George E. McCarthy became National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor of Sociology in 2000. He has been a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Research Fellow at the University of Frankfurt and the Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt am Main, a guest research professor at the Geschwister-Scholl-Institut für Politikwissenschaft at the University of Munich, a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow in philosophy and sociology at the University of Kassel, Germany, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow.

McCarthy's courses focus on ethics, social justice, political and social theory, philosophy and sociology of science, German social thought, Greek philosophy and American political economy. His area of concentration is 19th- and 20th-century German social theory: Marx, Weber, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Gadamer, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Habermas. McCarthy has published ten books mainly in the area of German social theory and Continental Philosophy, three of which have been translated and published into Chinese or Japanese.

Please visit Professor McCarthy's personal/professional website for a full list of course offerings, recorded lectures and syllabi.


1979 — Doctor of Philosophy from New School for Social Research NY (Sociology)

1973 — Master of Arts from New School for Social Research NY (Sociology)

1972 — Doctor of Philosophy from Boston College (Philosophy)

1969 — Master of Arts from Boston College (Philosophy)

1968 — Bachelor of Arts from Manhattan College (Philosophy)

Courses Recently Taught

This introductory course for first-year students traces the development of modern social theory from the 17th to the 20th century. It begins by examining the fundamental social institutions and values that characterize modern society and the Enlightenment in the works of Descartes, Locke, Dickens, Weber and J.S. Mill: (1) rise of modern state, political democracy and utilitarianism; (2) market economy, industrialization and economic liberalism; (3) new class system and capitalism; (4) modern personality (self) and individualism; and (5) principles of natural science, technological reason and positivism. The course then turns to the dreams and imagination of Romanticism in the 19th and 20th centuries with its critique of modernity in the works of Marx (socialism), Freud (psychoanalysis), Camus and Schopenhauer (existentialism) and Nietzsche (nihilism). We will outline the development of the distinctive principles and institutions of modernity in the following works: Dickens' "Hard Times," Marx's "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, " Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" and "Science as a Vocation," Locke's "Second Treatise of Government," Mill's "On Liberty," Descartes's "The Meditations Concerning First Philosophy," Freud's "Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria" and "Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis," Camus's "The Fall," Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation," and Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols." Students may take only one introductory-level course. This course is only open to first-year students. This counts toward the foundation requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

The first part of this course will examine the underlying philosophical and sociological foundations of modern science and rationality. It will begin by examining the differences between the ancient Greek and medieval views of physics, causality and organic nature, and the modern worldview of natural science in Galileo, Descartes and Newton. We will then turn to the debates within the philosophy of science (Burtt, Popper, Kuhn, Quine, Feyerabend and Rorty) and the sociology of science (Scheler, Ellul, Leiss, Marcuse and Habermas) about the nature of scientific inquiry and the social/political meaning of scientific discoveries. Does science investigate the essential reality of nature, or is it influenced by the wider social relations and practical activities of modern industrial life? Does science reflect the nature of reality or the nature of society? We will deal with the expanded rationalization of modern society: the application of science and technological rationality (efficiency, productivity and functionality) to economic, political and social institutions. We will examine the process of modernization and rationalization in science, labor, politics, the academy and ecology. Finally, we will discuss the debates within the environmental movement between the deep and social ecologists as to the nature and underlying causes of the environmental crisis. Readings will be from T. Kuhn, M. Berman, H. Braverman, E. A. Burtt, M. Horkheimer, C. Lasch, F. Capra and M. Bookchin. This counts toward the culture and identity requirement for the major and the culture, societies and environment requirement for the environmental studies major. Prerequisite: 100-level sociology course.

This course will examine the various theories of ethics and social justice from the ancient Hebrew tradition of Torah and the prophets, New Testament writers Luke and Matthew, and medieval natural law, to modern discussions about social, political and economic justice. We will explore how critical social theory has been applied within the political and economic context of modern industrial societies and how biblical and later religious teachings have been used as the basis for social ethics. Questions of justice, freedom, development, individualism and alienation will be major themes in this study of capitalism, Christianity and Marxism. Special emphasis will be on contemporary debates about the ethics of democratic capitalism from within both conservative theology and philosophy and radical liberation theology. Readings will be from the Bible, papal encyclicals, the American Catholic bishops’ letter on economics and social justice, Friedman, Wallis, Farmer, Novak, Baum, Miranda, Fromm, Pirsig, Schumacher and N. Wolf. This counts toward the culture and identity or institutions and change requirement for the major and also towards the law and society concentration. Prerequisite: 100-level sociology course or 100-level religious studies course or permission of instructor.

This course examines the development of classical social theory in the 19th and early 20th centuries. First, we will explore the philosophical and intellectual foundations of classical theory in the works of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant and Hegel. We will examine how social theory integrated modern philosophy, classical political science (law) and historical political economy in the formation of a new discipline. Distinguishing itself from the other social sciences as an ethical science, classical sociology, for the most part, rejected the Enlightenment view of positivism and natural science as the foundation for social science as it turned instead to German idealism and existentialism for guidance. It also rejected the Enlightenment view of liberal individualism and utilitarian economics, and in the process united the ancient ideals of ethics and politics (Aristotle) with the modern (neo-Kantian) concern for empirical and historical research. Next we will examine the classical analysis of the historical origins of Western society in the structures and culture of alienation (Marx), rationalization and disenchantment (Weber), and anomie and division of labor (Durkheim). At the methodological level, we will study the three different views of classical science: critical science and the dialectical method (Marx), interpretive science and the historical method of understanding and value relevance (Weber), and positivistic science and the explanatory method of naturalism and realism (Durkheim). This counts toward the theory requirement for the major. Prerequisite: SOCY 262 or permission of instructor.