Classical Sociological Theory
(Peter Weeks, Intersession, 2004)
This course outlines the major theories, concepts and perspectives of three of the founders of sociology: Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber.
A major aim is to place their work in its historical context. These writers lived in the midst of sweeping changes leading to the "modern world" as we know it. These included the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism which transformed traditional feudal and agrarian societies into modern ones, displacing numerous peasants and landowners, leading to mass migrations from rural settings to rapidly expanding cities. Traditional communities, political and religious authority were being undermined - resulting in massive social disruptions and a search for new bases of social order. The American and French Revolutions were for them quite recent power struggles. Also, the unification of Germany and Italy as nation-states occurred during their lifetimes.
In addition, the Enlightenment of the preceding century (the 18th.) represented a radical questioning of traditional authority with its advocacy of the use of reason, science, and technology as agents of human liberation and progress. Our sociological founders were responding to this European intellectual reorientation and the conservative reactions to it.
Our other principal task is to draw out the relevance of their ideas and analyses for the understanding of contemporary social issues. While much has changed since they wrote - with some observers even suggesting that we are entering a profoundly new "postmodern" phase - many of the problems that classical sociologists were concerned with still have a bearing on current social problems. Examples are the concentration of economic power, especially in the hands of a limited number of global corporations, the increasing specialization and fragmentation of work, the expansion of state and corporate bureaucracy, the decline of traditional small communities resulting from urbanization, and the increasing role of science and technology in our everyday lives. Of course, we must not ignore those predictions that did not work out and the developments that they did not foresee. Nevertheless, I hope that you will discover their deep and interesting insights on modern society despite the historical changes that have occurred since they wrote.
While lectures will be the main method of teaching, frequent discussions of arguments and issues will be encouraged.
The one required textbook is George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman, Classical Sociological Theory, 4th. edition available for purchase at the UNB Bookstore. Other materials will be distributed from time to time.
You are welcome to purchase second-hand copies of this text, Ritzer's Sociological Theory, or other texts on classical theory.
Assignments and Evaluation:
1. 3 Short Essays: 3 X 20% = 60%
About 5 to 7 pages, this report is intended as a summary of the major ideas of Karl Marx and/or the historical background of the founding of sociology. You are encouraged to make critical comments on them and to suggest how they could be applied to current problems or trends in our society.
2. Participation 10%
Minimally, this involves regular attendance, but also includes participation in class discussions.
3. Final Examination:
This is an essay-style test on the last day of the class which is an opportunity to synthesize and compare the various ideas discussed in this course.
Topics & Readings:
1. Historical Background & Early Sociology:
* Ritzer, chapter 1.
2. Karl Marx:
* Ritzer, chapter 5.
* other materials.
3. Max Weber:
* Ritzer, chapter 7.
* other materials
4. Émile Durkheim:
* Ritzer, chapter 6.
5. Summary & Implications
for Contemporary Society:
* other materials TBA.
To Contact Instructor:
Office Phone: 452-0467 (which has voice mail),
1006 Introduction to Sociology
2513 Sociology of Communication
2613 Sociology of Gender
3013 Classical Sociological Theory
3023 Modern Sociological Theory
3513 Sociology of Education
3523 Sociology of Knowledge
3563 Sociology of Music
3573 Sociology of Art & Culture
4013 Senior Seminar
4033 Advanced Sociological Theory
Dr. Peter Weeks / Sociology / Faculty / STU Homepage