Twentieth Century Social Theory

Course NameTwentieth Century Social Theory
Course CodeSOC400 / SOC500
DescriptionIn this course we will be chronologically exploring some of the key thinkers in continental European social philosophy & social theory and placing them in their socio-historical context. In the first half of the term we will trace the origins & backgrounds of European social philosophy in the thought of such philosophers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger. We will move on to an assessment of how the cataclysms of the First & Second World Wars affected European social thinkers (Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Hannah Arendt), considering the shift in European social thought from a German to a French axis in the postwar period, and the attempts to deconstruct, revise, and even supersede Enlightenment accounts of rationality, autonomy, and society. In this second half we will be considering the works of the following thinkers: Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Maurice Blanchot, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jean Baudrillard, Jurgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann, Zygmunt Bauman and Judith Butler. (Along the way, other supplemental theorists will be discussed, such as Max Weber, Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor, Peter Sloterdijk, Slavoj Zizek, just to name a few.)
Learning OutcomesUpon completion of this course, students should be able to:
– Understand the Enlightenment basis of European social philosophy from Kant through Hegel, coming to an understanding of how later thinkers amplified, revised, critiqued, and diverged from their thought;
– Understand the key contemporary thinkers of European social philosophy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries;
– Understand how European social philosophers reflected the socio-historical epochs that gave rise to their thought, from the French Revolution 1789 through the Velvet Revolution (1989), and from 9/11 to the present;
– Critically think through a variety of complex theories, and relate those theories to social issues.
SchoolThe School of Humanities & Social Sciences
LevelBachelor / Master
Number of credits (US / ECTS)3 US / 6 ECTS