Theory Courses

This course is intended for use in Sociological Theory II (753402) and Sociology of Contemporary societies (753403) in Sociology, and corresponding study units in other disciplines in the Faculty of Social Sciences. It is offered to all MA students in the Department of Social Research and all doctoral students in the PhD Programme of the Social Sciences. It can also be used in history, philosophy, political science and economics if agreed with the examiner of the corresponding study unit.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL PROMISE FROM THE ENLIGHTENMENT TO POSTMODERN CRITICS. FIGHTING BACK THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL MONSTER

Presentation of the course

Why is it so difficult to deal with difference in modern societies? Do they, even the most liberal democracies, have a tendency to turn into totalitarian states? These are questions that arise today as we look around the world in which we live, but they are not new. The social thought in the Enlightenment formulated them on the basis of two starting points. First, societies are not held together by natural laws; they are man-made human constructions and therefore historical and variable. Second, not only are societies made by humans; also humans are made by societies. Calculative rationality is one of the ways in which societies “make man” but not the basis of social order.
Most sociological traditions have fought back the “anthropological monster” of the self-interested rational calculator that keeps reappearing not only in economic theory but also in everyday thought. Doing this they have sought to answer the two questions above. There must be a way of binding members of society to the social order as equals but accommodating their differences. The subjects of the social order are also the source of its political legitimacy. The republican paradox, as it is here called, is a tendency towards totalitarian rule that originates from this very source.
This lecture and reading course discusses the way sociological theories have dealt with these two problems, starting with the Enlightenment, commenting on the classical tradition, and then going into solutions, the neoliberal creed and the contractual illusion, that are part of our everyday political and practical struggles over equality and difference, and the danger of totalitarianism.

Programme
30.10. Enlightenment on modern society: agency as the principle of justification of social order
06.11. The classical tradition and the ambivalences of modern societies: conflict or integration?
13.11. Critics of republicanism and the threat of totalitarianism
20.11. Universalism and difference: Erik Allardt’s theory
29.11. The neoliberal turn: Milton Friedman on liberty
04.12. The contractual illusion and the New Middle Class
11.12. Symbolisation and violence: Parsons, Bourdieu and the critique of the anthropological monster
18.12. FINAL EXAMINATION

The course in period 2, 2015, does not require participation in earlier courses of the same series.
The course consists of lectures, background readings, group work and an open examination (you can bring your laptops and use any material you like to answer the questions).
The course gives 5 Credit Points.

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