Soc 2 (Social theory)


Social theory, Michaelmas

Supervision 1: 20 October

Department of Sociology, Tea Room, 1:30-4:30 PM

Falsificationism and social sciences: are theories mutually commensurable? Do they need to be falsifiable?


Baert, P. 2005. Philosophy of the Social Sciences: Towards Pragmatism. Cambridge: Polity, chapter 3.

*Kuhn, T. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.

Lakatos, I. and A. Musgrave (eds.) 1970. Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Feyerabend, P. 1975. Against Method; Outline of Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge. London: Humanities Press.

* Popper, K. 1991. The Poverty of Historicism. London: Routledge.

* Popper, K. 1991. Conjectures and Refutations. London: Routledge, chapters 15-20.

Additional reading:

Joel Isaac (2012), “Working knowledge: making the human sciences from Parsons to Kuhn” (available online through Idiscover), Prologue (until: Embedded epistemologies).

Essay question: Do theories need to be falsifiable and how do we choose between competing theories if they are not?

Two options:

  • Position paper – 1000 to 2000 words. In the first part (250-500 words), you summarise the concept of falsifiability; in the second (500-1000) you lay out the answer to the main question; in the last (250-500), you answer the last bit (how to choose between theories if they are not falsifiable)
  • “Normal” essay – 2000 to 4000 words (please do not go over this). This allows you to engage in more depth with the readings, but keep an eye on the main question rather than the intricacies of the argument.

Deadline: Position paper – 18 October, 11:59 PM; essay: 17 October, 11:59.

Supervision 2: 3 November

Department of Sociology, Committee Room



*Baert, P. 2015. The Existentialist Moment; The Rise of Sartre as a Public Intellectual. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Davies, H. 1987. Sartre and Les Temps Modernes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

*de Beauvoir, S. 1972. The Second Sex. London: Penguin.(originally: 1949)

Sartre, J-P. 1973. Existentialism and Humanism. London: Methuen. (originally: 1946) *Sartre, J-P. 1976. Anti-Semite and Jew. New York: Schocken. (originally: 1948) Sartre, J-P. 1963. The Problem of Method. London: Methuen. (originally: 1960) *Sartre, J-P. 1983. Between Existentialism and Marxism. London: Verso. (originally: 1962)

Judt, T. Past Imperfect; French Intellectuals, 1944-1956. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Boschetti, A. 1988. The Intellectual Enterprise: Sartre and ‘Les Temps Modernes’. Evanston: Nortwestern University Press.

Additional reading/watching:

Patricia Vieira, Is existentialism a posthumanism?

Blade runner: 2049 (the film) (or: Blade runner, the original film; or, reading “Do androids dream of electic sheep?”, Philip K. Dick).

Essay questions: (choose one)

  • Humans are not born, they are made: discuss (compare with de Beauvoir’s “One is not born a woman, one becomes one”, and Marx’s “men make history, but not under conditions of their own choosing”).
  • What is the relevance of existentialist thought today?

Deadline: 1 November, 11:59 PM

Supervision 3: 24 November

Department of Sociology, Tea room, 2-5PM

Pierre Bourdieu and poststructuralism

*Bourdieu, P. and L.J.D. Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge: Polity.

*Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: CUP. (originally, 1972)

Bourdieu, P. 1990. The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity. (originally, 1980) *Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction; A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. 1999. The Weight of the World. Social suffering in contemporary society. Cambridge: Polity.

Calhoun, C., LiPuma, E. and M. Postone (Eds.) 1993. Bourdieu; Critical Perspectives. Cambridge: Polity.

Jenkins, R. 1992. Pierre Bourdieu. London: Routledge.

Harker, R., Mahar, C. and C. Wilkes (Eds.) 1990. An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu. London: MacMillan. (esp. intro, chapters 1 and 2)

Additional reading:

Essay questions:

  • How does Bourdieu’s concept of class map onto present-day societies? (context of your choosing – you can work with modern Britain but also with any other society you are familiar with)
  • What is reflexive sociology?

Deadline: 22 November, 11:59 PM