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Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2008

SOC 343 • Religion and Society

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46585 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
BUR 208

Course Description

R S 361 and SOC 343 may not both be counted

Since the classical treatises of Weber, Durkheim, and Marx, social scientists have widely assumed that the vitality and social power of religion are being steadily eroded by the forces of modernity. However, these time-honored notions of secularization are now under attack, and they are rapidly giving way to a more dynamic, market-oriented perspective on individual and collective religious life, especially in the contemporary United States. After a quick review and critique of various pro-secularization arguments, we will explore the relevance of this debate--and the "new paradigm"--in relation to the following topics:

1. the apparent growth of socially and theologically conservative religious communities, and the apparent decline of more liberal ones;
2. the varied factors influencing the religious decision-making of individuals;
3. the emergence of various new religious movements (including so-called "cults"), as well as the growth of non-Judeo-Christian faiths, and the societal response to this growing diversity;
4. the perennial role of religious institutions as "free social spaces," through which various cultural minorities (e.g., racial/ethnic groups) can sustain personal and group identities and seek empowerment;
5. the impact of religious institutions and values on the personal and family well-being of individual Americans; and
6. the place of religious institutions and values in contemporary debates concerning "the family" and other public and political issues.

Grading Policy

Two in-class exams 25% each
Comprehensive final exam 40%
Attendance/participation/brief quizzes 10%

Exams will consist of a combination of "objective" items (e.g., identification, short answer) as well as essay questions.
In the calculation of final grades, a slight advantage will be given to two groups of students: (1) those whose performance improves significantly over the course of the semester; and (2) those who exhibit notable interest in the class, e.g., by participating constructively in class discussions. (Quieter persons will not be penalized.)


Course packet, available at Paradigm, on 24th near Guadalupe (phone 472-7986).
Note that additional materials, to be announced in class in the future, may be made available via Blackboard or other means of public access. There will also be occasional guest lectures and possible videos, which will also be announced in class in advance.


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