Social Sciences Division

Acting Chair: John McGrath

Social Sciences Courses

CGS SS 101: Introduction to Historical Sociology and the Social Sciences
Introduces the student to the basic tools of anthropology, sociology, social psychology, economics, and history. Students examine and apply the methods and principal concepts of these disciplines to the problems of contemporary society. The course introduces the structures and processes involved in an analysis of culture, society, the socialization process, social stratification, and social institutions. Cross-cultural inquiry demonstrates the universal social needs of people and illustrates how these can be met in a variety of social configurations. (4 credits)

CGS SS 102: Social Change and Modernization in the Western World
Draws on the conceptual and cross-cultural materials of the first-semester course and turns to an examination of social change in the West. The focus of this semester’s work is a case study of social and cultural transformation from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The historical phenomena of industrialism, nationalism, imperialism, socialism, communism, and fascism—all of which are elements of the process of modernization—are examined both in their historical contexts and within the framework of theories of social change. The historical case study offers the student a vehicle for analyzing in depth the impact of these phenomena on the life, institutions, and ways of thinking of a given society. The concepts of this course are of special relevance to the work of the sophomore year, when the process of modernization in the non-Western world is examined. (4 credits)

CGS SS 103: Changing Times, Changing Minds: Revolutions in the Ancient World through the Enlightenment

Examines social change in ideologies, governance, economies, and social structures of the Western world. In the first semester we will consider the rise of monotheism and democracy in the ancient world, the role of trade in economic and political development, and shifts in social inequalities. We will look at challenges to authority with the Reformation, the political philosophies of the Enlightenment, and their impact on the social and political revolutions of the 18th century. Along the way, students will gain familiarity with the social science “toolkit” of analytical concepts. Course themes of social, cultural, political, and economic change will be illustrated by sites in southern New England. Open only to students admitted to the CGS January Program. (4 credits)

CGS SS 104: Changing Times, Changing Minds: The Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution

Continues our study of social change in ideologies, governance, economies, and social structures of the West. We will look at technological innovation, the triumphs and trials of capitalism, and the impact of industrial society on ordinary workers. We will consider the views of classical liberalism and its twin challengers, communism and fascism. We will witness the devastation of industrialized warfare and racialized mass murder and will examine the new international structures that resulted. We conclude with the globalization of economies and social structures in the digital revolution. Our study of social change will be deepened by visits to relevant sites in England and France. Open only to students admitted to the CGS January Program. (4 credits)

CGS SS 201: Social Change and Modernization in the Non-Western World: China and Russia
Builds on the conceptual and historical materials of the freshman experience. The course centers on two case studies in rapid modernization: Russia and China. Russia, the Soviet Union, and its successor, the Confederation of Independent States, are considered as recent examples of rapid social change and serve as the basis for a comparison of the problems of modernization in contemporary China. The historical roots of Western industrialism, the culture of the non-Western peoples as it affects their responses to Western experiences, and the dramatic complexities of social change combine to challenge the students’ grasp of the problems facing the modern world. (4 credits)

CGS SS 202: America’s Response to Aggression and Revolution: U.S. Foreign Policy since the 1930s

Focuses on the reaction of the United States to the revolutionary changes that have taken place abroad in the post-World War II era. After considering the events that destroyed the wartime relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, the course examines how fear of communism operated as a prism through which our government viewed both foreign and domestic affairs. The factors that led to America’s involvement in Vietnam, to the American-Soviet détente in the 1970s, to the nuclear arms race, and, ultimately, to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War are examined. All of these developments are studied with a view toward answering how our national interests should be defined and pursued in the post-Cold War world. The remainder of the course is devoted to an inter-divisional Capstone Project, a group writing assignment in which students apply the ideas, concepts, and analytical skills they have developed over the four semesters in all of the College’s courses. (4 credits)

Social Sciences at the College of General Studies

The objectives of the two-year social science program are to provide students with a basis for understanding human social behavior and acquaint them with humankind’s endeavor to produce a body of reliable knowledge about the human condition. In pursuing these objectives, the courses draw from the various disciplines of the social sciences—anthropology, sociology, history, social psychology, political science, and economics—and combines fundamental, conceptual, and factual materials from these disciplines into an integrated four-semester sequence.

The first semester of the freshman year is devoted primarily to the behavioral sciences and serves as the analytical background for the next three semesters, which treat historical society, emerging society, and contemporary society. The approaches during this sequence necessarily vary from conceptual and historical to analytical and cross-cultural; at times they may be combined. The program is introductory, stressing basic concepts, methods, and attitudes rather than surveying the broad range of the social sciences.

In both years, the courses require four hours of class attendance each week. One hour is devoted to a departmental lecture attended by the entire freshman or sophomore class. This large lecture is supplemented by a team lecture that combines several small sections once a week. The team lecture is used for presentations that are most conveniently offered to groups of intermediate size and two additional hours are devoted to smaller discussion section meetings.

The methods of instruction used in the classroom are extremely important to achieving the goals of education; materials are carefully selected to provide for students’ future self-directed learning. Reading materials are widely varied so that students learn to use general sources of information as well as specialized ones. The professors closely observe student progress and are available for conferences.