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Sociology 273, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Spring 2007


Updated February 20, 2007.

Class meetings:

128 Wilson Hall, Tues., Thurs., 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.


Professor: Charles Kurzman. Telephone: 962-1241. E-mail: Office hours: Tues., Thurs., 1:00-2:00 p.m., 227 Hamilton Hall; or by appointment.

Teaching Assistant and Service-Learning Specialist: Andrew Payton. E-mail: Office hours: 11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, 218 Hamilton Hall; or by appointment. The Service-Learning Specialist Program is sponsored by APPLES and the Graduate School.

Graduate Research Consultant: Clint Key. E-mail:, 962-8184 (no voicemail). Office hours: Mon. 10:00-11:00, Wed. 12:45-1:45 p.m., 225 Hamilton Hall; or by appointment. The GRC Program is sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Course Documents (all password-protected except this one):

Syllabus (this document)

Purpose of the Course:

Course goals:

Sociology 273 is the keystone course for the interdisciplinary minor in Social and Economic Justice (SEJ), housed in the UNC-CH Sociology Department. The goals of this course are:

  1. To introduce students to a variety of theories of social and economic justice.
  2. To introduce students to two significant justice debates.
  3. To involve students in the appraisal of proposals for social and economic justice.
  4. To motivate students to pursue their own ideals of social and economic justice.

Let me be explicit in stating the values that motivate my approach to this course:

  1. That social and economic justice is a good thing.
  2. That social and economic justice has not yet been achieved in the world.
  3. That studying social and economic justice will further the moral education of students and teachers.
  4. That students should participate actively in their own, and their classmates’, education, by participating actively in the course.

Faculty Commitments:

These goals are ambitious. Accomplishing them will require a joint effort on the part of the instructors and the students. On the instructors’ side, we pledge to:

  1. Be as respectful, helpful, and clear as possible in our communications with students.
  2. Arrange the course in a logical fashion linked to the course goals.
  3. Select readings and assignments that average approximately 7.5 hours of work per week outside of class.
  4. Work with students to develop the service-learning and other research portions of the course.
  5. Return submitted material in one week or less with constructive comments and fair grades.

At the end of the course, you will be asked to grade the professor with a student-evaluation form. In addition, we welcome feedback, especially constructive feedback, throughout the semester, in whatever form (office hours, e-mail, anonymous notes, etc.) that you feel comfortable with.

Student Commitments:

Students’ responsibilities in this course are directly related both to the course goals and to the grading system. We ask of you:

(1) Attendance. Attend all class sessions. Please bring to each class the course reading material and a notebook containing this syllabus, your class notes from the entire semester, and all of your reading notes (described below) — you will need to refer to these during class discussions. Each class (after the first class) earns you one-half point, for a maximum total of 14 points. If illness or an emergency prevents you from attending, please inform the professor as soon as possible; attendance credit will then be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Students are responsible for all class material that they have to miss.

(2) Honor. All assignments are subject to the university’s Honor Code: do not turn in other people’s work as your own, and be very careful to give credit for words and ideas that you quote or paraphrase.

(3) Reading, Reflection, and Reading Notes. Read and think about all assigned material. Most of the readings are available on the web (you will need a password to access this material). One book is assigned: John Ehle’s The Free Men, which is due to be re-issued in February 2007 (the original 1965 edition is out of print). For each reading assignment, please take notes in a word processing program, in the following format:

1. Your name.
2. Author of the reading.
3. Title of the reading.
4. Pages of the reading.
5. Summarize the gist of the piece in your own words (one or more sentences).
6. Quote or paraphrase key points in the reading (with page reference for each one).
7. Answer the reading question in a paragraph or two, using quotations or paraphrases (with page references)
8. Your reaction to the reading’s argument (one or more sentences).

These reading notes will encourage you to read actively, rather than passively, and will serve you well as an index to the reading when you wish to review the course material. Reading notes should be turned in by e-mail to the teaching assistant. The subject heading of your e-mail should start with SOCI 273 (all capital letters) and should include the date that the assignment is due. Reading notes should be copied and pasted into the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment, prior to the beginning of each class, and will receive 1 point for each class’s readings, for a maximum total of 24 points during the semester. Partial notes and late notes will receive partial credit, and you will be notified by return e-mail prior to the following class session. Reading notes that receive full credit will not be notified by e-mail, but the credit will be posted on the Blackboard grade sheet prior to the following class session.

(4) Class Participation.
Participate actively in class, in particular through attentive listening, accurate note-taking, appropriate questions and comments, and helpful collaboration in small-group discussions. This will not be graded.

(5) Community Service/Research. This course incorporates community service into the academic curriculum. We are working with the APPLES service-learning program on campus to place each student in a service setting for at least 3 hours a week for 10 weeks (please keep track with your Service Time-Log Form). We will go over this part of the course at our second class meeting on January 16, including the advantages that service-learning provides for your education, your university, your community, and your career. A variety of service opportunities are available for this course, all of which deal in some way with the major case studies in the course: the legacy of racial discrimination in Chapel Hill and the global inequality of citizenship rights. You will need to apply for your three favorite service sites by e-mail to the teaching assistant prior to class on January 18 (see the format for Service Site Selection); you will be matched with one of these sites by January 23; and you will have one week to meet with your site supervisor, get your Service-Learning Agreement Form signed (it’s due in class on January 30), and arrange to begin your service. You will work at your service site for 10 weeks (not including Spring Break), and will turn in your time-log at the beginning of the last class of the semester, April 26. This service work will provide the basis for much of our course, including classroom discussion and your final paper, as well as possible essay questions on the final exam. In addition, if you do not complete your service, you will be docked 1 point for each hour missed or performed unsatisfactorily (as reported by your service site supervisor to the APPLES office) out of your attendance grade. If you have questions or problems related to your service site, please contact Leslie Parkins <> at the APPLES office (962-0902, 2416 Carolina Student Union Building). This community service experience is also intended to be a research experience, and we will have an additional instructor, the graduate research consultant, on call to assist in this aspect of the course. After each service stint, take a few moments to sit down and write out one page of journal notes in a computer file, reflecting on your service experience:

  1. What? That is, what happened during your service experience this time?
  2. So what? That is, what was your reaction to your service, or how did it affect you?
  3. Now what? That is, what do you plan to do about the issues that you have identified?

These will not be graded, but your observations in this journals will assist you in the writing of your final paper and possible exam questions.

(6) Three Short Research Papers. Three short papers, approximately 300-500 words each (not including references), should be copied and pasted into the body of an e-mail, notas an attachment, and submitted to the teaching assistant prior to class on the due dates. Each paper will be worth 10 points.

Short Paper #1. Finding justice in the world. Is there a just place, or a just system, in the world? Describe a candidate using at least three academic sources (give full bibliographic citations) and discuss why you consider it to be just. Would any change to the system make it less just? Due February 15.

Short Paper #2. North Carolina land rights. Trace land rights for some location in North Carolina back as far as you can historically. How did the current owners come to claim that they own the land? How about the previous owners? The owners before them? And so on. When you pick a location, let me know what it is, and I will list it here, first come first served. Due March 6.

Short Paper #3. Citizenship injustice. Describe one way in which non-citizens are discriminated against, in the U.S. or elsewhere, using at least 10 pertinent journalistic and/or academic sources. Paper topics will be listed here as you send them to me, first come first served. Due April 19.

(7) One Longer Research Paper. Analyze your service site through the lens of one or more theories of social and economic justice that we have covered in the course, plus at least one other academic theory of social and economic justice that you locate outside of the assigned readings. This paper should be approximately 1000 words long, and is due before the start of the last class, on April 26. The paper will be worth 20 points.

(8) Final Examination. Demonstrate your ability to describe, compare, contrast, and apply theories of social and economic justice in a final exam, worth 12 points, to be held at noon on May 1. The exam will include both short-answer questions asking you to define various concepts, identify the author of a passage, explain three differences between one theory and another, give an example illustrating a particular concept, and so on; and an outline-format essay question asking you to compare and contrast specific theories.

These points should add up to 100:

Attendance: 14 points
Reading Notes: 24 points
3 Short Papers: 30 points
Final Paper: 20 points
Final Exam: 12 points

Student performance will be graded on a 100-point scale. I anticipate that a grade of 93 1/3 and above will qualify for an A, 90 and above A-, 86 2/3 and above B+, 83 1/3 and above B, 80 and above B-, and so on. However, I reserve the right to maintain some flexibility in this scale, in case the course turns out to be “too easy” or “too hard.”


Introductory Sessions:

January 11: Injustice, Privilege, and Guilt. No readings due.
January 16: Charity, Service, and Learning. Readings: Karen Hegtvedt, Ruben Bolling. APPLES presentation.
January 18: Research Methods and Ethics. Assignments: Service Site Selection form; complete on-line CITI human subjects protection education.

Theories of Justice:

January 23: Equity and Meritocracy. Reading: Michael Young.
January 25: The Veil of Ignorance. Reading: John Rawls.
January 30: Equality of What? Reading: Amartya Sen. Assignment: Service-Learning Agreement Form.
February 1: Basic Needs. Reading: Human Development Report 2003.
February 6: Democracy vs. Rights. Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville.
February 8: Who Is Responsible for Addressing Injustice? Readings: Peter Kropotkin, William Beveridge.
February 13: Optional Service/Research Class Session with Clint Key.

Justice Evaluations:

February 15: The Justest Place in the World. Assignment: Short Paper #1.
February 20: Income Distribution. Reading: Duane F. Alwin/Galin Gornev/Ludmila Khakhulina, Toril Aalberg.
February 22: Status Expectations. Reading: Joseph Berger/Morris Zelditch/Bo Anderson/Bernard P. Cohen.
February 27: Self-Interest. Reading: Szymon Czarnik.
March 1: Attributions of Self-Interest. Reading: Laurie T. O’Brien/Christian S. Crandall.

Civil Rights in Chapel Hill:

March 6: Land Rights in North Carolina. Assignment: Short Paper #2.
March 8: Contesting Racial Privilege in Chapel Hill. Reading: John K. Chapman, Raymond Arsenault.
March 10, 12: Spring Break
March 20: Contesting Racial Privilege in Chapel Hill Reading: John Ehle. Guest lecture: John K. (Yonni) Chapman and guest.
March 22: Ongoing Racial Privilege in Chapel Hill. Reading: John K. Chapman, additional reading to be announced. Guest lecture: John K. (Yonni) Chapman and guest.

Global Inequality:

March 27: Garbage. Reading: Mike Davis, Jeremy Seabrook, Matthew Power.
March 29: Subordination vs. Subsistence. Reading: Norma Iglesias Prieto, John Sargent/Linda Matthews.
April 3: The Case for Free Trade. Reading: Paul Krugman.
April 5: The Case for Free Trade. Reading: Scott Sernau, Branko Milanovic.
April 10: Mobility of Capital, Products, Labor. Reading: to be announced.
April 12: Borders and Passports: Reading: John Torpey.
April 17: Citizenship and Subjecthood. Reading: to be announced.
April 19: Citizenship Privilege. Assignment: Short Paper #3.
April 24: Renouncing Citizenship Privilege. Reading: to be announced.
April 26: Review session. Assignments: Long Paper, Service-Learning Time-Log.
May 1, 12 noon: Final exam.