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 Autumn Term

Charles Turner (Room 2.26, ext.23114)



Course Overview


The aim of this course is to introduce you to some of the most influential work in sociological theory since 1920.  ‘Sociological theory’ will be understood here to mean any attempt to conceptualise the social world in ways which make decisive claims about the nature of the social world (ontology) the ways in which knowledge of that world can be achieved (epistemology) and about the appropriate means for studying it (methodology)  All sociologists are sociological theorists to some degree, but by the same token all human beings are too, so however varied this course materials are, they are all geared to the same problem, namely how to make sense of the social world and orient ourselves in it.  The sociological theorist differs from the rest of the population primarily by being ready to turn his/her concepts, categories, political presuppositions and intellectual passion into a more or less systematic body of work (sometimes taking the form of ‘grand theory’).  But in an important sense we all theorise whenever we start to speak.  For that reason the aim of the course, despite its apparent content, is practical, not in the sense of giving you a well-defined set of tools, certainly not in telling you how to live, but rather of inviting you to share in a certain sensibility, or attitude, or way of talking about the world. 

            There are many ways in which to organise a theory course and to tell the story of the history of theory in the 20th century.  Some prefer more institutional and chronological histories (sociology in France versus sociology in Germany etc), others will do schools (systems theory, rational choice theory, structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism) and others fundamental principles (three weeks on ‘ontology’ three on ‘epistemology’ etc). 

This course is organised differently, and concentrates on analytical problems and theoretical moves, problems and moves which may be common to several theorists who may otherwise disagree with one another in terms of their political commitments or diagnosis of the modern world or area of interest within sociology.  The point of doing things this way is to encourage a catholic and comparative attitude to theorising and to the history of the discipline.  By the end of the course you will have come face to face with many of the theoretical problems and questions which pertain to all forms of theorising in sociology.  You will also have come to see that the same text can be read in many different ways depending on the problem at hand.  This means that something we look at for one reason early on won’t be forgotten, it might well be looked at again later in the year for a different reason.   So the course is cumulative. 



Lectures and Seminars



Lectures will take place on Wednesdays 11-12, Room S.011. 



Participation in the weekly meetings is required.  The aim will be to clarify the lectures and the reading by means of discussion.   Copies of the week’s reading are housed in the Student Reserve Collection of the library.



Assessment and Examinations




You are expected to write TWO class essays of  n more than 2,500 words.  The essays will be due in Week 8 of Term 1 and in Week 8 of Term 2.  See the Student Guide for details of the expectations of written work, methods of presentation and the marking criteria.



The final mark for the course will be based on one of the following methods of assessment:

(a)        100% by 3-hour examination

(b)        100% by two assessed essays of not more than 3,000 words

(c)        50% by 2-hour examination and 50% by one assessed essay of not more than 3,000 words.



Note on end-of-year examination: the examination will be divided into two sections from each of which at least once question must be chosen.  Section I will contain a small number of questions of a general nature covering the course as a whole.  Section 2 will be devoted to more specific topics. 






Formal evaluations of the course will be conducted at the end of Term 1 and at the end of the course, but you are encouraged to monitor the progress of lectures and tutorials throughout the year.  Feedback is welcome at any stage.



General Texts



No single book covers all the topics in this course, but the following titles are available in paperback editions and will be relevant to at least some parts of the course:



Jeffrey Alexander (1987)  Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since 1945, London: Hutchinson

Ian Craib (1992) Modern Social Theory.  London: Harvester Wheatsheaf

John Scott (1995) Sociological Theory, London, Macmillan

Donald Levine (1995) Visions of the Sociological Tradition, University of Chicago Press

Alan Swingewood A Short History of Sociological Thought.  London: Macmillan, 2nd ed., 1991

David Frisby & Derek Sayer Society.  London: Ellis Horwood, 1986

Anthony Giddens and Jonathan Turner (eds), Social Theory Today, Cambridge: Polity, 1987

Wolf Lepenies, Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology, C.U.P., 1989

Bryan Turner (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, Oxford, Blackwell, 1986

Nicos Mouzelis (1991) Back to Sociological Theory

---- (1995) Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong?  

Advice on reading:


 -         a wide variety of background reading is listed for each seminar topic.  These items are written from different points of view and are not, therefore, interchangeable.


-         be ‘active’ in your reading; try to get a sense of what an author thinks is significant.


-         if something is ‘difficult’, don’t give up after the first attempt; you would be amazed how  much you can gain from a second or third look.


-         remember the principle of serendipity – if you see an interesting footnote follow up the reference and see where it leads. Check out the books with the same classification as the one you are looking for.

-         Try to get a sense of when things were written (not just the date of the English translation) and of the dates  of the people you are reading.

-         hang around the current periodicals  section on the ground floor of the library, and in the periodicals section on floors 5 (social sciences) and floor 3 (arts).  You may find useful (though  often useless) material in the following:



 Theory, Culture and Society


British Journal of Sociology


European Journal of Sociology


Theory and Society,


New German Critique


 Sociological Review


 -         for goodness sake read some decent literature.  Here’s a list of authors whose writings are often of interest to  those with a penchant for theory or for the history of European ideas: Kakfa, Musil, Borges, Bernhard, Kundera, Sterne, Swift, Marias, Canetti, Calvino, Calasso, Broch, Thomas Mann, Faulkner, Grass, Gombrowicz, Auster.  Some of  them are even still alive.  What they share – apart from the fact that some of them  are funny -  is the fact that they were or are all interested in how a story is told as much as in the story itself, in form as well as content.  And that will be our interest in sociological theory: how it is constructed as much as simply what it says about modern society. 



 TERM 1   


Week 1


No lecture


 Week 2

The Classics of Sociology and their Relevance

Since many of the writings for this course have attained the status of a ‘classic’, we begin with a gentle introduction to the problem of classics in sociology.  We will discuss what makes a classic text a classic text, and whether sociology, which claims to have its finger on the pulse of current social problems, should be dependent upon its classic texts in the way in which Philosophy or English Literature are often thought to be.  We will also look at the idea of classic texts as founding subsequent traditions, and at the idea of a sociological ‘canon’, or set of indispensable writings. 



 -         what makes a classic a classic?

-         does sociology need its classics?

-         if not, what should replace them? 


 Required reading:


 (a)   Gianfranco Poggi, ‘Lego Quia Inutile: An Alternative Justification for the Classics’ in S. P. Turner (ed) Social Theory and Sociology, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996


(b)   Italo Calvino,  ‘Why Read the Classics?’ in The Literature Machine, London: Vintage, 1997



 Background Reading:


 J. Alexander, ‘The Centrality of the Classics’ in J.H. Turner and A. Giddens (1987) Social Theory Today, Polity

B. Rhea (ed) The Future of the Sociological Classics, London: Allen and Unwin, 1981

P. Baehr and Mike O’Brien (1994) ‘Founders, Classics and the Concept of a Canon’, Current Sociology, Vol.42, No.2

P. Baehr, Founders, classics, canons : modern disputes over the origins and appraisal of sociology's heritage New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2002.

Harold Bloom, The Western Canon, London: Papermac 1995, ch.1

----, The Anxiety of Influence, Oxford University Press, 1973

Partisan Review Vol.67, No.2, special issue on ‘the classics’

M. Gane ed The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss, London: Routledge 1982

D. Weinstein and M. Weinstein Postmodernized Simmel, London: Routledge, 1992

C. Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism, Blackwell, 1986, Introduction





 Week 3

Sociology and the problem of description


The first analytical problem, and one which will recur throughout the course, is that of the contribution which sociological theory can make to the way in which we talk about and see the social world.  The notorious abstruseness of theory is seen by some as its greatest weakness, by others as a way of enabling us to get behind the appearance of everyday reality.   We can call this simply the problem of description.   We will address it through one famous sociological text and two literary versions of it.  


 -         Can sociological writing be translated into ‘ordinary language’?

-         Is description of the social world a ‘neutral’ activity which takes place before theorising takes place, or is it a result of theorising?  

-         Can theorising improve sociologists’ powers of description? 





Required reading:


 (a)   Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Of Exactitude in Science’, in A Universal History of Infamy, Penguin, 1975


(b)   C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Penguin, 1960, pp.33-44

(c)    Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, London: Picador, [1928] 1978, chapter 1.

(d)   Nicos Mouzelis (1995) Sociological Theory: What Went Wrong?, London: Routledge, introduction  



Background reading:


Nicholson Baker (1989) The Mezzanine, London: Granta

Jeffrey Alexander (1987) Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since1945  pp.1-21.

P. Bourdieu (1990) ‘Landmarks’, in In Other Worlds, Polity, 1990

Ian Craib (1992) Modern Social Theory  chs. 1 and 2

W. Lepenies, Between Literature and Science, Cambridge University Press, 1989

David Frisby & Derek Sayer (1986) Society, Chichester: Ellis Horwood, [good short text]

Clifford Geertz (1973) ‘Thick Description’, in The Interpretation of Cultures, Fontana Press.

T. Bottomore & R. Nisbet (eds) A History of Sociological Analysis, London:

Heinemann, 1978

Richard Harvey Brown, A Poetic for Sociology

Ricca Edmondson, Rhetoric in Sociology

W. G. Runciman, A Treatise on Social Theory, Vol.1, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987, ch. 4.  (hard going)


Week 4

Style in sociology: Simmel and social forms


The question of description addressed last week crops up with full force in the writings of Georg Simmel (1858-1918)  These are notorious for their ‘essayistic’ style – no footnotes, no empirical research, yet full of peculiar insights and strange allusions.  Simmel’s style of sociology appears to be applicable to almost any area of social life and so invites us to ask what is and what is not a legitimate object of sociological inquiry.   


 - does it matter that Simmel did no empirical research?  


- how useful is it to separate the 'form' of social life from its 'content'?


- how can Simmel describe life in a modern metropolis as both more impersonal and more individualistic than in pre-modern society?





 Required Reading:



 -         Simmel, G., 'The Problem of Sociology' [1908], in D. Levine (ed.) Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971


-         ----, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life', in  On Individuality and Social Forms, Univ. of Chicago Press or in K. Wolff (ed.) The Sociology of Georg Simmel, New York: Free Press, 1950


-           ----, ‘Secrecy’, in Wolff (ed)




Secondary Reading:



Simmel, G., The Conflict of Modern Culture and Other Essays, New York: Teachers College Press, 1968

K. Wolff (ed.) The Sociology of Georg Simmel,

New York: Free Press, 1950

----, 'Group Expansion and the Development of Individuality', in   On


Individuality and Social Forms

----, Simmel on Culture, London: Sage, 1998 

----, ‘Flirtation’, in Guy Oakes (ed) Georg Simmel: On Women, Sexuality and Love, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

Musil, R., The Man Without Qualities, London, Pan, [1940] 1979, ch. 62.


Durkheim, E., 'Sociology and its Scientific Field', in K. Wolff (ed.) Emile Durkheim on Sociology and Philosophy, [1900] 1960

Frisby, D., Sociological Impressionism, London: Heinemann,1981

----, Simmel and Since, London: Routledge,1992. [on relevance of Simmel to

contemporary theorising]

Kern, S., The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918, London: Weidenfeld, 1983

Levine, D. 'Sociology's Quest for the Classics', in B. Rhea  The Future of the


Sociological Classics, London, Allen and Unwin, 1981

Serge Moscovici, ‘The Science of Social Forms’, in The Invention of Society, Cambridge: Polity, 1993, ch.7. 

Scaff, L., Fleeing the Iron Cage, Univ. of California Press, 1989, ch.4.[on Simmel's social philosophy]

Tenbruck, F., 'Formal Sociology' in K. Wolff (ed.), Georg Simmel 1858-1918, Ohio: Columbia University Press, 1959. [difficult but highly recommended article on Simmel's 'methods']            

Weingartner, R., Experience and Culture, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press,1960 .[technical account of Simmel's philosophical background]

Lawrence, P.A., Georg Simmel, Sociologist and European, Sunbury: Nelson, 1975

Weber, M., 'Georg Simmel as Sociologist', Social Research 39 (1972), pp.158-63

Winch, P., The Idea of a Social Science, London: Routledge, 1958.




Week 5: Classification


There is a tradition of sociological theorising which, beginning with Durkheim and Mauss’ Primitive Classification, which sees societies as made up not simply of institutions, systems of power and the like, but of the ways in which they organise the experience of the world available to their members.  Every society has a way of classifying and categorising natural and social phenomena, and the ways of classifying vary enormously.   Professional sociologists, too, construct classifications of the social world for the purpose of social inquiry.   We may also say that there is a relationship in any society between the private classifications that individuals make for themselves and public classifications through which a society may be said to be held together.  For Durkheim the simplest such classification was the distinction between sacred and profane phenomena.  In the 1960s Mary Douglas sought to develop a framework for developing Durkheim’s ideas further. Here theory of ‘ Grid and Group’ was the result. 


 -     what does Douglas mean by the claim that dirt is ‘matter out of place’?


-         how useful is Douglas’ distinction between ‘Grid and Group’ for social analysis?


-         can social classification become a political question?



 Required reading:



 - Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, London: Routledge, 1967, ch. 2


- Mary Douglas, ‘Grid and Group’, in Natural Symbols, London: Routledge 1970


- Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Funes the Memorious’, in Labyrinths


- Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, London: Picador, 1985, ch.1






Background Reading:



Douglas, M., Natural Symbols, London: Routledge 1996

----, Thought Styles, London: Sage, 1996

----, ‘Deciphering a Meal’, in Implicit Meanings, London: RKP, 1975

----, How Institutions Think, London: RKP 1987.

Durkheim, E., and Mauss, M.,  Primitve Classification, London: Cohen and West, 1969, Introduction.

Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, London: Weidenfeld, 1969

Ian Hacking, ‘Kind-Making: the Case of Child Abuse’, in The Social Construction of What? Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Harvey Sacks, ‘Membership Categorisation Devices’, in J. Heritage and M. Atkinson (eds) Structures of Social Action

Aaron Cicourel, ‘Police Practices and Official records’, in The Social Organisation of Juvenile Justice, Wiley, 1968; OR in R. Turner (ed) Ethnomethodology, Harmondsworth: Penguin


Richard Hamblyn, The Invention of Clouds, The London: Vintage, 2001

Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, 1978

P. Berger and T. Luckmann, ‘Social Interaction in Everyday Life’, The Social Construction of Reality, Penguin, 1966, pp.43-48

Geoffrey C. Bowker, Susan Leigh Star, Sorting things out: classification and its consequences, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999 


Week 6

Reading week



 Week 7

 Parsons and classificatory reason


If classification is a routine feature of everyday life, it is also a resource for sociology.   The most elaborate and grandiose attempt to deploy a classificatory scheme for the purpose of sociology was that of Talcott Parsons (1902-1979)  Our interest here is less in ‘structural functionalism’ (the approach most closely associated with Parsons) than in the way Parsons thought he could generate new descriptions of the social world by more or less inventing a new set of categories with which to make sense of it.  He made two major moves: first, he developed the schema of pattern variables, based on the idea that social life is structured according to the way in which orient ourselves to each other; second, in his later period, he developed the idea of society as a system of interacting subsystems.  Parsons’ work also demonstrates a very common phenomenon in theorising: the list of categories has a hierarchy built into it – in other words, for Parsons, as for every other theorist, some aspects of social experience are given more weight than others.      


 -  what difference does Parsons pattern variable scheme make to the way he describes the relationship between doctors and their patients?


- why should ‘propaganda’ be necessary in modern liberal democracies?


- what advantage is there to conceptualising societies as systems?



 Required reading:



 -  T. Parsons 'Propaganda and social control', in Essays in Sociological Theory, revised ed. 1954, pp. 143-176. 

 -  J. Alexander Twenty Lectures: Sociological Theory Since 1945, ch.4



 Background reading:


 Wilhelm Baldamus, The Structure of Sociological Inference, London: Martin Robertson, 1976, pp. 109-17  [difficult but recommended] 

Francois Bourricaud, The Sociology of Talcott Parsons, University of Chicago Press, 1981

Ian Craib Modern Social Theory, ch. 3

Alan  Swingewood A Short History of Sociological Thought, 1991, ch. 8

Peter Hamilton Talcott Parsons, Chichester: Horwood, 1983

Robert Merton,  Social Theory and Social Structure, New York: Free Press, 1949

G. Rocher, Talcott Parsons and American Sociology, London: Nelson, 1974

W.E. Moore 'Functionalism', in T. Bottomore & R. Nisbet (eds) History of


Sociological Analysis

A. Gouldner The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, London: Heinemann, 1971,chs. 6 & 7

C. Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination, NY: O.U.P.,1959, chap 2

D. Layder Understanding Social Theory, 1994, ch. 2

H. Bershady Ideology and Social Knowledge, Oxford: Blackwell, 1973

T. Parsons Politics and Social Structure, chaps 6, 8 [more approachable examples of Parsons' work]

----, The Social System, NY: Free Press, 1958, pp. 180-200

W. Buxton Talcott Parsons and the Capitalist Nation State, 1985, chap 6 [on


A. Dawe 'Theories of social action' in T. Bottomore & R. Nisbet (eds) A History of


Sociological Analysis, 1978, especially pp. 400-8 [highly critical of Parsons]

J. Scott, Sociological Theory, ch.2

D. Wrong 'The oversocialised conception of man in modern sociology', American Sociological Review 26, 1961: 183-93.

D. Lockwood, 'Social Integration and System Integration', in Solidarity and Schism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988




Week 8

The Limits of Classification: Dialectical Sociology


If a stable classification system gives us a stable social world, then a sociology which is little more than an exercise in classification is a conservative enterprise.  Such was the message of the most influential body of social theory which emerged in post war Germany, that associated with the Frankfurt School of Social Research, established in the twenties and forced into exile in 1933.  Adorno and Horkheimer were neo-Marxists influenced by Georg Lukács (1885-1973) and to a lesser extent by Weber.    According to them, any sociology of contemporary capitalism must recognise the fragmentation, disorder and lack of cohesion it brings about, and do justice to this in its mode of theorising.  Any sociology which fails to do this ‘reifies’ those phenomena and makes them acceptable.  The body of work which grew out of the Frankfurt School became known as ‘critical theory’.  Here we look at some samples of its efforts to think in a dialectical rather than a classificatory way, and to write in a style which reflects modern societies’ disharmonies rather than masking them.  .


- what is the difference between dialectical and positivist sociology?

- are all art forms inevitably part of the culture industry?

- in what sense are work/leisure, civilisation/barbarism, enlightenment/myth, puritanism/pornography  false oppositions? 



 Required Reading

 -  Adorno, T.W., 'Free Time', and ‘The Culture Industry Revisited’,  in The Culture Industry, London: Routledge, [1967] 1992


-  ----, Minima Moralia, secs. 45, 84-85, 130-132


-  ----, Introduction to Sociology, Cambridge: Polity, ‘Lecture Four’



 Background Reading:


 Frederic Jameson, ‘Conclusion’, in Ernst Bloch et al Aesthetics and Politics, Verso, 1977

Albrow, ‘Dialectical and Categorical Paradigms for a Science of Society’ Sociological Review, 1974

Theodor W. Adorno, Introduction to Sociology, Polity, 2002

---- and Max Horkheimer, 'The Culture Industry', in Dialectic of     Enlightenment, London: Verso [1947] 1969, ch.2.

Walter Benjamin, 'The Author as Producer' in Andrew Arato (ed) The Essential Frankfurt School Reader New York: Continuum, 1982

----, 'The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction', in Illuminations

Connerton, P., The Tragedy of Enlightenment, 1981 [short and very concise]

Craib, I., Modern Social Theory, 1990, ch.11

Geuss, R., The Idea of a Critical Theory, Cambridge: C.U.P., 1981

Held, D., An Introduction to Critical Theory, London, MacMillan, 1983 [accessible]

Honneth, A., 'Critical Theory', in Giddens and Turner (eds)  Social Theory Today  Polity 1987

Horkheimer, M. (ed.), Aspects of Sociology,

----, 'Authority and the Family', in Critical Theory, New York: Herder and Herder, 1972

Jay, M., The Dialectical Imagination, Boston: Brown and Co.1974.

Marcuse, H., One Dimensional Man, London: Sphere, 1964, chs.1, 3

----, An Essay on Liberation, London: Penguin, 1972

Rose, G., The Melancholy Science, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1979

Weber, M., Economy and Society, Ch. I, sec.2 ['Types of Social Action' ]

Wiggershaus, R., The Frankfurt School , Oxford, Blackwell, 1992[institutional biography of the school]


Stefan Muller-Doohm, Adorno: a biography, 2005


Tom Huhn (ed), 2004, The Cambridge Companion to Adorno , C.U.P.


Detlev Claussen, 2003, Theodor W. Adorno : ein letztes Genie (if you read German, this is for you) .


Week 9

The Limits of dialectical sociology: ideology, culture and belief


Though Parsons’ normative functionalism with its language of ‘orientation patterns’ and ‘value consensus’ had run out of steam by the 1960s, critical theory often took the theme of broad cultural despair to the opposite extreme, presenting, ironically enough, its own ‘functionalist’ view of society.  This surfaced in critical theory’s own discussions of the subversive or conservative potential of art and literature.  But beyond the question of whether belief is conservative or oppositional lies the more neutral study of the means by which a society reproduces itself.  One way in which it can do so is through the cultivation of shared ideas which foster shared perceptions of ‘reality’.  Here we focus on one attempt to make sense of this process: the concept of ideology.  In the early 19th century ‘ideology’ meant simply a coherent body of ‘ideas’; later, for Marxists it implied error or false consciousness, something to be contrasted with ‘science’ (see next term’s work); for some conservatives it entailed a false belief that abstract schemas could be used to  change inherited cultural or political practices.   


-         is ideology illusion?

-         can there be a theory of ideology which does not presuppose the superiority of ‘science’?

-         what is the difference between an ideological and a utopian perception of social reality?  



Required Reading:


 -         Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, Ch.1, sec.4

-         C. Geertz, ‘Ideology as a Cultural System’, in The Interpretation of Cultures , 1973

-         Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, London, Routledge [1928] pp.30-38

-         Max Weber, ‘Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy’, in The Methodology of the Social Sciences, New York: Free Press, 1949, pp.92-104.


 Background reading: 



Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, in Essays in Ideology, London: Verso

Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Precession of Simulacra’, in Simulacra and Simulation, Ann

Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994

John Dunn, ‘Modernity and the Claim to Know Better’, in Political Theory in Face of the Future, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, London: Picador, 1992

Francois Furet, The Passing of an Illusion, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1999, chapter 1.

Mannheim, K., 'The Democratisation of Culture', in K. Wolff (ed.), From Karl  Mannheim, pp.300-339, or Essays in the Sociology of Culture, pp.206-229. [1930] 1956

Mannheim, K., ‘The Sociology of Intellectuals’, Theory, Culture and Society, 1993, Vol.10 No.3

Larrain, J., The Concept of Ideology, London: Hutchinson, 1979, ch.4


Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, edited and with introduction by C.J. Arthur, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1970.

Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Part I

J. Plamenatz, Ideology, London: Pall Mall, 1971

Gellner, E., Legitimation of Belief, C.U.P. 1974

Habermas, J., ‘Science and Technology as Ideology’, in Towards a Rational Society , 1968 OR in W. Outhwaite (ed.), The Habermas Reader, Polity 1999

Paul Ricoeur, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, Columbia, 1986

W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,  1986 ch.4 [hard]

Max Weber, ‘The Soteriology of the Underpriviliged’, in Runciman (ed) (1978) Weber: selections in Translation, C.U.P., pp. 174-192; also in Economy and Society, Vol. 1, ch.VI,


 Week 10

Interlude: Theories of Power


One way of pinning down the differences between theoretical perspectives is to assess their accounts of the ‘same’ substantive phenomenon.  Here we look at power (we could have looked at conflict, the self, history, class, and so on)  One famous argument over power was that between Parsons and Wright Mills, over whether we should imagine societies having a finite amount of power which is simply distributed in some way between individuals and groups who ‘possess’ it (Mills), or as having the capacity to store power as a collective resource, possessed by nobody but exercised by some (Parsons).  Next term we will compare these accounts with those of Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias.   


-         is power part of a zero-sum game? 

-         why should political power be called ‘power par excellence’?

-         are there social relations which do not involve power?


 Required reading: 


            -  Gianfranco Poggi, Forms of Power, Cambridge: Polity, 2001, ch.3 

Background reading:

H. Arendt, On Violence, London:

Allen Lane, 1970

E. Cannetti, Crowds and Power, London, Penguin,1960, pp. 197-236

Mills, C.W., The Power Elite

Giddens, A., 'Power in the recent Work of Talcott Parsons', in  Studies in Social and Political Theory, London, MacMillan, 1976

----, 'Power, Contradiction, Historical Materialism', in Central Problems in Social Theory, London, MacMillan, 1979

Habermas, J., 'Hannah Arendt's communications concept of power', Social Research, 1977, pp.3-24.

de Jouvenal, B., On Power, London: Hutchinson, 1947

Steven Lukes, 'On the Relativity of Power', in S.C. Brown (ed)  Philosophical Disputes in the Social Sciences, Brighton: Harvester, 1978

----, Power: A Radical View, London: MacMillan, 1974

---- (ed) Power, Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

Weber, M., 'Power', in, Economy and Society, University of California Press, 1978, pp.941-948.

Simmel, G., 'Domination as a Form of Interaction', in Kurt Wolff (ed) The Sociology of Georg Simmel , New York: Free Press, pp.181-189.

Hindess, Barry, Discourses of Power, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996

Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, chapter 1.

Talcott Parsons, ‘The Concept of Political Power’, in Politics and Social Structure, New York: Free Press 1969




































 2006/2007 - Term 2












































 Charles Turner (Room 2.26, ext.23114)







The basic organisation is the same as for last term



Class Essay Deadline: week 8




 Week 1.  Wed. January 10th



 We will use this week’s lecture to reflect on what we have done so far and to look ahead to the new term. 



 Week 2.  Wed. January 17th


Problems of the Self - Goffman




Sociology at its most basic is about the relationship between the individual and society, but while sociological theory regularly asks ‘what is society?’, the question ‘what is the individual?’ receives less attention, although lip-service is paid to the idea that the individual is not a fixed entity but rather has a self which is malleable/changing to some degree.  This week, then, we consider attempts to do justice to the ‘processual’, dynamic, and possibly unfinished character of the self.


 - What do you understand by Goffman’s concept of a moral career? 


- What does Goffman mean by the claim that for the mental patient life becomes a ‘shameless game’?


- Does symbolic interactionism explain anything? 




Required reading:


             (a) H. Becker, 'Becoming a marihuana user', in  Outsiders, 1963, chap 3


            (b) E. Goffman, 'The Moral Career of the Mental Patient', in  Asylums, 1971,


            pp. 117-55


Background reading:




            P. Adler, Wheeling and Dealing,

T. Burns Erving Goffman, London: Routledge,1992

H. Blumer 1969. Symbolic Interactionism, Prentice Hall,

            A. Brittan Meanings and Situations, London: RKP, 1973, chaps 6, 7, 8 & 10

            I. Craib 1992. Modern Social Theory, 2nd ed  , chap 5

            N. Denzin,1970. The Research Act in Sociology, London: Butterworth

            J. Ditton (ed) The View from Goffman, London: MacMillan,1980.

P. Drew and P. Wooton (eds), Erving Goffman: Exploring the Interaction Order

            B. Fisher & A. Strauss 1978. 'Interactionism', pp. 457-98 in T. Bottomore & R. Nisbet (eds) A History of Sociological Analysis, [detail on Chicago School and varieties of interactionism]

            A. Giddens, ‘Erving Goffman as a Systematic Sociologist’, in Social Theory and Modern Sociology

            B. Glaser & A. Strauss, 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory,

Goffman, E., The Goffman Reader, Oxford: Blackwell, 1997

----,  The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life


----. 1974. Frame Analysis.  Harmondsworth: Penguin


----, Interaction Ritual


----. 1980. Forms of Talk

            J. Hewitt 1994. Self and Society.  A Symbolic Interactionist Social Psychology, , 6th ed, chaps 5, 6 & 7.

A. Hochschild  1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling.

H. Joas 1987. 'Symbolic Interactionism', pp. 82-115 in A. Giddens & J. Turner (eds)    Social Theory Today, [strong on philosophical origins in pragmatism]

            J. Lofland, Protest       

            B. Meltzer, J. Petras & L. Reynolds Symbolic Interactionism.  Genesis, Varieties and Criticism, 1975 [strong on types of interactionism and criticisms]

M. Mauss, ‘The self: a category of the human mind’, in M. Carrithers et al, 1985, The Category of the Person, C.U.P.

K. Plummer (ed) Symbolic Interactionism, 1991 [criticism of the notion of self in interactionism plus methodological problems]

F. Jameson, ‘On Goffman’s Frame Analysis’, Theory and Society, 13: 119-133

A. MacIntyre, ‘Nietzsche or Aristotle?’ in After Virtue, ch. 9.

P. Manning 1992. Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology, chap 8 [implications of Goffman's work for sociological theory]

R. Rorty, ‘The Contingency of Selfhood’, in  Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, C.U.P., 1987


Greg Smith (ed.) Goffman and social organization : studies in a sociological legacy, 1999.


A. Strauss 1978.  Negotiations, chap 1, pp. 31-38 [comment on freedom/constraint issue in Goffman

A. Javier Treviño Goffman's Legacy, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003


Week 3. Wed. January 24th


Language and Social Process



 During the 1960s there was much discussion of issues arising out of Peter Winch’s The Idea of a Social Science of 1958.  Winch’s book was influenced by the philosophy of Wittgenstein, in particular Wittgenstein’s discussion of what it means to follow a rule.  Winch argues that the capacity to follow rules is what distinguishes human beings from non-human beings; the best way to get a sense of this is then to study our use of language, because language is the most obvious way in which we demonstrate our capacity to follow rules and to make the world we live in intelligible to one another.  This has affinities with some symbolic interactionist work but the most sustained attempt to take language seriously is found in the work of Harold Garfinkel, who coined the term ‘ethnomethodology’.  Garfinkel’s conclusion, though,  is that our use of language owes more to context-dependent ‘tacit knowledge’ than it does to our following of (context-independent) rules.  This means that the orderly character of our interaction with others is a far more contingent affair than even symbolic interactionism is prepared to accept.  This contingency of language has implications for what sociology can plausibly make an object of inquiry.     



 -         what does Garfinkel mean by the terms ‘cultural dope’ and ‘judgemental dope’?


-         According to Wieder what function does the convict code perform?


-         According to ethnomethodology, how is language significant for everyday life and for sociology? 



 Required Reading:



             (a) Garfinkel, H., Studies in Ethnomethodology, ch.2



 (b) Lawrence Wieder, D., `Telling the Code', in R. Turner (ed.),   Ethnomethodology



 Background Reading:


Alexander, J. 1987. Twenty Lectures.  Sociological Theory since 1945, Hutchinson. chaps 14, 15.


Bloor, D., 1983. Wittgenstein, A Social Theory of Knowledge.  New York: Columbia University Press.


Button, G. (ed.) 1991. Ethnomethodology and the Human Sciences, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Cicourel, A., 1974. Method and Measurement in Sociology


----, 1973. Cognitive Sociology.  Harmondsworth: Penguin


Coulter, J., The Social Construction of Mind


Douglas, J.(ed.), Structures of Everyday Life London: RKP


Emmett, D. 1966. Rules, Roles and Relations.  London: Macmillan

Filmer, P. et al. New Directions in Sociological Theory


Freud, S., ‘Bungled Actions’, in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Gouldner, A. The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology


Heritage, J., Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology, ch.6


---- and Atkinson, J.M.(eds.) 1984. Structures of Social Action


History of the Human Sciences Vol 13, No.1. February 2000.  Special Issue on Winch (also available online)

Hollis, M. and Lukes, S. (eds) 1982.  Rationality and Relativism.  Oxford: Blackwell.

Leiter, K., A Primer on Ethnomethodology


Lyas, C. 1999. Peter Winch.  London: Acumen.

MacIntyre, A. 1971.‘The Idea of a Social Science’, In Bryan Wilson (ed) Rationality.

R.K. Merton. 1996.  ‘The Unanticipated Consequences of Social Action’ (1936), in On Social Structure and Science, Chicago.

M. Oakeshott, 1991. ‘The Tower of Babel’, in Rationalism in Politics.  Liberty Press. OR in On History and Other Essays

----, ‘Rationalism in Politics’, in Rationalism in Politics.  [there are several editions of this, any of which will do]

Outhwaite, W. 1978. Understanding Social Life.   London: Routledge

Pollner, M., Mundane Reason.


Ryan, A. The Philosophy of The Social Sciences. 

Taylor, C. 1985. ‘Self-Interpreting Animals’, in Language and Human Agency: Philosophical Papers I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Bryan (ed) 1971 Rationality. 

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §143-240.


Winch, P. 1990. The Idea of a Social Science.  2nd edition. London: Routledge.  Chapter 2. 


Winch, P. 1971. ‘Understanding a Primitive Society, in Bryan Wilson (ed) Rationality

Weinberg, D. (ed.) 2002. Qualitative research methods.  Oxford: Blackwell.  [papers by Schegloff and Atkinson]



Week 4.  Wed. January 31st     


Historicity I: Norbert Elias, historical development and everyday life




While approaches such as symbolic interactionism sought to do justice to the dynamic character of social life, they did so frequently in small-scale, ‘everyday’ contexts.  When ethnomethodology took this further, it was quickly accused of trivialisation.   Moreover, according to its critics, it, along with other approaches to the study of everyday life, fails to do justice to the phenomenon of power.  For the next two weeks, then, we look at work that, while it also addresses everyday practices in some detail, does so by insisting that these practices are incomprehensible without the application of a resolutely historical perspective.  This week we consider the work of Norbert Elias, whose most notable book, The Civilising Process, was written in the 1930s but whose status was not acknowledged until the 1970s.  In the 1960s Elias became a fierce critic of micro-sociology of the Goffman-Garfinkel variety.    


 -         what benefits are there to tracing long-term processes of social change?


-         How does Elias believe that ‘social constraint’ leads to ‘self-constraint’?


-         is the civilising process a one-way process? 




Required reading:


 (a)                          Norbert Elias, [1939] 1984, The Civilising Process, Oxford Blackwell [ selections


(b)                          ‘The Concept of Figurations’, in What is Sociology?


(c)                           Norbert Elias 1998. ‘The Social Constraint Towards Self-Constraint’, in On Civilisation, Power and Knoweldge.  Chicago: Chicago University Press




 Background reading:




Jeffrey Alexander et al (eds) 1987. The Micro-macro link. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

Arthur Bogner, ‘The Structure of Social Processes: A Commentary on the Sociology of Norbert Elias’, Sociology 20, no.3, 1986, pp.387-411

Lewis Coser, Conflict

Norbert Elias, [1939] 1984 The Civilising Process, Oxford Blackwell,

---- 1983. The Court Society.  Oxford: Blackwell.

----,1996. The Germans, Cambridge: Polity,

----  1978. What is Sociology?  New York: Columbia University Press. ch. 1.

---- ‘The Concept of Everyday Life’, in Goudsblom and Mennell (eds) The Norbert Elias Reader.



 ----  On Civilisation and Social Process.  Chicago: Chicago University Press



 ----, 1998 ‘The Retreat of Sociologists into the Present’, in J. Goudsblom and S. Mennell, The Norbert Elias Reader, Oxford: Blackwell.



 John Fletcher, Violence and Civilisation, Polity 1997


Special issue of Theory, Culture and Society Vol.4, 1987

Stephen Mennell, Norbert Elias: Civilisation and the Human Self-Image, Oxford: Blackwell, 1989

Helmut Kuzmics, ‘Embarrassment and Civilisation: On Some Similarities and Differences in the Work of Goffman and Elias’, Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 8, No.2, 1991, pp.1-30. 

D. Lockwood, 'Social Integration and System Integration', in Solidarity and Schism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988

Smith, D. 2001.  Norbert Elias.  Cambridge: Polity

Robert van Krieken, Norbert Elias, London: Routledge 1998

P. Sztompka, The Sociology of Social Change, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.






Week 5.  Wed. February 7th  


Historicity II: historical rupture and everyday life



Elias’ efforts to combine macro-sociological, institutional analysis with an attention to the manner in which institutional structures affected everyday life are similar to those of Michel Foucault (1926-1984).  But whereas for Elias ‘manners’ result from the ‘spontaneous’ development of power relations and chains of interdependency, for Foucault they are the product of distinct regimes of discipline.  And while for Elias history is a developmental process, for Foucault it displays more discontinuity, rupture and mutation.  


 - What for Foucault is the significant difference between punishment and discipline?


- To what extent does Foucault assume that contemporary forms of discipline have been targeted at passive populations?


- How does Foucault's theory of power differ from those discussed in earlier parts of the course? 



 Required Reading:





(a)    Foucault, M., Discipline and Punish, Harmondsworth: Penguin.  Part I, ch.1; Part III, ch.1.


 Background Reading (this is only a tiny selection!) :


Anderson, P., Arguments within English Marxism, London: Verso, 1980, ch.4

Burchell, G. et al (eds) The Foucault Effect, London: Harvester, 1991

Dandeker, C., Power, Modernity and Surveillance, Cambridge: Polity, 1989


Foucault, M. [1962] 1989. Madness and Civilisation.  London: Routledge.


----,  1986. The Foucault Reader.  Harmondsworth: Penguin.  [v. good collection of key selections.  Worth buying]


----, Power/Knowledge, chs.2, 3

----, 2000. ‘The Subject and Power’, in Power: The Essential Works of Michel


Foucault Vol.3, Penguin.

----, 1981. History of Sexuality Vol.I, London: Penguin, Part 3.


---- 1988. Technologies of the Self: a seminar with Michel Foucault, ed. by Hutton, Martin et al. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.


----, The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, Vols. 1-3., Penguin


Merquior, J.-G., Foucault, London, chs.7, 9

Smart, B., Michel Foucault

Mennell, S., Norbert Elias, ch.4

O'Neill, J., 'The Disciplinary Society: from Weber to Foucault',

British Journal of Sociology, vol. 37, 1986

Parsons, T., ‘The Concept of Political Power’, in Politics and Social Structure


Smith, Dennis, ‘The Civilising Process and The History of Sexuality: Comparing Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault’, Theory and Society 28, 1999, 79-100


----, Norbert Elias, London: Sage 2000 


Weber, M. [1912] 1948. 'The Meaning of Discipline', in Gerth and Wright Mills (eds) From Max Weber


----, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, ch.5. 


Eribon, D.  1992. Michel Foucault.  London: Faber and Faber.


Macey, D.  1994. The Lives of Michel Foucault.  London: Vintage.


Dean, M.  1995.  Governmentality.  London: Sage.

Hindess, B.  1996. Discourses of Power.  Oxford: Blackwell.

Owen, D. 1994.  Maturity and Modernity.  London: Sage.

McNay, L.  1992. Foucault and Feminism.

Sheridan , A. 1990. Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth.










 Week 6.  Wed. February 14th


No lecture - departmental reading week



Week 7.  Wed. February 21st


Explanation in Sociology



 Elias and Foucault have often been criticised for offering broad characterisations of  processes of social change without being able to pin down relationships of cause and effect, say between ‘chains of interdependence’ and ‘table manners’ (Elias)  or between institutional discourses and actual behaviour (Foucault).  This week, then, we tackle head on a problem that we have previously only hinted at, namely the explanatory power (or lack of it) of sociology.  This question has been a staple of sociological theory since discussions of Durkheim’s Suicide, with its four causes of suicide, or Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, with its claims about an ‘elective affinity’ (see Goethe’s novel!) between religiosity and economic action.  Explanation, like other analytical problems, again raises the question of sociology’s relationship to the sciences and to the arts.  The dilemma here is whether we seek ‘law-like’ connections between phenomena  (nomothetic knowledge) or an interpretative understanding of historical connections between individual sequences of events (ideographic knowledge).   One way out of this has been the resort to comparative inquiry, in which the search for laws is abandoned but in which lower-level generalisations are nevertheless attempted.   One area in which this type of inquiry has flourished is that of revolution.



 - what distinguishes Skocpol's approach to revolution from 'political conflict' and Marxist approaches?


- what for Skocpol are the main causes of modern revolutions?


- to what extent does Skocpol neglect the role played by individual actors in revolutions, and does this matter? 






 Required reading:




Skocpol, Theda,‘Explaining Social Revolutions; in quest of a social-structural approach’, in L. Coser (ed. ) The Uses of Controversy in Sociology, 1976.

----, France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 18, no.2, 1976, 175-210   


 Background reading:




R. Brown, 1963, Explanation in Social Science,.

Durkheim, E. Suicide, Preface; part II chapter1; part III chapter 1.

E. Gellner, 1973, Cause and Meaning in the Social Sciences, London: RKP

T. Gurr, 1970,Why Men Rebel, Princeton, 

Hawthorn, G.,1993, Possible Worlds, CUP

C. Hempel, Aspects of Scientific Explanation, New York: Free Press, 1965.

J. Mahoney and D. Rueschemeyer (eds.) Comparative historical analysis in the social sciences , C.U.P. 2003..

D. Little, Varieties of Social Explanation, 1991.

E. Kiser and M. Hechter ‘The Role of General Theory in Comparative-Historical Sociology’, American Journal of Sociology 97 (1), 1-30.

MacIntyre, A., 1967, ‘A Mistake about Causality in Social Science’, in P. Laslett and W.G. Runciman (eds.), Philosophy, Politics and Society 2nd Series, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

----, ‘Causality and History’,  in J. Manninen and R. Tuomela, eds. Essays on Explanation and Understanding: Studies in the Foundations of Humanities and Social Sciences  (Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel, 1976.

M. Mann, 2005, The Dark Side of Democracy: explaining ethnic cleansing, chapter 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Barrington Moore Jr. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Penguin 1966, ch.7, ‘The Democratic Route to Modern Society’

M. Oakeshott, On History, pp.72-96 [very sceptical account of causality]

T. Skocpol, ‘A critical Review of Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy’, Politics and Society, Fall 1973, 1-35.

----, 1984, Vision and Method in Historical Sociology, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

N. Smelser, 1968, Essays on Sociological Explanation, Hemel Hempstead : Prentice-Hall, 1968

Smith, Dennis, The Rise of Historical Sociology

S.P. Turner, Sociological Explanation as Translation

Weber, Max, [1896] 1976, ‘Social Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilisations’, in The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations, London: New Left Books.



Week 8.  Wed. February 28th   

Metaphor in Sociology  

For the last three sessions we look at sociology’s claim to be a science and the consequences of such a claim for the discipline and for ourselves.  Metaphor is sometimes thought of as a way of providing a set of initial images after which the serious business of social science begins, or as a decorative, rhetorical addition to it.  But sometimes metaphor lies at the heart of a piece of theory, ironically enough at the heart of theories which have the greatest ambition to be scientific.  Sometimes a metaphor structures the whole of a sociological perspective.   We have already come across such an example in Parsons’ idea of society as a system and in Goffman’s use of the dramaturgical perspective.  Sometimes a striking metaphor, intended as an aside or afterthought, can take on a life of its own: Weber’s ‘iron cage’ is an example; so is Foucault’s ‘panopticon’.   


 -         can sociology live without metaphor?

-         is Geertz right to say that no single metaphor can make sense of social life?

-         if sociology makes use of metaphor, does this place it closer to literature or science? 



 Required Reading



 (a)   Erving Goffman 1959.  ‘Performances’, in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.  Harmondsworth: Penguin.


(b)   Clifford Geertz, 1985 ‘Blurred Genres’ in Local Knowledge, New York: Basic Books..




Background reading




Giampietro Gobo, ‘Class as Metaphor’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Vol.25, No.4, 1995, 442-467

Max Black (ed.) 1962.  Models and Metaphors.  London: Cornell.

Donald Davidson, The Meaning of a Metaphor (SRC)

Yaron Ezrahi, ‘The Theatrics and Mechanics of Action: the Theatre and the Machine as Political Metaphors’, Social Research Vol.62, No.2, Summer 1995

Donald Levine, ‘The Organism Metaphor in Sociology’, Social Research Vol.62, No.2, Summer 1995

Richard H. Brown, ‘Social Theory as Metaphor’, Theory and Society, Vol. 3, 1976

Philip Manning, Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology, Polity 1992

Mitchell, ‘Everyday Metaphors of Power’, Theory and Society Vol.19 1990 pp.545-577

 Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, London: RKP 1978

----, ‘The Model of the Text’, in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, CUP, 1981

Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By


Richard Sennett, Authority, London: Secker and Warburg, 1980, pp.77-83

Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor. Aids as Metaphor, Penguin, 1991

Victor Turner, Dramas,  Fields and Metaphors, Cornell Univ. Press, 1974.




Week 9. Wed. March 7th    


Depth/Surface distinctions and central generating mechanisms




If we can distinguish between different theories according to the different metaphors which define them, we can also identify a type of metaphorical move which cuts across those differences.  An example is the idea that social life can be divided into a number of levels, some of which are ‘deeper’ than others, below the level of surface appearances, something which it is the sociologist’s job to reveal or invoke as an explanation for what happens ‘on the surface’.  Many theories of ideology (see last term) depend on a distinction of this sort, as we saw, but it is a move made commonly toady in the study of culture.  Here we look at some examples of the depth/surface distinction, at the idea that what is below the surface ‘generates’ what lies on the surface, and at the sociologist’s claim to ‘know better’. 


 -         what is gained by distinguishing between the surface and the depth of social life?


-         does the distinction between surface and depth in social life depend upon the sociologist’s claim to know better?


-          Can one distinguish between depth and surface without being a social determinist?



 Required reading:



 (a)   Karl Marx, ‘Preface to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy’


(b)   Sigmund Freud, ‘A Note on the Unconcsious’, and ‘The Manifest Content of Dreams  and the Latent Dream Thoughts’, in Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (The Collected Works of Sigmund Freud or The Penguin Freud Library Vol.1)


(c)    Robert Merton, ‘Latent and Manifest Functions’, in Social Theory and Social Structure, revised and enlarged edition, New York Free Press, 1957, pp.60-66



 Background Reading:

 Bourdieu, P. 1984 Distinction. Cambridge: Polity [the work of Bourdieu in general is quite a good example of this kind of move]

 ----, [1989] 1998 The State Nobility, Prologue; Part II, ch.2

 ---- The Field of Cultural Production.  New York: Columbia

 Roberto M. Unger, ‘Deep Structure Social Theory’, in Social Theory: its situation and its Task, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp.87-117 [difficult but good]


Gilbert Ryle, 1957.  The Concept of Mind, ch.1

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §90-97

Karl Marx, ’The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in many places, e.g. R. Tucker (ed.)  The Marx-Engels Reader. 

John Dunn,’ Social Science and the Claim to Know Better’, in Rethinking Modern Political Theory, CUP 1984

Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis

----, [1917] ‘The Unconscious’, in Papers in Metapsychology

----, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (all in either Collected Works or in Penguin Freud Library)

Harold Garfinkel, 1974.  ‘The Rational Properties of Scientific and Common Sense Activities’, in A. Giddens (ed.) Positivism and Sociology.  London.

Karl Mannheim, ‘Immanent and Sociological Considerations of Cultural Phenomena’, in Structures of Thinking, London: RKP.  pp.55-84.

Philip Rieff, 1959. Freud: The Mind of the Moralist.  London: Gollanz, chs. 3 and 4. [brilliantly written book on Freud]

Alfred Schutz, 1962. ‘Common-sense and scientific
interpretations of human action’ in Collected Papers Vol.I.
The Hague.


Week 10. Wed. March 14th     

‘What’s it all about?’: Sociology, Science and Progress




To end the term we look at a text which brings together a number of themes which have been covered this term: the idea of history and historical progress, the question of whether sociology can be thought of as a ‘science’, and the relationship between the pursuit of systematic knowledge and everyday life.  Weber’s ‘Science as a Vocation’, while it was delivered as a lecture in 1917, remains a much discussed work today.   In it Weber develops his famous ‘disenchantment’ thesis, which is a complement to the account he gave of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.  He suggests that modern science, which sociology would like to take as a model for itself, is chained to the course of progress, but that precisely this has contributed to the ‘loss of meaning’ which characterises the modern world.  In a world pervaded by the fruits of scientific knowledge, this raises questions about the relationship between scientific and everyday knowledge, a theme addressed memorably by Alfred Schutz. 


 - what do you understand by the expression ‘the disenchantment of the world’?

- in what sense is science ‘chained to the course of progress’?

- what does it mean to be a well-informed citizen?



Required reading:


 Max Weber, ‘Science as a Vocation’, in I. Velody and P. Lassman, Max Weber’s Science as a Vocation, London: Allen and Unwin, 1990; OR [in an earlier translation] in From Max Weber, London: Routledge, 1948 

 Alfred Schutz, 'The Well-Informed Citizen', in Collected Papers II


Background reading:


Zygmunt Bauman, Legislators and Interpreters, Cambridge: Polity, 1991

J. Bury The Idea of Progress

Jurgen Habermas 1968.  ‘Science and Technology as Ideology’, in  Towards a Rational Society, Cambridge: Polity

John A. Hall and I.C. Jarvie eds 1992. Transition to Modernity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992

Georg Iggers, 1968. The German Conception of History .  Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.  

Herminio Martins ‘The Kuhnian Revolution and its implications for Sociology’, in Nossiter, Imagination and Precision in the Social Sciences

Gunther Roth and Wolfgang Schluchter, W. 1979. Max Weber’s Vision of History.  London: California University Press.

Ralph Schroeder 1995. ‘Disenchantment and its Discontents: Weberian perspectives on science and technology’, Sociological Review pp. 227-250

Irving Velody and Peter Lassman eds (1990) Max Weber’s Science as a Vocation, London: Allen and Unwin


Max Weber, ‘Author’s Introduction’ to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism


----, ‘Puritanism and Confucianism’, The Religion of China

Scott Lash and Sam Whimster eds. 1987 Max Weber, Rationality and Modernity, London: Allen and Unwin

Herbert Marcuse, ‘Science and Phenomenology’, in Anthony Giddens (ed) Positivism and Sociology, 1974

Scaff, L. 1989.  Fleeing the Iron Cage.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Turner, Stephen P. 2003. Liberal democracy 3.0.  Civil Society in an Age of Experts. London: Sage.

Max Weber, ‘The Meaning of Ethical Neutrality in Social Science’, in The Methodology of the Social Sciences, New York: Free Press, 1949.