SOCI-227-01 Economy and Society in East Asia
Fall for 2017-2018
MW 8:00 - 9:15 am

Hard work has been the hallmark of remarkable economic growth in Korea, China and elsewhere in Asia. Churning out consumer products at home for customers abroad, these nations prided themselves on labor not leisure. But as foreign demand fades, Asia’s developing nations must ratchet up local consumer demand to sustain growth, jobs, and incomes. Striking a new balance between work and consumption, between labor and leisure poses new challenges for institutions such as families, schools, churches, and states. This course looks to the growth and significance of affluence, the changing meaning of work, and emerging consumer identities in East Asian capitalism.

Theories of class and state, consumerism, modernity and post-modernity will provide direction for student papers and class discussions. For instance, we will distinguish between Marx’s notion of class and Weber’s concept of status, and then redefine for East Asia. Similarly, we will work with concepts of Pierre Bourdieu on cultural capital and taste. We also discuss George Ritzer’s insights on how reason and emotion are reshaping consumerism. We conclude with societal transitions, following the work of Anthony Giddens on the re-structuring of society as former borders or identities fade.

The course offers an introduction to Economic Sociology, the study of how markets give meaning to our everyday lives. You will learn of the evolving interaction of production and consumption, of work and leisure. Thirdly, you will become acquainted with models and paths of development in China and South Korea. We explore how new patterns of production and consumption re-shape institutions like companies, family and schools, reconfigure identities both individual and social, whether of class, gender, or region.

Course requirements include reading assignments, as well as class attendance and participation in discussions. Two examinations will insure a common ground of theory and case material across the members of the class. You will then be asked to develop an 8-10 page paper on an aspect of consumption and society in either South Korea or China. The paper should serve as a focus for integrating the theories and case study material.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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