My Wellesley


The Freedom Project is devoted to the interdisciplinary study of freedom both within and outside the classroom. As such, Freedom Project associated faculty have developed a number of courses exploring the topic of freedom in a rigorous, non-ideological manner, including Freedom: Great Debates on Liberty and Morality, The Individual and Society, Dissent and Freedom of Expression, and Morals and Markets. The Freedom Project offers grants to Wellesley professors who wish to develop team-taught courses in which faculty take opposing positions on a topic and model civil discourse and contention in the classroom.

SOC 150: The Individual and Society (Cushman)

Examination of the idea of the individual, the concept of individuality, and the ideology of individualism in comparative-historical perspective. Focus on social conceptions of the individual; free-will versus determinism; the social nature of mind and self; the role of the individual in social change; the state and the individual; tensions between individualism and collectivism; the quest for individuality and authenticity in the modern world. Draws on classic and contemporary works in sociology in an interdisciplinary framework.

SOC 220: Freedom: Great Debates on Liberty and Morality (Imber and Cushman)

Among the various challenges that face democratic societies committed to the ideal of pluralism and its representations in both individuals and institutions, is what is meant by the term "liberty". Among those who identify as conservative, the concept of liberty has over time been addressed in ways that seek to impose order on both individual and institutional behavior or what some conservatives refer to as "ordered liberty". Classical liberal views of liberty stress the removal of external constraints on human behavior as the key to maximizing individual agency, autonomy and selfhood. This course examines the historical and sociological debates and tensions surrounding different visions of liberty. Focus on case studies of contentious social issues that are at the center of public debates, including freedom of expression; race and ethnicity; criminality; sexuality; gender; social class, religion, and the war on drugs.

SOC 259: The Sociology of American Exceptionalism (McCabe)

Dating back to Alexis de Tocqueville, scholars have argued that American culture and politics are distinctly different from other liberal democracies. This idea, known as “American exceptionalism”, will motivate us throughout the semester. By examining such puzzles as the persistence of racial segregation after the civil rights movement, the rise of mass incarceration, and the idea of homeownership as the American dream in comparative perspective, this course will introduce students to comparative institutional analysis using the United States as a deviant case study. Through an in depth examination of why the U.S. is different from other countries on these issues and many others, students will gain a better understanding of the major institutions in U.S. society and the prospects for reform. Students will work with the instructor to design a research proposal on a puzzle of their choice using comparative methods.

SOC 260: Courage and Conscience: Dissent and Freedom of Expression in The Modern World (Cushman)

Freedom of expression is considered one of the most fundamental human rights. Why is this the case? Why are people willing to suffer, fight, and die and to protect the right of freedom of expression? Why is freedom of expression so dangerous to those with political and social power? How do powerful elites mobilize against dissent and dissidents?  What is the role of charismatic individuals and freedom of expression in social change?  This course examines sociological theories of communication and freedom of expression; the idea of “civil courage” and its relation to social change; the origins of dissent and dissidents in comparative-historical perspective.    Emphasis is on case studies of dissent and dissidents in authoritarian societies of the 20th and early 21st centuries in order to understand, sociologically, the elementary forms of dissent and “the dissident life.” The course introduces students to the life-history method of social research in examining case studies of dissent.

SOC 281: Morals and Markets (McCabe)

This course explores what the social scientist Albert Hirschmann called ‘rival interpretations of market society”. Are markets civilizing, destructive, or feeble forces within society? Focus on classical and contemporary theory and empirical research to explore key debates on morals and markets: How has capitalism made children both “economically worthless” and “culturally priceless”? Does market competition foster or discourage racism and sexism? Would markets for human organs help patients or dehumanize donors? What are the social consequences of paying men for sperm and women for their eggs? How do market pressures on hospitals affect patient care? Is it immoral for people to take bets that they will die soon? Does the pursuit of profit poison science? How do people come to different conclusions about the proper way to value nature?