POEC 6313.501

Human Organizations and Social Theory

UT Dallas Spring 2018


Tuesday:  7:00pm-9:45pm

Murray J. Leaf

SLC 2.203 

Office: GR 3.128

Course ID # 26970


Last update 22 Dec 2017

   Ext.  2732




Syllabi:  This syllabus is subject to change as we go along, but no changes will be made without first discussing them in class--apart from correcting errors or inserting afterthoughts following up on what we discussed.   Updates will be available on my personal website: murrayleaf.org. I will also try to post them on elearning and the course lookup, but the first is not friendly to links and the latter does not allow them at all.


Description:   This is a course is empirical social theory. All theory is concerned with facts in some sense.   In empirical social theory, as in empirical physical and biological theory, fact A is connected to fact C with fact B--everything is facts. Facts explain facts.  The alternative to empirical theory is ideological theory, also described as normative.  In ideological theory, there are still fact A and fact C, but the connection is through some definition, hypothecation, speculation, or excuse.


Most social theory is ideological.  The two most prominent streams in the 20th-century have a single common root.  This is Hegel's concept of the state as reason "forcing itself in history." What Hegel meant by the state was more than just the political organization. Hegel's idea was rendered as "society" by Henri St. Simone.  This provided the foundation for his major work: Socialism, Or the New Christianity.  


St. Simon's socialism was both descriptive and normative.  It was what society "really" is and what it should be.  The central idea is that the individual lives only in and through society.  After St. Simon, the socialist tradition divided into two streams, corresponding to the right and left of French revolutionary politics.  The right was positivism, favoring the propertied.  The left was Marxism, favoring the property-less. The arguments between them were somewhat factual but mainly depended on the supposed dichotomous distinction between idealism and materialism inherited from Hegel and his philosophical brethren. Marxism is materialist; positivism is idealist.


Since Marxist materialism has few modern followers in the West, we do not need to give it more than passing notice here.   But positivist theory and its descendants have more followers today than empirical theory.  So we have to deal with a few major representatives in order to be clear about how empirical theory differs.


Positivism began with Auguste Comte's "Theory of Positive Polity." Herbert Spencer's "social Darwinism." For the 20th century it includes French positivism associated with Emile Durkheim and German positivism associated with Max Weber, which continued into the post-war "structural-functional" theory of Talcott Parsons, Edward Shils, Clyde Kluckhohn, Marion Levy, and Robert K. Merton.  It also includes the theories of still more recent self-described critics of structural functionalism including C. Wright Mills' "powers elite," Clifford GeertzŐs cultural interpretivism, H. Foucault's argument that society is somehow represented by an all-controlling prison, and Anthony Giddens' theory of "structuration."


The roots of empirical social theory, by contrast, are in skeptical social and legal philosophy.  Major writers include Grotius, Montaigne, Montesquieu, David Hume, Adam Smith, the American Federalists, and Emmanuel Kant.  Since Kant, major streams in the tradition include European Kantian legal and social theory; the sociology of law of Holmes and Pound; the functional psychology of James, Dewey, and Mead; symbolic interactionism; the ethnological theories associated with Bronislaw Malinowski, Franz Boas, and Raymond Firth; and the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget.   


The main text for the course is my Human Organizations and Social Theory (HOST). The theory of HOST can be described as symbolic social constructionism. It is actually not one single theory so much a theoretical tool kit. Many other writers and literatures have delineated one or another of the indiviual components, and these analyses often include additional detail that I could not include.


Although I am an anthropologist and the theory is centered in anthropological field studies of human communities of all kinds, from all around the world, it is not exclusively so. Other fields from which analyses are drawn include philosophy, linguistics, sociology, law, political science, information theory, economics, and the physical sciences.


We will conduct the course seminar style, with a student making a presentation and leading a discussion. In some cases, the presentation will be on an article or part of book that exemplifies or describes ideological theory that deals with topic of the week. In some cases, it will focus on a writing that extends or exemplifies what is described in HOST, and in some cases it will involve an experiment that applies a theory described in HOST. Since there are ten chapters, we can take a week or two on each and also have time for other relevant articles.  The topics in the syllabus are not absolutely fixed.  I think they will be helpful, but some are more important than others and we can move them around, add, or subtract.


The Text:  The only thing you will have to buy is Murray J. Leaf, 2009, Human Organizations and Social Theory. University of Illinois Press.  ISBN:  978-0-252-03424-4. I checked the UTD Library, since several of you said it was available online, and they say it is.  But I could not get it to appear.  If any of you find out how, please let the rest know.  Everything else will be on JSTOR or other library resources, on the Internet, or in Box.com.  I will send everyone a link to the class folder in Box.com.  


Presentations:  For each presentation, make a little outline of your argument to help guide and record the discussion.  If you can get it to me before the class, I can make it available to everyone in printed form.  Or you can print it.  We can also circulate digital versions.   We can discuss this one the class starts.


Grading:  The grade will be based on two exams (30% each) and a paper (40%).  If this score is right on the line between two grades, the presentations will make a difference, but I don't want to worry about grading them exactly and I do not want you to worry about it either.  They are to help you learn.


Recordings: There is a folder in Box for the course that has recordings of the class sessions. The format is WMA or MP3.  This is a Windows format, but my Mac can play them--I think it is with iTunes.



Chapters and Topics

Add'l Reading and possible individual preparations

9 Jan 2018

1.  Introduction



Participant Observation



Empiricism, Skepticism, and Experimentalism



Empirical Formalism



The Argument


16 Jan

2. Empirical Starting Points



Group and organization






Social Information Systems: First Observations

Giddens's Structuration Theory and Information Systems Research. MIS Quarterly 2008. JSTOR 






Other Purposes; Subversive Agendas



Associations of ideas versus beliefs



Decision Models and Experimental Economics

North. First Economic Revolution.

Mayhew First Economic Revolution as Fiction.

North reply to Mayhew 1982 in the dropbox. PREP:


Culture and Structure




A. Sen Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavior Foundations of Economic theory. Philosophy and Public Affairs. JSTOR.  (This could also accompany the discussion of decision making on 20 April) PREP:    


Cultural Ecology





23 Jan

3.  Skepticism, pragmatism, and Kant



KantŐs Empiricism

PREP:  Prolegomenon to all Future Metaphysics Box

PREP: Kroeger translation of Kant's Anthropology. Box


Philosophical Misrepresentations

PREP: Kroeger translation of Kant's Preface to the Critique of Pure Reason Box


Fichte and Hegel

Hegel's state as reason in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Section Two, Objective Spirit https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sp/osethica.htm#OS535


Richard Rorty



Rorty versus Dewey


30 Jan

4. New tools




If you do not already know what these are, we need a preparation on Excel or Filemaker:


generative system models



agent and system models

First look at John ConwayŐs Game of Life website and model: http://www.bitstorm.org/gameoflife/

This is what I described in class as the butterfly that lives or dies.


Look at the Netlogo website and download the program: https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/          


the evolving computational picture

Rosling: Let my dataset change your mind. In Box. PREP:

6 Feb

5.  Social idea-systems



General Considerations



Formal Properties of Cultural Information Systems

Shannon and Weaver (1954) Mathematical Theory of Communication.  (Several editions. I have put two in the Box. The earlier one is the most important.) 


Implications of Multiplicity



Observation and Elicitation



Types of Social Idea-systems




Leaf: Experimental-Formal Analysis of Kinship.

Fischer et. al: What Kinship Terminologies Are.

We will do an elicitation or two in class.

13 Feb

Kinship maps

Look up the KAES website on the Internet and download the program.

I have put the Mac version of kaes.app in the dropbox. The Kintermaps folder goes with it and has actual terminologies you can load.

I have also put the Microsoft files in the dropbox. They are download.zip and the folder KAES.   I think the folder is the same for both because they are in SML, which both operating systems can use.

PREP: Someone's terminology

PREP: Someone else's.


Other kinship ideas

This means things like inheritance rules. We don't need more readings. We will compare cultural ideas from our separate backgrounds in class.


Kinship and Socialization



Kinship Ideas and Kinship Organizations



Managerial Control




Leaf Paper in Box: Indigenous Algorithms, Organizations, and Rationality. Structure and Dynamics. 



Factional model using Gephi, in Box. PREP: Someone try a network analysis.


Translocal Organizations



Information Theory

Leaf, The Message is the Medium. Box. PREP:

27 Feb

6.  technical Information systems



The question is how does technical information form systems, and how systemic are they?

Two important books on the nature of scientific theory are: Gallison, Peter (1997) Image and Logic. Chicago.

Shapin, S. 2011. Leviathan and the Air-pump. Princeton.

Gallison is about the cloud chamber. For class, read the article on Cloud Chamber in Wikipedia, and watch the videos.

Wikipedia also has a good, short, article criticizing Leviathon and the Airpump, which sounds right to me.



observing the systems

Also to read: Mathew Lauer and Shankar Aswani. 2009. Indigenous Ecological Knowledge as Situated Practices: Understanding FishbeinŐs Knowledge in the Western Solomon Islands. American Anthropologist 111:3:317-329. Copy in Box.  PREP:


information systems and social scale


6 Mar


Productive and Regulatory Purposes


13 Mar






20 Mar

Organizational charters

Leaf Paper on Ceremonies     


Charters, Myth, and Movies

George Carlin on baseball vs football:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhN1ExFCXNA


PREP: Analyse an episode of a movie or a TV series the same way. What organizational charter does it enact?

27 Mar

Peasant Farming

We will talk more about farming and making things. Look up my article in Mathematical Anthropology and Cultural Theory.  It comes with two spreadsheets that should work.


There are other papers here you may be interested in.


Wider Applications of the Farming Model

Spread sheets are in Box.





Regulatory Organizations



The Formal Problem of Occupational Choice

PREP: describe at leaast one instantiation of the problem.


The Necessity of Collective Expression




The book describes Pajek software.  It is now obsolete because it has not been rewritten and updated for Mac and Linus operating systems. The new and much better standard is Gephi.  The url for Gephi is: https://gephi.org


The url for Pajek, if it is still working, is:


PREP: Paper on Mexican networks by Rocha in Box. It is in Spanish.




6 Apr

8.  Groups and institutions



Generating Underlying Groups






The Legal Profession





13 Apr

9.  Adaptation

PREP 1: Netlogo sheeps and wolves
PREP 2:      On the multiagent simulation of settlement formation in the Hay Hollow Valley, as described in the Artificial Anasazi Project website: https://www.openabm.org/model/2222/version/2/view

This uses Netlogo.


forming individual rationality



Forming a Self

Mead, G. H.  The Social Self The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. 10, No. 14 (Jul. 3,1913), on JSTOR.  If life is like a multiagent program, how are people programmed?   PREP3 :


Selves, Bodies, and Incentives



Rationality and Optimization



Bounded Rationality

Simon, H.  Rationality in Psychology and Economics. The Journal of Business, Vol. 59, No. 4, Part 2: The Behavioral Foundations of Economic Theory (Oct., 1986), pp. S209-S224 IN JSTOR.  PREP:


The Ethnographic Alternative



Rationality and resource flows



Rationality and adaptation



The Hill-Climbing Algorithm

I'll try to have us make a netlogo model


Multi-Agent Models of Multiple Adaptive Strategies

Kuznets article in the dropbox.

Doran, Jim. Agent Based Modeling of Ecosystems for Sustainable Resource Management.


27 Apr

10.  Conclusion



Cultural Information Sources















theory and policy




Course & Instructor Policies

I do not provide for extra credit or make up work.  You are expected to complete all assignments on time.  Anything not handed in on time is failed, unless you have made an arrangement with me in advance.


No Field Trips


The following statements are standard for all syllabi and come from general UTD rules. They are required in response to accreditation criteria of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.



Standard UTD policies are procedures for all classes are on the U T Dallas website at: http://coursebook.utdallas.edu/syllabus-policies/.