Sociology

Overview

Sociology explores almost every aspect of social life by drawing on theoretical ideas that help us to understand societies and the forms they take, as well as studying real world social problems and the ethical dilemmas faced by our contemporary world. Our degree provides students with a critical understanding of society and expertise in researching social processes.

LSE Sociology is one of the premier sociology departments in the world, providing cutting-edge research-led teaching delivered by international experts in their field. Ours was the first sociology department in the United Kingdom and has played a unique role in defining and developing the discipline – nationally and internationally – since 1904. We have an international student body and a global perspective.

The QS World University Rankings 2015 puts the Department second in the UK and Europe and fifth in the world for sociology.

Features of LSE courses

As a student of LSE you will be taught by some of the world’s leading sociologists, introduced to the classical traditions of the discipline, and brought into direct contact with the most advanced contemporary research and scholarship. LSE aims to be both a guardian of the discipline of sociology, and a leader in the development of the social sciences into new intellectual areas, addressing the social problems and ethical dilemmas that a globalised post-modern society faces.

At LSE you will explore specific examples of social action, social processes and institutions; compare different types of social life and societies; examine theories about the nature of social existence and change; study different methods of social research and undertake some research of your own.

LSE Sociology embraces a theoretically and methodologically diverse range of approaches and the teaching and research in the Department concentrates on perennial issues of concern to sociology with a focus on the following key areas:

Economy, technology and expertise: our scholarship and teaching in this area covers economic sociology, science and technology studies (STS) and the sociology of risk regulation. Our work has particular strengths in addressing research questions that require a combination of concepts and methods from these sub-disciplines. We draw upon a range of classical and contemporary social theory to explore topics such as the social life and politics of money, the history of financialisation, the impact of digital technologies on time poverty and speed, consumption, marketing and creative industries, and formation of art markets. Our economic sociology is concerned with how technologies and cultures of expertise shape institutions, cultures, money and markets. We explore risk regulation in the light of broader concerns for organisational processes and techniques of governance. In addition, we draw on economic sociology and STS in order to investigate phenomena such as digital money, everyday technologies and labour. Lastly, we study scientific fields and practices, particularly in the areas of bioscience and medicine, where dialogue with economic sociologists stimulates new insights on the meaning of labour in science.

Politics and human rights: research and teaching in this area builds on a strong intellectual tradition in LSE Sociology and it focuses on several themes: the social bases of political parties and movements; the theory and practice of human rights; democracy and participation in states, firms and civil society organisations; political ideologies, including liberalism and neo-liberalism, socialism, conservatism secularism and cosmopolitanism; political violence, including war and its opponents, transitional justice, trauma and the investigation of atrocities; and the politics of cities and housing. Members work on the US, UK and Australia as well as Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.

Social inequalities: this area of teaching and research concentrates on different aspects of social inequality, including class, race and ethnicity, gender and age. Driven by an awareness of the dramatic increase in economic inequality in recent decades associated with contemporary neo-liberal capitalism. It draws on intellectual currents including field analysis, social network analysis, science studies, material culture studies, feminism, and critical race theory and draws on both quantitative and qualitative methods, including ethnography, social network analysis, and multiple correspondence analysis.

Urban sociology: this area of interest in the Department looks at processes of urbanisation in relation to global systems of power and regulation, cultural hierarchies and subversions, and forms of association and exclusion. Specific areas include conditions of urban inequality, the role of housing in an era of dispossession, the practice of new media and technology in global contexts, cross-disciplinary explorations of architecture and cultural space, and migrant urbanisms. The LSE Cities research centre, located within the Department, brings together interdisciplinary and applied research and teaching activities. LSE Cities’ core focus is on space and society, the environment and climate change, and urban governance.

Our teaching is informed by these central areas of engagement and by our own active research in these areas.

LSE Sociology provides a learning environment in which students develop a firm grasp of the key dimensions of contemporary sociology, and are encouraged to think critically and independently. Many of the key issues in the discipline worldwide are contested and our teaching enables students to understand and evaluate these disputes and adopt a position in relation to them. Rigorous, critical, and independent thought is the most transferable skill of all, and is the overarching objective of the learning experience we provide to our students.

The Department of Sociology at LSE welcomes and values the racial, ethnic, religious, national and cultural diversity of all its students, staff, alumni and visitors. The Department believes in equal treatment based on merit and encourages a learning environment based on mutual respect and dialogue.

Degree structure

You can take a single honours degree in sociology or study it as a joint subject with social policy.

The degree has twelve courses – six compulsory and six optional. The first year focuses on social theory, introducing sociological theories and the different approaches to conceptual analysis and development within the discipline. Power, Inequality and Difference provides an overview of some of the most important contemporary themes in society – for example, class, power and inequality; politics and social movements; gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; illness and deviance. Students also take an introductory course on Statistics in Society and a course of their own choice from another department. This can include a language.

The interdisciplinary environment at LSE means students can take courses offered by any department within the School (up to a maximum of three for sociology students across their degree). Every LSE student also takes the LSE100 course, designed to bring together students from across the School to introduce the fundamental elements of thinking as a social scientist.

In the second and third years, sociology students have fewer compulsory courses and have the space to explore a number of specialist areas within sociology in more depth including crime, deviance and control; gender and society; sociology of health and medicine; political sociology; race and ethnicity; work, management and globalisation; personal life, intimacy and the family; atrocity and justice; knowledge, power and social change. Students can also take two courses in other departments within the School. 

What the selectors are looking for in an application

The selectors are looking for students who have a deep and genuine interest in studying the social sciences generally, and sociology in particular. There is no one ideal subject combination, although successful Sociology applicants in the past have tended to study mainly social science subjects. As with all degree programmes at LSE, at least two traditional academic subjects are preferred.

Your personal statement should outline your enthusiasm and motivation for studying sociology and explain your interest in relationships between peoples and society in general. You should mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how your interests relate to your current academic programme and what additional reading or relevant experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You may also like to include information on your extra-curricular activities and any relevant work experience.

Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of sociology at LSE include the abilities to ask incisive questions; work independently; read widely; communicate with clarity and adopt a creative and flexible approach to their studies. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.

Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/soc for further information on admissions criteria.

Teaching and assessment

We encourage our students to think critically and independently and the teaching techniques we employ are designed to encourage this. Most courses include both lectures (where an overview of the week's topic and the key issues are outlined) and small seminars where you have the opportunity to discuss your reading, explore issues in more depth and exchange and discuss ideas with your fellow students. Most of our teaching is interactive and requires active student participation and engagement. Some courses have group work, projects and outside visits too.

You will have an examination for most courses at the end of the year. Some courses are examined partially or wholly by essays and/or projects. For coursework that does not contribute to the final degree mark, you will be given feedback throughout the year.

You will also have an academic adviser who will be available to offer general guidance and assistance with both academic and pastoral concerns.

Preliminary reading

  • N Abercrombie Sociology: a short introduction (Polity Press, 2004)
  • A Giddens and P W Sutton Sociology (7th edition, Polity Press, 2012)
  • S Lawler Identity: sociological perspectives (2nd edition, Polity, 2013)
  • S Punch et al Sociology: making sense of society (5th edition, Pearson, 2013)
  • K Woodward Questioning Identity: gender, class, ethnicity (2nd edition, Routledge, 2004)

Graduate destinations

We train our undergraduates to the highest standards and the critical thinking skills they develop are valued by employers. Our students go into a wide variety of professions including teaching, research, politics, public administration, the media, social and health services, advertising, journalism, law, publishing, industry, accounting, marketing, personnel and management.

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