Social Inquiry in an Age of Upheaval (SCT2143.01)

David Bond

For quite some time, social research aspired to access the bedrock of social existence, the underlying order or logic upon which all else rested. Recent events suggest the emergence of a very different social world, one no longer anchored but caught in rising currents of disorder (many of them, very much of our own making). While the storms of economic inequality and ecological devastation still gather over our horizon, two events have brought the roving instability of the contemporary condition into stark focus: the election of Donald Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic. This class takes these two events as prompts to rethink the promise and purpose of the social sciences today. If stability is no longer a workable presumption, upon what grounds might social science proceed? If bedrock is no longer the revelation of research, towards what end might social science now labor? What, beyond neutral understanding, might now be required from students of this new world?

This class will be organized almost entirely online, and will consist primarily of a series of curated conversations with SCT faculty about what authors and insights help orient their engagements with the contemporary, especially as it relates to the 2020 Presidential Election and COVID-19. We will read classic and contemporary texts with SCT faculty alongside each day’s news, discuss how key concepts can illuminate or obscure our present plight, and debate the role of the social sciences in remaking our worlds. This class will also provide a forum for the wider SCT community at Bennington College to come together and discuss current events. It also deliberately overlaps with several SCT courses with an aim to spark wider conversations about what it means to be a student of the social sciences at this precipice moment for democracy, human health, and the future of the planet. The overall aim of this class is straightforward: students will be introduced to the broad arc and disciplinary sweep of the social sciences as well as they uneasy way that social disciplines are facing up to the entwined forces of inequity, tyranny, and extinction today. Our task is not only to understand the history of the social sciences but also the necessity of moving beyond that history today to better grasp and grapple with the defining instabilities of our time.

Prerequisites: None.
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 2
Asynchronously Remote (1st seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 50
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , SCT
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