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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2005

S S 301 • Social Science Theory and The Problem of the Subject-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
40980 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM

Course Description

Punk, goth, geek, jock, Catholic, Jew, Buddhist, homosexual, heterosexual, red, white, yellow, minister, cop, professor, drug dealer, philosopher, mother, whore, high-brow, low-brow … These words mark categories of identity, one of the various ways we define ourselves to ourselves and to each other. Identity is also one of the ways in which other people—but also the state, culture, politics, and the economy—define us as individuals, groups, and communities. When we construct our own sense of self, we might think we are in control of ourselves. When other people—and institutions and forces beyond them—define us, we might think we are being controlled. The “problem of the subject” is the never-completed social task of constructing intersubjectively valid understandings of fundamental human identity. For example, are human beings moved by social, emotional, and psychological forces beyond their control, or can they control themselves and their environment through the power of their own reasoning? The European Enlightenment of the 18th century gave rise to master narratives of the subject as a sovereign figure capable of rational control of his or her worlds. Modern thinkers dethroned the subject for this position of sovereignty by identifying hidden forces beyond rational control, such as ideology, economic structure, the unconscious, and bodily drives. This intellectual revolution led to new ways of studying social integration for conceiving of human identity.

About the Professor Professor Gregg is a social and political theorist with a B.A. from Yale, a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Free University of Berlin. He is the author of two books: Thick Moralities, Thin Politics: Social Integration Across Communities of Belief and Coping in Politics With Indeterminate Norms: A Theory of Enlightened Localism. He is currently completing a book titled Political Solidarity without Nationalism. Much of his writing focuses on the promises and problems of political and social integration of citizens in multicultural societies. He has taught at universities in Beijing and Tokyo. He is partial to exotic travel, string quartets, and Plan II students, not necessarily in that order.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. Four essays, 5-6 pages each. Students will submit initial thoughts on each session's assigned readings to our seminar’s Blackboard site. Each session one student will be responsible for organizing these submissions into an “agenda” and using it to lead classroom discussion. NB: This course will fulfill the Area B requirement for the Plan II degree, but will not count toward the Area B requirement for other degrees.


Selections from Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Pierre Bourdieu.


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