Sociological Theory: A Critical History

What is sociological theory and what work does theory do in sociology? What makes a theory useful? Which theories shape research agendas and why? The modern discipline of sociology primarily traces its origins to the 19th and early 20th centuries, when social scientists were grappling with the social upheavals of colonialism, industrial capitalism, urbanization, changing forms of governance, and the scientization of society. Placing key authors from this era in their historical context, this course takes a critical perspective to examine the origins of some of the foundational concepts that have shaped the history of sociology as a discipline: solidarity, authority, domination, class, nationalism, exploitation, justice, revolution, and more. As we work to understand the ideas of early sociologists, we will consider how their institutional locations shaped their understandings of the role of sociology as a theoretical and/or applied science, with special attention given to the roles race and gender have played in shaping the history of sociological theory. This will lead us to engage in critical examination of later processes of canonization that designated some works as “classics” and shaped our definitions of sociology and sociological theory. 

Units: 1

Max Enrollment: 20

Prerequisites: One 100- or 200-level unit in sociology.

Instructor: Rutherford

Distribution Requirements: SBA - Social and Behavioral Analysis

Semesters Offered this Academic Year: Fall