The Class Analysis and Historical Change Program

The Class Analysis and Historical Change Program (CAHC) was established in the late 1970s by a group of graduate students and faculty to provide students with rigorous training in Marxist and other radical traditions of sociology. Students in the program have written dissertations on a very wide range of topics: the formation of the urban welfare state in 19th century Germany; a comparison of class struggle and class formation in South Korea and Mexico; the ideology of the new middle class; new forms of worker participation and management in the auto industry in Austria and Germany; the role of large merchant companies in the formation of the early modern state in the Netherlands, England and France; women and the military in Nicaragua; the historical transformation of the category "single mother" in the American welfare state; a comparative study of the women's movement in Bombay and Calcutta. Some of these dissertations were based on archival historical research, some on ethnographic field work and in-depth personal interviews, and others on quantitative statistical analysis of large datasets. The unity of the program is thus not defined by a specific subject matter or by a specific set of methodologies of empirical research, but by a commitment to forging a sociology systematically tied to the emancipatory ideals of radical equality, freedom, democracy and human dignity.

The CAHC program is organized around four types of courses:

  1. Core course to be given every other year
  2. Core Seminars: an effort is made to teach these every 3-4 years
  3. Other seminars: these are not taught on any fixed schedule.
  4. The Havens Center Colloquium in Critical Sociology to be given every semester

While the CAHC program does not have formal requirements, the expectation is that CAHC students will take the core course and at least two of the core seminars. This should provide students with a firm foundation for taking the CAHC PhD prelim examination which is offered twice a year. Students are also encouraged to take some of the specialized seminars and to participate on a regular basis in the Havens Center Colloquium in Critical Sociology.

1. Core Course

Sociology 621. Class, State and Ideology: an introduction to Marxist social science. This course revolves largely around neo-Marxist perspectives on class structure, class formation, the state and ideology, although post-Marxist and non-Marxist critical perspectives are touched on in various places. It is designed to give students a rigorous encounter with the concepts and debates of contemporary discussions of these issues rather than a survey of Marx's own ideas or a tour through the history of Marxism.

2. Core Seminars

There is no set curriculum for these seminars and the actual topics and readings covered will vary depending on which faculty member is giving the seminar in a particular year. The descriptions below are thus meant simply to indicate the general domain of the seminar rather than to provide a real description of the seminar's contents.

Sociology 924. Seminar in Political Sociology: Theory of the State. This course has generally revolved around various alternative theoretical frameworks for analyzing the State, particularly within the Marxist tradition. Particular attention has been given to theorists like Poulantzas, Gramsci, Therborn, Jessop, Offe, and Przeworski. About half of the seminar usually deals with a range of more empirically-oriented case studies and topics.

Sociology 929. Seminar in Class Analysis. Topic: Alternative approaches to class analysis. This seminar looks at the full range of approaches to the study of class in contemporary sociology. The purpose is both to clarify the implications of different strategies and to give greater specificity to class analysis in the Marxist tradition. Authors discussed in the course include: Marx, Weber, Giddens, Goldthorpe, Wright, Bourdieu, Grusky, and a few others.

Sociology 929. Seminar in Class Analysis. Topic: Envisioning Real Utopias. This seminar explores the problem of envisioning alternatives to existing social structures of and institutions. The focus is especially on the dilemmas of forging alternatives to capitalism that are pragmatically viable and sustainable and at the same time embody emancipatory ideal, but the seminar also focuses on institutional designs around emancipatory visions of democracy, the family and community.

Sociology 929. Seminar in Class Analysis: Classical Marxism. The content of this seminar will vary considerably depending upon the specific interests of students and faculty. Some years it may be quite focused, for example concentrating exclusively on Capital. Other years it could deal more broadly with the corpus of Marx's work. And sometimes it could be a course on the historical development of classical Marxism, including readings by Marx, Engles, Lenin, Gramsci, Lukacs, etc.

Sociology 925. Social Movements. Much of the class analysis program tends to be institutional and macrostructural in its focus, paying less attention to social struggles on the ground. This seminar is intended to bring social struggle back into the center of the discussion. Sometimes this seminar will focus on revolutionary movements, other times on "new social movements", other times on labor. While it engages the mainstream sociological discussions of "collective action" and the like, much of the seminar will be relatively empirical in its focus, exploring the interface between class and social movements.

3. Other Seminars

There is really no fixed list of other seminars connected with the CAHC program. What gets offered will depend to a significant degree on the expressed desires of students and the specific teaching interests of faculty. What follows, then, is simply a list of specialized seminars connected to the CAHC program which have been given in the past or are currently being planned for the near future. Not all of these seminars are likely to be given in the next five or six years, but they illustrate the range of themes that intersect the program.

Sociology 912. Ideology and culture. This seminar deals with a range of topics linked to problems of ideology, culture, and the sociology of knowledge, not just "Ideology" in the narrow sense. The seminar generally covers material from various traditions of "critical theory" as well as more strictly Marxist approaches.

Sociology 915. Philosophy of Social Science. This seminar has been taught jointly by Erik Wright and Professor Dan Hausman of the Philosophy Department. It explored a range of basic problems in the philosophy of science that pertain to sociology and then explored the empirical work of a number of scholars in light of these problems.

Sociology 929. Seminar in Class Analysis. Topic: Marxism and Feminism. This seminar explores the various ways in which the linkage between class analysis and gender analysis has been theorized in various currents of contemporary feminism and Marxism.

Sociology 924. Seminar in Political Sociology: Democracy. Joel Rogers would like to give a seminar which combined discussions of democratic theory (in the political science/political philosophy sense) as well as empirical studies of democratic institutions.

Sociology 929. Race and Class. Few topics are probably more central to understanding the dilemmas of American society than race and class, and yet it is also one of the least adequately theorized areas of radical social theory (not just Marxist theory). This seminar explores a variety of alternative approaches to conceptualizing the linkage between class and race, as well as a number of specific empirical and historical problems in race/class analysis.

4. The Havens Center Seminar Sociology

994. Colloquium in Critical Sociology. The Colloquium in Critical Sociology meets every Thursday noon in conjunction with the Visiting Scholars Program of The Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change. The VSP brings 8-10 radical scholars a year from around the world to the Center to lecture on a very diverse range of topics, usually for periods of one or two weeks. The visitor generally gives public lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, 4:00-5:30, and leads the Sociology 994 seminar on Thursday noon. Students can enroll in this seminar on a modular basis for 1-3 credits depending upon how many colloquia they attend. The CAHC faculty see the VSP colloquium as a crucial part of the education of CAHC students as well-rounded radical intellectuals. It provides students with an easy opportunity for exploring topics outside of their main areas of interest. CAHC students are strongly encouraged to enroll in Sociology 994 for at least 1 credit a semester.