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SOCI 4670 3.0 B (W)

 Social Self

  Winter 2014

Course Director: Dr. Marcello Musto

Class Time: Tuesday 19:00 – 22.00

Class Location: VH 1022

Office Location: 637 Atkinson College Office Hours: Thursday 18:00-19:00

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 416 – 736 2100 - Ext. 22565

Course Syllabus

The course will centre on the analysis of some of the most important modern and contemporary perceptions of the social Self in Western societies, starting from 1492 and the discovery of the “other”. The selection of readings focuses on the examination of the characteristics and distinguishing features of the varied conceptions of social self articulated by some classical works of liberalism, Marx and the “new Left”, and mainstream North-American sociology among others.

Special attention will be dedicated to the XXth century. With the “revolutions” of psychoanalysis and of the liberation movements of 1968; and after the huge impacts produced by mass media and technological inventions, which followed World War II, the idea of social self changed dramatically. The second part of the course will critically analyze the differences produced in human sciences with respect to its perception.

The last two classes will finally examine the most relevant contemporary conceptions – and frontiers – of the “Self” at the time of capitalist globalization and cosmopolitism.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Class Participation




Final paper


Class Participation:

This course is taught in weekly seminars lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes. Attendance and informed participation at all class meetings is not only strongly recommended, but required. Students are expected to attend class regularly, complete the assignment readings on time and participate actively in class discussion. Participation will be marked for attendance and quality of participation.


Each class will begin with a student presentation (not exceeding 30 minutes) on the assigned readings. Presenters should provide a 2 page summary (by photocopy) of her/his presentation for other students.

A good presentation is very important to stimulate discussion. Therefore, please avoid just reading from a paper, and try to present ideas and raise questions for the engagement of others. Presentations should:

- give all the pertinent biographical information about the author(s) and the historical context in which the assigned texts were written;

- reconstruct the argument of the author(s), and provide an overview of the assigned readings;

- identify the key questions for discussion, and the controversies implied by the material;

- critically analyze the texts (for example: what are the limitations of the position expressed in the readings?);

- Identify anything you found unclear or hard to understand;

- conclude with three discussion questions for the group to consider.

Final Paper:

Students are free to propose their own final paper topic in this course, but it has to be related to the authors and/or the writings contained within the course syllabus. The Final Paper should:

- be approximately 5000 words, including footnotes but not bibliography (roughly 20 pages double spaced 12 pt. times new Roman font);

- be clearly structured (divided into at least 3/4 sections), and written with rigorous evidence (particularly references to published works);

- be argued with documentation from critical sources (1-2 books and/or articles per page is a good rule of thumb). These sources may include some of the assigned readings, but must also evidence discovered though original research.

Final papers will be due 8 April by email. Late assignment will be penalized.

Warning: the paper must be entirely your own work. Be sure to meet all requirements of academic integrity (ie, no plagiarism).

Access to Readings:

The titles Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other and C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism have been ordered atYork Bookstore. A list of texts by choice for the last class will be distributed during the course.

Many of the required readings are available on-line; while Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society is on reserve at Scott library:


 Mid-term class participation marks will be available by email or by appointment the week of 10 February.

Schedule of Classes and Readings

Jan 7 Introduction and Overview

Jan 14 The “Self” after 1492

Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other [1982] (From chap. I: “The Discovery of America”, “Columbus and the Indians”; From chap- IV: “Typology of Relation to the Other”; and “Epilogue”)

Jan 21 Liberalism and the Perception of the Single Individual

C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism [1962](Parts I and VI)

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [1776] (chapters I.1 – I.5)

Jan 28 The Bourgeois Myth of Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe [1808]

Ian Watt, “Robinson Crusoe as a Myth, Essays in Criticism, vol. I (1951), n. 2, pp. 95-119.

Feb 4 The Marxian Critique

Karl Marx, Grundrisse [1857-58] (“Introduction: 1. Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange (Circulation) PRODUCTION: Independent Individuals. Eighteenth-century Ideas” [pp. 81-88]; and “Forms which precede capitalist production” [pp. 471-513])

Karl Marx, Capital (chapters TBA)

Feb 11 Anthropological Representations

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques [1955]

Feb 25 Social Self After Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1930]

Mar 4 Alienation Theory in North-American Sociology

Marcello Musto, “Revisiting Marx’s Concept of Alienation”, Socialism and Democracy, vol. 24, n. 3 (November 2010): 79-101.

Nettler, Gwynn (1957) “A Measure of Alienation”, American Sociological Review, vol. 22, n. 6, pp. 670-677.

Seeman, Melvin (1959) “On the Meaning of Alienation”, American Sociological Review, vol. 24, n. 6, pp. 783-791.

Clark, John (1959) “Measuring alienation within a social system”, American Sociological Review, vol. 24, n. 6, pp. 849-852.

Schweitzer, David (1982) “Alienation, De-alienation, and Change: A critical overview of current perspectives in philosophy and the social sciences”, in Giora Shoham (ed.) Alienation and Anomie Revisited, Tel Aviv: Ramot, pp. 27-70.

Heinz, Walter R. (1992) “Changes in the Methodology of Alienation Research”, in Felix Geyer and Walter R. Heinz (ed.), Alienation, society, and the individual, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, pp. 213-221.

Mar 11 Social Self at the Time of the 1968 Protests

Herbet Marcuse, Eros and Civilization [1955] (chapters VI, VII, VIII, X)

Mar 18 The “Self” and the Mass Media

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle [1967] (chapters 1-53, and 73-124)

Mar 25 Social Self as a Consumer

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society [1974] (Part I chapters I-III; Part II chapters I-II; Part III chapter V; and the Conclusion)

Apr 1 Globalization and Contemporary Frontiers of the Social Self

An article (by choice) among a list of texts which will be distributed during the course.