SOC 6520

SOC 6520

Course information provided by the Courses of Study 2023-2024.

Political and cultural polarization have steadily increased in the three decades since Patrick Buchanan declared a "cultural war for the soul of America." Concerns include echo chambers, filter bubbles, and increasingly vitriolic discourse, with the cumulative potential to erode democratic institutions. The first half of the semester explores the definition, types, measures, dynamics, and consequences of partisan cultural alignment. The second half addresses the causes, diffusion, and consequences of polarization. Readings will include theoretical models and empirical studies of opinion cascades, identity politics, motivated reasoning, network homophily, echo chambers, filter bubbles, social contagion, conformity, and cultural cognition. Weekly discussions will grapple with a range of questions, including: What is polarization? Is it the tendency for opinions to be extreme, with the disappearance of a consensual middle ground, or is it the tendency for substantively unrelated opinions to become correlated? Did polarization emerge from the top down, beginning with political and cultural elites, or from the bottom up, through the self-reinforcing dynamics of network homophily and peer influence? Do social media and cable news contribute to polarization or merely reflect it? Can polarization be reversed, and if not, what are the implications for democratic institutions?

When Offered Spring.

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Syllabi: none
  •   Regular Academic Session. 

  • 3 Credits Stdnt Opt

  • 17040 SOC 6520   SEM 101

  • Instruction Mode: In Person