Critical Social Studies


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The critical social studies program involves us in a common project of studying, criticizing, and making theory, engaging faculty and students in increasingly demanding theoretical dialogues with three aims: First, to reflect on the "common sense" assumptions, practices, and identities that inform everyday life; to reflect on the practices, assumptions, and representations that constitute the common sense of academic disciplines; and to reflect on the consequences and implications of these. Second, to deal critically and historically, in social, political, and economic context, with those "common sense" attitudes that constitute everyday and academic life. Third, to encourage reflection on the personal, practical, and policy implications of such critical activity, that is, to consider what might be done for public policy and for social action, and its sought and unsought personal consequences.

The critical social studies program offers an interdisciplinary major (B.A.) and minor.


If you'd like to view a full listing of our course options in critical social studies or any other subject, please visit the Online Course Catalogue.

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Requirements for the Major (B.A.)

interdisciplinary, 11 courses

BIDS 200, four intermediate and six advanced-level courses from the critical social studies electives chosen in consultation with the adviser to form a coherent program. Of the 10 elective courses, no more than four may be in one department and no more than seven in one division.

Requirements for the Minor

interdisciplinary, 6 courses

BIDS 200, two intermediate level and three advanced level electives chosen in consultation with the adviser to form a coherent program. No more than three courses may be from any one department or division.


Our students choose from a variety of introductory and advanced courses, each designed to provide students with strong critical thinking and analytical skills.

Below you'll find a sampling of some our most popular courses, as well as suggestions for making critical social studies a part of your larger interdisciplinary experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

BIDS 200 Introductory Dialogues in Critical Social Studies


Investigate ways in which hegemonic "common sense(s)" are constructed and changed, both in society and the academy, and the purposes they serve. Also, heighten your awareness of personal, practical, and policy implications of social theory. Then, try SOC 222 Social Change and the Individual to explore what drives change in the ways individuals live their lives.

WMST 300 Feminist Theory


Look at several elements of feminist theorizing and their histories. Become critically engaged in the underlying assumptions and stakes of a range of theories, and become more aware of your own assumptions. Delve deeper into this topic by enrolling in POL 375 Feminist Legal Theory.

ECON 232 U.S. Economy: A Critical Analysis


Learn how changing patterns of growth and stagnation in economic activity are analyzed using the concept of social structures of accumulation: the combination of economic, political, and social factors that serve to speed up or slow down capital accumulation. Next, take a deeper look at the theory and policy of work in ANTH 271 Jobs, Power and Capital.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.