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7114B Sewell Social Sciences
Office Hours: M 3-4 (F'13)
American Society: How it Really Works. (New York: WW Norton, 2010). With E.O. Wright.
What Workers Want (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006). Revised edition. With R.B. Freeman.
The Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters. (New York: Basic Books, 2000). With R. Teixeira.
Metro Futures: Economic Solutions for Cities and Their Suburbs. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). With D.L. Luria
Ph.D., Princeton University; JD, Yale Law School, 1976
Soc 125: American Society: How It Really Works
F2012, Mondays, 5:30-8:00 PM
5206 Sewell Social Sciences Building
What kind of society do we live in? What does it even mean to talk about a "kind" of society? We all know what it means to ask of a strange animal "what kind of animal/mineral is this?" But it's less clear what it means to ask that question of a society. This is partly because societies involve people, with minds and passions, whose behavior is hard to predict. And it's partly because societies change. A leopard can't change its spots. But societies can and often do become, for example, more or less productive in their economic organization, more or less equal in their distribution of opportunity to members, or more or less democratic.
This course provides an extended answer to the question of What kind of a society is the United States? It also explores the implications of that answer for understanding and making progress on solving some of the problems that confront America today. Our discussion revolves around five key values that most Americans believe this society should realize:
1. Freedom: the idea that members of the society should be able, to the greatest degree possible, to live their lives as they wish;
2. Prosperity: the idea that the society's economy should generate the highest possible standard of living;
3. Efficiency: the idea that the economy should be maximally precise in allocating product to needs and wants, and maximally efficient in productive use of scarce resources;
4. Fairness: the idea that members of the society should enjoy equal protection of the law and equal opportunity to make something of their lives;
5. Democracy: the idea that public decisions should reflect the collective will of equal citizens, not powerful and privileged elites.
Our basic question is: To what degree does contemporary American society realize these values and how might it do a better job? A second but important question for us is: How do social scientists go about answering such questions?
Sociology 919: Productive Democracy: 21st Century Egalitarian Possibilities
F2011, Tuesdays, 8:45-10:45 AM
8108 Sewell Social Sciences Building
Social democracy and its Keynesian welfare state (KWS) were the only successful reconciliation of liberty and equality under liberal pluralist political conditions, themselves thus far achieved only within capitalist democracies. Over the past generation, the particular form of reconciliation offered by the KWA has been severely challenged. Changes in the organization of the economy, citizen expectations of government, and risks associated with typical life course have together served to fracture its social base, placed new demands and changed the content of its most critical services, and underscored the limits of the practical capacity of its chief administrative agent, the executive-centered nation state. This course examines the rise and decline of the KWS and current efforts at its reform and rejuvenation. It also speculates on the needed institutions and constitutional political economy of a new reconciliation of liberty and equality, and the likelihood of their achievement. This speculation assumes realist constraints, i.e., reasonable assumptions about human nature, institutional capacity, and international political and economic competition; concern for system stability, adaptation, and learning; and the identification of at least plausible agents for the transformation in existing power centers and relations that it implies. Along with identifying the requirement elements and plausibility of this new liberal egalitarianism, we hope to identify important questions about its prospect and operation that might be tractable to research.