Sociology of Symbolic Systems (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Paola Di Nicola
Paola Di Nicola
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 2A, Sem. 2B

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding The course aims to give students the cognitive tools to understand the social, cultural and political dynamics that have marked the transition to reflective modernity. 2. More properly, the course aims to focus on how the most relevant changes related to the macro level (institutional level) are reflected in the biographies of individual life, interpersonal and gender relations and the interrelation between individual-society (macro level). Applying knowledge and understanding 1. At the end of the course of study the student will be able to use sociological knowledge (theories, paradigms of reference and empirical data) to design or coordinate educational services in socio-cultural contexts with high levels of complexity, 2. More properly, the student will be able to use sociological knowledge in the light of the most relevant processes of de-institutionalization and privatization of individual life biographies.


A)First part: in the first part of the course, the topic of political, cultural and economic environments will be deepened from the text of A. Giddens, which highlights how the current dynamics of modernity, in particular the breakdown of the systems processes social impact on the concept of trust, risk, safety and danger. Take shape new social configurations (reflexive modernity and ciange modern osicial imaginaries.).
Topics covered:
- introduction to processes fo globalization
- modernity / post-modernity: radicalization of processes
- the limits of a reading of modernity only as capitalist development
- how trust and risk environments change from the transition from traditional society to modern society
- the dark side of modernity: bureaucracy and totalitarianism
- the moral order of modernity: rationality, ethics of responsibility and work, civic engagement, the birth of the public and private sphere
B) Second part: the second part of the course will address the issue of reflexive modernity from specific perspectives of economism, privatism and development of technologies in the field of reproduction
Topics covered:
-the new social imaginaries: the rediscovery of feelings, ethics of self-realization, privatism, civic disengagemen and economy as an objectified reality
- changes in intimate and family relationships: privatization and de-institutionalization of the family, new family forms and new forms of parenting
- the commodification of intimate life
- Human nature and technology: the risks of liberal genetics

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
M.J. Sandel Contro la perfezione Vita e peniero 2008
Paola Di Nicola Famiglia: sostantivo plurale. Nuovi orizzonti e vecchi problemi (Edizione 2) Franco Angeli 2017 9788891759672
P. Di Nicola, C. Lonardi, D. Viviani Forzare la mano. Natura e cultura nella procreazione medicalmente assistita Franco Angeli 2018
C. Taylor Il disagio della modernità Laterza 2011
J. Habermas Il futuro della natura umana. I rischi di una genetica liberale Einaudi 2010
Antony Giddens Le conseguenze della modernità (Edizione 1) Il Mulino 1994
S. Moller Okin Le donne e la giustizia (Edizione 1999) Dedalo 1999
A. Giddens Le trasformazioni dell'intimità Il Mulino 1995
A. Russel Hochschild Per amore o per denaro Il MUlino 2006
M.J. Sandel Quello che i soldi non possono comprare Feltrinelli 2013

Assessment methods and criteria

Teaching methods: lectures and group work (debate) on the issues.
Evaluation methods for attending students. There are two written tests: one at the end of the general part and a second one at the end of the course.

- First test: three open questions on the most relevant dynamics of change identified by A. Giddens and C. Taylor

- Second test: critical analysis of a newspaper article (weekly or monthly) that summarizes a socially relevant process or problem, in order to demonstrate independence of judgment with respect to the topics proposed and developed within the course.

At the end of each test the teacher proposes a grade and then a final grade given by the average of the two individual assessments: the student can accept the final grade proposed or ask to make an oral integration.

Assessment methods for non-attending students: Oral exam.
In the oral assessment the following knowledge and skills will be certified:
- knowledge of the most relevant dynamics of reflective modernity;
- ability to stand in the different perspectives of analysis (the micro level of interpersonal relationships, the meso level of relationships between groups, the macro level of social imaginary,) to thematize the social changes in progress (to demonstrate to have understood the prospects for analysis)
- ability to develop autonomy of judgment with respect to the themes proposed and developed within the course, keeping in mind the different theories and perspectives