Sociological Theory

Human Sciences paper 5b; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics paper 218

Course Co-ordinator: Professor Federico Varese


In this paper you will investigate a variety of theoretical perspectives on social life. Some perspectives examine how social structures are built up from individual action, whether driven by evolutionary psychology, decided by rational choice, or motivated by meaningful values. Others identify the emergent properties of social life, ranging from face-to-face interaction to social networks to structures of thought. You will use these perspectives to investigate substantive problems. What explains the persistence of gender inequality? Why do social norms change? How do some groups manage to solve problems of collective action? Throughout, you will learn how the insights of classical sociologists are being advanced in contemporary research.


Theoretical perspectives including rational choice; evolutionary psychology; interpersonal interaction; social integration and networks; functionalism. Substantive problems including stratification; gender; race and ethnicity; collective action; norms; ideology. Candidates will be expected to use theories to explain substantive problems.

  • Theoretical Perspectives (Dr Michael Biggs): 8 lectures, Michaelmas Term
  • Sociological Problems (Prof Federico Varese): 8 lectures, Hilary Term