Department of Sociology at Ohio State Lima







Dr. Ted Houghton


Dr. Godwin  Ekechuku


Dr. Ted Houghton

Office: 470G Galvin

Phone: 419-995-8285


Contemporary World Societies: Social Institutions and Social Change (SOC 597.01) is a seminar course in global issues. We will read and discuss a set of articles on a wide range of issues affecting the modern world. This is an exploration of what is happening in various regions of the globe, the world in general, and how it impacts the United States. The course is organized into five parts. We will focus upon geopolitics, ethnic conflict, democracy and international intervention with particular reference to Africa and Islamic countries and then turn to social turmoil in the midst of global economic and political change in China and East Asia. Globalization and human rights are major themes.

  • Part I: Overview of Global Issues.

  • Part II. Africa

  • Part III. International Intervention and Humanitarian Aid.

  • Part IV. The Middle East, Political Islam

  • Part V. Globalization Issues and the Emergence of China


    • To become familiar with major global issues, their history and impact in the contemporary world.

    • To become informed about major policy debates regarding global issues.

    • To make connections between the topics of this course and content of other courses you have taken as university students.

    • To develop skills in thinking and communicating about global issues.

    Readings: The course revolves around the reading of current journal articles, news reports and a few selected chapters from recent books. Most readings will be accompanied by worksheets to help you digest the material; they also serve as useful sources for test review. It is likely that you will encounter many new terms, ideas and references to events in these readings that you have not encountered before. As you read and do the worksheets, keep a running list of those terms, ideas and events that you want clarified. Bring them up for discussion in class. Time will often be allowed specifically for answering these kinds of questions.

    Class and Attendance: Class time will be used in a variety of ways. There will be a few lectures, discussions of the readings and a series of videos.

    Lecture and discussions will presume and build upon the readings, so it is essential that you should read, do the worksheets that accompany most readings, and be prepared to discuss them BEFORE the class for which they are assigned.

    Lectures will give topical overviews and often contain material not in the readings. The worksheets will be a focus of some in-class activities.

    Regular attendance will be necessary. Contribution to class discussions on a regular basis may also influence grading (i.e. you may receive additional points if you are on the border of receiving a higher grade).



    No worksheets for the first week’s readings. In following weeks, reading worksheets due on day reading is scheduled. Schedule modifications may occur as course progresses; updates will be issued accordingly.









    Use these as starting points. You may modify them. You can also come up with your own topic to be cleared with me before preliminary outlines are due.

    Why is political unity in [any ethnically troubled country] threatened?

    What are the prospects for peace and democracy in [choose any strife-torn country].

    What were the reasons for and what have been the effects of international intervention in [choose any troubled country].

    What are the positive contributions and/or negative aspects and problems (if any) of [any international non-governmental organization (INGO) or related group of these]?

    Is the current trend toward free trade and global economic integration desirable?

    What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of increasing global governance over the international economy?

    How does globalization affect local cultures?

    Does globalization undermine the sovereignty and power of nation-states?

    Has the world become a more dangerous place since the end of the Cold War?

    Do ethnic groups have the right of self-determination even though they are within the borders of a sovereign country?

    Should increasing democracy be the ultimate value and goal for all countries?

    Should there be one standard of democracy and human rights in the world?

    Which is most important: state sovereignty or universal human rights?

    What should be done about the growing number of refugees in the world?

    Is Africa hopeless?

    Do NGOs help or hinder the ending of slavery in Africa?

    Do NGOs help or hinder the ending of conflicts in Africa?

    Should the United States enlarge or abandon its superpower role?

    Is the United Nations an effective and/or needed organization?

    Why has the United States opposed the International Criminal Court and should it?

    Is it in the interests of the United States to cooperate with the United Nations in international interventions?

    Are peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts of the United Nation effective?

    Do economic sanctions work and are they justified?

    Should a permanent UN military force be established?

    What is Islamic Fundamentalism?

    Is Islamic Fundamentalism a threat to world political stability?

    Can Islam and democracy mix?

    Is U.S. policy to be blamed for political upheavals in the Middle East?

    Has U.S. foreign policy increased the danger of international terrorism?

    Will current policies in the War on Terror be effective or cause other problems?

    Are there universal human values?

    Is China a threat to future peace?

    Is China's admission to the World Trade Organization a problem?

    Should China be treated as a violator of human rights?

    Should foreign policymakers minimize human rights concerns?

    Could the trend toward globalization be reversed?

    Are environmentalist, labor and anti-capitalist protests against globalization justified?

    Has globalization increased or decreased inequalities in developing nations?

    How has globalization and free trade increased prosperity in [choose a developing country or countries].

    What is the relationship between multinational corporations, international investment and government in [any less developed country or countries]?

    Has the International Monetary Fund (IMF) alleviated or caused political and economic turmoil in [any IMF client country or countries]?

    Are multinational corporations a force of development or exploitation in the less developed world?

    Should corporations be allowed to benefit from exploiting child labor in other countries?

    Should countries be concerned with the treatment of children within other countries?

    What are the realities of children's rights in [choose a country or countries]?

    What are the realities of women's rights in [choose a country or countries]?

    Should trade liberalization be made conditional upon the labor standards of participating countries?

    Should global free trade policies be pursued at the expense of immediate local jobs and business?

    Should developed countries increase aid to less developed countries?

    Should immigration be restricted?

    Is it in the interest of the United States to participate in international environmental agreements?

    What is the relationship between environmental ethics and international relations?

    Should the U.S. government give foreign aid to reduce world population growth?



    This includes:

    1. A paragraph identifying and describing the topic and policy issues.

    2. A tentative topical outline.

    3. A preliminary bibliography.


    Writing a descriptive, analytical paper

    In general, the more specific you make the topic, the better for a short paper. The paper should focus upon societies outside the United States, international issues and organizations, global processes, or it may deal with US society, policies and action in a significant international or cross-national context. If your interest is in a general global phenomenon and transnational in nature, it may be useful to focus your research upon how it impacts a specific country, region, organization or policy. In general, the paper should include:

    Introduction: Summarize what you will be writing about.

    Body of the text:

    Address the relevant history, social and political conditions pertaining to the topic or events about which you are writing.

    Relate the facts and events in a coherent fashion: How did it start? How did it progress? How did it end?

    Attend to cause and effect relationships: Why did situations come about?

    Conclusion: What is the significance of the events? What broader implications can be drawn from them? What meaning may these events hold for current actions and policies? What are future prospects for the situation? ETC.

    Writing a policy paper

    Global issues generate political, social, philosophical and ethical controversy. They cannot be ignored and entail the necessity of taking definite positions, pursuing definite lines of action and making hard policy choices. You may either (1) argue in favor of a specific change in social, political or economic policy, or (2) defend and support current policy in relation to specifically proposed alternatives. Paper should include these main parts:

    Give a clear definition of the issue.

    Describe the various sides of the controversy.

    Show how policy change or the current policy meets the need.

    Justify your position in light of relevant theory and evidence.

    Consider advantages and possible disadvantages of your position.

    End with a strong conclusion that will convince the reader that the change you propose should be adopted, or that the current policy you support should be maintained.

    All papers will be graded for thoroughness, depth of research, effectiveness of arguments, proper use of supporting theoretical and empirical material, grammar, spelling and syntax (clarity of exposition). Clear, well-written presentation is a must.

    Technical requirements:

    Length: 5-8 pages, word-processed, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman.

    As a general rule, the paper should reference 4 or more separate, mainly current library sources (books, scholarly journal articles, "reputable" magazines, and "reliable" web sites). References must be properly cited and included in a bibliography.

    Plagiarism is not tolerated and easy to detect. All sources must be properly quoted and referenced.


    Last Modified on 02/27/2007