The Sociological Imagination

Module code: SY1004

Module co-ordinator: Dr Jane Pilcher

Please note that from 2016 this module will be combined with Social Change, Identity, and Behaviour to form a double module called 'Sociological Theory in Practice'.

From its origins in the birth of modernity, sociology has continued to be at the heart of debates about people’s experiences and opportunities in society. Its development as a discipline, its varied topics of study, and its multitude of theoretical perspectives make sociology a challenging and exciting subject to study.

This module will introduce you to sociological thinking. It begins with an account of the development of sociology in the context of modernity and the range of issues and themes this gave rise to, including inequality, the individual-society relationship, social change, and sociology as a 'science'. We will then consider aspects of the 'sociological imaginations' of three founding sociological thinkers: MarxDurkheim and Weber. A focus on sociological theory continues via a review of more recent approaches that draw on and further develop the sociological imaginations of the founding sociologists, including conflict theory, structural functionalism and ethnomethodology, and Giddens’ structuration theory.

Overall, then, this module examines theoretical and empirical work that enhances our understanding of sociological thinking, and of the personal and social uses of sociology as a discipline.

You will gain the necessary information to be able to reflect critically on the development and features of sociology as a distinctive discipline and to outline some major sociological approaches to the study of the social world. You will also develop the study skills required for university level work.

Topics covered

  • What is sociology?
  • Society and culture
  • Individuals and agency
  • Sociology, science, and common-sense
  • Sociology and modernity
  • Classical sociological imaginations: Marx, Weber, and Durkheim
  • Modern sociological imaginations: Parsons, Dahrendorf, Garfinkel, and Giddens
  • The uses of sociology


  • Eighteen one-hour lectures
  • Eight one-hour seminars
  • One-to-one tutorial consultation availability on a drop-in basis


  • Exam (100%)