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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Fall 2006

SOC 394k • 3-Background of Sociology (Pre-20th Century)

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
47685 W
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
bur 436A

Course Description

This course emphasizes what is often referred to as classical sociological theory. We shall discuss such major sociological figures as Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Mead, and to some extent Simmel. We shall also devote some attention to scholars such as DuBois, Gilman, Addams, and others who had addressed issues such as race and gender and who have typically been defined as outside the theoretical orbit of the so-called classical heritage.

A number of issues should emerge from our discussion in this class. First, in examining the theoretical efforts of the aforementioned sociologists we shall make an effort to place their theorizing within the context of the world in which they lived (and which they described). These scholars were grappling mightily to make sense out of the social order around them in ways never before articulated. To this end, they constructed some of the basic building blocks for modern sociology (or social science more generally). Second, we shall attempt, as a major feature of the lectures, to isolate (and elaborate upon) some of the salient (or basic) ideas that they formulated. Third, in the process of articulating their theoretical system, we shall be attentive to the scholars that the sociological theorists were criticizing. Moreover, all these writers marshaled evidence to support their views. And thus, fourthly, we shall consider the kinds of data that were available to these social scientists as well as some of the data that lay outside their scope of inquiry. In one sense we shall consider the thorny problem of the relationship between theory and data. Fifth, we shall pay special attention to the relevance of their theorizing for contemporary sociological inquiry. Indeed, from these scholars we learn that there is a sociological way of looking at the social world.


  • E. Durkheim, The Division of Labor
  • E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life
  • M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber
  • R. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader
  • G. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society
  • a few more articles or essays


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