Choose a specific consumer good e.g. cars, computers, cell phones, cosmetics, clothing, etc. and apply Marx’s theory of fetishism of commodities to it. Is the item you have chosen a consumer fetish or do people buy it mainly for its use and/or aesthetic value?
In view of increasing global and local protests, e.g. anti-poverty, anti-war, Indigenous rights, etc. is capitalism the final stage of history that must be succeeded by socialism as Marx and Engels had predicted? Why or why not?
In one of Simmel’s most cited essays, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”, he argues that modern city, based on the money economy has a profound effect on human relationships. Do you agree or disagree with him that money is the root cause of social problems, whereby genuine human relationships characterized by greater feeling and emotionality decline, being replaced by increasing attitudes of blasé indifference, shallow rational calculations, and a lack of social responsibility in the face of profit-driven or selfish motives? Provide specific examples that support and/or challenge Simmel’s argument.
Are contemporary social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other types of digital and media technologies a form of ideology that dominates the masses through consensus? Or are they legitimate communication tools that are meaningful and liberating to individual consumers? Provide specific examples to support your argument.
Drawing upon feminist theory, discuss ONE of the following issues: 1) gender images in the media; 2) gender gaps in public policies e.g. economic development, health care, education; or 3) gender variations in Canada.
Has modern society, particularly youth culture become prisoner of brands, logos and gadgets? Why or why not?
Have key aspects of our modern society such as employment, education, health care, etc. become “McDonaldized?” Why or why not?
The Essay involves selecting one of the major theories or theorists we have studied in the course and apply it to a pressing social issue in your community. Your task is to define your own area of interest and then apply the theory/theorist of your choice to argue for some sort of position e.g. “Corporations produce alienated workers”, or “social media communicate false consciousness”, or “digital technologies have latent/unintended consequences” or “drug policies are a form of bio-power” or “gender bias is a prevalent feature of society”, etc.
Your essay must be grounded in appropriate course readings PLUS a minimum of 3 outside academic sources (e.g. scholarly books, peer-reviewed journal articles AND NOT popular sources i.e. magazines, newspapers, internet articles e.g. Wikipedia) to substantiate your own argument. You may consult popular sources to write your paper e.g. news, magazines, social media, podcasts, films, etc. but these do not count as academic citations. You are encouraged to express your own ideas/position in writing your essay and not simply summarize others’ ideas or theories. As such, you can use the first- person pronoun “I” to write your essay to demonstrate transparency of your views. Your essay must build upon two interrelated areas: 1) a brief overview of your chosen theorist/theory’s key arguments and 2) some analytical reflections on how your chosen theorist(s) or theories can help you better understand or solve a socially relevant issue in your community. These two areas must be linked by a central thesis in which you must argue for a position, showing a complete knowledge of your readings’ key arguments and be able to express them as well as your own viewpoint in a clear manner. You may conduct your analytical reflections in ANY of the following three ways: 1) drawing specific examples from the readings or from your own lived experiences; 2) drawing connections with general themes of the lectures or seminars or 3) putting forth a critique of the work you are examining regarding its strengths and limitations to understand/solve a contemporary issue or critiquing other lecture or seminar ideas in terms of the readings. You must acknowledge your sources using proper social science style for referencing e.g. (Smith 2009: 268) within the body of your essay and attach a complete bibliography of all your works cited e.g. APA style, at the end of your essay. Feel free to consult me during office hours if you need to run your ideas by me. You will be evaluated for clarity of presentation and argument, content, and style with the following criteria: 3%: grammar, spelling, syntax, structure, organization, proper citations; 6%: identification/explanation of a theorist’s or theoretical arguments; 6%: analysis of issue and proposed solutions through a theoretical perspective. Your essay should be 6-8 typed pages, double-spaced, 11/12 point-font.
Suggested Academic Journals:
American Journal of Sociology
Canadian Review of Anthropology and Sociology
Gender and Society
International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Journal of Consumer Culture
Theory, Culture and Society