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Classical social theory

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 4:30 pm-6:20 pm

Lecture venue

Course description

This course leads students to navigate the major theoretical traditions of sociology. We will read and discuss the works of three major authors: Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. In their writings, these authors each offered important insights on the profound political and social transformations arising with modernity.

Their reflections on the crisis of modernity also left important legacies to modern sociology. The lectures will trace the connections between these sociology founders and the broader traditions of social and political thinking left by Aristotle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Adam Smith.

The major themes include, but not limited to, the rise of capitalism, individualism, the possibilities of society, revolution and social crisis, domination and resistance, morality, and secularization of religion. .

Course learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify the foundations of classical sociology and their historical origins and significance.
  • Understand the relevance of classic theories to analyzing contemporary social problems and develop the students’ comparative skills.
  • Sharpen the students’ analytic skills through group-based work.



Required reading

Selected readings from Capital (Marx)

Division of Labor in Society (Durkheim)

Suicide (Durkheim)

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber)

Recommended reading

The Wealth of Nations (Smith)

Discourse on the Origin of Social Inequality (Rousseau)


Course co-ordinator and teachers