinating experiment, with just that issue in mind. Look for where the authority is, why the students acted as they did, and why the experiment came to a stop.

This is what the US government told Americans about "relocating" its Japanese citizens.




Tuesday, November 25

All of your Thursday classes will happen today.

Yes, Rutgers can make Thursday happen on Tuesday.

Worst Cases

What is the worst thing that's ever happened to you? What's the worst thing that you can imagine? This lecture is from my book, Worst Cases. For this I want you to read a chapter from Barry Glassner's book, Culture of Fear; also read a chapter from my book. The selection is entitled, "Why Americans Fear the Wrong Things." Pay attention to the logic that he uses to conclude that our worries are "wrong." My argument is both critical of and a complement to Prof. Glassner's. Be able to compare and contrast my argument and Glassner's.

NB: you do not have to buy and read my book, but you'll be more interesting if you do ;)



Glassner: Intro Why Ams Fear

Clarke: Worst Cases Chapter 1



Intro home December


Using Disaster to See Society

Here we will be concerned with why people fear what they fear, and with that Durkheimian question from long ago: what is the basis of social order?

I wrote an article on the "myth of panic" in disasters. The general problem is how people respond to failures of social organization. The article is on Sakai.

After you read that, listen to this edition of Radiolab:


As you listen to that, think of the idea of "hero" and the way that the people in the story exemplify it, or not.

At the following URL, read the story of a guy who got out of the World Trade Center 2 alive. One remarkable thing about his story is that he was above where the plane entered. Very few in either building who were above where the planes hit survived. Look for clues about the idea of human nature, and about what a social analysis might have to say about what happened in those towers. Here's the link.

See also the following. It's a little old, but the same kind of thing is always said about young people when they find themselves in such terrible situations. Norris Johnson, Panic at "The Who Concert Stampede"


Johnson Panic at the Who Concert


Review. Bring questions to class. Prepare and you'll have a productive review. Trust me. I'm a doctor.


Last quiz. Be on time. Bring pencils.

last update: September 13, 2014


Course home