Society and Social Change

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The objectives of the course consist in learning the main concepts and theoretical-interpretative paradigms of sociology applied to its most relevant fields of investigation. The sociological perspective as a specific form of scientific knowledge (in terms of theoretical perspectives, methods and techniques of social research) will be illustrated. Subsequently, students will be familiarized with the main fields of investigation of the discipline (the economic sphere and the labor market, family, ethnic and gender relations, politics, media, deviance) and its fundamental concepts and perspectives. The issue of social change will be specifically inquired in the light of the main sociological theories on social systems, focusing, in particular, on an evolutionary theory of social change. The course finally illustrates the data emerging from a recent empirical research investigating the changing forms and meanings that suicide has acquired between East and West in a socio-historical perspective.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course the students will have understood and acquired the basic vocabulary, the knowledge of the main authors and the prevailing theoretical perspectives of sociology; they should have become capable of distinguishing common sense assumptions from scientific knowledge, and they should have developed autonomous critical and judgment skills with reference to the main dynamics and processes characterizing contemporary societies.
They should be capable to apply independently and creatively the knowledge learned to contemporary social processes as well as to social phenomena of the past. Finally, they will have become familiar with the most relevant datasets produced by the main national and international institutions (Istat, Eurostat, OECD ...) to develop, in the future, autonomous research and study paths in this field.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First trimester
Course syllabus
The course is structured in three modules.
In module 1, Paola Bonizzoni will provide some preliminary notions aimed at clarifying the specificity of the sociological perspective as a form of scientific knowledge (in terms of paradigms, theories, methods and techniques of social research). Subsequently, students will be introduced to the main fields of investigation of sociology, starting from economic and labor market sociology. We will illustrate the different sociological approaches to the study of inequality and social stratification (with particular reference to the analysis of social class and mobility), moving to the sociological study of educational systems. Next, we will discuss other forms of social inequality and diversity, with particular reference to gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity. We will proceed to examine the main social institutions. This includes the study of the family, forms of religious life, politics, bureaucratic organizations and, finally, networks. Next, we will analyze the impact of the (new) media on social interaction and representation and students will be introdiuced to the sociology of deviance and crime. Finally, we will reflect on the limits and perspectives of sociolgy as the study of national societies in the light of supranational integration processes and the emergence of institutions that increasingly extend on a global scale.
In module 2, Simone Sarti reflects on the socio-historical evolution of human societies, discussing the main sociological theories on social change, the social systems and the main properties characterizing them. Particular space will be given to an evolutionary theory of social change by referring to the processes of differentiation, selection and cultural transmission in a socio-historical perspective. Students will be stimulated to a critical reflection on the small and large transformations of human societies, present and past.
Paola Bonizzoni closes the course by illustrating, in module 3, the data emerged from an empirical research on suicide that illustrates its change in history and the different meanings that this phenomenon has assumed between East and West.
Prerequisites for admission
Society and Social Change is a first-year (first-trimester) course: consequently, there are no prerequisites other than those required for access to the bachelor degree course. However, the student must consider that a good level of general knowledge (with particular reference to current affairs and the history of the twentieth century) can prove to be decisive for an adequate understanding of the course content.
Teaching methods
The course entails lectures supported by slides, as well as moments of discussion requiring the students' active participation. Participants will be asked to make substantial efforts to creatively apply the notions and perspectives learned on textbooks to social phenomena described in news iems, essays, quantitative data made available by teachers. Attendance to the course is not mandatory but is strongly recommended.
Teaching Resources
For students attending the course:
1. Giddens A., Sutton P.W., Fondamenti di Sociologia (fifth edution). Bologna, Il Mulino
2. Slides (published on the webpage of the course on Ariel)
3. Articles from «Internazionale» (published on the webpage of the course on Ariel)
4. Sarti S., (2018) Evoluzione e complessità sociale (second edition), Torino, Utet Università.
5. Barbagli M., (2010), Congedarsi dal mondo. Il suicidio in Occidente e in Oriente, Bologna: Il Mulino.

For students not attending the course
1. Giddens A., Sutton P.W., Fondamenti di Sociologia (fifth edition). Bologna, Il Mulino
2. Sarti S., (2018) Evoluzione e complessità sociale (second edition), Torino, Utet Università.
3. Barbagli M., (2010), Congedarsi dal mondo. Il suicidio in Occidente e in Oriente, Bologna: Il Mulino.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Non-attending students will be evaluated through a written exam made of 8 open-ended questions (80 minutes). Attending students will be allowed to take 3 partial exams (one for each module), whose mark is the weighted average of the three partial results (1st test/module 1: 50%; 2nd + 3rd tests/modules 2 and 3: 50%). Final marks will be published on the website Ariel.
The following aspects will be assessed: the level of knowledge of the contents illustrated in the course, the competence in the use of specialist vocabulary, the quality and clarity of the written exposure. The autonomy of judgment is also assessed in relation to how students will be able to critically analyze readings and data discussed during the course, in light of the concepts and theories reported in the textbooks.
SPS/07 - GENERAL SOCIOLOGY - University credits: 12
Lessons: 80 hours