Sociology 475

SOCY 475

Catalog Entry

SOCY 475. Ecology, Economy, and Culture.
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisites: SOCY 110, or SOCY 121, or permission of instructor.

Examination of sociocultural theories on economic organization and behavior, and related environmental issues, for societies around the world.. Cross-cultural study of economic diversity using cases from cultures around the world, past to present.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

I. Review of cultural concepts to set the stage for studying socioeconomic behavior

A. Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism
B. Cultural diversity and "rational" behavior
C. Culture systems perspective
D. Goals of scientific explanation

II. "Making a living": building a comparative framework for studying world economies

A. Theoretical issues

1. Sociocultural evolution
2. Ecosystems; ecological and environmental models

a. Adaptation

b. Carrying capacity

3. Formalist versus substantivist debate

B. Overview of production, distribution and consumption issues
C. Comparison of subsistence economies, command economies, and market economies

III. Comparative study of economic production

A. Subsistence/procurement strategies and related environmental issues

1. Hunting and gathering

2. Pastoralism

3. Horticulture

4. Intensive agriculture

5. Industrialism

B. Land tenure
C. Resource control and management
D. Behavior of producing units

1. Risk, uncertainty, and decision-making

2. Generalized versus specialized subsistence strategies

IV. Comparative study of economic distribution

A. Modes of exchange

1. Reciprocity

2. Redistribution

3. Market exchange; trade and marketplaces

B. Functions of storage

V. Comparative study of consumption patterns

A. Social stratification and economics
B. Leveling mechanisms
C. Conspicuous consumption
D. Sumptuary rules

VI. The "modern world economic system"

A. Historical development; colonialism
B. Its impact on non-Western societies and their responses

1. Analysis of encounters between societies with differing economic/environmental orientations

VII. Selected case studies from cultures around the world
VIII. Economic development of non-Western people in the present & future


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

A combination of lecture and informal discussion is used in this course. Both focus upon assigned readings, audio-visual presentations, and applicable materials drawn from media discussions of current events.


Goals and Objectives of Course

Students will be able:

1. to develop an appreciation for the great diversity in the ways people "make their living" around the world by examining case studies from cultures around the world, past to present; 2. to engage in critical thinking by seeking answers as to why and how these diverse economic/ecological systems developed and operate; 3. to become knowledgeable of the theoretical approaches regarding the integration of culture, environment, and socioeconomic behavior; 4. to apply their study of human economic diversity toward better understanding, assessing and predicting economic and environmental issues/problems facing communities, regions, and societies in the present and the future.


Assessment Measures

Students may be graded on the basis of in-class or take-home essay examinations, oral presentations, term papers or projects, journals, class attendance and participation.


Other Course Information

Students may be asked to keep abreast of current world events and to conduct library research in addition to reading assigned text materials. Informal, in-class writing may be used to stimulate discussion. Students taking the course for graduate credit are also required to write an additional research paper on a topic tailored to their special interests in the class.


Review and Approval

February 2009, Dr. Paula Brush, Chair, Department of Sociology