This course is about SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY. We distinguish this from activism, social commentary, policy recommendations, empirical research, ideology, and polemics, although all of these can, at times, be found under the heading "theory." We will also be self-consciously focused on the sociological mainstream or canon, not as an endorsement but because in the limited attention space available it makes sense to focus on building a foundation rather than trying to give everything its due. Additionally, there are several courses at Mills in which theorists we could, but won't talk about, are covered.1
This course is a broad survey of sociological theory. Although you will not be an expert in any one thinker’s ideas, you will be exposed to a variety of theories and the debates occurring between thinkers. The work for the course WILL include an opportunity to focus more on a set of related theories and thinkers.
Strictly speaking, this course is about sociological thought not "social theory." The latter is the broader category including all manner of writings from the philosophical and epistemological to the political and polemical; it may overlap in places with sociological theory, but it neither subsumes nor is subsumed by it. The course is also not, strictly speaking, intellectual history, though there will be some overlap there too.
The course is roughly divided into four sections:
- Foundations: Pre-sociology and the Four Revolutions (American/French/Industrial/1848)
- Classical Theory
- The Twentieth Century
- What's new and next?