SOCIOL 1101

A central concern of sociology is the distribution of human well-being, or inequality. Why do some people have a lot but others so little? How has this distribution varied across time and place? And why has it varied in these ways? This course surveys what social scientists have argued in answer to these questions. The course spans three broad eras of human history: the pre-agrarian era (ca. 200,000 years ago to 5-10,000 years ago), the agrarian era (ca. 5-10,000 years ago to 200 years ago), and the modern world (ca. 200 years ago to the present). We will also consider some of the normative challenges that lie behind these empirical questions. What kinds of inequalities should we care about? And what should we do, in light of the facts regarding these kinds of inequalities, about the way in which well-being is distributed today? Topics covered include: the nature of early human societies, the origins of agriculture, the rise of the state, the determinants of gender inequality, the birth of capitalism, the causes of racial inequality, the origins and consequences of imperialism, and the transformation of capitalism by social and political movements.