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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2020/2021

General Sociology

Category 'Best Course for Career Development'
Category 'Best Course for Broadening Horizons and Diversity of Knowledge and Skills'
Category 'Best Course for New Knowledge and Skills'
Type: Compulsory course (Sociology and Social Informatics)
Area of studies: Sociology
When: 1 year, 1-4 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Maria Safonova, Nadezhda Sokolova
Language: English
ECTS credits: 11
Contact hours: 176

Course Syllabus


Genaral sociology is introductory course. It is organized as discussion of important social issues (inequality, poverty, migration, urban space, religion etc.) with theoretical lenses provided by social theory. The course is divided into four big blocks: (1) social inequality, (2) social institutions, (3) social processes and (4) theoretical perspectives. The logic of the course and its structure are defined by the variety of answers for the questions about the conditions of formation, maintaining and reconfiguration/ destruction of the samples of social organization, and about the possible ways to analyze these processes suggested by sociology. We start from the very basic elements of explanation of social action and then proceed to understanding the nature of causal explanations in social science.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • understand the complexity of social systems and gain ability of critical thinking on social issues in light of the key concepts underlying major sociological theories
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Ability to use sociological theory for development of sociological research design, be able to differentiate social actions and social behavior, explain social actions through social mechanisms, understand the link between micro-actions and macro-outcomes, generate simple middle-range theories, develop academic skills in reading, writing, and presentation.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction. Social Facts.
    Objects of the sociological study: individuals, groups, communities. Examples: marriage and family, health and illness, suicide. Social fact by Durkheim.
  • Poverty.
    Classical British studies of poverty and laborites. Debates on minimal wages. Living wage. Absolute and relative poverty. Culture of poverty. Deprivation.
  • City and Inequality.
    Ecological approach in the urban sociology. Natural selection, competition and symbiosis. Accommodation. Succession. Interstitial areas. Theory of city development by A.Burgess. Point maps.
  • Urban Institutions and Inequality
    Institutions and basic social needs. Thomas theorem. Definition of the situation. Community and its functions. Natural areal. Urban gangs. Ethnic segregation. Zoning.
  • Migration, ethnicity, inequality.
    Debates o race. Taxonomy of race traits. Processes of migration and integration. Old and new migration directions: south-north, east-west, south-south. Assimilation. Migrant niches. Ethnic entrepreneurship. Segmented assimilation.
  • Education and Inequality.
    Education as an institute reproducing social inequality. Parsons: schools as a sstem of allocation of the agents in the social space. Prescribed statuses and the level of autonomy as entry parameters. Prescribed statuses at school. Main conclusions of the Coleman report. Bernstein’s language codes. Hidden curriculum.
  • Social stratification. Class and status.
    Concept of status by M.Weber. Class, status, power. Economical, social, and political dimensions of the inequality. Status group. Status sealing. Mechanisms of conversion of status, class, and political participation. Status and employment. Prestige of employment.
  • Social stratification. Forms of capital.
    Concept of status by K. Marx. Class scheme by P. Bourdieu. Taste. Legitimate art. Cultural capital: incorporated, institutionalized, objectified. Economic capital. Social capital.
  • Social stratification. Reputational approach.
    Class scheme by W.L. Warner. Reputational method. Evocative symbols. Symbols of political conflict. Symbols of high and low statuses. Sacred and profane symbols.
  • Inequality and Social Mobility.
    P. Sorokin: theses on the properties of social mobility, and channels of vertical circulation. Intergenerational and intergenerational mobility. Mobility and the transformation of job market. Comparative studies of mobility in western societies.
  • Elites.
    Classics on elites: circulation of elites by Pareto, ruling class by Mosca, iron law oligarchy Michels. The ruling elite by Mills: political, economic, military faction. Approaches to the definition of elites: positional and reputational. Vertical and horizontal integration of the elite. Mechanisms of sealing of the elite.
  • Inequality and gender.
    Sex and gender. Biology and social constructivism. Historical transformations of gender. Patriarchate. Women's movements. Positions in social institutions. Chances in labor markets.
  • Inequality and consumption.
    Manufacturing goods and consumer goods. Fordism and Fordist revolution. Conspicuous consumption. Prestigious consumption. "Lifetime" of a good and fashion cycles. McDonaldization.
  • Family and marriage.
    Variations of the forms of marriage and family. Family structure. Functions of family and marriage. Reproductive and emotive functions. Family and community. Conflicts in the family. Family and life chances.
  • State and political institutions.
    The concept of the state. State models and debates about the uniqueness of empirical cases. The concept of power. Formal types of dominance. State and economy. National States.
  • Total and disciplinary institutions.
    Carter organizations. M. Foucault and the concept of disciplines. Disciplinary functions of space and time. Total institutions. Exception in social obligations. Disculturation and acculturation. Secondary devices.
  • Medical institutions and health.
    Social causes and social consequences of the disease. Institutes of medicine and sociology of professions. Social behavior of health workers. Health Policy. Contribution of structural functionalists and the Second Chicago school.
  • School systems.
    Structures of educational systems and their rootedness in national economic and political systems. Similarities and differences of educational systems. Sponsorship and competition systems. Institutional stratification within a single system. Tracking systems. Systems of developed and developing countries.
  • Religion.
    Classic sociology of religion: M. Weber and E. Durkheim. Economic ethics of world religions. Religious ideas and daily practice. Otherworldly and worldly religions. Religious ritual as a means of integration. Modern trends in the study of religions.
  • Universities and higher education.
    Historical development of organizational forms of universities. British, French, German and American systems. Players in the field of higher education. Stakeholders at the university. Interest groups and the strength of the voices of individual groups. Economics of higher education. Academic and student cultures.
  • Art and cultural production.
    Historical sociology of art. Functions of objects of art as symbols of class status and an ideological tool. Institutes of art production: guilds and workshops, academies and salons, public museums. State support of art and cultural entrepreneurship
  • Cultural industries and fashion.
    Dichotomy high (elite) art vs. mass art. Hollywood as an industry for the production of mass cultural product. Classification systems of art and class ideology. Art and tools of exclusion and exploitation. Culturistic industry techniques: plot simplification, sequels, production chains, stars, etc. Fashion cycle
  • Mass Media.
    Sociology of news production. Political economy of the news industry. The social organization of news production: the sociology of organizations and the study of occupations. The norms of the journalistic profession. News typologies: routine news vs. scandal. Creators and promoters of news.
  • Socialization.
    The concepts of socialization and re-socialization. Institutions of socialization: family, school, organizations, professional associations, peer groups, subcultures. Functionalist (learning roles), interactionist (forming an I-concept) and critical (the role of power and inequality) perspectives.
  • Civilization.
    Civilization process. Man of the early middle ages. Regulation of affects. Higher classes, the situation of rivalry and regulation of behavior. Books about etiquette as a research material. Court society. Monopoly on violence, increasing chains of interdependence between people, and their consequences. Reorganization of relationships and personality structure.
  • Transformations of sexuality.
    Essentialist and constructivist approaches to the study of sexuality. Historical sociology of sexuality. Sexuality and religion. Sexuality and legislation. Methods for the study of sexuality. Sexuality, femininity and masculinity. Homosexuality
  • Revolutions and social movements.
    Archival historical works. Works in anthropological style (observation; case-study). Analysis of quantitative data. Natural-historical and functionalist approaches to the study of revolutions. The role of the state. Agents that produce revolution. The consequences of revolutions.
  • Urbanization.
    Wirth: Urbanism as a way of life. Heterogeneity. Density. Fragmentation. Differentiation and specialization. Tolerance. Neo-Marxists: conflicts and transformations in the city. Stages of urbanization. Metropolisation. Conurbations Suburbanization. Genrification.
  • Migration and integration.
    Migration patterns. Opportunities and limitations for migrants. Negative and positive consequences of migration for the host society. Push-pull theory. Theory of migration systems. Theory of the migration network. Cumulative effects of migration. Institutes of migration.
  • Structural functionalism.
    The concepts of the system and functions. Biological metaphor. The main ideas of T. Parsons and R. Merton. AGIL scheme. Integration, adaptation, achievement of goals and activation of cultural samples. Functions of stratification, school, media, religion, rituals, etc.
  • Symbolic interactionism.
    Face-to-face interactions as observation units. Microanalysis. Forms of concealment, lies, self-styling, hoax, manipulation of "facades". Sincere and cynical performance. Scene and backstage. Work on the face. Rituals of interaction.
  • Ethnomethodology.
    Social order as a central issue. How to make everyday scenes noticeable: ethnomethodological experiment. The study of the moral law "outside of us" as a technical problem. Background expectations. Properties of ordinary discourse. Daily management. Striving to normalize inconsistencies. Daily achievement of desired social status. Agnes case and status transition situations. Forced nature of social categories.
  • Social networks.
    History of network analysis. The contribution of social psychologists and anthropologists. Linkages between agents as a unit of analysis. Multilevel network analysis. The close world of Milgram. Multiplex. Homophily. Political, sexual, artistic and other networks.
  • Conflict theory.
    Power as a property of social relations. Definition of power as an addiction. Balanced and unbalanced power relations. Imbalance as a source of tension. Influence. Legitimacy. Dominance. Authority. Status. Reinforcement. Saturation. Experience and cost calculation.
  • Social capital.
    Definitions of Coleman, Bourdieu, Portes. Sources of social capital: limited solidarity and secured trust. The political consequences of a social capital deficit: Bowling Alone.
  • Group.
    R. Merton's definition: interaction, identity, identification. Primary and secondary groups. Dynamic processes in the group: pressure, conformism, the allocation of roles. Group structure. Group functions.
  • Organization.
    Bureaucracy. Features of idealotypical bureaucracy and its advantages. Disadvantages, "pathology" and "deviations" of the bureaucracy from the ideal type. The functions of the rules in the organization. Rational and irrational conflict in organizations. Alternatives to bureaucracies.
  • Social action.
    Interpretative theory of social action. Rational-purposeful, value-rational, traditional and affective action. The functionalist theory of social action. Utilitarian theory of social action. Cognitive theory of social action.
  • Institution.
    Definitions: an institution as a set of rules and as stable relationship patterns. Types of institutions. Formal and informal institutions. Economic, political and other institutions. The effects of institutions. Mechanisms of institutional change.
  • Status.
    The two basic meanings of the term "status." Status transitions. Status group. Attributed and achieved statuses. Theory of status expectations / characteristics. Status crystallization, status consistency and inconsistency. Characteristics of status transitions (Glazer and Strauss). Agents controlling status transitions: gatekeepers and guides.
  • Role.
    The term “role” in structural-functionalist, interactionist and unifying (Turner) perspectives. Role and status. Role set. Role conflict. Role tension. "Creating a role".
  • Norms.
    Definition by G. Homans: binding, conditionality, reference to behavior, agents. Separability of norms. Behavioral regularity. Sanctioning. Norms vs. laws. Measurement of norms.
  • Values.
    The components of the concept of "value": a valuable object, judgment, carriers of value. Normalization of values. System of values. Consistency and inconsistency in the value system. Acquisition and maintenance of values. Empirical fixation of values.
  • Identity.
    Social identity as role identity. Situational identity. Personal identity. Collective identity. Identity crisis. Work on identity.
  • Trust.
    Simplification of cooperation. Reducing control and authorization costs. Generalized trust. Trusting relationship. The reliability of a communication partner. Vulnerability of the trustor. Sealing of relationship. Secure trust. Bridging and bonding social capital.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Project paper grade
    Project paper grade is 0,08 of 1-2 module grade and 0,15 of 3-4 module grade
  • non-blocking Final exam 1st year (4 module)
    Exam is organized as written test with open-ended questions.
  • non-blocking Intermediary written exam (2nd module)
    Students are expected to sit up an intermediary written exam (2nd module) with open questions on the topics covered by the course
  • non-blocking Classroom discussion
    Classroom discussion grade is 0,08 of 1-2 module grade and 0,1 of 3-4module grade
  • non-blocking Test grade
    Test grade is 0,4 of 1-2 module grade and 0,5 of 3-4 module grade. Individual knowledge is assessed through regular tests with open questions. Students are expected to sit up 3 tests in 1-2 modules & 3 tests in 3-4 modules.
  • non-blocking Collective presentation grade
    Collective presentation grade is 0,2 of 1-2 module grade & 0,25 of 3-4 module grade. To successfully participate in seminars students are expected to present group project during a class (10-12 minutes presentation).
  • non-blocking 3-4 module grade
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.08 * Classroom discussion + 0.2 * Collective presentation grade + 0.2 * Intermediary written exam (2nd module) + 0.12 * Project paper grade + 0.4 * Test grade
  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.4 * 3-4 module grade + 0.2 * Final exam 1st year (4 module) + 0.4 * Interim assessment (2 module)


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Abrutyn, S. (2016). Handbook of Contemporary Sociological Theory. Switzerland: Springer. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1251393
  • Rousseau, N. (2014). Society Explained : An Introduction to Sociology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=752270

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Dillon, M. (2014). Introduction to Sociological Theory : Theorists, Concepts, and Their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century (Vol. Second edition). Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=667235
  • Manzo, G. (2014). Analytical Sociology : Actions and Networks. Hoboken: Wiley. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=714658
  • Sloman, S. A. (2005). Causal Models : How People Think About the World and Its Alternatives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=552942