Sociological Theory Explored

Module code: SY2078

In this module you'll explore the various ways in which social theorists and sociologists have sought to understand the development and organisation of 'modern' Western society.

You'll begin this journey in the 17th century with the writings of early modern theorists Thomas Hobbes and John Locke on the relationship between 'human nature' and life in society. You'll then consider the analyses of social inequality that emerged during the great optimism of the 18th century through the works of Enlightenment thinkers Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft.

The final part of the module will turn to the founding generation of 'classical sociologists' of the 19th century: Karl Marx, Harriet Martineau, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Georg Simmel. These theorists each drew on the work of Enlightenment thinkers but developed strongly contrasting theories about modern society, its organisation, and its 'social ills'. Throughout the module you'll develop a critical perspective on these theorists, exploring the social and historical contexts of their work, the way in which they problematised society, their politics and the ideas they put forward for creating a better society.

Topics covered

  • Introducing Social Theory
  • Hobbes, Locke, Inequality and Human Nature
  • Rousseau, Inequality and the Social Contract
  • Adam Smith and the Pursuit of Self Interest
  • Early Theories of Gender Inequality
  • Marx on Human Nature
  • Marx on Class, Conflict and Social Change
  • Durkheim and Social Realism
  • Martineau on Women’s Inequality
  • Weber on Social Action and the Nature of Social Research
  • The Value of Classical Sociology Today
Back to top