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York University

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

GS/SOCI 4215 3.0 (F) - M

Capitalism, Ideology, and Social Theory

Fall 2017

Course Syllabus

Course Director: Marcello Musto

Class Time: Wednesday 19:00 - 22:00

Class Location: Vari Hall 1016

Office Hours: Wednesday 18:00 - 19:00

Office Location: Ross Bldg. N833A

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

Unit Description

The course explores the applicability of sociological theory - classical and contemporary - to the social issues of modernity particularly, in relation to inequality, exploitation, and democratic rights of subaltern groups and their relationship to elite.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Class Participation




Reading Summary


Final Exam



Mid-term class participation and presentation (if already done) marks will be available by email or by appointment on October 13 (Friday).

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 (between 30 and 35 minutes) on the assigned readings. Presenters should provide (by photocopy) a 2 page summary of at least 500 words (NO PLAGIARISM) 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 at least three discussion questions for the class to consider.

Reading Summary:

Students will deliver on October 11 (Week 5 of class) a short summary (400 to 500 words) of the main sociological concepts included in the readings of one of the three authors read in the course until that point (S. Simon, Marx, or Veblen).

Final Exam :

A final exam will be held on November 29, at the regular class time and place. The exam will last 120 minutes and it will consist of answering to 3 questions (out of 5) drawn from the readings assigned during the course. Detailed information about the exam will be given in class.

Schedule of Classes and Readings

Week 1 – 13 September: Introduction

Recommended Readings:

Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, Chapters 1, 2 and maps, pp. 7-52 and 309-320.

Week 2 – 20 September: Early Socialism

Required Readings:

Claude de Saint-Simon, The Organizer [1819], Industrial System [1821] and On Social Organization [1825]

Excerpts taken from the following volumes:

Saint-Simon, Henri. Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825): Selected writings on science, industry, and social organization. Croom Helm. 1975.

Comte de Saint-Simon (ed. Markham), Henri Comte de Saint-Simon 1760-1825 Selected Writings. Blackwell Oxford, 1952.

Additional Readings:

Ghita Ionescu, Introduction, in Id. (ed.), The Political Thought of Saint-Simon, Cambridge University Press 1976.

Week 3 – 27 September: Anticapitalism I

Required Readings:

Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Commust Party [1848]

Additional Readings:

Marcello Musto, 'The Formation of Marx’s Critique of Political Economy: From the Studies of 1843 to the Grundrisse', Socialism & Democracy, Vol. 24, n. 3 (July 2010), pp. 66-100

Week 4 – 4 October: Anticapitalism II

Required Readings:

Karl Marx, Grundrisse [1857-58] (excerpt)

Capital, vol. I [1867] (excerpt)

Additional Readings:

Maximilien Rubel – Margaret Manale, Marx Without Myth: A Chronological Study of his Life and Work, Harper & Row, 1975.

Week 5 – 11 October : Critique of the Leisure Class

Required Readings:

Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class [1899] (excerpts)

Additional Readings:

Stephen Edgell, Veblen in Perspective: His Life and Thought, M.E. Sharpe, 2001.

Week 6 – 18 October: Capitalism and Religion

Required Readings:

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [1904-05] (excerpts)

Additional Readings:

Joachim Radkau, Max Weber: a Biography, Polity, 2009.

Week 7 – 25 October: Cultural Egemony

Required Readings:

Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks [1929-35] (excerpts)

Additional Readings:

Joseph Buttigieg, Introduction, in Id. (ed.), Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Columbia University Press, 1992.

Week 8 – 1 November: Sociological Imagination

Required Readings:

Charles Wright Mills, White Collar [1951] (excerpts)

Additional Readings:

John Eldridge, C. Wright Mills, Horwood, 1983.

Week 9 – 8 November: The Frankfurt School

Required Readings:

Selections of writings from Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno and other authors (TBA).

Excerpts taken from the following volume:

Andrew Arato, and Eike Gebhardt (Eds.), The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, Continuum, 1982.

Additional Readings

Jay Bernstein (Ed.), The Frankfurt School: Critical Assessments (6 voll.), Routledge, 1994.

Week 10 – 15 November: Alienation Theory in North-American Sociology

Required Readings:

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

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.

Additional Readings:

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

Week 11 – 22 November: The Critique of the Spectacle and Consumer Society

Required Readings:

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

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society [1974] (Part I: chapters I-III; Part II: chapter I; Part III: Conclusion) and other writings (TBA).

Additional Readings:

Anselm Jappe, Guy Debord, University of California Press, 1999.

Douglas Kellner, Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond, Stanford University Press, 1989.

Week 12 – 29 November: Final Exam