Societies constantly change, for sure. Sometimes social transformations are so slow / subtle that we barely notice them; at other times change is so rapid / profound that we can hardly keep up. Although, strictly speaking, changing social relations provide the most rewarding raw material for sociology, part of our discipline has, sadly, moved away from discussing change, let alone time and history, resulting in what a German sociologist, Norbert Elias, lamented as sociologists’ “retreat into the present.” To signal their interest in processes of change and issues of integrating at least some historical knowledge in sociological analysis, scholars interested in questions of over-time transformations refer to “their” area as Historical Sociology.
This course is a senior-year seminar on social change, covering some fascinating ideas in historical sociology. Class conversations will be centered on readings and films, along with the occasional photographs and music, all addressing various aspects of the ways in which it is possible to capture, depict and understand the past and the present, and the changes that have taken us from the former to the latter.