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Introductory courses in a foreign discipline, while obviously challenging, may turn into a frustrating journey for students and teacher alike. As student, you probably come to class expecting to get across it with the least effort. If the subject is too distant and the literature appears difficult, you will be deterred. If it’s too light and superficial, you will be bored. In any case, why bother?

You might or might not have an idea of what social science is all about. You have most probably heard that it’s “messy”, a kind of conventional wisdom not so much about the subject but the sociological literature―said to be written in a language that’s obscure and convoluted… enough to put one off. That’s sometimes true (though not for the assigned readings here), but the good news is that you don’t have to do away with the intellectual rigor of natural sciences to study sociology. In fact, it is a requirement.

Weighing the merits of a generic introductory course against the benefits of a more focused eye-opener, I have opted for the latter. This course will give you an introduction to sociology by discussing a subject that concerns all of us: the global financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession (or Slump) whose dire consequences continue to affect the world economy to this day. The objective is to equip you with the tools required to make sense of this crisis in its complexity. You are already familiar with much of the outcomes of the crisis, and by exposing the interconnections between its triggers and our daily lives you will learn some key sociological concepts and some major schools of thought as a byproduct. A further consideration, specific to engineering and economics students is that a sociological study of the Great Recession provides valuable insights into the social determinants of innovations―especially in technology and finance. Learning about these issues will also help you develop a basic understanding of late capitalism. You will find that subjects in sociology like power, cultural values, violence, symbolic goods, collective action, etc. touch upon things that profoundly impact our lives without us being aware of their implications. The craft of sociology is to depart from conventional notions by asking hard questions about these things using the methods of rational inquiry.

For details (grade requirements, schedule, readings, etc.) go download the course outline.