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Areas of Theory: Social Theory


Admission requirements

There are no prerequisites to follow this course.


This course addresses the classical exercises to theorize the social world. By introducing students to the founding fathers of social theory, namely Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, we will examine characteristic topics, central to understanding modern societies and the nature of social enquiry. In particular the course focuses on epistemological issues concerning whether a science of society is possible, how increasingly complex societies require (new) ways of theorizing social relations, and how classic concepts such as “solidarity”, “disenchantment” and “alienation” among others, are able to shed light on the features of our contemporary world.

Course objectives

To acquaint students with the roots of sociological thinking, namely classical theories that aimed to explain the rise of modernity during the 18th and 19th century in Europe. Students are expected to understand the current value of classical thought and learn to develop relevant and informed ways of thinking the social problems today.

By the end of the course, students should have attained:

  • A broad understanding of how classical social theories emerged to think and theorize their society.

  • The capacity to think transversally about our current world in the light of classical questions that have remained problematic for the way in which we organize and understand social life.

  • The awareness to develop a sociologically informed and critically alert way of thinking.


See LUC website

Mode of instruction

  • Students continuous and active participation is fundamental for this course development. It is our course, which means it requires the work of all, students and lecturer alike, to produce a learning community.

  • Biweekly seminars will form the main body of this course. The structure of the seminars is based on lectures (45-60 minutes) and students’ presentations and debates (45-60 minutes). This ensures the introduction of knowledge and materials and the ongoing test of students’ understanding of this knowledge through discussions, constructive criticism and debates.

  • Videos and other media will be used regularly to ensure exposure to diverse resources, forms of knowledge and types of evidence.

  • Students will prepare for seminars by completing the assigned readings, which will be available in the Blackboard site.

  • Debates in class will be guided by the requested reading material expressed in each student “reading note” (a reflection based on the topic, readings and ongoing debates of each session).

H3. Assessment method

Students will be assessed in various ways. Emphasis will be placed on their active interaction and engagement with the themes and debates posed in class.

  1. Active engagement with the course content: assessed through In-class participation and presentations (30% of final grade):Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7
  2. Critical understanding of the key arguments of the main authors studied: assessed in Reading notes (approx. 350 words) to be discussed in each session (30% of final grade, 2.5% each):Weeks 2 to 7
  3. Critical use and analysis of classic theories to understand contemporary situations: assessed through In-pairs final essay (4000 words;40% of final grade): due Week 8 (Friday 30th March)


This course will be supported by a blackboard site.

Reading list

A reader for the course will be compiled and will be electronically available in Blackboard site before the beginning of the course. Students are expected to bring the weekly assigned readings in paper for discussion during the seminars, together with their “reading notes”.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

For further information please contact Dr. Daniela Vicherat Mattar

Weekly Overview

WEEK 1 What is Social Theory? Why to start with the classics?
WEEK 2 Emile Durkheim I: On society
WEEK 3 Emile Durkheim II: On sociology
WEEK 4 Max Weber I: The emergence of modernity
WEEK 5 Max Weber II: Science as vocation
WEEK 6 Karl Marx I: On historical materialism and the concept of ideology
WEEK 7 Karl Marx II: On capital, alienation and communism
WEEK 8 Reading Week

Preparation for first session

G. Delanty (2009) “The foundations of social theory” in B. S. Turner The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford (pages 19-38).

Students are requested to think about relevant contemporary social problems and how to critically reflect upon them. In the first session those ideas will be discussed and framed in the light of the course objectives.