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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.

Minor, 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 labor – wage labor, slavery work of peasants – have influenced social inequality and characteristics of living together. We discuss how division of labor and the organization of work has been considered in our social theories. The students read original texts by classical authors – Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois and Fei Xiaotong - and compare the ideas of these sociologists concerning: 1) historical transformations, 2) contrasts between 'modern' and 'traditional' societies, 3) property relations and division of labor, 4) colonialism and capitalism, 5) social engineering and 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 analyzes his own multicultural life history – travelling between Jamaica and England – with a good eye for the relationship between social-historical context and personal development / characteristics. In his work, Stuart Hall shows connections between intersectionality and identity: he analyzes the combined influences of class, gender, race and belief on 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 analyzes of interpersonal relationships by discussing theories that originate from 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

After block 1 a midterm exam takes place. In the first half of block 2 classical work by Karl Marx, W.E.B. Dubois, and Xiaotong Fei is read and analysed in detail in working groups. These working groups 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 in Block 1 (20% of final grade)

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

  • Final exam (40 % of final grade)

  • Fulfilling the requirements for handing in MindDumps (10% of final grade)

There is no re-take option for the first interim test. If the essay assignment is insufficient, a re-do is possible, but then only a maximum grade of 6 can be obtained. For the Final Exam there is a re-take.

  • 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.

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.

Registration in My Studymap

All students will be registered for the lecture and the exam (including re-sits) by the Student Services Centre (SSC). Students do need to confirm the registration for their exams in My Studymap as described below.

Division and enrolment in the mandatory tutorials will also be done by the SSC and announced via uSis in the first week of lectures.

Confirming your exams

It is mandatory for all students of Leiden University, including first-year bachelor students, to confirm registration for each exam (this includes re-sits) in MyStudymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in MyStudymap.

The following groups of students do not have access to MyStudymap, their registration and confirmation of participation of the exam will be conducted by the SSC: Premaster students, Exchange students, Contract students, Minor students from other universities than Leiden University.


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 My Studymap for those courses.

Course Literature

Hall, S. (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