Course Description

This course examines the foundational theories that have engaged major social theorists. It analyzes the cultural, social, economic, political, intellectual, and biographical contexts within which they developed; and it appraises the extent to which they continue to inform sociological research and thinking.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify and describe the intellectual foundations of sociological theory.
  • Define what a social theory is.
  • Distinguish among the theories of major classical social theorists who were attempting to explain what society is, understand how social order and social change, and remedy social problems.
  • Analyze the social issues and social problems arising from modernity that influenced classical social theorists, as well as the historical, sociological, ideological, and biographical influences that shaped their ideas.
  • Investigate and describe how class, nation, race, gender, and sexual orientation biases and identities influenced classical social theory and sociological research.
  • Evaluate the various theoretical approaches to the study of society and of the individual in society.
  • Discuss how classical sociological theory was used in the past and is used presently to explain everyday life events and changes in the institutional structure of society.
  • Evaluate the relevance of the central and defining themes of classical social theory for understanding everyday social experience (e.g., technology, crime, punishment, war, work, social inequality, and experiences of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation).
  • Evaluate sociology’s uses and limits as a social science and as value-orienting or value-critiquing practice.
  • Articulate how classical social theory continues to shape public, political, and moral debates.
  • Research the relevant scholarship and integrate this research into original arguments that contribute to the ongoing scholarly discussion of a topic within the period.


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