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AP/SOCI 4670 3.00 B (W) N

The Social Self

Winter 2015

Course Director: Dr. Marcello Musto

Class Time: Wednesday 19:00 – 22.00

Class Location: ACE 010

Office Location: N833A Ross Building
Office Hours: Thursday 12:00-13:00 and by appointment

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

Phone: 416 – 736 2100 - Ext. 22558

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” in the Americas. The selection of readings focuses on the examination of the characteristics and distinguishing features of the varied conceptions of social self articulated – among others – by liberalism, Marx, Freud and by the advocates of nationalism.

Special attention will be dedicated to the XXth century. With the “revolutions” of psychoanalysis, the feminist critique, 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. Therefore, on the basis of some well known essays of mainstream North-American sociology, of classics of the “new Left” - such as Marcuse and Debord -, and of the work of Baudrillard, in the second part of the course there will be a critical analysis of the differences produced in human sciences with respect to the “self”.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Class Participation




Final Exam


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 Exam :

A final exam will be held on April 1st, at the regular class time and place. The exam will last 120 minutes and it will consist of answering to 6 questions (out of 9) drawn from the readings assigned during the course.

The first three questions will be related to Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Simone de Beauvoir, while the last 3 questions (out of 6), to which students will have to respond, will be focused on the other readings (more detailed information about the exam and the kind of questions of the exam will be given during the course).

Access to Readings:

The title Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later, edited by Marcello Musto. London: Bloomsbury (2014) has been ordered at York Bookstore. Excerpts from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex will be distributed during the course, while the books: Giora Shoham (ed.) Alienation and Anomie Revisited, Herbet Marcuse, Eros and Civilization and Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society are on reserve at Scott library. All the others required readings are available on-line.


Mid-term class participation and presentation (if already done) 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” [pp. 3-42]; and “Epilogue”)


Jan 21 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

Jan 28 Labour Movement and the Marxian Critique

Marcello Musto (ed.), Workers Unite! The International 150 Years Later, New York/London: Bloomsbury, 2014, (10 documents by choice among those included in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 of the volume).

Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party [1848] (Chapter I. Bourgeois and Proletarians)


Karl Marx, Capital (capital 1, section 4: “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof”).


Feb 4 Nationalism and Imagined Communities

Benedict Anderson, Immagined Communities [1983] (Introduction and chapters 1-3)



Feb 11 Social Self After Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1930]


Feb 25 Being Woman

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex [1949] (excerpts to be distributed during the course)

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 Final Exam