Social Structure / Social Facts

Below you will find some questions to help guide you in your first section essay. Remember, the essay functions as both a personal reflection and an analysis on the material covered. The idea is to demonstrate that you have understood important aspects of the material and are able to utilize the new theoretical perspectives to understand or reevaluate issues or topics. There is not a specific approach to take, though you may consider focusing on a contemporary topic through the lens of the readings. Another viable approach is to critique the theoretical positions in the Section and provide alternative explanations.  The response should be between 3-6 pages, double-spaced, 12pt font.  Be sure to cite your sources using ASA style.

Potential Ideas for Section Essay #1*

1. Durkheim presents a strong notion of social structure that restricts the amount of autonomy or free will an individual has. Do you agree with this view? Why or why not? What implications are there for either position (strong social structure/weak autonomy; weak social structure/strong autonomy)?

2. Durkheim argues that social cohesion arises out of our division of labor, particularly as it necessitates a type of tacit reliance and cooperation. How does this contrast with the popular notion of rugged individualism in the US? Alternatively, Garfinkel suggests a view of social order that is premised more on habitual behavior then shared morals. Which of the three positions do you think most accurately depicts how our social order is maintained?

3. How useful do you find Durkheims notion of a social fact? Does he do an adequate job of defending this concept, or does it still overlap with other disciplines? Or, is it even possible to single out social facts from say, economic or psychological ones? Why or why not?

*Note: It is not necessary to use my suggestions.

If none of the ideas above strike your fancy and you are having difficulty determining what to write about, consider the following:

1. Was there something important in the reading/theoretical position that you strongly disagree with?  If so, that disagreement may be a suitable topic for the essay. 

2. Do you think the theory(s) proposed have continued or contemporary relevance?  If so, how might that be demonstrated?  If not, what evidence do you have to support your argument?  Either position might be a suitable topic for the essay.

3. Did you find one reading more compelling than the others?  Why is that?  Perhaps you should direct your focus of the essay to that specific reading. 

4. Have you identified any inconsistencies in the readings which may influence the value of the ideas within?  If so, what are they and what implications do these inconsistencies have?  This may also serve as the basis for the essay.

5.  Do you have an alternative explanation for any of the theories posed?  If so, what is it?  How would you defend your own theory? 

6. Do you think that adopting the theoretical perspective(s) from this section would help to give us a better understanding of a different field?  For instance, does Durkheim’s theory of the division of labor give us a new way to look at or think about mental health? 

Think about the questions above. They may spark some potential ideas of what you may wish to write about. If you are unsure, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Attached you will find the grading rubric for the Section Essays.


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