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DHUM 1445A - How we Make the Social World

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


No pre-requisites

Course Description

The social sciences are often accused of having models, theories, or assumptions that are unrealistic. But what does this mean? To explain why a science is unrealistic requires us to identify what reality it is opposed to. In the case of social science, this must be social reality. Therefore, the focus of this course is to study how social reality exists. The starting point, which is generally agreed upon in philosophy, is that the structures that make up the social world—universities, governments, money, gender, for example—would not exist if human beings did not exist. Hence, it stands to reason that in one way or another we brought them into being; we constructed them, we made them. But this is where agreement ends. How we made them and what this means for how we study social phenomena—the aim of the social sciences—are hotly debated topics. This course will discuss current debates in this field as well as other philosophical contributions closely related to this topic such as those made by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Judith Butler. The aim is to introduce students to a foundational philosophical issue that can contribute to explaining why, within the social sciences, there is such a high level of disagreement. This should then serve to help students navigate the large quantity of different social sciences, schools of thought, and approaches they will be faced with during their studies. Week 1: What part of the world is social? Week 2: Should social science be realistic? Week 3: How can human beings make a new type of reality? Week 4: Communities and Collective Practices Week 5: Identities, Positions, and Social Relations Week 6: Norms and Social Rules Week 7: Social Structures and Institutions Week 8: Power and Responsibility Week 9: Human Rights Week 10: Money and Corporations Week 11: Gender and Sex Week 12: Gender and Sex


SLADE-CAFFAREL, Yannick (Visiting Student at Sciences Po)

Course validation

Final Paper (2000 words [40%]) Oral Presentation (10 minutes [30%]) Each week 1-2 students will be required to submit a short summary of the week's reading (500 words [20%]) Participation (attendance and the students' general participation in discussion [10%])

Required reading

  • Beauvoir, S. d. (1949). Le deuxième sexe. Paris, Gallimard or Beauvoir, S. d. (2009 [1949]). The second sex. London, Jonathan Cape.
  • Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of "sex". New York, Routledge.
  • Lawson, T. (2015). A Conception of Social Ontology. In Social Ontology and Modern Economics. S. Pratten. London, Routledge: 19-52.
  • Sartre, J.-P. (1946). L'existentialisme est un humanisme. Paris, Nagel or Sartre, J.-P. (2007 [1946]). Existentialism is a humanism. New Haven, Yale University Press.
  • Searle, J. R. (2010). Making the social world: the structure of human civilization. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Additional required reading

  • Berger, P. L. and Luckmann, T. (1967). The social construction of reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. London, Penguin.
  • Butler, J. (1999 [1990]). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, Routledge.
  • Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York ; London, Routledge.
  • Elder-Vass, D. (2012). The Reality of Social Construction. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Lawson, T. (1997). Economics and reality. London ; New York, Routledge.
  • Lawson, T. (2007). Gender and Social Change. In The Future of Gender. J. Browne. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Lawson, T. (2012). Ontology and the study of social reality: emergence, organisation, community, power, social relations, corporations, artefacts and money. Cambridge Journal of Economics 36(2): 345-385.
  • Lawson, T. (2015). The nature of the firm and peculiarities of the corporation. Cambridge Journal of Economics 39(1): 1-32.
  • Lawson, T. (2016). Social positioning and the nature of money. Cambridge Journal of Economics 40(4): 961-996.
  • Sartre, J.-P. (1960). Critique de la raison dialectique, précedé de Question de méthode. Paris, Gallimard.
  • Sartre, J.-P. (1943). L'être et le néant, essai d'ontologie phénoménologique. Paris, Gallimard.
  • Sartre, J.-P. (1960). Critique de la raison dialectique, précedé de Question de méthode. Paris, Gallimard.
  • Searle, J. R. (1996). The construction of social reality. London, Penguin.
  • Searle, J. R. (2016). The Limits of Emergence: Reply to Tony Lawson. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 46(6): 400-412.