SOCI 4211 Contemporary Theory Syllabus

Carol Rambo


Best way to contact me is via email:

Phone, leave message only: 678-2611

Office hours: by appointment. 

REQUIRED TEXTS: (at University Book Store or Tiger) 

Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky, 2005, The Discovery of Society.  Published by McGraw Hill: New York.  7th edition. 

James Farganis, 2004 Readings in Social Theory.  Published by McGraw Hill: New York. 4th edition. 

CLASS HANDOUTS are posted online. Click here.

ON LINE RESOURCES: The Mead Project. 


The main objective of this course is to give the student an overview of the nature, grounds, and explanatory power of various sociological theories and how these are applied to various areas of social life.  We will conceptualize theory as science, philosophy, and politics with a focus on how these forms influence methodology.  The ultimate aim of this course is to understand that there are a multitude of perspectives when considering "society" and that "society" is itself a cultural construct.  This course will also serve as preparation for entrance into a graduate sociology program. 


1.  The readings will be our spring board for class lectures and discussion. You are required to keep up with the readings and will be responsible for these as well as class lectures. 

2.  A liberal arts education means literally to "liberate" your mind.  Discussion is of the utmost importance.  You have paid money to be sitting here. DO NOT ALLOW ME TO LECTURE WITHOUT ASKING QUESTIONS IF YOU ARE CONFUSED OR UNCLEAR ON THE MATERIALS.  Only VICTIMS allow this to happen to them.  If you are having problems, chances are someone else is too!  If you feel uncomfortable about your progress in the course, I believe I have a reputation for being VERY approachable, so please see me during office hours or make an appointment.  We can work it out!!! 


Primary evaluations for grades are based on two unit quizzes and a comprehensive final.  Please take note of the grading scale: A = 90-100%, B = 89-80%, C = 79-65%,

D = 64-58%, F = below 58%.  
EXAMINATIONS- 50 points each, 100 points total. (REQUIRED)

Each exam has both multiple choice and essay questions, for a total of 100 points of your grade.  The materials these quizzes cover will be based upon the unit most recently covered.  


You are allowed to submit up to five 2-3 page papers, each using a different theorist we have discussed in class.  Each paper will be worth 2 points for a maximum value of 10 points for the whole assignment.  I will not be neurotic picky on this, quality counts more than quantity.  Using a one inch margin, a type written double spaced page consists of about 250 words. You are invited to take things you encounter in your daily life and analyze them in terms of the theories you will pick up in class.  I will elaborate more on this in class.  You may use your experience, newspaper articles, books, CNN, movies, MTV, songs, a story your friend told you happened to her, ANY kind of experience.  Have fun with this.  Use the concepts correctly; do not just identify the idea, but demonstrate how it is functioning in the example.   

Do not repeat specific class examples, you will get no credit.  If, however, you notice one of the concepts we learn about at work in class, this is fair game.  Neatness will count one point per entry.  If you are a slob genius, you could still lose a total of five points on the assignment. If you want to run a sample by me before the date of your first quiz, I will be willing to critique it (no hard and fast grade).  

If you are late one class period handing in your assignment I will take 25% off the top of the grade.  For instance if you earned 8/10 points, you will receive 6 of those points towards your grade.  Do not bother me with anything later than July 25th it will not be accepted for credit. 


Upon handing in your final exam, I will look at your face.  If it is a face that is constantly adding to class discussion I will at that time add two points to your grade.  If it is a face that occasionally contributes, I will add one point.   

ATTENDANCE (OPTIONAL, unless you receive federal funding to attend classes, we will discuss in class what this means)

You are an adult. You pay your money, you decide if you want to attend. I will, however, take attendance for two purposes. If you have perfect attendance after the first week of class, three points will be assigned to your grade, equivalent to the weight of answering three exam questions correctly. If you only miss one or two periods during this time, I will assign two extra credit points. Miss three periods and I will assign one point of extra credit. Students who miss more than this number of classes (my second purpose) will have a great deal of trouble gaining sympathy if they are not doing well in the class. We can talk about your absences if you are in a dire situation. I must assume, however, if you choose not to attend and you do poorly, that you are choosing to do poorly and I need not put forth any effort on your behalf.


Make up exams are permitted with proper documentation and are to be scheduled with the instructor. You must contact the instructor ONE WEEK after missing an exam or forfeit the opportunity to make it up. 


University of Memphis has a comprehensive policy regarding academic dishonesty such as plagiarism, cheating and impersonation. The policy can be found on-line at:


TENTATIVE SCHEDULE-can and probably will be changed at any time!  You are responsible for all due dates and times.  You are responsible to know when changes have taken place in the schedule.   The only people who do not know these things are people who are not attending regularly and people who are not paying attention.  I work hard to be fair when changes take place. 

June 6th.  What is Sociology?  Theory?  Philosophy?  Please read the Introduction and Chapter 1 in The Discovery of Society (DOS).  Saint-Simon and Comte  

June 8th. The End of Suburbia.  Discussion 

June 13th. Marx.  Please Read Chapter 2 in DOS 

June 15th.  Durkheim.  Please Read Chapter 6 in DOS. 

June 20th.  Weber. Please read Chapter 7 in DOS. 

June 22nd.  Simmel.  Please read about Simmel Pp.148-152 in Chapter 9 in DOS. 

June 27th.  African American Sociology.  Please read chapter 11 in DOS and Chapter 6 in Readings in Social Theory (RIST) 

June 29th.  Review/Catch-up day. 

July 4th.  No meeting. 

July 6th.  EXAM 1 

July 11th.  Mead and Blummer. Please read Pp. 349-358 in RIST.

July 13th.  Berger and Luckman, Phenomenology.  Please read RIST Pp.  303-339. 

July 18th.  Goffman.  Please read Chapter 14 in DOS and RIST Pp.  359-368. 

July 20th.  Garfinkel   Please read RIST Pp. 340-348. 

July 25th.  Feminist Theory.  Please read RIST Pp.  369-394.  Theory Applications due.  

July 27th.  Marcuse.  Please read RIST Pp.  395-412.   

August 1st.  Habermas.  Please read RIST Pp.  413-422. 

August 3rd.  Foucault.  Please read RIST Pp. 423-434 

August 8th.  Lyotard.  Please read RIST Pp. 435-445

August 10th.  Review/Catch-up day 

August 11th.  EXAM 2. 

REMINDER:  Make up quizzes permitted only when:

1.  You have an excuse I have approved.

2.  You have documentation for that excuse.