STS.062J | Spring 2006 | Undergraduate

Drugs, Politics, and Culture


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Course Description

This class examines the relationship between a number of mind-altering substances and cultural processes. We look at the relationship between drugs and such phenomena as poverty, religion, technology, inter-generational conflict, colonialism, and global capitalism. We read about the physiological and psychological effects of these substances – ranging from alcohol to LSD, cocaine and ecstasy – and ask why different societies prohibit and sanction different drugs. We examine the use of mind-altering substances in a number of “traditional” societies, and follow the development of a global trade in such substances as sugar, coffee, tea, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana concurrent with the evolution of global capitalism. We look at the use of LSD as a mind-control substance by the CIA and as a mind-altering substance in the 1960’s counter-culture, and we look at the rise of Prozac® and Viagra® as popular, if controversial, pharmaceutical products in recent years. Finally, we evaluate America’s current drug laws.

Course Requirements

Students are required to write one short paper (6-7 pages) and one longer paper (10 pages). The second paper topic is chosen by the student in consultation with the professor or teaching assistant. There will also be two short quizzes. Class discussion is very important to the success of this course, so it is important to do the reading before class. Attendance at class is expected. There will be no final exam.


The final grade is calculated as follows:

First Paper 20%
Second Paper 30%
First Quiz 15%
Second Quiz 15%
Participation 20%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples