Sociology 97: Tutorial in Sociological Theory





Photo Cred Dave Nelson

Photo taken by Dave Nelson.

Sociologists are a diverse group but they are all bound by one common goal: a desire to understand how society works. Although sociologists adopt a multitude of approaches to understand the social world, they all ask a similar basic question: How and why are patterns of social organization created, maintained, and changed? In their quest to explain why events in the social world occur and why social forms should exist, sociologists develop theories—attempts to understand those properties of, and processes involved in, creating, maintaining, and changing patterns of social organization.

This course introduces you to the thinkers, ideas, concepts, and concerns that together comprise the fields of classical and contemporary sociological theory. Although it can seem as though there is a great distance between empirical research on contemporary societies and the more abstract claims of classical sociological theorists, no good sociology is atheoretical, and any engagement with the history of the discipline will show that its best empirical studies address, borrow from, build upon, or are otherwise in dialogue with themes first laid out in the texts we will read this semester. Because this is so, learning about theory—and classical theory, in particular—is a means to better understand sociology more generally. The theorists we will be grappling with had radically different conceptions of what sociology is and of the purposes to which it should be put, and thought about the social world in original and influential ways.

 Specifically, we aim to:
1. Map the central theoretical traditions within sociology.
2. Apply, analyze, and evaluate the key concepts from these traditions.
3. Confront original theoretical and empirical texts.
4. Connect theoretical argument and empirical research.
5. Understand sociological theory as a critical style of thought.
6. Develop specific skills in theoretical discourse.
7. Engage sociological theory in writing.
8. Advance understanding of what sociology is fundamentally about.
soc_97_syllabus_spring_2014_.pdf192 KB