Classical Theory

Tu 2:30PM - 5:00PM / 2800 Wesley W Posvar Hall / CRN 29792

This seminar is designed to examine the contributions of classical theory to the understanding of the main structures, processes and contradictions of modern capitalist societies. This includes understandings of the relations of self, mind and society. The social sciences emerged in the 19th century as the intellectual outcome of immense and disruptive processes of sociopolitical and economic change. They were the product of the intellectual labor of scholars deeply engaged in cultural and political life, seeking to elucidate the influence of capitalism and evolutionary theory on the emergent social order. From this period into the first half of the C20th, investigations in political theory, political economy, sociology, historical materialism and the like formed rich theoretical frameworks and approaches which still shape contemporary social science theory and research.
Though the readings include a historical overview on the development of the social sciences, particularly sociology and historical materialism, this seminar will focus on the contributions of three main theorists: Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel. Along the way, we further contextualize this period through the evolutionary theory of Herbert Spencer, and the pragmatism of George Herbert Mead. Through extensive class discussion and assignments, and with reference to extended examples and case studies, students are encouraged to consider how classical theory might be utilized in your own research and thinking about the social sciences. The aim is for students to master the skills necessary to continue and deepen their reading and understanding of the classics on their own.

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Mark Paterson

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Course Category

Category A: Text and Theory

Course Year