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Institutions in American life: home, education, work and play






100% coursework






Elecitve Course

Institutions structure the lives of all Americans. While institutions can be thought of in terms of discreet organizations—Harvard University, the New York Stock Exchange, National Basketball Association, the Metropolitan Museum of Art—or even the buildings in which these organizations are housed, in the broader sense, institutions are the forms into which social activity is organized. Among the most fundamental institutions of this latter type are the family, school, business and leisure. Each of them is associated with values, beliefs and practices which, taken together, help to constitute American culture. The course will examine these and other types of institutions in order to understand the origins of the values, beliefs and practices which they embody. We will also study how these values, beliefs and practices may have been influenced by such factors as ethnicity, race, class, religion and geographic region, and how the institutions and the ideas they embody have persisted or changed over time. In the process, we will seek to identify common themes, and to consider how certain tensions—for example between individualism and community, democracy and excellence, service and profit—have shaped each of these institutions, and through them, American society. Finally, we will consider the extension of these institutions, and their values and practices, beyond the United States, asking how American ideas about home, school, work and play have impacted and interacted with other cultures, including Asian.


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