• Life Is Not Always Fair: How social institutions and processes affect individual lives
    • School of International & Public Affairs
    • Credit. 2
    • LA301
    • Enroll
    • Spring , 2015
    • 5324
    • Course Description:
    • ( Exchange Programme )
    • In this introductory sociology course, we will explore the various social processes and institutions that shape the social world in which we live. We will challenge many commonly held assumptions, such as the idea that the success of individuals is always the outcome of talent and hard work, and that those who do not succeed in conventional terms must be lazy, deficient, and thus responsible for their own problems. In contrast, students will be introduced to important sociological debates about the nature of inequality, and how different social institutions and processes are implicated in the creation and maintenance of this inequality.
      Some of the key questions we will be asking include:
      • Who gets what kind of education?
      • Who does what kind of work?
      • Who gets what kind of health care?
      • Who gets what kind of justice?
      • Who is affected when corporations do bad things or the environment declines?
      The course will conclude with a discussion of alternative approaches to learning, working, and living that some have argued contain the potential to overcome many of the problems with which modern societies are grappling.
    • Course Syllabus:
    • (英文)For more information, please see the course syllabus.
      Week1: Introduction
      Course Schedule and Readings
      The purpose of this class: common sense vs. sociological reasoning

      Week 2: Who Gets Ahead?
      Is the success of people shaped solely by their individual talent or by social forces?
      • Gladwell: Chapter 1 from Outliers –“ The Matthew Effect”
      -Article “Were most Software Millionaires born around 1955”
      • Brown: Education, opportunity and the prospects for social mobility

      Week 3: Foundations of sociological reasoning: research methods
      How sociologists conduct research that is rigorous, scientific and ethical? Understanding the difference between quantitative and qualitative sociological research.

      • Gladwell: Chapter-Preface from Outliers – “The Roseto Mystery”
      • Carrett 2011 -Born to learn or born to win? Birth order effects on achievement goals

      Week 4: Childhood poverty: early experiences of inequality and its long reach
      How does poverty shape the lives of children and adult?

      • Annette Lareau: Chapter 1 from Unequal Childhood
      -Article – book review on Unequal Childhood by Linda Quirke

      Week 5: Schooling: does it level the playing field or make inequality worse?
      It’s not just about “smarts”: how sociologists explain differences in educational attainment.

      • Gladwell: Chapter 3&4 from Outliers, “The trouble with geniuses”
      • Buchmann 2001 – “Education and stratification in developing countries- A review of theories and research”

      Week 6: Transitioning from school to work 

      How do sociologists explain how people get from school to work? 

      • Lehmann 2009 - University as vocational education: working-class students' expectations for university
      • Zhou,1999- Children of the Cultural Revolution: The state and the life course in the People's Republic of China

      Week 7: Class presentation: Proposal

      Week 8: Working: who does what and why?
      How do sociologists explain occupational hierarchies, discrimination and experiences at work?
      • Spangler 2008 -Wal-Mart and Women: Good Business Practice or Gamesmanship?
      • Bian 1994 -“Guanxi and the Allocation of Jobs in Urban China”,

      Week 9: Being healthy: not just a choice
      How do sociologists explain why some people lead healthier lives than others?
      • Korp 2010- Problems of the Healthy Lifestyle Discourse

      Week 10: Perception:Inequality in contemporary China
      • Whyte 2010 - Is rising inequality propelling China toward a "Social Volcano"?pp.1-7•
      • Whyte 2010 -What do Chinese citizens see as fair and unfair about current inequalities?.pp.43-67.

      Week 12: The Law: are we all equal under it?
      Why are some people more likely to become victims or perpetrators of crime?
      • Gottschalk. 2012. -Gender and white-collar crime: only four percent female criminals

      Week 13: Social breakdown: the problems with corporations and capitalism
      How sociologists can study the role corporations play in shaping our lives.
      • Bakan: The Corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power (Chapter 3: The Externalizing Machine)
      • Shin: The Shareholder Value Principle: The Governance and Control of Corporations in the United States 

      Week 14: Social breakdown: environmental crises 

      What are sociological explanations of the causes and consequences of environmental decline? 


      • Reid: Disaster and social inequalities 

      Week 15: Overcoming inequality: income redistribution and changing institutions 

      Can we find solutions to the problems of inequality we discussed in this class? 

      . Rothschild: Workers’ Cooperatives and Social Enterprise A Forgotten Route to Social Equity and Democracy

      *The above indicated schedule/readings may be modified slightly throughout the term. Additional readings (Journal papers) may be added and given during the term.
    • Schedule:
    • see the syllabus above
  • Reading list
  • Other Materials
  • Discussion
  • Homework download/submit
    • 杜江勤
    • Lecturer
    • Read more
    • Female
    • E-mail:
    • jiangqin_du@163.com
    • Profile
    • Self Introduction:
  • Prerequisite Course:

    No Prerequisites

  • Textbooks:

    No textbook required
  • Grading:

    Assessment Breakdown
    The Grading scheme for this course will be as follows: Total 100%
    Class participation: 30%
    Project(Team work): 30%
    Reading report: 20%
    Paper review: 20%
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