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Social and Political Sciences Tripos, Parts IIA and IIB, 2004: Notice

The Faculty Board of Social and Political Sciences give notice that they have prescribed the following subjects for 5,000-word essays for certain papers for the Social and Political Sciences Tripos, Parts IIA and IIB, 2004.

Pol. 5: Conceptual issues in modern politics

1. Is political science a moral science?
2. Why do people follow leaders?
3. Why do people cooperate?
4. Must states punish? If so, should they also pardon?
5. 'Toleration, yes; indifference no.' Should this be the motto of modern states?
6. 'How patriarchal should society be?' Consider with reference to the history of political thought before the mid eighteenth century.
7. Can sovereignty be divided?
8. Either (a) When do different claims to nationhood within a state threaten its representative democracy?
 Or (b) Could states dispense with the fiction of nationhood?
9. What are wars between states now about?
10. How can civil wars be resolved?
11. Can human rights be implemented globally?
12. Is citizenship a sham?
13. Do states that are indebted to the international financial institutions forfeit their sovereignty?
14. Either (a) What is NATO for at the start of the twenty-first century?
 Or (b) Can Britain be an 'Atlantic power'?
15. Either (a) How did the foreign policy of the United States change after the Cold War?
 Or (b) Is the United States now an imperial power?
16. What has 'security' meant to Japan's post-war political establishment?
17. Can an enlarged European Union expect to have an effective foreign policy?
18. How has the experience of communism influenced democratisation processes in eastern Europe?
19. Does the convention method enhance democracy at the European level?
20. Why is the politics of immigration in Europe so controversial?
21. Can the present constitutional settlement in the United Kingdom endure?
22. France's Fifth Republic: success or failure?
23. How democratic is the politics of the United States?
24. Either (a) Is the continuation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians down to a failure of political will?
 Or (b) Is the Arab world on a path to democracy?
25. How are citizens represented in Latin American republics?
26. Is 'socialism with Chinese characteristics' simply another term for capitalism?
27. Is the North Korean state a rational actor?
28. Why are states in sub-Saharan Africa so fragile?

 

Pol. 7: A subject in modern politics II - European integration

1. Why have states in the European Union agreed to pool (some of) their sovereignty?
2. Are the institutions of the European Union competitors or partners?
3. Will the accession of ten new members benefit the European Union?
4. Will European monetary union require a European state?
5. Does the European Union need an army?
6. How redistributive are the agricultural and regional policies of the European Union?
7. How have domestic political institutions adapted to European integration?
8. What keeps British governments in the European Union?
9. What has the Convention on the Future of the European Union achieved?

 

Pol. 8: A subject in modern politics III - The United States of America

1. What impact did British 'country opposition' thought have on colonial political leaders?
2. Is the US Constitution a revolutionary or conservative document?
3. 'The US Civil War was fought over slavery.' Discuss.
4. How significant was the impact of the US Civil War, both at home and abroad?
5. What goals did Wilson have when he took the US into World War I, and how successful was he in fulfilling those goals? Be sure to address the concept of 'mission creep.'
6. What caused the Great Depression? Are comparison to today's economic slowdown accurate?
7. Either Did the US-Soviet antagonism in both World War II and the Cold War arise primarily from ideological or national security concerns?
 Or Was the Cold War inevitable, given the outcome of World War II?
8. 'Usually a state joins a military alliance to decrease rather than increase its risks; however, NATO increased, not decreased, the risks to the US.' Assess, discussing why NATO was created and why the US joined.
9. Is President George W. Bush a Wilsonian?
10. Was the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s successful?
11. What are the most important lessons of the Vietnam War?
12. Assess both historic and current US and international efforts to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
13. Did Ronald Reagan steer the Cold War or did he ride currents that were already in motion?
14. Discuss the connections between the Cold War and the events of September 11, 2001. What lessons are there for current policymakers in these connections?
15. Does the United States have colonies?

 

Pol. 9: A subject in modern politics IV - Revolutions

1. Can revolutions be democratic?
2. To what extent did the French revolution reinforce the centralization of the absolutist state?
3. What were the European roots of the Russian Revolution?
4. Did the October Revolution modernise the Russian state?
5. The Russian Revolution was long foreseen but hardly inevitable. Discuss.
6. Are revolutions made, or do they come?
7. What is the relationship between the idea of revolution and the idea of progressive change?
8. Do revolutions reproduce inequalities in power?
9. Can revolutions abolish the struggle between competing social forces?

 

Soc. 3: A subject in sociology I - Economy and society

1. Critically discuss some major theories of globalisation in the light of empirical findings on trends about the cross-border mobility and international connectedness of large European corporations.
2. Has the role of the state in the economy significantly diminished, increased or simply been transformed? Illustrate your answer with examples from at least two European political economies.
3. How and why does the flexibility of labour differ in both degree and kind between different developed economies?
4. Has there occurred significant convergence between the Anglo-American and the German or French mode of corporate governance?
5. Either: Why do governments pay so much attention to small and medium-sized firms?
 Or: Are small firms more innovative than large ones? Illustrate your answer with examples from at least two European political economies.
6. What have been the implications for organized labour of the high degree of mobility across national borders on the part of capital, as compared with the relative immobility of labour?
7. Large corporations have become 'lean and mean' during the last fifteen odd years. How has this manifested itself and what have been the causes of this 'slimming down' process?

 

Soc. 4: A subject in sociology II - Media, culture, and society

1. Is the concept of ideology a useful tool for the analysis of contemporary media forms?
2. 'Culture's alienation from human affairs terminates in its absolute docility before a humanity which has been enchanted and transformed into clientele by the suppliers' (ADORNO) Discuss.
3. In what ways is the concept of the public sphere useful in understanding the political role of contemporary media?
4. What is the value of Bourdieu's theory of the field of cultural production? What are its limitations? Discuss with reference to one cultural or media industry.
5. Does public service broadcasting have a future, and if so, in what form?
6. What contributions has the 'active audience' paradigm made to the analysis of media reception?
7. What role do the mass media play in the formation of social identities? Discuss in relation to either television or music or the internet.
8. Does an analysis of the political economy of the media industries help to explain the nature of their products? Discuss with reference to at least one industry.
9. What contribution is made to the analysis of culture and media by those writers who focus on their formal and technological characteristics? Are they liable to the charge of technological determinism? Discuss with reference to at least three writers taking this perspective.
10. What does genre theory contribute to media analysis? Discuss with reference to one genre drawn from any medium.
11. How does the concept of realism help in understanding the production of meaning in television? Discuss with reference to either factual or fictional television.
12. Does the concept of cultural imperialism have any relevance for understanding the globalization of culture?
13. How should we understand the social character of music?
14. Why have approaches from feminism and gender studies become the model for a new kind of critical engagement with music?
15. What does the study of news, and the production of news, tell us about the role of the media in the democratic process?
16. Do the media play a significant part in shaping the outcomes of elections? Discuss in relation to recent elections in either the USA or the UK.
17. What are the implications of the growth of new electronic media for the development of direct democracy?

 

Soc. 5: A subject in sociology III - Modern Britain

1. Has deferential behaviour declined in the UK during the second half of the twentieth century? If so, why?
2. Why did social inequality increase in the UK after the 1970s?
3. In the 1950s, was British society consensual? If so, why?
4. During the 1970s some political leaders in Britain said that they had been 'blown off course' by external events. Did they offer a convincing explanation of their difficulties?
5. Did the Thatcher governments halt Britain's economic decline?
6. Has New Labour exaggerated the extent to which globalisation has undermined the scope for national governments to pursue progressive economic and social policies?
7. Does 'multiculturalism' imply a 'new racism' in British society?
8. Do you agree that 'class' is no longer an important issue in British politics? If so, why has this occurred?
9. In what sense is the 'new sociology of childhood' new?

 

Soc. 6: A subject in sociology IV - Citizenship and human rights

1. Is citizenship incompatible with human rights?
2. Are human rights essentially an expression of western liberalism?
3. 'Human rights are culturally relative'. Is this a significant criticism?
4. Do human rights have to be individualistic?
5. Either What are the major problems in the enforcement of rights?
 Or Are human rights justifiable?
6. Are human rights the cause or consequence of globalization?
7. Why does Ignatieff argue that there is a crisis in human rights and is he right?
8. Why are labour laws fundamental to the enjoyment of human rights?
9. Critically evaluate the relationship between women's social status, rights, and economic development.
10. Under what circumstances, if any, do human rights violations justify military interventions?
11. Compare and contrast the American and French Revolutions with respect to their influences on the modern history of citizenship.
12. Critically compare and contrast the costs and benefits of ethnic and civic nationalism as bases for the conferral of citizenship rights.
13. Many have argued that the socialist project was undermined from the beginning by its overemphasis of distributive justice and neglect of issues pertaining to political participation. Critically assess the claim that socialism and democratic citizenship are incompatible.
14. What is wrong with theories of liberal citizenship?
15. Critically assess the relevance of Bourdieu's ideas regarding political competence and symbolic violence to the study of citizenship. What, if anything, do these ideas add to our understanding of social exclusion?
16. How and why was social citizenship harnessed to the rise of the nation-state?

 

Soc. 9: A subject in sociology V - Religion and politics

1. Is the secularization thesis disproved by the increasing prominence of religious movements?
2. Is Hindu nationalism a type of fundamentalism?
3. To what extent has political Islam been a modernizing movement?
4. Describe the ways in which religion has been changed by modern media.
5. Evaluate the claims made by cognitive anthropology and psychology to explain religion.
6. To what extent have charismatic and fundamentalist movements brought about changes in women's roles in the societies where they are active?
7. Does the phenomenon of conversion in massive numbers mark a clear difference between religion in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century from the preceding period?
8. 'Rational choice is a powerful model because it restricts the range of variables it can explain.' Discuss with reference to the rational choice approach to the sociology of religion.
9. Describe the role of diasporas in religious renewal.
10. In what ways has the spread of evangelical Christianity in Africa and Latin America been helped by its interaction with indigenous religious practice?
11. How religious are 'new religious movements'?
12. 'Globalization has been accompanied by the transformation of religion into an expanding phenomenon whose growth is driven from the grass roots rather than from hierarchical institutions.' Discuss.
13. To what extent is contemporary religious change a generational phenomenon?

 

Int. 3: An interdisciplinary subject I - Medicine, health, and illness

1. With empirical examples, critically assess arguments against the notion that the body is socially constructed.
2. Why do medical conditions have moral implications?
3. What is the globalisation of disease? What has produced it?
4. Can the social distribution of morbidity and mortality be explained by the unequal distribution of social capital?
5. How do social inequalities of health and illness in modern Britain throw serious doubt on the postwar welfare state as an expression of social citizenship?
6. Why is 'the body' currently central to any understanding of health issues in modern society?
7. Define, and critically compare, internalist and externalist explanations of medical practice. Also, discuss the feasibility of taking a theoretical middle road between them. Use empirical examples from the readings to illustrate and support your argument.
8. Critically evaluate the concept of a 'biomedical model.'
9. Compare and contrast the roles played by science and government respectively in the ascendancy of modern medical professions in any TWO of the following: England, France, Germany, and the United States. Use empirical examples to illustrate and support your argument.
10. Discuss the claim that there are profound difference between clinical expertise and knowledge of the medical sciences.
11. Distinguish the therapeutic treatment of mental illness from the social control of mental illness. Discuss whether this is an important approaches distinction and why.
12. Compare and contrast the following four to understanding the outcome of mental health treatment: cure, domestication, empowerment, and self-actualisation. Discuss whether and when these models are ever appropriate for understanding actual types of mental care provision.
13. Critically evaluate the Foucauldian thesis that the segregation of madness during the early modern era tells us something about the concept of Reason held by elites of that period. What, if anything, does this thesis suggest about current forms of mental health care?

 

Int. 4: An interdisciplinary subject II - Biomedical technologies and society

1. What is a gene? Discuss changing concepts of the gene in the 20th century.
2. Eugenics and genetic enhancements, compare and contrast.
3. Eugenics: A well-intentioned if misguided experiment?
4. Human Genome Project: Scientific hype or the biggest technological breakthrough since the invention of the wheel?
5. 'Blueprint of life' to what extent is this simply a reductionist metaphor?
6. 'Genetic developments must be strictly regulated'. Discuss.
7. Discuss issues concerning the control, ownership and exploitation of genetic materials with reference to two large-scale studies.
8. Is DNA tissue or information, and what are the implications in conceiving it as one or the other?
9. Is DNA individual or a common property of humanity?
10. 'Public fears about genetics are irrational and what is needed is for the public to acquire a better scientific understanding of genetics'. Critically assess the deficit model of knowledge.
11. Discuss the role of the media in shaping public discourse on genetics.
12. What are the psycho-social, and ethical issues of genetic testing for familial conditions?
13. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing: What are the implications for health care and the public?
14. What are the purposes of genetic testing and who gets to decide, patient or clinician?
15. Is paternity testing any different from other forms of medical testing?
16. How, if at all, should pre-implantation genetic diagnosis be regulated?
17. Is genetic information different from other kinds of biological information?
18. Infertility: Social construction or medical problem? Discuss.
19. The concept of 'the gift' is used in organ donation, gamete donation and the collections of tissue samples for genetic research. How has the use of this concept emerged and how does it shape understanding of the complex social and ethical issues involved in such donation?
20. Are advances in biotechnology bringing about the 'commodification of life'? Discuss with reference to 'designer babies', surrogacy, and 'ownership'of children.
21. Technological imperative: What place for biotech in constructing medicine?
22. 'We are at risk for everything!' Discuss the shifting boundaries of health and illness.
23. Designer drugs, gene therapy and stem cell research all promise to extend longevity… do we want to live forever?
24. What are the implications of genetic testing in life and health insurance?

 

Int. 5: An interdisciplinary subject III - Gender and society

1. Why do couples divorce?
2. Is the sexual revolution over?
3. How would you explain changes in the divorce rate in Britain either in the period 1920-1960 or 1950-2000?
4. Discuss practices and regulation of assisted reproductive technologies in Britain. How do these relate to concepts of kinship and parentage in unassisted reproduction?
5. Marriage: an institution or a relationship?
6. Discuss either his and her marriage or his and her divorce.
7. Men do more paid work, women do more unpaid work. Discuss why such a gender division of labour is so resistant to change in modern societies.
8. 'Citizens have the right not to rely on their families'. Is this a coherent policy position or does it merely reflect the fact that families are no longer reliable?
9. Abortion is likely to remain an important focus for national differences, as well as being a thorny issue within nations. Why?
10. The way in which the nuclear family has given way to the post-modern family has been called 'the destruction of the nest'. Is it true that the major unsettlers of the nest have been women?
11. Is the sexual revolution over?
12. Does the state alter family relationships a) In liberal democracies or b) In authoritarian regimes?
13. How far have women gained power within the family as a result of political change in 20th Century Europe? Answer with reference to at least two nation states.
14. Discuss the connections between social science knowledge and state regulation of reproductive sexuality in the context of eugenics.
15. Evaluations and treatment of child psychopathology is embedded in gender roles and family relations. Discuss.
16. Describe fatherhood in terms of taking involvement in childrearing. Do the realities of contemporary fatherhood approach the cultural ideal of fatherhood?
17. There has been no substantial change in the theory of family life since Engels and Freud. Discuss.
18. How far has the family failed in either children or women?
19. Should we believe what people say in surveys of sexual behaviour?
20. Does social policy move from the dangereux child to the child in danger in the 20th century?
21. What does it mean to examine family life from the child's perspective?
22. Are declining fertility rates indicative of the decline of the family?
23. To what extent are values transmitted from parents to children?
24. What does child poverty in Britain indicate about the relationship between family and state?
25. What does Engels mean by a 'mode of reproduction'? Is his concept anything more than of historical interest?
26. Can any use still be made of Parson's concepts of 'instrumental' and 'expressive' within the family?

 

Int. 6: Crime and deviance

1. 'Disorder may follow from individual hostile impulses, group conflicts, or a lack of certainty and predictability in the behaviour of others'. (Dennis WRONG). How can society best control these tendencies towards chaos and mutual destruction?
2. Critically discuss the contribution of Charles Murray and the underclass idea to our understandings of crime.
3. What is the relationship between race, gender, crime, and social regulation?
4. 'Psychoanalytic and psychological theories have not proved to be particularly useful either in furthering our understanding of crime or in devising effective methods of intervention'. Discuss.
5. 'All radical ideas about crime have come to naught'. Is this true?
6. Critically discuss the relationship between crime, intention and mental illness.
7. How far is it true that as well as needing a sociology of crime, we need a sociology of punishment?
8. What factors encourage people to stop committing crime?
9. How far is public protection an appropriate and achievable aim for mental health services?
10. Is all crime political?

 

Int. 7: Society, politics, and culture in Latin America

1. What can democratic theory learn from the results of Latin American democratization since 1980?
2. Either Account for the strategies adopted by the Latin American Catholic Church in adapting to the needs - spiritual and other - of contemporary society?
 Or How Latin American is Latin American Pentecostalism?
3. Account for the collapse of Argentina's political economy in 2001-02.
4. What has been the role of the labour market in the transformation urban kinship patterns?
5. Compare and contrast the strategies adopted to punish and come to terms with human rights violations in the aftermath of military government in Argentina and Chile.
6. In what ways has modernism and post-modernism in architecture and urban design reflected the socio-political environment?
7. Are the new political institutions introduced by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela democratic?
8. Using examples from at least two countries, explain the role of social movements in strengthening (or weakening) democratic institutions.
9. Using the examples of at least two countries, evaluate the effects of neo-liberal economic policies on employment, social exclusion, and trade unions.
10. Explain how it has come about that Colombia has been in almost uninterrupted civil war since 1952.
11. Using examples from at least two countries, explain the consequences of Land Reform and whether new approaches are now required to reduce inequality and poverty in agriculture.
12. Assess the record of international co-operation between American states to control production of and international trade in illegal drugs.
13. In Latin America, Indians and people of African descent tend to be in low and very low-income groups. What are the theoretical and practical arguments for encouraging ethnic self-affirmation as a path to improving their condition?
14. Has democratization contributed to an increase in political corruption?
15. What evidence does Latin America provide for the claim that women are empowered as heads of single-parent families?
16. Does the election of Lula prove that left-wing leaders will only be elected if they move determinedly to the centre?

 

Int. 8: A specified subject in South Asian Studies - Sociology and politics of South Asia

1. 'Movements for regional separatism in India have served to strengthen rather than weaken the central power of the state since 1947.' Discuss.
2. Why has there been so much communal conflict in India since 1980?
3. Has religion acquired an increasing significance in the politics of Pakistan since 1971?
4. Was the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 the inevitable outcome of Bengali nationalist aspirations?
5. 'The Kashmir conflict has proved so long-lasting because the ruling elites in India and Pakistan have gained more than they have stood to lose from its continuance.' Discuss.
6. How far have the Government of India's reservation policies served the purposes for which they were designed?
7. 'Policies of economic liberalization in India have been far more cautious and limited than their advocates desired or their critics feared.' Discuss.
8. How and why has the influence of the military in the politics of Pakistan changed since 1947?
9. 'The states of South Asia have proved ineffective in their attempts to alleviate poverty.' Discuss. You may answer with reference to one or more countries.
10. 'The stimulus for the peace initiatives in Sri Lanka since 2002 has been provided by domestic, rather than international, pressures.' Discuss.
11. 'The consequences of the American campaign against the Taliban since September 11, 2001, has served to consolidate rather than undermine the power of the state in South Asia.' Discuss. You may answer with reference to one or more countries in the region.

 

Int. 9: An interdisciplinary subject IV - The political economy of capitalism

1. Are financial crises not only a normal but also an essential part of capitalism?
2. Analyse the prospects of success for the 'euro'.
3. Is social capital capital?
4. Evaluate the various proposals and programmes that have been either considered and/or implemented as solutions to Japan's protracted economic stagnation.
5. Why are transnational world currencies so difficult to establish and sustain?
6. How do markets work? Answer with reference to two or three different kinds of market.
7. Does capitalism need entrepreneurs?
8. Why do inflation and deflation occur?


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Cambridge University Reporter, 15 October 2003
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.