European Marxism and the Crisis of the Social Sciences
Convener: Dr. Philip H.J. Davies
The general aim of this course is to trace the debates and developments in sociological thought from the Enlightenment to contemporary Post-Modernism. This will provide the student with:
1. a guide to the history of sociological theory.
2. a framework in which to locate and understand various sociological theories and schools of thought.
3. an understanding of the relationship between theory and its empirical application and evaluation.
In particular, the course will trace the development of sociological theory with reference to two main themes, each with a particular conceptual focus:
1. The first main theme is that of the existence of society and social order. The lecture programme will trace attempts to resolve intimately releated questions of ‘why does society exist?’ and ‘how is social order possible?’.
This will focus on two problems: that of order on one hand and the relationship between idealism and materialism on the other.
i) The problem of order examines the questions of why societies exists as coherently as they do, and how we are to understand the relationship between the individual and the collective, the person and the community, but in terms of their relationship with one another and in our definition of what society is and what drives changes in it structure and processes.
ii) In order to pursue these two problems, the course will focus on the two traditions of materialist explanation, emphasising the pressure of physical and environmental conditions on the formation of social structure(s); and idealist approaches which rely on culture, meaning and belief systems as the main factor in social structure.
The course will examine competing versions of these doctrines, as well as various attempts to develop compromises and syntheses of materialism and idealism.
2. The second main theme is the attempt to formulate and articulate general truthsabout society, and to demonstrate the accuracy of those nominal truths.
This focus on the relationship between theory and methodology.
ii) If one wishes to make provable statements about society, one must be able to establish what kind of evidence is required to demonstrate their accuracy. This means that one must establish what kind of data, and therefore what kind of research methods are appropriate to demonstrating or applying a particular sociological theory.
MODULARISATION 2000-2001 For students taking the modular Part II/Part III programme in Sociology, Analysis can be broken down into three modules of ten weeks in length. Please note, however, the first module is prerequisite for the second and the third, and the second prerequisite for the third. The modular breakdown of analysis runs as follows:
Classical Sociology and the Enlightenment Tradition (Summer Term)
This module traces the origins of 'classical' sociological theory to debates about the nature of society arising out of the European Enlightenment. Particular attention is paid to three key problems:
1. Basic sociological explanation through materialist and idealist approaches to society
2. The problem of order and the role of the individual in society
3. The use of evidence in sociological theory
These issues are traced from the 'social contract' theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau into two divergent traditions: Anglo-American political economy and political philosophy (Smith; English utilitarianism; James Mill and JS Mill; Spencerian positivism) on the one hand, and the Continental sociological tradition (Hegel, Comtean positivism; Marx; Durkheim and Weber) on the other.
Anglo-American Sociology in the Twentieth Century (Autumn Term)
This module traces modern Anglo-American sociological thought from the mid-1930s to the end of the 1980s. The approach concentrates on the development of five keys schools in the tradition: functionalism (both
'hard' and 'soft'), conflict theory (and neo-Marxism, including Burnham and Dahrendorf), symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology and social phenomenology.
This module employs the same conceptual schema as Classical Sociology and the Enlightenment Tradition, i.e. idealism/materialism, the problem of order, and the theory-empirical research relationship.
Prerequisite: Classical Sociology and the Enlightenment Tradition
European Marxism and the Crisis of the Social Sciences (Lent Term)
This module examines the impact of interwar and post-war European Marxism on sociological theory. It commences with the interwar Marxisms of Gramsci, Lukacs and Mannheim, tracing this development into the Hegelian Marxism of the Frankfurt School on the one hand, and French Structural Marxism on the
other. The European Marxist tradition is placed in context with its debates with non-Marxist positions (e.g. Luhmann, Gadamer) and internal debates between the French and German traditions (e.g. the Habermas-Foucault debate). The more recent impact of the French and German post-war traditions and 'post-modernism' on Anglo-American thought will also beexamined.
Prerequisites: Classical Sociology and the Enlightenment Tradition; Anglo-American Sociology in the Twentieth Century
THE ANGLO-AMERICAN POST-WAR TRAJECTORY
Topic.1 Introduction and The Story So Far (Wednesday, 12 October)
Topic2 Functionalism I: The Parsonian Synthesis
Considers; Parsons extension of Weber’s theory of action to the 'unit act', ‘systems of action’ and the cybernetic hierarchy. Examines Parsons’ epistemological stance of ‘analytical realism’ and its relationship to the theory of action. No Seminar.
Examines functionalist sociology written in the pattern of Anthropological functionalism. Traces concepts of functions latent and manifest; dysfunction and non- function. Briefly examines functionalist accounts of conflict. Considers Merton’s views on the relationships between empirical research and theory.
Seminar 1: Parsons and action systems as symbolic systems
Topic 4. The Response to Functionalism I: Blumer and the Interactionists
Traces the development of symbolic interactionism (SI) out of G.H. Mead’s social psychology. Examines Bloomer’s programmatic statement of interactionist doctrine and critique of macro-theory and functionalism. Examines the reliance on
observational methods in SI. Seminar 2: Merton on Latent & Manifest Functions
Topic 5. The Response to Functionalism II: Conflict Theory I: Neo-Marxism
Traces the development of conflict theory and neo-Marxism from C. Wright Mills and Ralph Dahrendorf and their critiques of functionalist thought to Alvin Gouldner’s Coming Crisis. Examines Dahrendorf’s, Gouldner’s and Giddens’ concepts of a new, technocratic middle class and class structure in ‘advanced capitalism’.
Topic 6. Second American Synthesis (I) Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology Examines the roots, appearance and essentials of ethnomethodology. Emphasis on essential concepts in particular the notion of the 'account'. Examines epistemological crisis resulting from ethnomethodological conceptualisation of sociology itself as a form of 'account'. Seminar 4: C. Wright Mills on Social Elites
Topic 8 Second American Synthesis (II) Schutz and Social Phenomenology
Traces the development of social phenomenology and 'contructivist' theory. Concludes with examination of epistemological crisis resulting from including science, and sociology, within the domain of the 'lifeword'. Seminar 5: Garfinkel, 'What is Ethnomethodology?'
Topic 7 Retrospective Analysis of Trends in Post-War American Sociological Theory: What Happened and Why?
Examines themes and issues developed in the course, provides a wrap-up and essential revision guidelines for exam on the sub-unit. Seminar 6: Berger and Luckman on Social Construction
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