Course Outline

Course Description

This course will attempt to provide an overview of various social theoretical perspectives within and outside the disciplinary bounds of sociology. “Theory” in recent decades has come to be mean, to paraphrase Fredric Jameson, “a style of writing” that can be seen to encompass philosophy, political science, sociology and literary criticism, as opposed to a strict set of ideas from a singular disciplinary perspective. Hence, to learn theory in a sociological context is to learn from within the tradition of the Big Three (aka Marx, Weber and Durkheim) but also veer off strategically from the paths they forged. Thus, we will begin the semester with a bit of a brief overview of the key “problematics,” or analytical lenses, provided by the classical theorists, and then proceed to more contemporary theoretical perspectives and analyses.

Course Requirements

In addition to reading theory, the course is about learning to theorize. This is easier said than done. Theory, like all forms of writing, requires discipline and frequency. Hence, there will be weekly written responses (blog posts) (~250 word) that are due on the day of the lecture and are to be posted on the course website. If you complete all of them, you will receive credit. These are meant to be casual, low-stakes writing assignments. They will not be individually graded but will be considered in totality.

Reading assignments should be completed by the time of the lecture. It would be prudent to make copies of the readings several weeks in advance. I will not accept availability issues from the library as an excuse for the reading not being done. I will not be coy about it; the selections on this syllabus are very difficult even for a specialist. Hence, you may find it challenging and perhaps written in a language other than English. I assure you it is not. The point is that you will have to spend some time and effort in completing the reading assignments. There are very few “breezy” reads. Notwithstanding their difficulty, there is no need to feel that you must understand every word written by any given theorist whose work that we are reading for this course. Ideally, the readings should provoke questioning not just clarity.

A Note on Slides (or the lack thereof)

Slides will not always be used. They are only used at my discretion. While you may carry an expectation that slides are always used, I believe in a course such as this one is rather ill-suited for such a pedagogical practice. I will, however, have other forms of visual media on occasion.


Midterm Take-Home Assignment (25%) – DUE 25 Sept. 
The midterm will cover the material in the course up to that point. There will be prompts for short answers as well as longer essay questions.

Final exam (50%)
The final exam will cover material from the entire semester. It will consist of essay questions. Students will be tested on not only their definitional understanding of key concepts but also their application and illustration through examples.

Attendance and participation (15%)
All courses, even large ones such as this one, feed off the energy of the students. Therefore, please come to lectures and tutorials, especially, ready to ask questions and discuss the reading.

Reading responses (10%)

Plagiarism and Academic Conduct

Please familiarize yourself with the Division’s statement on plagiarism and academic honest on the Division website (under “Resources.”)

Course Reserves

Elliott, Anthony. 2009. Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. Routledge.
Call No. HM447.E46 | HSSL Reserves [Check Availability]

Seidman, Steven, and Jeffrey C. Alexander, eds. 2008. The New Social Theory Reader: Contemporary Debates. 2nd ed. Routledge.
Call No. HM585.N532N | HSSL Reserves [Check Availability]

Lemert, Charles, ed. 2004. Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings. 3rd ed. Westview Press.
Call No. HM585.S678S | HSSL Reserves [Check Availability]