When we, as individuals and as members of various groups, construct our own “sense of self,” we might think we are in control of ourselves. When other people, and institutions and forces beyond them, define us, we might think we are being controlled, as individuals as well as members of various groups. The problem of whether and to what extent we humans are in control, or can be in control, of ourselves – of our identities but also of our behavior and understanding, both public and private – is what in this course I refer to as the “problem of the subject.” The problem of the subject is the never completed social task of constructing intersubjectively valid understandings of fundamental human identity. For example, are human beings moved by social, emotional, and psychological forces beyond their control or can they control themselves and their environment through the power of their own reasoning? This seminar explores different answers to this question by analyzing seminal works of European and American thinkers of the late modern and contemporary eras, works that have powerfully influenced our notions of the subject today.
The European Enlightenment of the 18th century gave rise to master narratives of the subject as a sovereign figure capable of rational control of his or her worlds. We begin with the “modern, enlightenment self” (Kant, Rousseau, and Marx), taken as an individual, then examine the “solidary self” (Tönnies, Durkheim, and Mauss), or the self as a communal member. Next we turn to the “modern self fragmented” (Kierkegaard, Simmel, and Weber), whether for better or worse. Then we examine the “interior self” (Freud), and subsequently the “self as the other of the socially dominant one,” with one examples from sex (de Beauvoir) and one from “race” (Du Bois). Finally we discuss the “symbolically or strategically interacting self” (Mead and Goffman). In lectures introducing each author, I will develop the specific conception of social science offered by each of our authors. The last hour of each session will be devoted to student-organized and –led discussion among students, in this student-centered seminar.
 W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk,  Søren Kierkegaard. Either/Or,  Max Weber, From Max Weber,  Marcel Mauss, The Gift,  Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society,  Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex,  Erving Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
TEXTS available as pdf-files on our Canvas site
 Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality,  Immanuel Kant, “What Is Enlightenment?,”  Karl Marx, “Estranged Labor,”  Émile Durkheim, “Forms of Social Solidarity,”  Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life” and “The Stranger”
About the Professor:
Benjamin Gregg teaches social and political theory informed by political science and sociology, not only at UT but also in Germany, Japan, Austria, and China. Two books, Thick Moralities, Thin Politics (2003) and Coping in Politics with Indeterminate Norms (2003), confront challenges of social justice in complex modern societies, especially in liberal democratic states. Another two books, Human Rights as Social Construction (2012) and The Human Rights State (2016), analyze problems and prospects for justice across national borders. Current book-in-progress, Human Nature as Cultural Design: The Political Challenge of Genetic Enhancement, explores core issues in bioethics. Rapid advances in genetic engineering, particularly of human embryos and fetuses, pose difficult social, political, moral, and legal questions that challenge a range of different conceptions of a just society.