Welcome to Berkeley Sociology

Berkeley’s Sociology Department is known around the world for its excellence in research and teaching. Our faculty advance cutting edge research and teach in most sociological specialities. Our PhDs are leaders in universities and research centers across the US and in many other countries. And our BAs populate the ranks of innumerable professions, bringing with them the skills and special perspective of Berkeley sociology. 

We are proud to make these contributions from the world’s leading public university. At Berkeley, we combine intellectual rigor with a commitment to public service through our research, teaching, and service on campus and beyond. 

For the past six decades, Berkeley’s Sociology Department has consistently been ranked among the world’s top sociology departments. Our graduate program is ranked #1 in the latest U.S. News and World Report, and our undergrad degree is currently the best in the US according to College Factual and features on Grad Reports’ Best College List 2020.

Faculty Spotlight
Cybelle Fox
Race and Ethnic Relations, American Welfare State, Immigration, Historical Sociology, and Political Sociology.
Danya Lagos
Assistant Professor
Sex and Gender, Demography, Survey Methods, Health, Social Change, Embodiment
Dylan John Riley
Political Sociology, Comparative Historical Sociology and Social Theory
In Memoriam
Albert Einstein (1941)
Albert Einstein (1941)

Prof. Einstein served graduate students as a model of prudence in remaining unfashionably true to the grand…

Faculty Publishing
Teach-In Seminar
[homepage] colloquium

Departmental Colloquium Series

Michael Mann, "Is war rational? Evidence through the ages"

Monday, March 8, 2-3:30pm via Zoom

My current research project analyzes wars through the ages: in the Roman Republic, the histories of China, Japan and Europe, the post-colonial history of Latin America, recent wars in the Middle East, and wars fought by the United States. I focus here on decisions to make war. Though the weapons and organization of war have changed enormously through time, decision-making processes have not. In virtually all cases, the decisions were/are made by very small groups of rulers, sometimes by one person, not by the mass or the representatives of the people. I ask whether wars are rational, as the dominant Realist school in Political Science theory asserts. Rationality can be of means – carefully-considered, calculative decision-making – or ends – whether the goal of war was likely to be attained. I conclude that though some wars can be considered rational in one or both of these senses, these cases were predominantly imperial wars of aggression launched by a much stronger power against a weaker one – and in these cases it is less clear why the weaker power fights. But most war decisions are influenced by rulers’ characters, emotions, ideologies, domestic politics, and the negative side of Durkheimian solidarity (the inability to appreciate the motivations and capabilities of the alien), and because militarism becomes baked into the culture and institutions of states having had past victories. I give examples of irrational war-making, like the post-1945 wars of the United States, but will also point to general tendencies -- most rulers who initiate wars lose them, and the vast majority of states in history have disappeared through war. Irrationality rules!