“Debating the Social Construction of Reality and Power: A Critical Analysis of Contemporary Sociological Theories”

There are two questions for this exam, each listed below. You must answer both questions. Both essays
will be graded separately. There is a 1,000-word limit per essay (approx. 3 pages each [6 pages total for the
entire exam], Times New Roman, double spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins). Any materials submitted
past the 1,000-word limit will not be graded.
Be sure to cite any and all sources you use for your paper, including course lectures or texts. If you use any
outside materials, be sure to include a bibliography page. If you use only course materials there is no need
to submit a bibliography page. I consider plagiarism (any unattributed borrowing of another person’s words
or ideas) to be a very serious academic offense. Any plagiarism will result in an automatic “F” for the
exam, so make sure you cite all your sources for both paraphrasing and quotes and that your essays
represent your own original work.
Question #1:
According to a contemporary theory legend, in the summer of 1984, Edward Said, R.W. Connell, Peter
Berger & Thomas Luckmann all found themselves in Paris for separate conferences. After a long day of
theorizing about the nature of society, they all happened to converge on the exact same Parisian bar, “Le
Disneyland” owned by none other than Jean Baudrillard. Copious amounts of French wine were consumed
as the cohort of theorists discussed their own ideas on the social construction of reality into the early
morning hours…
Detail Berger & Luckmann’s phenomenological conception of the social construction of reality and then
consider how either Said, based on his concept of “Orientalism” or Connell’s theories on Masculinities
(you can chose which of the theorists passed out drunk in a corner and was not able to continue the
discussion) work as potential critiques to Berger & Luckmann’s general theory. As a conclusion, consider
how Baudrillard, still completely sober because he’s been the bartender, would critique all of their theories
on the social construction of reality with his conception of “hyper-reality.”
Question #2:
In a bid to gain greater symbolic capital amongst the intelligentsia, Tyra Banks has radically altered her
reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model,” into a significantly more popular edition, “Sociology’s
Next Top Theorist” where theorists compete for a cover shot and photo spread in the American Journal of
Sociology, taken by noted photographer, Nigel Barker, as well as a $500,000 MacArthur “Genius” Grant.
The final challenge is for the remaining theorists to explain their conception of how power works in
Society. You have been called in as a guest judge to cast the tie breaking vote between the finalists,
Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault & Judith Butler.
In your essay provide an account of this finale, summarizing Marcuse’s theories on advanced capitalism,
the “one-dimensional” society and the non-repressive society that would follow and then discuss the ways
that Foucault and Butler’s theories on power and its connection to sexuality would critique Marcuse’s
theory of Liberation in the Non-repressive society. Be sure to close your essay with a short paragraph
where you decide which conception appears to work best and you crown the winner of “Sociology’s Next
Top Theorist” cycle 1.

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