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Social Theory in Everyday Life (Version 1)


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Please note: this course is also offered by Dr. Jiyan Qiao with slightly different teaching methods. Otherwise, the content and learning outcomes of both "versions" of the course are the same.


This course gives undergraduates a broad introduction to the body of ideas termed social theory. Beginning with 19th century thinkers such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, social theory is a set of concepts comprising the vocabulary of the social sciences, including anthropology and sociology. We examine how social theory gives us insight, and enable us to respond to, global issues such as institutional exploitation, climate change, population displacement, nationalism, and social anomie.

In this course, students are invited to approach thinking about daily life - the ways in which you understand yourself, others and the shape of our interactions. Social theory’s purpose is to help us think about the many types of social relations that underpin the economic, scientific, political and cultural spheres of our lives; to understand their historical transformations and distinct pathways; and to imagine future challenges and collective responses.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students should develop:

  • A broad understanding of how and why classical social theories emerged, alongside the emergence of the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

  • The capacity to appreciate the strengths and limits of foundational western social thought and examine the relevance of classic thinkers and contemporary ideas today.

  • The ability to use social theory to identify, understand, and analyze current political preoccupations and global entanglements.

  • A sociologically and anthropologically informed way of thinking about the constructed, contingent, and mediated aspects of everyday life.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course utilizes hybrid methods, including audio podcasts and in-person seminars, and has interrelated components for seven weeks. For the week’s first session, there will be, in alternating weeks, either an in-person lecture or a podcast by the instructor. Later in the week, for the second session, the instructor will facilitate an interactive seminar. The first lecture session or podcast provides context, highlights key concepts, shows different disciplinary approaches, and applies textual ideas to our world. Attending the first session, listening to the podcast, reflecting on the thematic questions, and conducting the weekly readings is critical for students to write their weekly reflection, due 24 hours before the in-person seminar of the week.

The seminars are devoted to deeper analysis of the assigned weekly texts. Each of the assigned texts introduces students to varied forms of analysis and argumentation in making sense of humans in their moral, social, and political aspects.

Assessment Method

Students are assessed on different parameters that correspond to discrete learning aims.

First, the learning aim of reading comprehension and critical understanding is assessed through a portfolio of weekly reflections from Weeks 1-7. This portfolio of seven reflections is worth 40% of the overall grade. Each reflection will be on the week’s texts and are to be submitted 24 hours before the second session of the week. These reflections have two components: first, a close reading of the weekly readings, which shows awareness of the author’s argument and reasoning, and second, your own analysis of their claims, and capacity to apply their ideas to today’s world.

Second, conceptual application is evaluated through a group activity termed ‘performing the classics’. This exercise comprises 25% of the overall grade. Students will be organized into groups and conduct a sketch of a hypothetical contemporary situation. You will, as a group, act out and apply our course concepts to describe and interpret this fictional situation.

Third, a final exam judges analytical and interpretive capacities. It will respond to set questions on the course themes and will occur in Reading Week. This exam constitutes 35% of the overall grade. Students will formulate an argument, and empirically substantiate their position, using only course materials. Non-course texts and external references are not permitted in this exam.

Reading list

Students will receive electronic access to the course readings.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Ajay Gandhi,