Complete one essay of no more than 1200 words in response to one of the following topics.
1. In broad terms, compare and contrast at least two of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel on the
‘advantages and disadvantages’ of modernity (extensive division of labor, specialization, larger political
and legal units, formal rationalization, money-mediated market-exchange, etc.) for individual human
beings (their cognitive, emotional and moral life and relationships).
2. Present Weber’s argument (drawing from the excerpts from “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Capitalism” and from “The Social Psychology of the World Religions” in STCE) regarding the effects of
religious doctrines and practices (of the religious virtuosos and of the ‘masses’) on everyday/workaday
(including economic) lives and conduct.
3. Explain the meaning, and discuss the broader implications, of the following passage from Weber’s “The
Distribution of Power within the Political Community: Class, Status, Party”:
“Therefore, all groups having an interest in the status order react with special sharpness precisely against the
pretensions [to status honor] of mere economic acquisition. In most cases [,] they react the more vigorously the
more they feel threatened. As to the general effect of the status order only one consequence can be stated, but it
is a very important one: the hindrance of the free development of the market.” (STCE: 212)
4. Based on the ideal-type of bureaucratic administration presented by Weber, analyze your current or
most recent workplace (or one you are very familiar with). How are ‘duties’ and ‘rights’ distributed? How
‘impersonal’ (and/or ‘objective’) are recruiting, task-assignment, task-fulfillment, etc? How strictly
circumscribed are members’ ‘areas of jurisdiction’? Is it efficient and how so? What is it consistently,
systematically good at? Not so good at? Who/what sets the overall goals for the organization? Is the
current set-up conducive to meeting those goals?
5. Analyze the relationships of ‘domination’ (as defined by Weber) between you (the students) and me
(the instructor) in our class. To what extent are these relationships of ‘domination’ premised on your
belief that my ‘commands’ are ‘rightful’ and that ‘obedience’ to them is morally or legally obligatory,
independently of coercion or utility? Is the ‘social order’ of this class different from that in other classes,
and along which dimensions (e.g. ‘external’ (coercion, utility) vs. ‘internal’ (legitimacy) bases; tradition vs.
charisma vs. reason as sources of legitimacy)?
6. Drawing as necessary from Weber’s general discussion about the connection between trends towards,
and demands for, equality, equal treatment, equal participation, etc. and bureaucratization,
rationalization, and impersonality, broadly discuss one or more of the following issues at CSUN:
evaluation and grading, admission criteria, major requirements, graduation requirement, course
availability and enrollment, etc..
7. According to Simmel, what effects do residing and working in a large metropolis (such as the greater
Los Angeles area) have on the emotional and cognitive lives of individuals? How do these effects, in
turn, impact our sense, expression, and recognition of autonomy and individuality?
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