Soci 124: The Good Society (2018)

University of California, San Diego
Spring 2017-18
W 12:00-2:50, SSB 101

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours: W 9-11, SSB 472


What institutions and policies are conducive to liberty, democracy, prosperity, economic security, opportunity, community, health, happiness, and other desirable features of a modern society? To what extent are there tradeoffs? This course aims to answer these questions by examining the history and performance of key policies and institutions in the United States and other affluent nations.


There are three books you’ll need to purchase from the UC San Diego bookstore or another bookseller or access via the library:

  • Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Viking, 2018
  • Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper, Simon and Schuster, 2016
  • Anu Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, HarperCollins, 2016

A fourth book is available via the course TritonEd page.

  • Lane Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, forthcoming 2019

You’ll also need an iclicker, which you can purchase at the campus bookstore.


All readings are to be done before class.

April 4
Course introduction

  • Lane Kenworthy, “What Is a Good Society?,” The Good Society. LINK
  • Lane Kenworthy, “How Do We Know?,” The Good Society. LINK

April 11
Progress, part 1

  • Pinker, Enlightenment Now, chs. 1, 3-10.

April 18
Progress, part 2

  • Pinker, Enlightenment Now, chs. 11-18.

April 25
America’s successful past

  • Hacker and Pierson, American Amnesia, Introduction and chs. 2-5.

May 2
What went wrong?

  • Hacker and Pierson, American Amnesia, chs. 6-10.
  • Optional reading: Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, ch. 5.

May 9
Social democratic capitalism, part 1

  • Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, chs. 1-2.

Essay 1 due: Monday, May 14, 10:00am

May 16
Social democratic capitalism, part 2

  • Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything, chs. 1-3, 5, 9.

May 23

  • Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, ch. 6.

May 30

  • Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, chs. 3-4.

June 6
Is progress possible here?

  • Pinker, Enlightenment Now, ch. 20.
  • Hacker and Pierson, American Amnesia, Conclusion.
  • Kenworthy, Social Democratic Capitalism, ch. 8.

Essay 2 due: Friday, June 8, 5:00pm

Final exam day: Wednesday, June 13, 11:30-2:30. Book review due.


Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.

  • 25%: quizzes
  • 25%: essay 1
  • 25%: essay 2
  • 25%: book review

Each of these will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. So your numerical course grade is calculated as: (quizzes x .25) + (essay 1 grade x .25) + (essay 2 grade x .25) + (book review x .25).

Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:

  • 97 and above = A+
  • 93–96 = A
  • 90–92 = A–
  • 87–89 = B+
  • 83–86 = B
  • 80–82 = B–
  • 77–79 = C+
  • 73–76 = C
  • 70–72 = C–
  • 60–69 = D
  • below 60 = F

There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.


Each day in class, beginning April 18, you will take two short quizzes on the reading(s) for that day, one during the first 80 minutes of class and the other during the last 80 minutes. Each quiz will have five multiple choice or true/false questions. You will answer the questions using your iclicker. There will be 16 quizzes; only your highest 13 grades will count.

Quiz grading: If you answer at least four questions, you will get 50 points (even if you have no correct answers). You get ten additional points for each correct answer. So if you answer four or more questions, your grade is 60 with one correct answer, 70 with two correct answers, 80 with three, 90 with four, 100 with five.

You must register your iclicker with TritonEd. To do that, go to, log in, choose this course, and click on “Register iclicker” in the blue menu bar. If you get a new iclicker at any point during the quarter, register it immediately.

For technical support with iclicker registration and use, contact Educational Technology Services.

You can take a makeup if you have to miss a quiz for any of the following three reasons: (1) holidays or special events observed by organized religions (for students who show affiliation with that particular religion), (2) absences pre-approved by the UCSD Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee), (3) extended illness (this requires a doctor’s note). If you miss a quiz for one of these reasons, contact me no later than the day of the quiz to schedule a makeup. I will need written verification of the circumstances.

You cannot take a makeup if you miss a quiz for any other reason. This includes faulty iclicker registration, forgetting to bring your iclicker to class, stolen or lost iclicker, iclicker malfunction, dead iclicker battery, needing to arrive late to class or leave class early, oversleeping, minor illness, transportation problem, family or friend’s special occasion, family problems, family illness, needing to study for another course, etc.

Two pieces of advice regarding the quizzes: (1) Evidence is important, but don’t get overly bogged down in detail — exact numbers, precise dates, and so on. (2) Don’t overthink the quiz questions. Don’t assume I’m trying to trick you.


You will write two short essays. For each, pick one of the goals of a good society addressed in the course readings and propose a change in America’s policies or institutions that would increase the degree to which we achieve it. (Don’t use the same goal for both essays.)

Grading for each essay will be based on the following:

  • State the goal, current impediment(s), and your proposed solution.
  • Refer to relevant evidence. Opinion and logic are fine but insufficient.
  • Address potential objections to your position.
  • Write clearly.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation (“I,” “me,” and contractions are fine), and adhere to the following length, formatting, and citation instructions. Length: 1,500 words (excluding footnotes), plus or minus no more than 100 words. List your word count on the first page, along with your name and the date. Formatting: single-space, 11-point or 12-point font size, 1-inch top and bottom margins and 2-inch side margins. Sources and citations: Consult at least five sources of your choosing. Use footnotes (not a reference list or bibliography) to give credit to anyone from whom you borrow evidence or argument. The footnotes aren’t included in the word count. I’m not picky about the formatting of the footnotes, but include the author(s), title, and year rather than just an internet address.

If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UC San Diego Writing Hub.

Due dates are listed above. An essay turned in late but within 48 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). An essay turned in more than 48 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.

Upload your essay on TritonEd. Go to, log in, choose this course, and click on “Upload essays” in the left-side menu bar. Emailed or hard copy essays won’t be accepted.

Submit the essay in a word processing program format (MS Word, Google docs, Pages, etc.). Don’t submit it as a pdf document.

Don’t plagiarize. If you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the UC San Diego Library’s guide to preventing plagiarism.


Write a critical review of one of four course books. What is its conclusion? Are its argument and evidence convincing? Why or why not?

Write your review in an essay of 1,500 words (plus or minus no more than 100). Follow the guidelines for the essays listed above.

The book review is due at the final exam date and time, which are listed above. Upload it on TritonEd.


Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to UC San Diego policy on academic integrity.


Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). You must register and request that the OSD send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please meet with me to discuss accommodations and how the course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate.


Information here, other than the grade and attendance policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.