This course is a theory course. This means that you will read, hear, and think a lot about theories, and will not work on empirical analysis. Much time will be devoted to reading. The course will contribute to your ‘sociological capital’, your general education in the field of sociology. It is a stand-alone course in the sense that you do not need knowledge from previous courses, although having had a general introduction to sociology will be helpful. It is expected that the theoretical knowledge gained in this course will be useful in later courses.
The course is divided into five parts, the first four discussing the main sociological theoretical traditions: (1) functionalism, (2) conflict theory, (3) rational choice theory, and (4) symbolic interactionism. These four traditions are developed in the mid-twentieth century. The fifth part will focus on the theoretical developments since then. Each part consists of lectures and seminars. The lecture explains the basic assumptions and ideas of the tradition, gives some historical background, and discusses a few influential contemporary theories in this tradition in more detail. Next, there are seminars in which we discuss contemporary theories on a selected topic that can be placed in the particular tradition. In the seminars, students’ presentations are the most important element.
1. Introductory lecture: provides course information and gives overview of some important differences and similarities between the four theoretical traditions.
2. Lectures: at the start of each of the five parts, explain the basic assumptions and ideas of the tradition, give some historical background, and discus a few influential contemporary theories in this tradition in more detail.
3. Literature: specific chapters and articles.
4. Seminars: one for each tradition, with theories related to the tradition under study. Each seminar consists of a students’ group presentation about the required reading, followed by discussion. Assignments about the required text need to be handed in before the seminar
Note: Attendance at the seminars is compulsory. If, for pressing reasons, a student cannot attend the seminar, absence will be tolerated once. You need to hand in an extra assignment. Each subsequent absence will result in a 0.2 points deduction of the written exam grade.
Type of instructions
Lectures and seminars with student presentations
Type of exams
Written assignments, written exam with open questions and a group presentation (all 3 types of exams need to be completed in the same academic year)
- Inglis, D., An invitation to social theory (second edition), Polity Press, 2019.
- Sears, Alan & Cairns, James, A good book, in theory. Making sense through inquiry (Third edition), University of Toronto Press, 2015.
- Selection of chapters and articles - will be made available via Blackboard.
- Ritzer, George, Sociological Theory (international edition), McGraw Hill, 2013.