Social Theory II

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLS2SC0054

Semester and Year Offered: Second Semester, Winter 2018-19

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr.Bidhan Chandra, Dr.GowharFazili

Email of course coordinator:;


Aim:This course follows Social Theory I taught in the first semester. While the earlier course deals with classical sociologists, the present one goes beyond the confines of classical theory. The course focuses largely on contemporary theorists, but it also looks at some of the theorists of early capitalism and modernity whose rich and nuanced ideas have often been homogenized under the rubric of functionalism, structuralism or some other broad term. The course seeks to familiarize students with various theoretical perspectives before focusing on individual theorists and engaging with specific ideas and issues they bring into focus. Hence Part I is devoted to the explication of broader theoretical perspectives, followed by various thematic modules spanning from Part IIto PartV.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Familiarize students with the nature, processes and causes of transitions in sociological theory.
  2. Understand perspectives on how sociological ideas move through time.
  3. Appreciate the relationship between changes in theoretical perspectives in sociology (or humanities at large) and significant historical, social, economic and political developments in society.
  4. Develop an understanding of the keymoments of rupture and contestationin sociological theoryover the last century; criticallyengage with these moments, appreciatetheir continued relevance/irrelevance to sociological issues at hand.

Brief description of the modules/ Main modules:

Part 1

Module 1 marks the rise of Parsonian functionalism, its decline, and the neo-functionalist attempts to salvage what remains useful by combining it with insights drawn from contemporaneous perspectives in sociology.

Module 2 is focussed on the micro-sociological challenge/s to functionalism and structural functionalism, particularly the ones posed from the phenomenological, interactionists and ethno methodological perspective.
Module 3 traces the emergence of structuralism, its relationship to developments in linguistics and allied disciplines and its exposition in the work of social anthropologists like Levis Strauss. This is followed by an engagement with a broad spectrum of post-structuralist critiques.

Part 2

Building on the introduction to Marxism in Social Theory I, module 4 introduces neo-Marxist perspectives through a selection from the writings of thinkers like Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser and Rosa Luxemburg and thus enablesappreciation of the cultural and structural turn in Marxism.

Part 3, 4and 5

Various modules (5-11) in Part 3, 4 and 5 dwell on specific themes and debates as reflected in select readings drawnfromthe works of various 20th century sociological thinkers and philosophers including Adorno, Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin,JurgenHabermas, Michel Foucault, Jean Francois Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida and Pierre Bourdieu. The contemporary debates around modernity, culture, art, knowledge, truth, power, language; reproduction and subversion of power in a range of social domains are revisited through anengagement with the said readings.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Students are required to submit a BOOK REVIEWby 9th February…………20%
  • Class Test on 23rd February……………………………………………………20%
  • Take home assignment submission by 8th March……………………………..25%
  • Class Test on 3rd April………………………………………………………….25%
  • Class participation…………………………………………..…………………..10%

Reading List:

Part I – Introduction to various theoretical perspectives in Sociology

Module 1: Functionalism and Neo-Functionalism

Alexander, Jeffry C. Ed. 1987. Twenty Lectures in Sociological Theory Since World War-II, New York: Columbia University Press, Page: 1-36

Alexander, Jeffrey C. Ed. 1985. Neo-functionalism. London: Sage

Calhoun, C. et al. 2007. Classical Sociological Theory, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Part-VI, Page: 399-421.

Parsons, T. 1966. The Structure of Social Action: a Study in Social Theory with Special Reference to a Group of Recent European Writers, New York: Free Press. (Chapter-2)(Page 43-72)

Module2: Interactionism Phenomenology and Ethnomethodology

Anderson, J.A. et al. 1986. Philosophy and Human Sciences, Kent: Croom Helm Ltd. Chapter-4

Calhoun, C. et al. 2002. Contemporary Sociological Theory, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Wagner, H.R. 1970. Alfred Schutz on Phenomenology and Social Relations, London: University of Chicago Press.

Zeitlin, I. 1986. Rethinking Sociology: A Critique of Contemporary Theory, Jaipur: Rawat Publication

Module3: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism

Anderson, J.A. et al. 1986. Philosophy and Human Sciences, Kent: Croom Helm Ltd. Chapter-5

Lechte, J. 1994. Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Post-Humanism, London: Rutledge. Page: 58-120

Part II – Neo Marxism: Cultural and Structural Turn

Module 4: Antonio Gramsci’s concept of Hegemony and Revolution

Gramsci, A. 1996. Selections From the Prison Notebooks. Hyderabad: Orient Longman.

Louis Althusser, Capitalism and the Problem of Over Determination

Althusser, L. and E. Balibar. 1997. Reading Capital. Tr.By Ben Brewster.London: Verso.

Anderson, K. and Hudis, P. (2004) The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, London: Monthly Review Press.

Part III—RevisitingDebates on Modernity, Culture, Knowledge and Power

Module 5: Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin Debates on Culture, Modernity and Emancipation debate on Youtube video

Adorno, T and Horkheimer, M. [1944] 1973.Dialectic of Enlightenment.Translated by John Cumming, 120-67 & 168-186.London: Allen Lane.

Palmer, D. 2007. ‘Contemplative Immersion: Benjamin, Adorno & Media Art Criticism’. Transformations 15

Module6:JurgenHabermas, Modernity, Rationality and Emancipation

Habermas, J. [1981] 1991.The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. II. Translated by Thomas McCarthy, 113-118 and 153-197.Cambridge: Polity Press.

Module 7: Michel Foucault on Knowledge/Power and Governmentality

Foucault, M. 2002. The Archaeology of Knowledge. London and New York: Routledge.

Foucault, M. 1980. Power and Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-77, edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M. 1991. ‘Governmentality’ in Graham Burchell (eds.) The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Part IV – Language, Truth and Power

Module8: Jean Francois Lyotard on Postmodernity, Narratives and Language

Lyotard, J.F. 1984. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.Tr.By Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Module9: Jean Baudrillard

Pawlet, W. 2007. Jean Baudrillard: Against Banality. New York: Routledge

Lechte, J. 1994. Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Post-Humanism, London:Rutledge. Page: 299-322.

Module10:Jacques Derrida on Language, Text and Construction

Derrida, J. 1980. Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Part V—Power, Reproduction, Subversion

Module11: Pierre Bourdieu: On Social Class, Distinction & Forms of Capital

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. “The Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. Ed. John G. Richardson, New York: Greenwood Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. “What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Existence of Groups.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 32: 1-17.


  • Bernstein, J. Richard. 1985. Habermas and Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Bottomore, Tom 2002. The Frankfurt School and its Critics, Key Sociologists. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Frisby, David. 2002. Georg Simmel, Key Sociologists. London and New York: Routledge
  • Jenkins, Richard. 2002. Pierre Bourdieu, Key Sociologists. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Leach, E. 1989. Levi-Strauss. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Mills, Sara. 2003. Michel Foucault, Routledge Critical Thinkers. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Simon, R. 1982. Gramsci’s Political Thought: An Introduction. London: Lawrence and Wishart.
  • Smart, Barry. 2002. Michel Foucault, Key Sociologists. London and New York: Routledge.