Not available in 2022/23
SO426      Half Unit
Classical Social Thought

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Nigel Dodd STC S106


This course is available on the MA in Modern History, MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Places are allocated based on a written statement. Priority will be given to students who have this course listed in their programme regulations. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

A critical review of classical social theory. The origins and development of classical sociological theory; exploring the work of Marx, Weber, Simmel, Durkheim and De Bois through a close reading and interpretation of primary texts. This course will also explore subsequent developments within these theoretical traditions, including their elaboration into alternative 'canons' of social theory. It is not assumed that students have a basic grounding in classical social theory, although it is expected that students who register for this course will be prepared to develop their understanding through primary readings, and not rely on textbooks.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Reading week: week 6 (MT)

Formative coursework

1000-word formative memo, due in Week 6 of MT.

Indicative reading

Relevant books that provide an overview include:

  • A Callinicos, Social Theory;
  • N Dodd, Social Theory and Modernity;
  • A Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory;
  • G Ritzer, Sociological Theory

The reading list for each seminar will be divided up into essential and additional reading. Students will be asked to read between 50 and 100 pages of primary text per week.

The following is a sample list of readings:

  • Marx, K: The Communist Manifesto & Grundrisse & Capital (sections of vols 1 & 3);
  • Weber, M: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism & 'Science as a Vocation';
  • Simmel, G: The Philosophy of Money (various sections)

And various essays such as:

  • 'The Metropolis and Mental Life', 'The Stranger', etc.;
  • Durkheim, E: The Division of Labour in Society & The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (various sections from each).
  • Du Bois: Souls of Black Folk & Black Reconstruction in America & The Philadelphia Negro (various sections).


Essay (90%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Group exercise (10%) in the MT.

The group exercise will be a summative seminar plan and presentation, in pairs, due throughout MT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Thursday of Lent Term.

Attendance at all seminars and submission of all set coursework is required.

Teachers' comment

The course is designed for students who haven't studied this material before, although there is plenty here too for those who just want to dig more deeply into the work of the four thinkers. I encourage students to read these theorists not just in terms of the history of ideas (important as this is) but also in a present day context. This is the focus of the classes that accompany each lecture.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills