Topics for Synthesis Paper


  1. Some people contend that Freire’s distinction between the oppressors and the oppressed offers a useful framework for both the understanding and challenging of systemic inequalities. Others, on the other hand, argue that that distinction is too crude. Discuss these contending viewpoints in relation to class materials and explain your perspective regarding the relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed.
2.There has been a recent retreat from commitment to economic equality in the U.S. in both theory and reality. Discuss and assess various concepts of equality, justifying your viewpoint. In your answer, address economic equality in relationship to public policy, race and gender equality, social movements, your political economic philosophy, and the economic system.
  1. ”As a white person, I realized I have been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage” (McIntosh in Anderson and Hill-Collins, 95). Develop a thesis about the relationship between racism and white privilege OR about dealing with white privilege in context of anti-racism
  2. Many of the readings address affirmative action. There has also been a strong movement against affirmative action resulting in initiative to overturn it in various places across the United States, including in Washington State. Based on the readings, analyze the social problems that affirmative action was designed to address, the political and philosophical perspective that justifies affirmative action, and the impact of affirmative action. In addition, examine why affirmative action has been under such attack and in conclusion describe what kind of affirmative action policy, if any, you favor.
  3. Zinn’s A people’s History of the United States calls the bluff of many myths that have been at heart of American society, culture and politics. Develop a thesis about the importance of a historical context to the understanding of trends in political economy, systemic inequalities grounded in race, class and gender differences and social movements struggles.
  4. Over the last 200 years there have been major changes in the organization of the U.S. economy. These have profoundly affected class, race and gender relations, urbanization, immigration and the culture as well as shaping the ideology and forms of resistance of diverse social movements. In your paper analyze some of the key political economic changes during one key periods, e.g., late 19th-early 20th century, 1930’s. In addition, discuss one important social movement in this period. 
  5. According to bell hooks, “we are told again and again by patriarchal mass media, by sexist leaders, that feminism is dead, that it no longer has meaning. In actuality, females and males of all ages, everywhere, continue to grapple with the issue of gender equality, continue to seek roles for themselves that will liberate rather than restrict and confine; and they continue to turn towards feminism for answers’ (p. 117). In principle, do you agree with this assertion? Based on class materials, what are some of the manifestations of gender inequalities in the contemporary US? Critically examine some of the responses of the women’s movement to these issues and the relevance of feminism as a framework for the struggle to undermine sexism and eradicate gender inequalities. 
  6. “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of the development of the material productive forces. The sum total of these relations constitute the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which rise a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. … The social formation brings therefore, the prehistory of human society to a close, (p. 4-5, Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader). Analyze the meaning of this lengthy quote, and assess its strengths and weaknesses in analyzing U.S. history based on your readings of Zinn, Feagin and Tax. Be as specific as possible. 
  7. Compare and contrast two social movements that were active during the same time period. As you examine the movements origins, constituency, strategy and vision for a just society, make sure to address the major trends in political economy characterizing that period. In this context, assess the movements’ achievements and the challenges they faced. 
  8. On p. 136 of Unleveled Playing Fields, the authors analyze various forms of race, gender and class oppression, differentiating between exploitation, exclusion and domination. How useful if this framework to the analysis of race, class and gender inequalities in the US?