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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2020/2021

Sociological Theory

Type: Compulsory course (Sociology)
Area of studies: Sociology
Delivered by: School of Sociology
When: 2 year, 1, 2 module
Mode of studies: Full time
Language: English
ECTS credits: 6

Course Syllabus


Sociological theory is a six modules course for the 1st and 2d years BA students of honors group. Throughout the first module, students deal with questions relating to the nature of sociology; the methodology and methods which sociologists use. The classical foundations of sociological theory, beginning with the works of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, are discussed and followed by those sociologists of the 20th century who had an effect on how we think about and do sociology. The course is taught in English.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • This course helps students to be critical of the information they receive and encourages them to think logically and consistently. By the end of the unit students will have gained knowledge and learnt some important skills:
  • This course helps students to be critical of the information they receive and encourages them to think logically and consistently. By the end of the unit students will have gained knowledge and learnt some important skills: to be critical of any data and theories that they read or hear about and, of course, to be critical of their own work
  • to be creative and able to link ideas from this unit and the other disciplines they are studying to create new ways of thinking about social phenomena
  • to be challenged. This is not an easy subject and it requires students to think deeply about the materials and be able to deal with more than one way of thinking about the social world.  to be co-operative and share ideas and materials. It is a good idea to study with other students and friends, and to discuss ideas with them. This is an important skill for the world of work where people are often required to work in teams.
  • to be co-operative and share ideas and materials. It is a good idea to study with other students and friends, and to discuss ideas with them. This is an important skill for the world of work where people are often required to work in teams.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • ability to apply sociological concepts and theories to analyse social phenomena of contemporary society
  • to demonstrate ability to apply sociological concepts and theories to analyse social phenomena of contemporary society
  • to demonstrate ability to interpret the main issues of contemporary society from the sociological point of view
  • to demonstrate ability to read and understand sociological literature
  • to demonstrate ability to participate in sociological discussions
  • to demonstrate ability to write argumentative essays
  • to be creative and able to link ideas from this unit and the other disciplines they are studying to create new ways of thinking about social phenomena
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Part VI. Globalisation and social change
    Lecture 34. Anatomy of Globalization. Main contemporary discussions on approaches to globalization. Globalization and modernization as sociological paradigms. Main concepts of globalization: a) global-local, b) cultural hybrids, c) the nation-state problem, d) primordial phenomena, e) civil society d) new type of rationality and rationalization. Three modern perspectives on globalization (David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton) - hyperglobalists, skeptics and transformationalists views. Anatomy of Globalization. Diverse interpretations of globalization Types of the globalization theories. a) globalization as a linear process (modernization), b) the "world-system" approach (E.Wallerstein), c) the world culture model (M, Archer, M. Featherstone, R.Robertson), d) the global community theory (A.Giddens), e) the global system model, f) the theory of "Knowledge Societies" (N.Stehr). Diverse effects of globalization in terms of culture (Benjamin Barber, Leslie Sklair, Anthony D. Smith, Samuel Huntington, Amartya Sen, Stuart Hall). Lecture 35. Theory of Americanization Globalization, McDonalization and Americanization. George Ritzer's model of McDonaldization. The origins of the McDonaldization metasociological analysis. "Ideal type" (M.Waber). "Rationalization" and "dehumanization" (K.Mannheim). Five basic principles of George Ritzer's theory and its applicability in Russia. The model of the new labor process. Jobs as a series of simple tasks. Simplification of tasks (emphasis on the quantity of time a task should take). Maximized predictability of the work. Workers as human robots. Irrationality of work and dehumanization of workers. University education in an Americanized society. New trends in the model of today's higher education: a) supplementary (not essential) character of the university education for students' life, b) simplification of the "consumption" of knowledge, c) the concept of "useful knowledge" (knowledge for what?), d) commercialization of the state and private schools, e) quality of education as a "value meal" (Ritzer). New facets of campus: distant education and virtualization of a class. Lecture 34. New Means of Consumption. Perspectives on Contemporary Tourism The 21st century society as a consumer society. The post-modern dimensions of consumerism and its Americanized facets (fast-food restaurants, credit cards, shopping malls, TV shopping networks, catalogues, casinos). Baudrillard's notion of the "consumption ecstasy" and "ecstasy system". Carnivalization and the concept of "fun". Tourism as an indication of a dramatic cultural change. The "variation control", or the cultural model of contemporary tourism: a) highly predictable variations, b) highly efficient variations, c) highly calculable variations, d) highly controlled variations. The concept of "post-tourism" (Feifer). The "Kodak Syndrome" (Pokrovsky) and the new means of cultural possessions. The Disney Land structures of cultural consumption. Tourism in the context of simulacra and hyper-reality. The Globalization Scenario for Russia? Globalization matrix in the Russian society today. Entering the world community: price and effect. Russia as a probing terrain for the post-modern culture. Hyper-consequences of Americanization in Russia: traditional cultural values in review. Social change in the traditional societies: inevitability without fatalism. Cultural losses, cultural conservationism, cultural optimism—revised.
  • Part V. Power in Society
    Lecture 27. Introduction: power, modernity and sociology Different understandings of this concept. Power as coercion, domination, and influence. The problem of ‘power’. Lecture 28. Marxist approach to power Humanist versus structuralist (or ‘scientific’) Marxism. Two models of the State. Theorising of transition theory (Lenin, radical democracy). Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. The role of intellectuals. The distinction between ideologies and ideology (Althusser). Lecture 29. Weber: power, stratification and domination Power versus domination. Legitimacy. Three types of authority. Bureaucracy. Weber’s definition of the State, sovereignty. Lecture 30. The power of elites The key ideas of classical elitist theories: Mosca, Pareto, Michels. Neo-elitist theory of C.Wright Mills. Elite, social forces, ‘Classe politica’, recruitment strategies, ‘political formula’, meritocratic regime, psychological predispositions (“residuals”), the sentiment of combination, the sentiment of persistence, expert leadership, iron law of oligarchy. Lecture 31. The pluralist model of power and its critics One, two and three dimensional view of power (Lukes). Power and competing epistemologies. Pluralism, overt conflict, lobbying, pressure groups, covert conflict, agenda setting, non-decisions, latent conflict, ideology, real and ideologically reconstructed interests, positivism, conventionalism, critical realism, ‘contrafactual’. The problem of ‘real interests’. Lecture 32. Power to and power over Parsons’s conception of power as ‘power to’. Social Power, Power as a social resource, conflict and consensus approaches to power (power over versus power to, zero sum versus variable sum concept of power), legitimacy, coercion, power, collective goals, functional/dysfunctional power, ‘institutionalisation of authority’, short-term sectional interests. Lecture 33. Foucault view on power Modernist vs. non-modernist perspectives on power. Foucault’s concept of power. Disciplinary power vs. Sovereign power. Panopticon. The social constitution of actors . Foucault’s concept of discourse. Knowledge as a form of power.
  • Part IV. Sociological theories – 3
    Lecture 20. Symbolic interactionism (G.H.Mead, H.Blumer) and sociology of everyday life (I.Goffman) Microsociology. Social interactionism, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology. Philosophy of pragmatism. Symbolic interaction. Thomas Theorem. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Taking the role of the other. ‘Generalized other’, ‘significant others’, “I and me’. The self as a process. Plays and games. Meanings, symbols and signification. Language and gestures. ‘Unit of existence’, the principle of ‘sociality’. Human agency. Theory of identity formation. Role-making. Social Order as Negotiated Order. Social institutions as emergent forms. Lecture 21. Sociology of everyday life (I.Goffman) The self, theory of identity, dramaturgical approach, social roles, role performance, performance pressure, definition of the situation, interaction rituals, impression management, labelling and stigma, total institutions, front stage, back stage, and off stage, framing and frame analysis, society as a ritualized social interaction. Lecture 22. The Social Construction of Reality (P.Berger, Th.Luckmann) Duality of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ reality, ‘successive definitions of the situation’, habitualisation, institutionalization, common sense knowledge as a central focus for the sociology of knowledge, typification, roles as typification of forms of action, objectivation, signification, legitimization, homo sapiens as homo socius, humanly produced objectivity, reification of social reality. Lecture 23. Phenomenological Sociology (A.Schutz) Alfred Schütz as a founder of Phenomenological Sociology. Phenomenology and sociology. ‘Life world’, its characteristics. Intersubjectivity. Phenomenological ‘Sociology of Knowledge’. Objective and subjective reality. Lecture 24. Ethnomethodology (G.Garfinkel) Bridging the gap between “professional sociologist” and “the average man”. Phenomenological basis of Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology. Concepts of “ethnomethods” and related concepts of “ethno-science”, “ethno-knowledge”. The essence of ethnomethodology, its main interests and themes. Empirical orientation of ethnomethodology. Bracketing, ‘breaching experiments’, typification. Lecture 25. Frankfurt School of Neo-Marxism (Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno) Reification, instrumental reason, domination, false needs, critical versus traditional theory, praxis, 'dialectics of liberation', ‘technocratic thinking’ versus ‘reason’, 'negative thinking', 'one-dimensional man'.  Lecture 26. Postmodernity and Sociology Modernity versus postmodernity. Information Society. Knowledge class. Consumerism. Postmodern sociological theory. The Enlightenment as Modern Project. The reconstruction of the image of natural sciences in postmodern theory. ‘Grand naratives’. Cultural analysis. Information society, consumerism, paradigms of knowledge, ‘grand narratives’, ‘postmodern condition’, commodification of knowledge, ‘anthropological illusion’, hyperreality, simulacrum.
  • Part IV. Sociological theories – 2
    Lecture 12. Sociology of G.Simmel - content and forms of social interaction Sociology as a method. The problem of sociology. Basic principles and the idea of forms. Dyads, triads, larger groups, society. Social differentiation, social groups, differentiation of the individual’s personality. The stranger – between closeness and distance. Metropolis. Blasé attitude. Objective and subjective culture. Lecture 13. Chicago School of Sociology.Study of urban communities (R.Park, E.Burgess, E.Hughes, L.Wirth) Institutional, intellectual and social contexts of the formation of the Chicago School of Sociology. The study “The Polish Peasant in Europe and America 1918-1920”. Qualitative methods in this study. A synthesis of different sociological traditions. Urban sociology. Robert Park’s “The City as Social Laboratory”. Urban community as a “spatial configuration” and “moral order”. Combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in urban studies. Ernest Burgess’ theory of the city “metabolism” and concentric model of the “city growth”. Urban community study in Harvey Zorbaugh “The Gold Coast and the Slum”. Sociology of L.Wirth. Connection between theory, empirical research and social practice. Theoretical and empirical contribution of L.Wirth into the urban sociology. A concept of “urbanism as a way of life”. Sociological definition of a city. Everett Hughes’ understanding of an “institute” and “collective behaviour”. E. Hughes’ “sociology of work” and “sociology of professions”. A concept of “career”. “Institutional position”, “status”. Concepts of “license” and “mandate”. Re-definition of the concept of “marginal man”. Lecture 14. ‘Integral sociology’ of P.Sorokin Russian and American periods in Sorokin’s work. System approach to social phenomena study. Economic, statistical and sociological analysis of social phenomena. The system of sociology. A theory of “cultural supersystems”. Social stratification, social mobility. Lecture 15. Functionalism and structuralism in British social anthropology (B. Malinowski, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown) Durkheim’s tradition in British social anthropology. Social anthropology and sociology. Malinowski's biological functionalism; theory of culture : needs - institutions - culture scheme. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown: Process of social life; concepts of social structure, structural form and social function. Critical review of the contributions of B. Malinowski, A.R. Radcliffe Brown, Evans-Pritchard. Linking theories with ethnographic fieldwork, holism and the idea of "non-western, non-capitalist, simple societies" Lecture 16. M.Mauss – The Gift A Theory of Gift Exchange.  The notion of gift. Exchange of goods under contractual obligations. Obligation to reciprocate. Kula, potlatch, gage (a pledge). Lecture 17. Structural functionalism: T.Parsons Social system, ‘functional prerequisites', conformity, social norms, status roles, social institutions, social action and social system, motivated compliance, AGIL scheme, moving equilibrium, pattern variables. Lecture 18. Structural functionalism: R.Merton ‘Middle range theories’, manifest and latent functions, intended and unintended outcomes, positively functional /dysfunctional / non-functional levels of society, strain theory, anomie theory. Lecture 19. Social Exchange Theory: George Homans, Peter Blau Exchange theory of George Homans. Critics of structural functionalism: a programme of “bringing the individual back in”. The image of a man as a Homo economicus. Study of human behaviour in small groups. “Integrative exchange theory” of Peter Blau. Re-definition of the main principles of exchange. Four steps of transition from micro- to macro level.
  • Part III. Sociological theories – 1
    Seminar 7. T.Hobbes - Authority and Social Order The problem of social order, state of nature, right of nature, law of nature liberty social contract, Leviathan. Lecture 8. Materialist and conflict approach to social process (Marx) Marx’s influences: Georg Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach. A Materialist Social Ontology. Historical Materialism.The Critique of Capitalism. Class as a Social Relation. The State and Politics, Alienation, Emancipation, Historical materialism, Structure (Base) and Superstructure, Social formation, Mode of production, Forces of production, Labour power, Exploitation, Surplus-value, False consciousness, Ideology. Lecture 9. ‘Sociologism’ as a way of thinking (Durkheim) Biological analogy. Explanation of reality. Scientific methodology. The relationship between the Individual and Society. Functionalist method of explanation. Three Studies of Social Solidarity. Sui generis, Anomie, Functionalism (Functional explanation), Social fact, Social solidarity, Social integration, Social regulation (Social control), Biological analogy, Homo duplex. Lecture 10. Social action and ‘verstehen’ approach in sociology (Weber) Action approach in sociology. Social action. Methodological individualism. Objectivity in social sciences. Ideal types. The relationship between religion and economy. The disenchantment of the world and the rationalisation of life. Elective affinity, Social action, rationalization, Iron cage of rationality, Ideal type, Disenchantment, Capitalism, Political capitalism, Rational capitalism, holism, methodological individualism, ‘verstehen’. Lecture 11. Sociology of F.Tönnies - Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft Ferdinand Tönnies. Formal sociology. Ideal types. Contrasting “community” (Gemeinschaft) with “society” (Gesellschaft). Pure and applied sociology. Empirical studies.
  • Part II. Asking and answering sociological questions
    Part II. Asking and answering sociological questions Lecture 2. Key principles of Sociological Research Key stages of the research process. Objective and subjective knowledge. Moving from subjective understanding to objectivity. Lecture 3 Research designs in Sociology What is a research design? Concepts and conceptual thinking. Operationalisation and indicators. Descriptive and explanatory research designs. Quantitative and Qualitative. Surveys: sampling, longitudinal approaches. Research example: Townsend on measuring poverty. Experimental and evaluative research: causality, independent and dependent variables. Natural experiments in sociological research. Rosenthal and Jacobson’s research. Experiments and ethics. Comparative research. Research examples: Durkheim on suicide rates. Social meanings and suicide (Douglas). The social organisation of suicide (Atkinson).Ethnography. ‘Verstehen’: to understand the world from the insider’s perspective. Research example: Taylor (1982) on suicidal behaviour. Lecture 4. Three epistemological approaches in sociology What is methodology? Epistemology. Positivism. Interpretivism. Realism. Lecture 5. Research Methods Primary and secondary data. Questionnaires. Interviews: structured and unstructured. Observations: structured and participant. Social statistics. Documents. Selection of methods. Research designs and research methods. Lecture 6. Ontological debates Origins of Sociology. The Enlightment. What is a theory? Ontological assumptions. Social problems, sociological problems, structure and action, conflict and consensus, materialism and idealism.
  • Part I. Sociological approach to studying human behavior
    Lecture 1. Sociology as a Perspective What is Sociology? In what respect sociology is different from other social disciplines? Is sociology a science or a common sense? The basic insights. Sociological imagination (C.Wright Mills). Sociology as a Science. The social sciences. Professional ethic in sociology. First sociologists: Auguste Comte and Herbert Spenser. What are sociological problems? How the order of social life is possible? How do societies change? How are our lives as individuals shaped by the societies in which we live?
  • Part VII Contemporary sociological theories -1
    Lecture 35. Class and social stratification Social stratification, social strata, class, ‘ascribed’ and ‘achieved’ characteristics, social status, ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ dimensions of class (Bourdieu), relational and descriptive forms of class divisions, Goldthorpe schema, the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), the global dimensions of class in relation to production and consumption. Marx (class, mode of production, exploitation), Weber (class, status, party), Wright (authority and expertise, contradictory locations within class relations), Pakulski,&Waters (death of class and classless inequality), Savage. Lecture 36. Gender and sexuality Sex and gender, gender essentialism and biological determinism, gender socialization theory versus gender as a wholly socially constructed phenomenon, gender roles, gender inequality and the history of feminisms, gender in a global context, sexuality, heterosexuality versus homosexuality, medicalised homosexuality, heteronormativity, theoretical perspectives in sociology towards sexuality (structural functionalism, critical theory, symbolic interactionism, queer theory), Foucault (discourse; bio-power), human trafficking, femininity and masculinity, ‘hegemonic masculinity’, gender order, gender regime, gender crisis, gender role strain. Lecture 37. Race and ethnicity Sociological definitions of race and ethnicity, racial discrimination historically and in the contemporary global world, racialisation; racial profiling, racial inequality, racial segregation, racially charged, racial discrimination, racial justice, old (biological) racism and new (cultural) racism, multiple racisms and institutional racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, scapegoating, group closure; ‘raceless society’ versus ‘post-racial society’, ‘critical race theory’, differential racialization, migration, ‘new ethnicities’ and situational identity, ethnic inequality, globalisation of ethnicity, push factors’ and some ‘pull factors’ models, ethnic conflict, assimilation and integration, ethnicity and health, global differences in health, ‘mobilities research’.
  • Part VII Contemporary sociological theories -2
    Lecture 38. Crime and deviance Deviance, (juvenile) delinquency, crime, equilibrium of deviance, sanctions, positive (incentives) or negative (penalties), criminology, nonconformity, anomie, deviant subcultures, labelling theory, master primary (secondary) deviance, status, criminal careers, ‘paradox of social control’, deviancy amplification, organised crime, piracy, restorative justice, role of prisons. Lecture 39. Religion Conceptual definitions of religion (inclusive, exclusive definitions and ‘definitions in use’), profane and sacred, secularisation thesis, measurements of secularization, the ‘time of the tribes’, global landscape of religion, religious forms (churches, sects, denominations and cults, religious movements), world-affirming, world-rejecting and world-accommodating religious movements, fundamentalism, ‘clash of civilisations’, jihadism. Lecture 40. Health and medicine Health and illness, biomedical model of health, the sick role (Parsons), ‘badness’ versus ‘sickness’, total institutions, 'clinical gaze', 'biomedical discourse', public health policy, medicalisation, bioengineering, ‘biological underclass’, iatrogenesis, impairment and disability, individual model of disability, stigma. Lecture 41. The life course Social and biological aspects of the life course, life cycle versus life course (the life course as a social process), longitudinal approach intersectionality, birth cohorts versus generations, generational identity, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation (Millennials), stages of the life course: childhood, adulthood and older age, age roles, social construction of age phases , nature of childhood, teenage and youth culture, peer groups, social gerontology, social age, sociology of death and dying, ageing, ‘strangers in time’, the metaphor of three separate ‘clocks’, functionalist disengagement theory, age stratification theory and the life-course model, political economy theory, ageism, Demographic Transition Model (DTM). Lecture 42. Media Media, different sorts of media, digital revolution, ‘medium is the message’, new media, digital inequality, big data analytics, cybercrime, sociological approaches to mass media – Functionalism, Critical theory, Interactionism, Post Modernism.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking weekly essays and class participatioon
  • blocking Winter exam
  • blocking Summer exam
  • non-blocking essay for grading
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.3 * essay for grading + 0.2 * weekly essays and class participatioon + 0.5 * Winter exam
  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.3 * essay for grading + 0.5 * Summer exam + 0.2 * weekly essays and class participatioon


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Bauman, Z. and May, T. Thinking Sociologically, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2001. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1811104
  • Cuff, E.C., et al. Perspectives in Sociology, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=273809
  • Dillon, M. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) first edition. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1566387
  • Ferguson, Harvie. Phenomenological Sociology : Experience and Insight in Modern Society, SAGE Publications, 2006. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=334489.
  • Lee, David, and Howard Newby. The Problem of Sociology, Routledge, 1983. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=243333.
  • Lin, Jan. The Urban Sociology Reader, edited by Christopher Mele, and Jan van Lin, Routledge, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1075388.
  • Ritzer, George, and Paul Dean. Globalization : A Basic Text, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1865614.
  • Schneider, M. A. The Theory Primer : A Sociological Guide, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1343714
  • Scott, John. Social Theory : Central Issues in Sociology, SAGE Publications, 2005. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=354958
  • Segre, Sandro. Contemporary Sociological Thinkers and Theories, Routledge, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=1808762.

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Amenta, E., et al. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Political Sociology, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2012. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=865177
  • Johnson, D. P. Contemporary Sociological Theory: An Integrated Multi-Level Approach, Springer New York 2008
  • Sociology : a global introduction, Macionis J. J., Plummer K., 2005
  • Turner, Bryan S. Classical Sociology, SAGE Publications, 1999. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hselibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=343954