SOC 212 A: Evolution And Revolution: An Introduction To The Study Of Comparative Social Change

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Meeting Time: 
MWF 8:30am - 9:20am
JHN 075
Kelly Kistner

Syllabus Description:

Kistner - au15 - SOC 212 Syllabus.docx



SOC 212: Comparative Social Change

University of Washington

Autumn 2015 (5 credits)



MWF 8:30-9:20 in Johnson 075


Kelly Kistner (


Savery 237

Office hours:

Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-10:20 in Savery 237; also by appointment.




Tuesdays 8:30 (AA); 9:30 (AB);10:30 (AC)


Karina Russ (

Karina’s office hours:

Thursdays, 11-1 in Savery 216D.


Course Description:

Although human biology has remained relatively the same for 200,000 years, human collectives have adopted a staggering variety of ways of organizing social life. Different societies orient life around different means of subsistence, economic systems, occupational categories and divisions of labor, religious and knowledge systems, language and symbolism, law and governance, status and stratification, health care, family structure, and different relationships to technology and manipulation of the natural world…among many other possible categories of difference and their combinations. This course will examine the general large-scale, historical evolutions in human societies – from hunter-gatherer to industrial eras. Technology, geographies, and climate play a role in understanding such variations and wide-scale changes, but so too do ideas and politics, imagination and tradition, conquest and communication. Although this course will engage with historical, anthropological, and ecological insights, the objective and orientation is primarily a sociological one – to scientifically identify and explain the basis for patterns of change and variation in human societies. Doing so lends itself to a more nuanced understanding of the contemporary time and possible futures.


Course Materials:

There is one required textbook assigned for this course: Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology, 12th edition by Patrick Nolan and Gehard Lenski.

There is a new 12th edition of the text, which is the edition I will be working from, but if you wish to pick up a cheaper copy you may instead use the 11th edition. A document detailing the differences between the two editions can be viewed on the course canvas site. A copy or two of the 12th edition of the text will be available for on-site check-out at Odegaard Library course reserves.

Additional required readings and articles are available under the “files” tab on the course canvas site (

We will also be viewing many videos in class. Questions pertaining to the videos may come up on the exams and in discussion sections. If you miss the lecture when a video is shown, it will be in your interest to view it online. Because the list of videos to be shown is not yet finalized and the schedule will depend on the pace of the course, please look to the “announcements” section of the course canvas site for video information.


Course Requirements:

Your grade will be derived from the following bases of assessment: participation (10 points), engagement/extra credit (up to 8 points), a multiple choice mid-term (20 points), a cumulative multiple choice final (30 points), group project prep work (10 points), and your final group research paper (25 points). Note: final scores will be calculated out of 100 points, though there are opportunities to earn up to 103 points.


Participation (10 points) – Keeping up with the material will help to keep questions and discussions flowing in class and make things all the more engaging. For the most part this grade will be derived from participation in section (not just attendance), but lectures will also provide opportunities for questions and discussion. Participation points may be lost by engaging in distractive or disruptive behavior in lectures or section (e.g. talking, texting, website browsing), or showing disrespectful attitudes towards your group members or other classmates. Cheating, or aiding others to cheat, will, at a minimum, result in a zero on the assignment in question and a loss of participation points.


Engagement/Extra Credit (up to 8 points) – To encourage staying on top of the material, drawing connections to current news and events, as well as the pro-active use of campus resources for your group research and writing, a variety of “engagement” points can be earned toward your overall grade. Opportunities for engagement points will include unannounced in-lecture assignments or quizzes (no make-ups will be given), contributions of relevant material to the class canvas discussion board, and the use of particular campus resources – such as writing centers and research librarians. Look for the document “How to earn engagement credit” on the class canvas site for details on how engagement points can be earned and will be calculated. There will be more than enough opportunities to earn 8 points, but no more than 8 points will be applied to any student’s total grade.


Mid-term (20 points) and Final (30 points) – The mid-term and final exams will each consist of multiple-choice questions derived from the text book, supplemental assigned readings, and videos shown in class. The mid-term is scheduled for Wednesday, November 4th in class; you will have the full 50 minutes of class time to complete 30 questions. The final exam will be cumulative but primarily centered on material covered after the mid-term. The final is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15th at 8:30am; you will have 110 minutes to complete 50 questions. You will need to bring a scantron (8x11”) and #2 pencil to class on exam days.


Group Project Preparation Assignments (10 points) – Leading up to your final paper there will be three short group assignments to help keep your group on track, get practice preparing research, and organizing group member activities. Groups will consist of about 4-5 students and will be assigned in quiz section.


Group Final Paper (25 points) – Your final paper (due Saturday, December 12th) must cover 8-10 double-spaced pages and reference at least five outside sources in addition to course materials. Your group will conduct research on a chosen society at a particular point in time. You will detail aspects of its major social institutions, its place in the world system of societies at its time, and to what it extent it is similar or different from the main types of human societies covered across the course (i.e. hunting and gathering, horticultural, agrarian, industrial, fishing, maritime, herding). Further details on the final paper and related assignments leading up to it will be forthcoming in a separate prompt.



Due dates and Exam dates:

Tuesday, October 27th: Group choice of society and plan of action due.

Wednesday, November 4th: Midterm Exam in class

Tuesday, November 17th: Group annotated bibliography due.

Tuesday, December 1st: Group paper outline and sample paragraph due.

Saturday, December 12th: Group final paper due online to canvas by 5pm

Tuesday, December 15th 8:30-10:20am: Final Exam


Course Format:

The first half of the course will address theoretical questions of change and variation in human societies and focus on three main forms: hunter-gather societies, horticultural, and agrarian. The second half of the course will focus on industrial societies and globalization. Lectures will primarily engage with textbook materials and supplemental videos, while weekly quiz sections will cover supplemental readings (downloadable from canvas), provide smaller group discussion and review, and help you prepare for the exams and final paper. You should expect about 50-60 pages of assigned reading each week and should aim to read the assigned materials in advance of the week in which they will be discussed; this will allow you to perform better on in-class assignments and more actively participate in discussion. Advance reading also prompts more active independent learning, which helps with retention, cumulative understanding, and reflexive thought and application.

I will communicate with you through a class email list going to your UW account. I can best be reached by email at and you should regularly check your UW email account for any updates on the course. You should also refer to the course canvas site for course announcements and section readings (


Your final paper must be turned in online via canvas. You will be responsible for ensuring it is correctly uploaded by the time it is due. Appropriate citations will be required and papers will be scanned using TurnItIn’s plagiarism detector. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and all students must conform to the UW principles of academic honesty outlined here: Your TA will decide how she wants you to turn in any other assignments.


If circumstances beyond your control are keeping you from regularly attending class, please contact me and your TA as soon as possible. Students needing academic accommodations for a disability should contact Disability Resources for Students,, and contact me to specify appropriate academic accommodations. Athletes must provide documentation of travel dates to me and your TA by the end of the second week of class.



Class Schedule (tentative)


Week 1 (Sept 30-Oct 2):

  • Introduction to class
  • Chapter 1: The Human Condition


Week 2 (Oct 5-9):

  • Chapter 1 (continued): The Human Condition
  • Chapter 2: Human Societies as Sociocultural Systems
  • Tuesday Sections: Ehrlich (2000) “Evolution and Us”


Week 3 (Oct 12-16):

  • Chapter 3: The Evolution of Human Societies
  • Chapter 4: Types of Human Societies
  • Tuesday Sections: Marvin Harris (1974) “Mother Cow”


Week 4 (Oct 19-23):

  • Chapter 5: Hunting and Gathering Societies
  • Chapter 6: Horticultural Societies
  • Tuesday Sections: No reading. Group assignments, discuss group project.


Week 5 (Oct 26-30):

  • Chapter 7: Agrarian Societies
  • Chapter 8: Some evolutionary bypaths and a brief review
  • Tuesday Sections: Napoleon Chagnon (1977) “Yanomamö Warfare” and

   Marvin Harris (1974) “The Savage Male”

  • Group choice of society and plan of action due in sections Tuesday, Oct 27th

Week 6 (Nov 2-6):

  • Monday lecture: Catch-up and review
  • Tuesday Sections: No reading. Review for mid-term.
  • Mid-term in class, Wednesday Nov 4th
  • Friday lecture: Chapter 9: The Industrial Revolution


Week 7 (Nov 9-13 – NOTE: no lecture on Veterans’ Day, Wednesday, Nov 11th):

  • Chapter 9 (continued): The Industrial Revolution
  • Chapter 10: Industrial Societies: Technologies and Economies
  • Tuesday Sections: No reading. Workshop on research and finding appropriate sources.


Week 8 (Nov 16-20):

  • Chapter 11: Industrial Societies: Ideologies and Politics
  • Chapter 12: Industrial Societies: Social Stratification
  • Tuesday Sections: No reading. Workshop on integrating and citing outside sources.
  • Annotated bibliographies due in sections Tuesday, Nov 17th


Week 9 (Nov 23-25 – Thanksgiving week):

  • Monday lecture: Catch-up and review, or special film screening.
  • Tuesday Sections: Branko Milanovic (2010) “Unequal Nations” and

          “How unequal is today’s world?” UPDATE: Reading cancelled, Karina will meet with groups in sections

  • Wednesday: No lecture. Extended office hours 8:30-11am in Savery 237


Week 10 (Nov 30-Dec 4):

  • Chapter 13: Industrial Societies: Population, the Family, and Leisure
  • Chapter 14: Industrializing: Hybrid Societies
  • Tuesday Sections: No reading. Discuss final leg of paper preparation.
  • Paper outline and sample paragraph due in sections Tuesday, Dec 1st


Week 11 (Dec 7-11)

  • Catch-up and review
  • Chapter 15: Retrospect and Prospect
  • Tuesday Sections: Review


Final group paper due online to canvas Saturday, Dec 12th by 5pm.

Final exam Tuesday, December 15th 8:30-10:20, Johnson 075.

Catalog Description: 
Examines the major aspects of human societies, including political and economic systems, family structure, social stratification, and demographic patterns as influenced by environmental conditions, technology, cultural traditions, and legacies of prior history and relationships to other societies.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 29, 2016 - 1:28pm