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Social Theories


This course is taught in Dutch in the academic year 2018-2019

Access requirements

Only the following categories of students may register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BSc programme “CA-DS” at Leiden University

  • Pre-Master’s students who have completed the Admission procedure for the Master’s CA-DS and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the Pre-Master’s programme.
    Please see "Registration" instructions below.


In this course we theoretically focus on the relationship between the individual and society in a global perspective. With its emphasis on '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 forms of labor - wage labor and slavery - influence (have been) on social inequality and characteristics of living together. We discuss the place of division of labor and the nature of work organization in different social theories. The students read original texts by classical authors Marx, Dubois and Weber and compare these sociologists around the themes: 1) historical transformations, 2) contrasts between 'modern' and 'traditional' societies, 3) division of labor and organization 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 or 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 culture theorist who analyzes his own multicultural life history - between Jamaica and England - with a great eye for the relationship between social-historical context and personal development / characteristics. 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 deal with different approaches to nature / nurture, universalism / particularism, society / individual, inequality / emancipation and between contextuals / individuals.

Course Objectives

1.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
2.Acquaintance with canonical texts, and conceptualization of processes of canonization.
3.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.
4.Providing knowledge about sociological and anthropological approaches to socialization and learning processes in specific (school) contexts.


See our website.

Educational forms

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study tax hours (sbu):

  • lecture 17 × 2 hours (51 sbu)

  • workgroup 4 x 2 hours (8 sbu)

  • literature 800 p. (144 sbu) 91 p first part, 90 p. classics, plus 380 part 2 = 560 plus S & B 2 240

  • paper part 1, 5 pages (40 sbu)

  • paper part 2, 4 pages (32 sbu)


At the end of part 1, a multiple-choice examination takes place (November 7). Parallel to the start of part 2, there are working group meetings in which students read classical work by Marx, Dubois, and Weber. This work group part is concluded with an essay of at least 1200, maximum 1500 words. This essay gets a grade. The multiple-choice examination and the mark for the essay each determine for 50% the total score for part 1 of the course. This figure gives access to part 2 of the course.

Part 2 is rounded off with a final exam consisting of multiple-choice questions and a short essay assignment. The multiple-choice section determines 70% and the essay 30% of the final mark of part 2. An essay (4 credits) is written in advance of this exam. This essay is not assessed, but serves as the 'first version' of the essay to be written at the time of the exam.

The rounded grade of part 1 and part 2 of the course each determine for 50% the total mark for the entire course. Only the final mark is registered in Usis. Only if the final mark is inadequate it may be re-taken during the re-take test.
A total of 7 hours will be spent on testing: examination, and perusal.

Registering exam

You are required to register in uSis for every exam. This can be done up to 10 calendar days prior to the examination. Read more

Register in uSis

  • First-year students CA-OS: registration for lectures and work groups is NOT necessary, enrollment for the exam and the resit is obligatory (see the instruction above).

  • Second-year students, contract students and pre-master students must register for the lectures and the examinations (see above), but not for the working groups.

You will find the registration periods and further information about the procedure on the website on course registration .


Blackboard is used in this course to make the program available, the reading assignments and the instructions for paper and oral presentation.
Participants can register on Blackboard from 1 week before the start of the course.

Study material

Part 1 of the course:

  • Barnard, A., & Spencer, J. (1996). Encyclopedia of Cultural and Social Anthropology. 684 p. PDF can be found free on the internet

  • Bhambra, G. K. (2013). The possibilities of, and for, global sociology: A postcolonial perspective. In Postcolonial sociology(pp. 295-314). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 20 p

  • Burawoy, M. (2009, July). Facing an Unequal World: Challenges for Sociology. In ISA Conference of the Council of national Associations (pp. 23-25). PDF can be found free on the internet 4 p.

  • Hill, L. (2007). Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson and Karl Marx on the division of labour. Journal of Classical Sociology, 7(3), 339-366. 27 p.

  • Green, D. S., & Driver, E. D. (1976). WEB DuBois: A Case in the Sociology of Sociological Negation. Phylon (1960-), 37(4), 308-333. 25 p.

  • Nelson, B. (1976). On orient and occident in Max Weber. Social Research, 114-129. 15 p.

Classical texts to be talked about in working groups: (the web-links to these texts are distributed via Blackboard)

  • Karl Marx (1844) Estranged Labor (trans. by Martin Mulligan).
    From Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.

  • Part from: Du Bois, W. E. B., & Eaton, I. (1899). The Philadelphia Negro: a social study (No. 14). Published for the University.

  • Deel uit: Weber, M. (2013). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Routledge.

Part 2 of the course:

  • Barnard, A., & Spencer, J. (1996). Encyclopedia of Cultural and Social Anthropology. 684 pp. PDF can be found free on the internet

  • Hall, S. (2017). Familiar stranger: A life between two islands. Duke University Press. 320 p.

  • Sato, Y. (2010). Are Asian sociologies possible? Universalism versus particularism. Facing An Unequal World: Challenges for A Global Sociology, 2. 12 p.

  • Ira Jacknis, “Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali: Their Use of Film and Photography” Cultural Anthropology, 3(2): 160-77, 1988. 17 p.

  • Van Der Pijl, Y., & Goulordava, K. (2014). Black pete,“smug ignorance,” and the value of the black body in postcolonial Netherlands. New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 88(3-4), 262-291. 30 p.

  • Adichie, Chimamanda (2009), The Danger of a Single Story, (21 August 2012), in: TED Conferences, online


Dr. Sabine Luning