power, privilege, & inequality

Race, class and gender are among key factors in systematic patterns of inequality in the United States (and globally). In this course, we examine the manner in which social inequality comes about and is maintained through a range of social institutions and daily social interactions. This class will examine how social institutions and daily social interactions structure the decisions individuals make and, in turn, how the decisions that individuals make serve to perpetuate or challenge existing social institutions and interactions. We will explore how the intersection of different forms of inequality, for example race and class or class and gender challenge traditional conceptions of inequality and provide insight into the processes that perpetuate inequality.

course books

McMillan, Tracie. 2012. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table. New York:Scribner. ISBN: 1-4391-7196-3
Lareau, Annette. 2011. Unequal Childhoods. Berkeley, California:University of California Press. ISBN: 978-0-520-27142-5
Lacy, Karyn. 2007. Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class. Berkeley, California:University of California Press. ISBN: 978-0-520-25115-1
Pager, Devah. 2009. Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Chicago, Ill.:University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-64484-7

course description

By the end of this course, students will hone what sociologist C. Wright Mills called the "sociological imagination" and they will apply their sociological imagination to contemporary debates in American society. We will discuss how the sociological imagination differs from the approach other disciplines in social science might take to study inequality.

course objectives

  • describe structure and agency including how social structures shape, and are shaped by, individual decisions, social institutions and daily social interaction;
  • identify the ways in which social structures influence the distribution of power, privilege, and inequality on the basis of race, class, and gender;
  • detect and evaluate arguments made using different forms of data;
  • apply lessons learned in class to contemporary debates; and
  • develop a constructive and respectful relationship based on mutual learning with a community partner;

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