Classical Social Theory

Mar 2020

Eyal's Theory lecture is highly enjoyable. You go over the foundations of Sociological theory, Marx/Weber/Durkheim. These are essential knowledge for anyone who wishes to study sociology. Course is also good for people interested in social theory in general. Professor's slides are quite well equipped but it's still good to do the readings. All in all a great class.

Sep 2014

This was a wonderful class in so many ways. First, Eyal is a fantastic lecturer. Second, his lecture is pretty much all written in power point form, so it's easy to take notes and to know what is important. then again, everything is important, so you should take very detailed notes. I loved the course material. we studied Durkheim, Weber, Marx. Very manageable reading that you don't really have to do. When i say manageable, i mean hardly anything. 3 take-home exams that we could work on with peers and use the books etc. straightforward questions but hard to get completely right because the concepts can be challenging. It is very important that you attend lecture because the concepts make so much sense when Eyal is lecturing, yet is difficult to grasp by reading the texts alone. So i highly recommend that you attend class if anything. although everything is very simple, it is not easy to get an A. I consistently got in the A- and B+ range on the exams, without doing much reading but always going to lecture. Overall I highly recommend this class. In my opinion, it is essential for any humanities major!

Jun 2010

Professor Eyal is a wonderful lecturer and the most helpful professor. Even if you don't care much about the material, you'll find his lectures interesting. If you care about learning the material, you'll be heartbroken when the class is done. The course is well structured, class discussions dynamic, and lectures phenomenal. This is crucial because Marx/Durkheim/Weber texts have a lot more than meets the eye. Readings are necessary but you can fall behind and still understand the lectures. It's not a lot in quantity, but you'll get so much more out of the lectures if you read in advance and come with questions. He will answer them. Not only is he a good lecturer, he is also a good listener. I went to the office hours several times for advising. He was straight forward with the facts and honest with his opinions, without sugarcoating but also not condescending.

Apr 2010

Professor Eyal is an extremely smart and comical professor, and he really makes the class interesting. The topics are pretty boring for a non-sociology major, but Professor Eyal does a good job with presenting the material in very basic terms and trying to explain the main concepts thoroughly. The TAs in the class play a big role in the grading of the exams, and they are not very easy graders. I did not do very well on the first take-home exam, but then again, I didn't do all the reading. It's not completely necessary to do all of the reading; you just have to be succinct and specific in your exam questions. The TAs are always available for questions, along with the professor. I wouldn't recommend this class to someone who is not interested in sociology, because it can get pretty dry.

Jun 2006

Gil is a nice person and an great professor. First of all, he knows his shit. He knows Marx, Weber and Durkheim like its his job (oh wait I guess it is his job). He and his T.A. were always available for help and they always reponded to e-mails. I especially like the fact that class attendence was critical. I have taken too many classes at Columbia where unappreciative undergrads blow off going to class but still manage to get decent grades. Go ahead and try that with this class and I think you'll get a big fat F. The formula for success is simple. Go to every lecture, take extensive notes and you will find the take home exams easy. I did that and I got an A.

Apr 2006

After reading all of Marwell's CULPA reviews, I was damn confused. After taking Marwell's class, I was daaaaamn confused. Sike! Let me set the record straight, though. Marwell is not the most personable professor in the world, but that's fine because I, unlike some apparently, don't need my theory relayed to me like cocktail party conversation. She is straightforward, has defined lessons and doesn't seem to skip a bit or fall behind in the syllabus. She asks questions, expects answers and appears genuinely interested in our responses. She was also careful to point out that we were welcome to come talk to her about graduate school and sociology in general. Everything about the class was fair. The weekly quizzes kept me on top of the reading. Three questions were posted ahead of time on Courseworks, one of which (generally the most obviously revelant) was chosen. The midterm was on point, as was the final. No surprises. The reading was dense, though short (generally no more than 50 pages per class) and it all seemed essential. I think it's almost impossible not to come away from Marwell's class without having a solid grasp of the theories presented, provided a certain diligence is there on the student's part. This semester I'm taking a graduate seminar on cultural sociology, and I can only imagine how lost I would be if I hadn't taken Marwell's class.

Jan 2006

This was one of my favorite classes. The readings can be a bit long and are not always exciting, but I learned a LOT. Prof. Marwell is clear and goes into an amazing amount of detail in a short time. She doesn't mind digging deeper in to questions about the reading and getting into discussions. Reading for this class is mandatory since there are weekly quizzes on it (but they are not bad at all).

Jan 2005

Gil Eyal is an excellent person. He is of course a very talented professor as well, and gave the best lectures on Marx I've ever had. He's brilliant but very humble; he's gentle, but keeps control of the class; he answers every single question, but immediately puts the discussion back on track. I've never seen such an objective presentation of Marx, Durkheim, or Weber, and this is most helpful when he asks you to distinguish between any two or all three of the authors. !!!TAKE GOOD NOTES!!! I made an A+ in this class because I went to every lecture and took detailed notes. I didn't even do all the reading, but Gil breaks the readings down and makes them SO CLEAR that I could come up with really solid answers for the take-home tests, just looking at my notes. And I wasn't regurgitating what he had said; I actually knew what I was talking about. So yeah, your lecture notes are the most important thing. And like I said, great professor, even better person. He is so charming and clever, and not an arrogant arse like so many Columbia professors. He tells really funny, subtle jokes, and he always has time for questions. He's also really shy and adorable. I heart him.

Jan 2005

I took this class to fulfill the requirement for the Sociology major. Overall, I liked the class. I had been exposed to most of the material in Lit Hum and introductory sociology courses before, which helped. The focus was on Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, with some other authors thrown in. A lot of this stuff can be a bit dry if you're not really into it, but Prof. Eyal's lectures were always enjoyable. I think some other reviews complained about his accent, but there is absolutely no problem understanding him honesly. The accent actually makes the class more interesting. He is a dynamic and enthusiastic lecturer and really knows his stuff. He is careful to be objective and gives a presentatin of the material and a solid critique of each theorist. The workload was very manageable. Readings were suprisingly short, usually around 25 pages per class I would say. Longer assignments are given for the Weber. There is a take-home midterm and a take-home final. I wish I had done more of the readings as it would have made writing the 5 two-page essays easier. The take-homes were very challenging, for me at least. The grading accurately rewards the amount of work done. I ended up getting a B+.

Dec 2004

So I read over the other reviews, and I have to say that I have no idea what the others are talking about, but then maybe it's because the class is different. In CST, Prof. Eyal was thought provoking and fun. His accent shouldn't present a problem if you've done the reading. Every lecture was interesting, the readings only seemed to supplement his lectures, he made jokes that were actually funny, he answered questions fully and always made a point to go back to you if you raised your hand while he was on a roll, and the list goes on. I say that if it's between reading the book and going to lecture, go to lecture. His exams really require your having been in class. It's hard to make Durkheim interesting without watering him down. Prof. Eyal manages to do it, with an outlined lecture and never goes over class time.

Jan 2004

Give it a rest, guys. This sudden outburst of defense for Marwell fingers you as those "pompous assholes" who dominated (and yes, I'll admit, ruined) the class. Let's just stick to the facts. Compared to the rest of the Sociology department, Marwell stands out for her rigid, cold, and yes, boring approach to Sociology. And yes, I know that such material as this is hard to make completely enthralling, but believe it or not, I've seen it done. What gets me about Marwell is her own foolish idea that she has the "right" answer when it comes to this stuff, when in fact they boil down to more than one. I also agree that she was never so detailed as when she told the life stories of the various authors; and can anyone say that that last unit about current Columbia professors per the Classical authors was NOT a waste of time? Good professors require good rapport and overall passable social skills when it comes to their students and the communication of their lessons. Marwell doesn't have any of that, doesn't even come close, so that automatically requires the less-than-fawning reviews you will find from those students bright and brave enough to post them. For those calling all of us "pricks" and other such nonsense, I would say that you have made yourself look more of one than we have. These reviews are supposed to reflect upon the teacher, and not berrate other reviewers. Overall, don't take this class if you don't have to. And if you do, dno't be surprised by your average grades.

Jan 2004

I also can't figure out where these negative reviews are coming from. It's true, Marwell comes across as a cold sort of person, but she *does* know her stuff, and she's not boring. She does have students answer each others' questions, but she guides the discussion firmly and well. The readings are, of course, dry and old, and could be boring, but she did a very good job of making them interesting and relevant. This was one class I almost never skipped, and I'm a pretty big slacker, so that says a lot. The only bad thing about this course were a couple of pompous assholes in it who thought they knew better than her, and obviously feel very defensive because she shot them down when they repeatedly said stupid and incorrect things during class.

Jan 2004

I am shocked to read so many negative reviews. One reviewer assures readers that one mustn't read the course material. Then why take the class? Idiot. Another accuses Marwell of a negative and bland teaching style; this is not the case. She aptly and deftly explicated the theories of the three "canonical" social theorists. "Theory" doesn't necessarily mean apply Marx to feminism, aesthetics, and media theory. Keep in mind that this is an introductory class' as such, theories are to be grasped instead of to be utilized. This class is relatively easy if you attend the lectures and do the reading. The take-home midterm is not very time consuming (that's's about 10 pages when completed, and the questions are more than fair). The final is graded with little scrutiny and may be finished in under 2 hours easily. The quizes are also not extremely challenging, though they are very beneficial to achieving understanding of the material. Big ups to Marwell. If you don't like her, you (a) don't like social theory but claim to still like "sociology," or (b) must be a pretentious asshole who namedrops in class and assumes greater self-knowledge than you actually have. While you spew solipsistic diatribes, I will use the hand I am not slapping you with to awkwardly applaud Marwell.

Dec 2003

The only mind-blowing conclusion she ever came to was that class was over. While Marwell's approach is organized, her interpretations lack depth and bar any conclusions about the theoretical material outside of her myopic ideas. She'll tell you that you're wrong when in fact it is hard to err completely in a course like this, where the theory can be viewed in any number of ways. She claims that "social theory will allow you to expand your mind in different ways" while simultaneously lowering your grade or humiliating you in class if you even dare to think outside of her own ideas. She encourages participation by skirting questions asked of her and making other students answer them. It appeared to me she did this because she did not know the answers herself. She "teaches" with a false air of mastery over the material, she also needs to smile once in awhile. I have no clue why she was allowed to teach this course, it just goes to reinforce the fact that Columbia will let anyone teach regardless of their skill or merit as an instructor. I got nothing out of this course except a most unpleasant deja vu. This was like bizarro "Sociological Imagination," opposite it in every way: boring, dry, and poorly taught. I did well in this class but I can't overlook the fact that I could have gotten more out of it had I not been subjected to Marwell. The TA, on the other hand, deserves the credit for making me care about the class and for actually knowing what he was talking about.

Dec 2003

Unfortunately, this class too closely resembles the syllabus of the intro Sociological Imagination class, though the latter has more interesting course material. This class was mind-numbingly boring, and Marwell's know-it-all attitude as well as the frequent fawning of a select few underclassmen over her "expertise" made for a pretty negative experience. I still can't understand why this class exists, let alone why it's a requirement for Soc majors -- in Imagination, the readings were very engaging, and Polletta was a very approachable and dynamic lecturer. Marwell seems only to know the biographies of the different authors down pat, and discourages any interpretation of the theories that do not wholly reflect her own. All in all, she's pretty intimidating, and going to class was more a chore than a pleasure. This was the one class that made me reconsider my Soc major; however, I'm sticking with it, confident that the rest of the department can't possibly be as overbearing and unpleasant regarding the use and application of the material.

Nov 2002

I don't think anyone could exactly accuse Prof. Marwell of being a particularly warm or nice person, but what a teacher! Her lecturing style may be a bit frustrating at first--she repeats herself a lot and very obviously underscores the important points--but she's so thorough, so organized, so easy to follow, so enthusiastic, so engaging, that you'd have to be a moron not to leave the class with a full understanding of the books. Plus she's a great discussion leader, and she ends each class with an invariably mind-blowingly brilliant conclusion. For the last few weeks of the class, we read work by the Columbia sociology faculty and tie it in with the classics, which is a really neat approach. A lot of work, but well worth it. Marwell is a gem.

Jan 2000

The above review is so harsh! Silver is super-sweet and very smart. He'll take the time to talk about your ideas and is excellent on a one-to-one basis.