Foundations of Sociology - SOCI8670

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 7 20 (10) Chris Shilling checkmark-circle


This course is designed to provide a guide to the foundations of sociology by exploring the most influential traditions of writing in the discipline and examining how these were forged on the basis of an ongoing dialogue with the legacy of the Enlightenment. After situating sociology in its historical, philosophical and theological contexts, the course analyses how the founders of the discipline developed a series of a competing visions of those processes elementary to social and moral life. Focusing mainly on the French and German traditions of sociology, but also incorporating the British tradition, we progress by examining the tensions that have arisen between collectivist visions of the social whole and competing conceptions of voluntarist inter/action, before focusing on Parsons's attempt to reconcile these approaches within an overarching conception of 'the sociological tradition’. The second part of the course moves away from these classical visions of sociology to those post-classical attempts to reconstruct the discipline on the basis of alternative concerns such as conflict, culture and post-modernity. Here we study a number of perspectives that have contributed to a fragmentation of the discipline. Whilst most sessions are concerned with debating the dominant theoretical interests that have defined the discipline, others are devoted to investigating key junctures in the development of methodology and research practice. The course aims to provide students with critical insights into the ways in which sociology has been configured as a discipline in response to key junctures in its history.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


Sociology MA
Two year Master's in Sociology MA

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework – essay (4000 words) – 85%
Coursework -Seminar participation - 15%

Reassessment methods

Reassessment instrument -100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Abrams, P. (1968) The Origins of British Sociology 1834-1914, Chicago
Collins, R. (1985) Four Sociological Traditions, Oxford
Gouldner (1970) The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, Heinemann
Gouldner, A. (1973) For Sociology: Renewal and Critique in Sociology Today, Penguin
Halsey, A. H. (2004) A History of Sociology in Britain, Oxford
Lemert, C. (1995) Sociology After the Crisis, Westview
Levine, D. N. (1995) Visions of the Sociological Tradition, Chicago
Nisbet, R. (1993 [1966]) The Sociological Tradition. New Bruswick, NK.: Transaction. Ch.2.
Shilling, C. & Mellor, P.A. (2001) The Sociological Ambition. London: Sage. Chapter 1

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Have acquired a clear understanding of the historical foundations and social formation of sociology
8.2 Be able to identify and critically discuss the sociological visions and ideological values that underpin contemporary sociological theories of
modern societies
8.3 Be able to communicate in written form the complexities of current sociological debates in modern societies
8.4 Have developed their ability to present sociologically reasoned arguments

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Demonstrate skills commensurate with postgraduate study in presentation and debate, both verbal and written, and in utilization of
research and empirical data
9.2 Be able to synthesize complex theoretical items of knowledge from different schools and disciplines of enquiry
9.3 Be able to gather library and web-based resources appropriate for postgraduate study; make critical judgments about their merits and use
the available evidence to construct a developed argument to be presented orally or in writing
9. Demonstrate advanced research skills including the ability to identify a research question and to answer it by gathering and analysing
appropriate data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources
9.5 Be able to understand the nature and appropriate use, including the ethical implications, of diverse social research strategies
9.6 Distinguish between technical, normative, moral and political questions


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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