Prospectus

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Social Theory in Everyday Life

Course 2015-2016

Tags

HD, HI

Admissions requirements

Successful completion of any of the Human Diversity 100-level courses, ideally Birth of the Modern World or Intro to Social & Political Thought.

Description

What has social theory got to do with our daily life? Can social theory help us decoding the differences between having an IPhone or a Galaxy or none? Does it give us any inside to discuss carbon emissions and other contentious environmental and technological debates today? In other words, why to bother about social theory?

In this course you are invited to the exercise of thinking about your daily life –the ways in which you understand yourself, others and the nature of our interactions– in theoretical terms. Social theory (ST) is one of the means that makes this exercise possible. The purpose of ST is to make sense of the myriad types of social relations that underpin the economic, scientific, political, and cultural spheres of our lives. ST serves us to think about the societies we live in, to understand their transformations and to imagine paths to change. In order to introduce students to foundational debates in sociology, this ST course will address the following weekly themes:

WEEK 1 What is Social Theory? Modernity, grand theories and theories of everyday life
WEEK 2 Karl Marx: Ideology & alienation – Capitalism, inequality & crisis
WEEK 3 Max Weber: Social action, rationalization & the disenchantment of the world
WEEK 4 Emile Durkheim: Strangers, solidarity and sociology as science
WEEK 5 Georg Simmel: Fashion matters!
WEEK 6 Legacies from the classics and contemporary social theory
WEEK 7 Current debates in social theory: Conscientious thinking as a global challenge
WEEK 8 READING WEEK

Course objectives

The objective of this course is to acquaint students with the roots of sociological thinking in Europe: how it has informed (and still does) the ways in which we understand our societies. Students are expected to understand the value of classical thought and learn to develop relevant and informed ways of using it in their thinking about today’s social problems. In other words, the course aim is not only to introduce students to foundational works in social theories, but to train them in using them when “doing sociology”. Therefore, the learning aims of this course are to develop in students:

  • A broad understanding of how and why classical social theories emerged, and the ways in which classic figures of sociological thinking theorized (and understood) their respective societies.
  • The capacity to think transversally about our current world in light of classical concepts and questions that have remained problematic for the ways in which we organize and understand social life (i.e. why classic works matter today).
  • To develop the ability to use classical ST to identify, understand, analyze and try to address current social problems while “doing sociology”.
  • The ability to develop a sociologically informed and critically alert way of thinking about their daily life.

Timetable

Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Biweekly seminars form the main body of this course. Roughly, the structure of the seminars is based on lectures that will present and address the key ideas to be discuss in the session (45/60 minutes); students group work based on the applicability of the examined theories to the understanding of current problems (20 minutes); and general debriefing/presentations of the conclusions and debates (30 minutes). This will grant the introduction of knowledge as well as your ability to apply what you have read and learned to concrete daily life situations.

Assessment

In-class participation and students group work, 15%, Ongoing;
In-class case presentations, 15%, Weeks 2 to 5;
Individual response notes 15%, Weeks 2 to 5;
Perfoming classic ST concepts 25%
Individual final essay, 30%, Week 8.

Blackboard

There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The Blackboard site of the course serves as support for updates on the course, availability of readings, student notes and lectures presentations. The readings are compiled and electronically available, organized by weeks. You are expected to refer to the readings when participating in our classes discussions and writing your notes.

Registration

This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact course.administration@luc.leidenuniv.nl.

Contact

Dr. Daniela Vicherat Mattar, d.a.vicherat.mattar@luc.leidenuniv.nl.

Remarks

Readings for the first week:

  • Mills, C.W. (2000 (1959)) “The Promise” in The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pages: 3-24).
  • Bauman, Z. and May, T. (2001) “Introduction: The discipline of sociology” in Z. Bauman and T. May Thinking Sociologically, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford (pages 1-13).