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Social Theories


Admission Requirements

This course is open to the following categories of students:

  • Bachelor’s CADS

  • Premaster’s CADS admitted for this specific course during their application procedure

Language of Instruction

Lectures are given in English.

Tutorials: First year bachelor’s students CADS have chosen their preferred language of instruction for tutorials during their application.

Premaster’s and Exchange students must follow the course entirely in English.

Exam(s) and assignment(s) are in the same language as tutorials.

Course Description

In this course we take a global perspective on the relationships between individuals and society. With its emphasis on studying 'modern' society and increasing individualisation, sociology has traditionally been strongly Western-oriented. We discuss this Eurocentrism in relation to more inclusive and 'decentralized' approaches. In the first part of the course we do that by placing sociological approaches within the broader, colonial histories of Europe in the world. The focus here is on the question of how different forms of labour – wage labour and slavery – have influenced social inequality and characteristics of living together. We discuss how division of labour and the organization of work has been considered in our social theories. The students read original texts by classical authors – e.g. Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois and Max Weber - and compare the ideas of these sociologists concerning: 1) historical transformations, 2) contrasts between 'modern' and 'traditional' societies, 3) organization and division of labour, 4) colonialism and capitalism, 5) emancipation processes.

The second part of the course focuses explicitly on interpersonal relationships: how do individuals relate to others within social networks? We place sociology in a global perspective by comparing social theories based on local Western and Asian notions of sociality. This shows that 'universal' theory formation always has a localized, culture-specific origin. We systematically elaborate this cross-cultural perspective on the basis of the memoirs of Stuart Hall, a cultural theorist who analysed the history of his own multicultural life of travel between Jamaica and England with a good eye for the relationship between social-historical context and personal development / characteristics. Hall’s work shows
connections between intersectionality and identity: he analysed the combined influences of class, gender, race and belief on the personal and social characteristics of individuals. Following this, we question how children socialize and learn in specific (school) contexts. We explore different approaches to nature / nurture, universalism / particularism, society / individual, inequality / emancipation and between context / individuals.

Course Objectives

  • Providing knowledge about global perspectives on social theories that focus on the areas of tension between individual and society, between intersectionality and identity and between inequality and emancipation.

  • Acquaintance with canonical texts, and conceptualization of processes of canonization.

  • Providing insight into the culture-specific characteristics of sociological analysis of interpersonal relationships by discussing theories that originate in European but also from Asian notions of sociality.

  • Providing knowledge about sociological and anthropological approaches to socialization and learning processes in specific (school) contexts.


See our website.

Mode of Instruction

This is a 10 ECTS course, which means 280 hours of study (1 ECTS is equivalent to 28 study hours or sbu's). These 280 study hours are composed from the following components:

  • Lectures: 17 x 2 hours = 34 hours x 1,5 = 51 sbu

  • Tutorials: 4 x 2 hours = 8 hours x 2 = 16 sbu

  • Literature ca. 1,000 pages, including study for written assignments = 173 sbu

  • Written assignments max. 3,000 words = 40 sbu

Assessment Method

A mid-term exam takes place halfway through Block 1. In the first half of Block 2 classical work by Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois, and Max Weber is read and analysed in detail in workshops which are concluded with a graded essay of 1,000 - 1,200 words. The course is rounded off with an examination and group assignments.

  • Mid-term exam at the end of Block 1 (20% of final grade)

  • Written assignment related to tutorials (30% of final grade)

  • Final exam (40% of final grade)

  • Group assignments (10% of the final grade)

Only the final mark is registered in uSis. A final pass mark is 6,0 and higher; 5,0 or lower is deemed inadequate. Final marks between 5,0 and 6,0 are never awarded. Only if the final mark is inadequate may the final exam be re-taken during the re-sit.

N.B. There is no re-take option for the first interim test.

  • The lectures form an integral part of the course, which means that exam questions will be based on both the assigned literature and the lectures.

Registering in uSis for Examinations

  • First-year students and premaster students are not required to register.

  • Other students must register for all lectures and examinations up to 11 calendar days before the examination, but not for tutorials.

  • Division in mandatory tutorials will be made during the lectures and announced at the end of October.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Announcements about and changes to courses are given in Brightspace. Students are advised to check Brightspace daily to remain informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and details of assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

How to login:

The homepage for Brightspace is: Brightspace
Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.
For access to your courses in Brightspace you need to be registered in uSis for those courses.

Course Literature

Hall, Stuart 2017 Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands.
Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Articles from electronic journals and encyclopaedias are available through Leiden University’s digital library.


Dr. S.W.J. Luning