Sociological Theory Explained

Module code: SY2078
Module co-ordinator: Professor Bob Carter

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

We will begin this journey in the seventeenth century with the writings of early modern theorists Thomas Hobbes and John Locke on the relationship between 'human nature' and life in society. We will then consider the analyses of social inequality that emerged during the great optimism of the eighteenth 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 nineteenth 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 will 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.


  • 18 hours of lectures
  • 8 hours of seminars
  • 174 hours of guided independent study


  • Assignment, 4,000 words (100%)