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Social Theory in Everyday Life (Version 2)


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Please note: this course is also offered by Dr. Ajay Gandhi 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 critical 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, 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 grasp of post-colonial critiques of classical social theories


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

Mode of instruction


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 reflections. This portfoliois worth 40% of the overall grade. Each reflection will be on the course readings and is to be submitted 24 hours before the corresponding session. These reflections have two components: first, a close reading of the readings, which shows comprehension of the author’s argument and reasoning, and second, your critical analysis of their claims and a 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. Based on actual enrollment, students will conduct a sketch of a hypothetical contemporary situation, usually in groups. You will act out and apply our course concepts to describe and interpret this fictional situation.

Third, a final essay judges analytical and interpretive capacities. It will respond to set questions on the course themes and is due in Reading Week. This paper 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 essay.

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. Jiyan Qiao,