• Sociological Theory

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Department of Sociology and Social Policy
Sociological Theory
SCLG 2601
Semester One, 2008
Coordinator: Dr Craig Browne
166 R. C. Mills Building
Telephone: 93512665
Fax: 9036 9380
[email protected]
Lecture: Wednesday 2-4
Carslaw Lecture Theatre 157
This unit of study introduces students to key themes and debates in
Sociological Theory. It aims to foster a critical appreciation of the contribution of
both classical and contemporary sociological theory.
Sociological theory is a challenging and rewarding area of study.
Knowledge gained from this unit has a broad range of applications. It should
inform all of your future research in sociology, providing a basis for developing
complex modes of analysis.
Students will acquire a better understanding of the history of the discipline
of sociology, the controversies that have shaped its outlook and emerging themes
in sociological theory.
The first half of the unit examines classical sociological theory and draws
you into recent debates over the foundations of the discipline of sociology. These
disputes demonstrate that classical sociological theories are not only of `historical
interest'; there is a great deal to be learnt from looking at the way the discipline of
sociology took shape. Accordingly, a week is devoted to the work of each of the
most influential classical sociological theorists: Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max
Weber, Georg Simmel and George Herbert Mead.
We then move on to later developments in sociological theory, engaging
with several influential approaches, like post-war feminist theory, structural
functionalism, phenomenological sociology, ethnomethodology, Michel Foucault's
writings, and the work of Pierre Bourdieu.
We will outline the difference between frameworks that stress how the
institutional structures of society are independent of social actors and those
approaches that accentuate the role of social action. The criticisms of this division
in sociological theory have resulted in various attempts, like those of Anthony
Giddens and Jrgen Habermas to either combine these general frameworks or
disregard them.
Sociological theory has been shaped by its engagement with the social
context. We are therefore especially interested in the most influential theories of
contemporary social changes and historical developments.
Feminist sociological theory includes a number of different strands. Indeed,
there have been important developments in the themes and perspectives of
feminist thought. It represents one of the most vital traditions of sociological
theory today.
The tradition of critical social theory similarly attempts to discern potentials
for transformation within the present development of society and to diagnose the
sources of injustice and discontent.
Postmodernism challenges various aspects of earlier sociological theory,
reflexive modernisation theory suggests that there are new contours of social
change, and recently different versions of `civilizational analysis' have acquired
prominence. The risk society thesis and the notion of knowledge society seek to
define and characterize new, and arguably dominant, forms of social organization.
You will also be introduced during the semester to the civilizational
analysis of `multiple modernities' and such current positions as those of the risk
society thesis and conceptions of globalisation.
The course is organised around a weekly lecture and tutorial schedule. The
topics covered during the course can grouped into two main parts and under four
overarching themes:
Part 1 Sociological Theory and Classical Sociology
A. Introduction: The Disputed Context of Sociological Theory
B. The Classical Formation of the Sociological Imagination
Part 2 Contemporary Sociological Theory and Late-Modernity
C. Continuities and Ruptures: Extending and Revising Sociology
D. Theorising Contemporary Society and Social Change
Tutorial Participation 10%
Tutorial Presentation 10%
Essay 40%
Take Home Examination 40%
Texts and Readings
Course Textbooks:
Farganis, James (ed) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill
The course textbook can be purchased from the Co-Op Bookstore on Campus,
located at The University of Sydney, Sports and Aquatic Centre complex.
You need to purchase a separate reader from the University Copy Centre for
Week 12 and Week 13.
Supplementary Texts
A longer list of readings relevant to the unit Sociological Theory is electronically
accessible from the Reserve section of the Library Catalogue.
A number of these texts have been placed in the Special Reserve section of Fisher
A familiarity with the Electronic Reserve system of Fisher Library will be
advantageous, enabling you to download some of the texts in Special Reserve.
Reference Texts
A number of texts on sociological theory are worth consulting for reference
purposes. The following texts should be referred to for research purposes and to
enhance your understanding of the lectures and the course textbook readings.
There is no substitute in this unit of study for reading primary sources, like, for
example, Georg Simmel's `The Metropolis and Mental Life' or Max Weber's The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
The texts listed below will help you acquire the background necessary to better
understand original statements. It may be worthwhile keeping an eye out for the
text by Ritzer and Goodman below as it overlaps much of the course textbook and
its website has some additional features to test your understanding.
Baert, P. (1998) Social Theory in the Twentieth Century Cambridge: Polity Press
Beilharz P. (ed.) (1991) Social Theory - A Guide to Central Thinkers North Sydney:
Allen & Unwin:
Best, S. (2003) A Beginner's Guide to Social Theory London: Sage
Browning, G. (2000) Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the
Present London: Sage
Calhoun, C. et. al. (2007) Classical Sociological Theory Oxford: Blackwell
Calhoun, C. et. al. (2007) Contemporary Sociological Theory Oxford:
Delanty, G. (1999) Social Theory in a Changing World Cambridge: Polity Press
Dodd, N. (1999) Social Theory and Modernity Cambridge: Polity Press
Elliott, A. (ed) (1999) The Blackwell Reader in Contemporary Social Theory
Oxford: Blackwell
Elliott, A. & Ray, L. (eds) (2003) Key Contemporary Social Theorists
Oxford: Blackwell
Fraser, N. (1993) Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in
Contemporary Social Theory Cambridge: Polity Press
Fraser, N. (1997) Justice Interruptus New York: Routledge
Harris, D. (2003) Teaching Yourself Social Theory London: Sage
Harrington, A (ed) (2004) Modern Social Theory Oxford: Oxford
University Press
Lemert, C. (ed.) (1999) Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic
Readings Oxford: Westview Press
Miles, S. (2001) Social Theory in the Real World London: Sage
Pampel, F (2007) Sociological Lives and Ideas An Introduction to the
Classical Theorists New York: Worth Publishers
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
McGraw Hill, the publisher of Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological
Theory Sixth Ed. have established a website that complements the textbook. It
contains useful exercises for revision and chapter summaries. If you purchase this
text you can make use of the website to supplement the lectures and tutorials. For
instance, by double-clicking the book chapter titles of the Sociological Theory site
you can access the following:
Chapter Summary
Chapter Outline
Learning Objectives
Web Links
Internet Exercises
The Ritzer Sociological Theory website is: www.mhhe.com/ritzer
Seidman, S. (1994) Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern
Era Oxford: Blackwell
Seidman, S. & Alexander, J (eds) (2001) The New Social Theory Reader
London: Routledge
Skinner, Q. (ed) (1985) The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences
Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press
Stones, R. (ed) (1998) Key Sociological Thinkers London: Macmillan
Turner, B. S. (1999) Classical Sociology Sage: London
Turner, B. S. (ed) (2000) The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory Oxford: Blackwell
Course Objectives
Sociological Theory: SCLG2601 aims to introduce you to some of the major traditions
of sociological theory and several of the most influential contemporary
perspectives. It will direct you to the substantive themes of the classical
sociological theorists and lead you to consider the relevance of their arguments to
contemporary sociology.
You should acquire a sense of the history of the discipline of sociology and the
significant debates that have led to the initiating of new approaches.
The course places particular emphasis on the way in which different sociological
theories have engaged with present day society, whether this be contemporary
society or the society of the time of the writings of classical sociological theorists.
In general, these engagements with contemporary society have involved an
empirically grounded theoretical description of the reality of the present day
society and a normative evaluation of that society and its prospects. For example,
Marx believed that capitalist society was shaped by class conflict, exploitation and
You should be able to appreciate the contrasts between different theoretical
perspectives and the criticisms that later theoretical perspectives have made of
earlier sociological theories.
The unit specifically aims to develop your capacity for sustained reflection and
complex modes of analysis.
You are encouraged to pursue independent research and to think critically about
the potential and limitations of different sociological frameworks.
Assessment exercises are intended to enhance your ability to communicate ideas
effectively and to reflect on the internal structure of arguments and concepts.
It is hoped that the course will stimulate an interest in the possibilities for creative
thinking and imaginative interpretation that are distinctive to field of sociological
The unit of study also aims to illuminate dimensions of contemporary society and
to provide you with an insight into the major arguments of the sociological
theories of the present, their applications and the research that these theories have
Lecture Schedule
Part 1 Sociological Theory and Classical Sociology
Week 1 5 March
Introduction: Contemporary Debates and Classical Arguments
Week 2 12 March
Karl Marx and Critical Theory: The Contradictions of Capitalist Modernity
Week 3 19 March
Emile Durkheim: Social Reality, Social Solidarity and Social Complexity
Week 4 2 April
Max Weber: The Disenchantment of the World and Modern Rationality
Week 5 9 April
Georg Simmel: Forms of Social Association and the Culture of Exchange
Week 6 16 April
George Herbert Mead: Symbolic Interaction and Intersubjectivity
Take Home Examination Due April 21
Part 2 Contemporary Sociological Theory and Late-Modernity
Week 7 23 April
Functionalism, Exchange Theory & Rational Choice
Week 8 30 April
Phenomenological Sociology and Ethnomethodology
Week 9 7 May
Feminism and Sociology
Week 10 14 May
Critical Social Theory
Week 11 21 May
Michel Foucault and Postmodernism: Power, Subjectivity and Knowledge
Week 12 28 May
Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens: Social Practices, Structuration and Social
Fields, Symbolic Power and Domination
Week 13 4 June
Risk Society, Reflexive Modernization and Globalisation
Resource Materials Distributed in the Lectures and Lecture Overheads will be
available from the WebCT site of Sociological Theory: SCLG2601
Take Home Examination
A Take Home Examination is worth 40% of the total mark for this unit of study.
The examination questions will be distributed in Week 5. Your examination
answers must be submitted to the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
office with the appropriate cover sheet attached by 4pm Monday, April 21.
A 2500 words essay is worth 40% of the total mark for this unit of study. Essay
questions will be distributed during the semester. The essay is due 4pm Tuesday,
June 10.
Tutorial Presentation
In Sociological Theory SCLG 2601, students are required to make one ten minutes
presentation on a theme relevant to one of the weekly topics. You may, for
example, wish to discuss Michel Foucault's analysis of power or his ideas
regarding sexuality, or Marx's notion of alienation or Marx's vision of class
struggle, Durkheim's conception of the sociological method or his explanation of
religion, Beck's analysis of terrorism in terms of his idea that contemporary
societies are risk society, and so on. The presentation should seek to utilize
materials that build on those in the course textbook. The synopses of weekly topics
provide further indications of topics that you may wish to choose as your
presentation. Presentations that merely restate the course text will receive low
marks. The tutorial presentation is worth 10% of your grade for the unit of study.
Your presentation may overlap the tutorial discussion questions but it should not
be based simply on providing an answer to a discussion question.
Tutorial Participation
Your participation mark will reflect the quality of your contribution to the
tutorial. It is expected that you will come to the tutorial prepared to discuss the
reading for each week and themes outlined in the lectures. Participation includes
raising questions, exchanging ideas, contributing to the discussion, offering
criticisms and providing information. Evidence of independent and additional
research will be rewarded. Generally, the more reading and research you do the
better you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge. You should note that The
University of Sydney requires a satisfactory record of tutorial attendance.
Participation, of course, involves more than just attendance and attending without
participating will result in a low participation grade. Your participation mark is
worth 10% of your grade for this unit of study.
Tutorial Program
Tutorial Times
Wednesday 4pm-5pm
Wednesday 5pm-6pm
Thursday 10am-11am
Thursday 10am-11am
Thursday 11am-Midday
Thursday 11am-Midday
Thursday Midday-1pm
Thursday Midday-1pm
Thursday 2pm-3pm
Thursday 3pm-4pm
Sections and Weekly Topics
Section A.
Introduction: The Disputed Context of Sociological Theory
The lectures and tutorials introduce you to the general themes and topics covered
over the entire course. Sociological Theory examines the large-scale questions that
initiated the discipline of sociology, for example, how has capitalism transformed
social relations, does modern culture promote individualism, and how do belief
systems become enduring social structures. These types of questions continue to
inform contemporary sociology. Sociological Theory also enables you to pose
questions which are relevant to interrogating the classical paradigms of
sociological inquiry, for example, did classical sociological theorists Karl Marx,
Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, George Herbert Mead and Georg Simmel -
unequivocally accept the idea of progress and how did they evaluate modern
Disputes over and within sociological theory take many forms. There are disputes
relating to `the problems of knowledge and objectivity', `the relationship of theory
to empirical research', over what should be considered the core themes of
sociological theory, how to assess innovations in sociological theory, and simply
the relationships between theories. Our aim is to alert you to these disputes and to
open up ways of thinking-through them. You might like to start to reflect on the
question of whether later sociological theories have satisfactorily addressed topics
which classical sociology may have neglected or misunderstood?
Week One
Contemporary Debates and Classical Arguments
Lecture March 5
This week we pose the question of the vitality of classical tradition of sociological
theory and introduce the debates shaping the discussion of sociology classics
today. We will consider how it is possible to link up with the classical tradition of
sociological theory, whether it is necessary to transform classical approaches and if
it is possible to revise their conclusions. We also seek in the early part of the course
to identify the types of general `problems', or framing questions, which underlie
sociological theory. For instance, is it possible to suggest that sociological theory is
sensitive to variations in historical and cultural contexts and yet, at the same time,
claim that it is informed by a number of constant unifying questions?
One of the most interesting attempts to both extend and criticise the broad
concerns of the classical sociological theorists is that associated with the notion of
multiple modernities. Theories of multiple modernities explore how diverse
societies have engaged with modernity. Hence, they retain the classical
sociological theorists' interest in `modernity' but look beyond the context of their
analyses. A similar broadening of perspective leads the important Australian
sociologist R. W. Connell to ask questions about how did a notion of classical
sociology actually come about and did this idea of a classical phase of sociological
theory involve certain losses in terms of themes and perspectives. Connell's
comments suggest that sociologists today are sensitive to different questions, ones
that the classical tradition ignored. His piece drew a critical response from the
North American sociologist Randall Collins. Collins' article makes a case for the
traditional view of classical sociological theory; he suggests that Connell's biases
lead him to misrepresent the classics. `Modernity' - or the world that was
produced by the changes associated with industrialisation, urbanisation,
capitalism, nation-states and the ideals of freedom and democracy appears a
consistent object of classical sociological theory. This contemporary dispute leads
us to ask if the classical sociological theorists' demarcations of modernity are
capable of satisfactorily taking into account the relation of the global and local, the
core and periphery. Perhaps, another approach may just accept that the classics
validate themselves by their rigour, evocation, illumination, and path-setting
qualities, in other word, that they are worth studying because they are the `canon'
of sociology.
Farganis, J. (2008) "Introduction: The Classic Tradition to Post-Modernism: An
Overview" in J. Farganis (ed.) Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to
Post-Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 1-20
Tutorial Discussion Questions
What questions inspired the work of the `classical' sociological theorists?
Do theoretical discussions necessarily involve the questioning of knowledge and
Has sociological theory progressively led to a better understanding of society?
Further Readings
Beilharz, P. (1995) "Social Theory in Australia: A Roadmap for Tourists", Thesis
Eleven No. 43, 120-133
Connell, R. W. (1997) "Why is Classical Theory Classical?" American Journal of
Sociology Vol. 102 No. 6 (May 1997): 1511-57
Clegg, S. and van Krieken, R. "A Post-Colonial Comment on Collins" Unpublished
Manuscript (available from Fisher Library Reserve)
Collins, R. (1997) "A Sociological Guilt Trip: Comment on Connell" American
Journal of Sociology Vol. 102 No. 6 (May 1997): 1558-64
Collins, R. and Makowsky, M. (1978) The Discovery of Society. New York: Random
Craib, I. (1997) Classical Social Theory Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press pp. 1-10 "What's
the point?"
Delanty, G. (2003) "Social Theory, Modernity and Global Transformations" in V.
Kultygin andV. Zhukov (eds) European Social Theory: Sources and Challenges
Moscow: Materials of European Conference on Social Theory (Moscow, September
2002) pp. 30-42
Delanty, G. (2000) "The Foundations of Social Theory: Origins and Trajectories" in
B. S. Turner (ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory Oxford: Blackwell pp. 21-
Eisenstadt, S. N. (1999) "Multiple Modernities in an Age of Globalization"
Canadian Journal of Sociology Vol. 24 No. 2: 283-295
Eisenstadt, S. N. (2000) "Multiple Modernities" Daedalus Vol. 129 Iss. 1: 1-29
Eisenstadt, S. N. and Schluchter, W. (1998) "Introduction: Paths to Early
Modernities A Comparative View" Daedalus Vol. 127 No. 2: 1-18
Friese, H. and Wagner, P. (2000) "When `The Light of the Great Cultural Problems
Moves On': On the Possibility of a Cultural Theory of Modernity" Thesis Eleven
No. 61: 25-40
Gaonkar, D. P. (2001) "On Alternative Modernities" in D. P. Gaonkar (ed)
Alternative Modernities Duke University Press Durham pp. 1-23
Gaonkar, D. P. (ed) (2001) Alternative Modernities Duke University Press Durham
Gle, N. (2000) "Snapshots of Islamic Modernities" Daedalus Vol. 129 Iss. 1: 91-117
Graubard, S.R (2000) "Preface to the Issue `Multiple Modernities'" Daedalus Vol.
129 Iss. 1 pp.V-XII
Knbl, W. (2000) "In Praise of Philosophy: Johann P. Arnason's Long but
Successful Journey Towards a Theory of Modernity" Thesis Eleven No. 61: 1-23
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
`1, A Historical Sketch of Sociological Theory: The Early Years' pp3-39 (especially
pages 4-31 which provide a useful background to the themes discussed in the first
part of the course)
Turner, B. S. (1999) "Conclusion: Coherence and Rupture in the Discipline of
Sociology" Classical Sociology London: Sage pp. 276 84
Section B: The Classical Formation of the Sociological Imagination
Having established that there is a lively debate over classical sociological thought,
we turn now to the actual work of classical sociological theorists. We look at the
theories of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, George Herbert Mead and
Georg Simmel. The work of all five theorists has profoundly influenced sociology;
they each constitute alternative models of sociological theory. We want to
accentuate the relevance their work has to understanding present day society, as
well as the different milieu of their respective writings. We will see that there are
dominant themes specific to each of the classical sociologists and that these are
associated with concrete areas of research, like social identity, class, capitalism,
suicide, bureaucracy, religion and cities. Equally significant, we will find that we
can address other substantive topics from within the theoretical perspectives that
each of the classical sociologists developed
Week Two
Karl Marx and Critical Theory: The Contradictions of Capitalist Modernity
Lecture March 12
Karl Marx developed a complex approach to the analysis of capitalist modernity.
Marx's theory was genuinely critical. It sought to determine the tendencies within
capitalist society that would generate crises and to contribute to the self-
understanding of the class that could, in his opinion, end social relations of
oppression. Marx believed that capitalism was an unjust and exploitative system
of production, founded on the alienation of workers and products. Marx's social
theory has been extremely influential, remaining a point of reference for
contemporary discussions of ideology, class and globalisation. Marx's theory is
founded on a distinctive understanding of human capacities and human potential.
He contended that the social processes of material production are central to the
reproduction of society and that major historical changes in social structures can
be traced to alterations in the system of production. For example, the change from
a feudal social structure to a capitalist social structure is related to alterations in
the ownership of property and changes in the means of producing, and hence also
the conditions of work. In Marx's opinion, the struggle between classes is a
dynamic feature of capitalist society, class conflict being a common thread
throughout human history. Ideological systems of belief and the oppressive
organisation of social activities have veiled and disguised the antagonism between
social classes. A critical theory, like that initiated by Marx, seeks to undermine
these ideologies and contribute to the just transformation of society.
J. Farganis (ed.) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 23-53
`Chapter 1: Karl Marx: Alienation, Class Struggle, and Class Consciousness'
Tutorial Discussion Questions
Why did Marx and Engels believe that capitalism had resulted in unprecedented
changes in society?
Why does Marx's social theory focus on the process and conditions of production?
Is the fetishism of commodities still a secret?
Further Readings
Callinicos, A. (2003) An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto Cambridge: Polity Press
Cuff, E. C., Sharrock, W. W. and Francis, D. W, (1998) Perspectives in Sociology 4th
Ed. Routledge: London pp. 10-35 "Karl Marx"
Giddens, A. (1971) Capitalism and modern social theory: an analysis of the writings of
Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Hardt, M. and Negri A. (2000) Empire Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Marx, K. (1976) Capital Penguin: Harmondsworth pp. 927-930 "The Historical
Tendency of Capitalism"
Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1972) "Manifesto of the Communist Party" in R. C. Tucker
(ed) The Marx-Engels Reader New York: W.W. Norton & Co pp. 335-362
Morrison, K. (1995) Marx, Durkheim Weber London: Sage.
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
Hill `2, Karl Marx' pp. 40-70
Swingewood, A. (1975) Marx and modern social theory London: Macmillan.
Wallerstein, I. (1983) Historical Capitalism Verso: London pp. 97-110 "Conclusion:
On Progress and Transitions"
Week 3
Emile Durkheim: Social Reality, Social Solidarity and Social Complexity
Lecture March 19
In France, there is a long tradition of reflection upon the constitution of the social
order, a tradition that was to influence the 1789 French Revolution. The changes in
structure of French society arising from the revolution and during the nineteenth
century by the process of industrialisation reinforced the significance of social
organisation for many French intellectuals. Emile Durkheim belongs to this
tradition; he also transformed its insights into a distinctive program of knowledge
and inquiry. Durkheim aimed to establish the discipline of sociology as the
scientific study of society. He argued that the scientific methods of empirical
analysis could be applied to social phenomena and that there is a unique quality to
social reality. Durkheim outlined a number of key principles of sociology. These
principles have been both widely accepted and challenged within sociology.
Durkheim's own works on suicide, social solidarity and religion seek to apply
these principles and they elaborate a general theory of society. Durkheim asks
basic, though clearly fundamental, sociological questions. For instance, by
drawing on his theory we can think about what holds society together.
Durkheim's sociological arguments have important things to say about the nature
of morality, the conditions of individualism, and the characteristics of systems of
belief. Durkheim was committed to demonstrating the social determination of
human thought and action. His writings continue to be relevant to discussions of
norms and values, social identity and collective membership, the implications of
complex social relations and socialisation.
J. Farganis (ed.) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 55-80
"Chapter 2. mile Durkheim: Anomie and Social Integration"
Tutorial Discussion Questions
What are, according to Durkheim, the chief characteristics of social facts?
Why does Durkheim infer a relationship between suicide and the integration of
the individual into society?
Is it fair to say that Durkheim's conception of religion is thoroughly sociological?
Further Readings
Frisby, D. and Sayer, D. (1986) Society London: Ellis Horwood; Tavistock
Hughes, J., Mark, P. J., and Sharrock, W. W. (1995) Understanding Classical
Sociology: Marx, Weber, Durkheim London: Sage pp. 150-211
Lukes, S. (1975) mile Durkheim, his life and work: a historical and critical study
Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Swingewood A. (1991) A Short History of Sociological Thought Macmillan: London
pp. 97-127 Chapter 4: Critique of Positivism: I Durkheim"
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
Hill `3. Emile Durkheim' pp. 71-107
Thompson, K. (1982) Emile Durkheim London: E. Horwood Tavistock Publications.
Turner, B. S. and Rojek, C. (2001) Society and Culture: Principles of Scarcity and
Solidarity London: Sage (especially Chapter 4: "Solidarity" pp. 68-87)
Week 4
Max Weber: The Disenchantment of the World and Modern Rationality
Lecture April 2
Max Weber's work has had a profound impact on sociological thought. His
writings are arguably unparalleled in their combination of substantive analysis
and formation of social scientific concepts. One can cite a number of sociological
categories that are associated especially with the thought of Max Weber, including
bureaucracy, power, charisma, legitimacy, ideal types and disenchantment. Weber
possessed an encyclopedic knowledge; he wrote detailed works on ancient
economic history, jurisprudence, world religions, capitalism, music and
methodology. At various points of time in the history of sociology, the
interpreters of Weber's thought have emphasized different leading themes, such
as class, power, action, methods, and the fate of the individual. In recent
discussions, the theme of rationality has been taken as a unifying problem,
informing the different strands of Weber's theory and constituting Weber's core
insight into modernity. The rationalization of modern society reflected substantial
changes in the conduct of individuals and the disenchantment of the world. Yet,
Weber appreciated the irrationality that may lay behind rationality and which
may result from the very process of rationalization. George Ritzer's recent works
on the McDonaldization of society draws extensively on Weber's theory of
rationality. Similarly, Michael Pusey's account of economic rationalism in
Australia is firmly grounded in Weber's sociological categories.
J. Farganis (ed.) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 81-115
"Chapter 3. Max Weber: The Iron Cage"
Tutorial Discussion Questions
What does Weber consider to be the main features of the economic ethic of
modern capitalism?
Why does Weber contend that bureaucratic forms of organization are more
rational than many other types of social organization?
Is the problem of values relevant to Weber's discussion of objectivity in the social
Further Readings
Ksler, D. (1988) Max Weber: an introduction to his life and work Cambridge: Polity
Morrison, K. (1995) Marx, Durkheim Weber London: Sage pp. 212-255; 270-304
Pusey, M. (1991) Economic rationalism in Canberra: a nation-building state changes its
mind Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ritzer, G. (2000) The Mcdonaldization of society. Thousand Oaks, Calif., Pine Forge
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
Hill `Max Weber' pp. 108-152
Turner, B. S. (1999) Classical Sociology London: Sage (especially Chapter 1 "The
Central Themes of Sociology')
Weber, M. (1930) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism London: George
Allen and Unwin pp. 13-31 "Author's Introduction"
Week Five
Georg Simmel: Forms of Social Association and the Culture of Exchange
Lecture April 9
Georg Simmel was particularly interested in the various forms of social relations
and the types of sociability exhibited by these associations between individuals.
For instance, he wrote about the relationship between `the stranger' and the group,
the difference between the interaction of three people and the interaction of two
individuals, the impression the modern urban metropolis made on the subjectivity
of the person. Simmel offered highly insightful and nuanced accounts of the bonds
and exchanges that characterize social life. He pointed to how social phenomena
can become independent of individuals, speaking of an ensuing loss of vitality in
terms of a `tragedy of culture'. The lecture will outline Simmel's contributions to
sociology, in particular, as a theorist of capitalism, urbanisation and modernity. It
will discuss his ideas on the dichotomy of traditionalism and modernity, and will
then consider his ideas on the consequences for personal life. Simmel's perspective
on the interconnections of subjectivity, social networks and social structures led to
arguments about the construction of masculine and feminine identities in modern,
urban life. Simmel's writings have informed subsequent theories of power and
conflict in modern economic, political and social life. An appreciation of the
multiple sources of power and resistance can be traced to his work. The affinities
with Simmel's theory of contemporary postmodernism have lent it a new vitality.
Likewise, the substantial engagement with cultural issues in recent sociological
theory has drawn considerable inspiration from Simmel's approach and writings
on topics like the city, money, fashion, travel, literature, space and style.
J. Farganis (ed.) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 117-131
"Chapter 4. Georg Simmel: Dialectic of Individual and Society"
Tutorial Discussion Questions
How does Simmel develop the idea that society is the outcome of the dynamic of
Why is Simmel's sociology sometimes viewed as more distinctive in its difference
from that of Max Weber and Emile Durkheim?
Is it valid for Simmel to infer qualities about the mental life of individuals from
their experience of the city exterior?
Further Readings
Adams, B. N. and Sydie, R. A. (2002) Classical Sociological Theory Thousand Oaks:
Sage pp. 197-221 "The Sociology of Form and Content: Simmel"
Coser, M. (1977) Masters of Sociological Thought New York: Harcourt Brace
Dalzeil, H. D. (1959) "Simmel's Image of Society" in K. H. Wolff (ed) Georg Simmel,
1858-1918 Columbus: The Ohio State University Press pp. 100-118
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D. J. (2003) Sociological Theory Sixth Ed. Boston: McGraw
Hill `Chapter 5, Georg Simmel' pp. 153-182
Frisby, D. (1984) Georg Simmel London: E. Horwood; Tavistock Publications.
Levine D. (ed) (1971) Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press
Simmel, D. (1971) "Freedom and Individuality" in D. N. Levine (ed) Georg Simmel:
On Individuality and Social Forms Chicago: The University of Chicago Press pp. 217-
Simmel, G. (1997) "The Concept and Tragedy of Culture" in D. Frisby and M.
Featherstone (eds) Simmel on Culture London: Sage pp. 55-75
Wolff K. H. (ed) (1955) The Sociology of Georg Simmel The Free Press: New York
Week Six
George Herbert Mead: Symbolic Interaction and Intersubjectivity
Lecture April 16
This week we will consider George Herbert Mead's original and groundbreaking
conception of the interrelationship of self and society. Mead's understanding of
the self is anchored in an account of the intersubjective character of social action
and how our sense of identity derives from the relationship of the self to the other.
In other words, Mead suggests that it is through our interaction that we arrive at a
sense of ourselves and that it is from this determination of our own individual
identity that a general conception of society is achieved. Mead introduced a
number of categories and dichotomies which continue to inform the discussion of
self and society. We will examine these features of Mead's interpretation of
intersubjectivity. The arguments of the important and influential recent attempts
to build upon Mead's ideas will be introduced to highlight the significance and
implications of an intersubjective approach. Mead's influence on the tradition of
symbolic interactionism and its key ideas will be reviewed. Finally, the later ideas
of Erving Goffman will be briefly introduced and you may wish to investigate
some of the suggested readings listed below.
J. Farganis (ed.) 2008 Readings in Social Theory- The Classical Tradition to Post-
Modernism 5th edition Boston: McGraw Hill pp. 133-143
"Chapter 5. George Herbert Mead: The Emergent Self"
Tutorial Discussion Questions
Why does the tradition of symbolic interactionism trace its origins back to the
work of George Herbert Mead?
What is the basis of the claim that Mead views intersubjectivity as prior to
How does Mead contrast individuals' understanding of society exhibited in play
from that which characterises participation in game?
Further Readings
Aboulafia, M. (1991). Philosophy, social theory, and the thought of George Herbert
Mead. Albany, State University of New York Press.
Burkitt, Ian (1991) "Language and the Social Self" in Burkitt, I. Social Selves
London, Sage
Burns, T. (1992). Erving Goffman. New York, Routledge.
Elliott, A. (2001). Concepts of the self. Cambridge, UK, Polity Press
Goffman, E. (1968). Stigma: notes on the management of spoiled identity.

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