Classical Social Thought (sp 212) Semester 1, 2017-18. Lecturer: Prof. Niamh Reilly Office

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Classical Social Thought (SP 212)

Semester 1, 2017-18.

Lecturer: Prof. Niamh Reilly

Office: Room 310, Áras Moyola; email:

Office Hours: Tuesday 2-3pm and Wednesday 2-3pm

Course Description:

The classical tradition in sociology has been heavily influenced by the writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883), Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) and Max Weber (1864-1920). Each of these thinkers reflect a particular approach to the study of society. Their ideas have contributed substantially to our understanding of the evolution and the shape of modern societies, including how power operates and resources are distributed within and across the different parts of society.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course students will be familiar with the classical tradition in social thought, with a principal focus on the key ideas and approaches of Marx, Durkheim and Weber. This will include these thinkers’ specific perspectives on class, the division of labour, gender, politics, the state, ideology and religion.

Course Texts:

The core text for this module is:

  • Ken Morrison 2006 Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought, Sage, (2nd Edition) (NUI Galway Library: 301.0922 MOR). ISBN-10: 0761970568/ISBN-13: 978-0761970569

Note: Purchase of the core text is recommended – this book will be available for purchase at the pop-up book shop on campus during the weeks of Sept 4, 11, 18, 25 – Mon to Thurs, 10am – 5pm, Friday 10am 1pm.

The following texts will be used as sources of additional readings:

  • Ian Craib 2000 Classical Social Theory: An Introduction to the Thought of Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (NUI Galway Library 301.01 CRA).

  • Anthony Giddens, 1971 Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, Cambridge University Press, (NUI Galway Library: 301.001 GID) (Book on one-day loan).

Recommended extracts from selected primary source writings by Marx, Durkheim, Weber and Simmel will be made available via Blackboard.
Week 1 (6 Sept): Introduction
Core reading:

Morrison, Chapter 1 (Introduction) pp. 1-34.

Additional reading:

Craib, Chapter 2 (‘The main characters and the main ideas’), pp. 11-22.

Giddens, Introduction, pp. xi-xvi.


Week 2 (Sept 12 & 13): Alienation and historical materialism

Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 2, pp. 116-126 (‘The Theory of Alienation’) and pp. 42-50 (on historical materialism).
Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 1 (Marx), ‘Historical Materialism’ (pp. 18-34).

Craib, Chapter 4 (‘Karl Marx: The primacy of production’), pp. 35-42; and

Chapter 8 (‘Was Marx a Marxist?’) pp. 86-101 (on alienation) and pp. 105-115 (on ideology and family).

Week 3 (Sept 19 & 20): Labour and class

Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 2, pp. 51-60 (on ‘class’) and pp. 90-104 (on ‘value’ and ‘labour’)
Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 1 (Marx), ‘The relations of production and class structure’ (pp. 35-45).

Craib, Chapter 8 (‘Was Marx a Marxist?’) pp. 86-101.
Week 4 (Sept 26 & 27): Ideology and the state

Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 2 pp. 61-75 (on ideology) and pp. 127-135 (‘Marx’s Political Writings’).
Additional reading:

Craib, Chapter 8 (‘Was Marx a Marxist?’) pp. 101-104 (on the state) and pp. 105-115 (topics: ideology and family).


Week 5 (Oct 3 & 4): Durkheim’s division of labour

Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 158-170 (‘The division of labour in society’).
Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 5, pp. 65-81 (‘Durkheim’s early work’) and pp. 95-104 (‘Individualism, socialism and occupational groups’).

Craib, Chapter 7, pp. 63-69 (‘Types of solidarity’) and pp. 79-84. (‘Sociology of the law, state and politics’)
Week 6 (Oct 10 & 11): Weber: history, rationalization and capitalism
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 271-294 (subsections from ‘view of history’ to ‘rational capitalism’).

Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 11, pp. 145-168 (‘Fundamental concepts of sociology); and Chapter 13, pp. 185-204 (‘Marx’s influence’).

Craib, Chapter 9 (‘The liberal Weber’), pp. 119-127 (subsections on fundamental concepts and economic sociology).
Week 7
Oct 17: Weber: class, status and party
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 295-312 (subsections on classes and groups).

Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 15, pp. 224-242 (‘Social differentiation and the division of labour’).

Craib, Chapter 9 (‘The liberal Weber’), pp. 128-132 (subsections on class, status and party).
Oct 18: Weber on ‘legitimate domination’ and ‘bureaucracy’

Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 361-386 (From ‘The concept of political authority, legitimacy and administrative apparatus’ to ‘The consequences of bureaucracy’).
Additional reading:

Craib, Chapter 9 (‘The liberal Weber’), pp. 133-145 (subsections on power, domination and authority).

Week 8 (Oct 24 & 25):
Revision and review: looking ahead to the exam.
Week 9 (Oct 31 & Nov 1): Durkheim’s concept of sociological method
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 185-198. (‘The rules of sociological method’).

Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 6, pp. 82-94 (‘Durkheim’s conception of sociological methods’).

Craib, Chapter 3, pp. 25-32 (‘Durkheim: The discovery of social facts’).

Week 10 (Nov 7): Durkheim’s study of suicide
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 199-231. (‘Durkheim’s study of suicide’).

Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 6, pp. 82-94 (‘Durkheim’s conception of sociological methods’).

Craib, Chapter 3, pp. 25-32 (‘Durkheim: The discovery of social facts’).
Week 10 (Nov 8): Durkheim on morality, education, law and criminality
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 171-185. (‘Systems of law and social solidarity’).

Additional reading:

Giddens, Chapter 6, pp. 82-94 (‘Durkheim’s conception of sociological methods’).

Craib, Chapter 3, pp. 76-81 (‘Durkheim: drunk and disorderly’).

Week 11 (Nov 14): Weber’s theory of knowledge and social action
Core reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 348-361 (‘Weber’s theory of social action’).

Additional reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 330-347 (‘Weber’s method and theory of knowledge’).

Week 11 (Nov 15): Contrasting approaches to religion: Marx, Durkheim and Weber
Core reading:

Craib, Chapter 7 (‘Durkheim: drunk and orderly’), pp. 70-75 (‘Sociology of religion’)

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 231-234 and pp. 269 -272 (sections of ‘Elementary forms of religious life’ incl. ‘Durkheim’s battle with Classical Rationalism’).

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 4 (Max Weber), pp. 313-318 (‘The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism’).

Giddens, Chapter 14, pp. 205-223 (‘Religion, ideology and society’).
Additional reading:

Morrison, 2nd ed. Chapter 3 (Emile Durkheim), pp. 231-273 (‘Elementary forms of religious life’ – entire section).

Week 11 (Nov 14): Gaps in Classical Social Theory: perspectives on gender and race
Readings (selections from):

Hynek Jerabek (2016) “W E B DuBois on the history of empirical social

Research”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39:8, 1391-1397, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1153690 (Available via Library databases)

P Madoo Lengermann and G Niebrugge, “Anna Julia Cooper (1858–1964) and Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862–1931) - The Foundations of Black Feminist Sociology" in The Women Founders -- Sociology and Social Theory 1830–1930 (Waveland Press, 1998) (ISBN 10: 1-57766-509-0/ISBN 13: 978-1-57766-509-0). (On Blackboard)

O'Donnell, Margaret G. 1994. "Early Analysis of the Economics of Family Structure: Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Women and Economics." Review of Social Economy 52, no. 2: 86-95. EconLit with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed October 26, 2017) (Available via Library databases)

Addams, Jane. "Trades Unions and Public Duty." American Journal of Sociology 4, no. 4 (1899): 448-62. (Available via Library databases)

Week 12 – Review and revision

Further readings list (prepared by Prof. Mark Haugaard).

  • Karl Popper (2002) [1959] The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Routledge, London. This is the classic statement of hypothesis and falsification, especially chapter 4.

  • R.W. Connell, ‘Why is Classical Theory Classical?’ American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 102, No. 6 (May 1997), pp. 1511-57.

  • R. Collins, ‘A Sociological Guilt Trip: Comment on Connell’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 102, No. 6 (May 1997), pp. 1558-64.

  • Giddens, Anthony. 1976. “Classical Social Theory and the Origins of Modern So- ciology.” American Journal of Sociology 81: 703-729. [JSTOR]


  • Avineri Scholomo (1968) The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 335.4 MAR.A

  • Bottomore, Tom, et al (1983) A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Oxford, Blackwell. 335.5 (03)

  • Cohen G.A. (1978) Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 335.4119 COH.

  • Cottrell, Allin, (1984) Social Class in Marxist Theory, London, Routledge. 301.181

  • Elster Jon (1985) Making Sense of Marx, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Elster Jon (1986) An Introduction to Karl Marx, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

  • Israel, Joachim (1979) Alienation: From Marx to Modern Sociology, London, Humanities Press.

  • Kolakowski (1981) Main Currents of Marxism Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Maguire John (1972) Marx's Paris Writings, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. 335.5

  • Maguire John (1978) Marx's Theory of Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.320.532.MAR.M

  • Mayer, Tom (1994) Analytical Marxism, London, Sage. 335.4 MAY.

  • McLellan D. (1986) Marx, London, Fontana. 335.4 MCL.

  • McLellan D. (1987) Marx: His Life and Thought, London,

  • 335.4 MAR.M.

  • McLellan D. (1981) The Thought of Karl Marx, London,Macmillan.(335.4 MAR.M).

  • Meszaros I (1970) Marx's Theory of Alienation, London: Merlin Press. (302.544 MES).

  • Ollman B. (1976) Alienation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (302.544 OLL)

  • Plamenatz, J. (1975) Karl Marx's Philosophy of Man, London: Clarendon Press.

  • Plamenatz, J. (1993) Man and Society, London, Longman.320.509.PLA

  • Roemer John (ed.) (1986) Analytical Marxism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 335.4 ANA

  • Schacht R. (1971) Alienation, London: Allen Unwin.301.162.32

  • Sowell, Thomas, (1985) Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, London, Unwin.

  • Walker, Angus, (1978) Marx: His Theory and Context, London, Longman. (335.5)

Primary sources

  • Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1969) Basic writings on politics and philosophy; edited with an introduction by Lewis S. Feuer, Fontana. 335.5

  • Marx, Karl (1992) Political writings, edited and introduced by David Fernbach, London: Penguin Books in association with New Left Review.

  • Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1964) The Communist manifesto, New York, Monthly Review Press.335.5

  • Marx K. (1980) The economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Penguin and various editions.

  • Marx K. (1980) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy vol. 1 (vol.s 2 and 3 are too technical) Penguin and various editions.

  • McLellan David (ed.) (1977) Karl Marx: Selected Writings Oxford, Oxford University Press.335.5


  • Lukes Steven (1973) Emile Durkheim: His Life and Work, London: Allen Lane. (This is by far the best book on Durkheim, and if you enjoy his work you might do well to purchase it)

  • Giddens A. Durkheim, London: Fontana. 301Dur G..

  • Poggi Gianfranco. (2000) Durkheim, Oxford: OUP. 301.01 Pog

  • Thompson K (2002) Emile Durkheim. New York: Routledge 301 DUR.T.

  • Alexander J. and P. Smith (2005) The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim, Cambridge: CUP. 301 DUR

  • Allen N.J. and W.S. Pickering and W. Watts 1998 On Durkheim’s Elementary forms of religious life. London: Routledge.

  • Barnes, J. A. 1966. “Durkheim’s Division of Labour in Society.” Man 1: 158-175. [JSTOR]

  • Bearman, Peter S. 1991b. “The Social Structure of Suicide.” Sociological Forum 6: 501-524. [JSTOR]

  • Bellah, Robert N. 1964. “Religious Evolution.” American Sociological Review 29: 358- 374. [JSTOR]

  • Bellah, Robert N. 1959. “Durkheim and History.” American Sociological Review 24: 447-461. [JSTOR]

  • Bergesen, Albert J. 1978. “Review: Rituals, Symbols, and Society—Explicating the Mechanisms of the Moral Order.” American Journal of Sociology 83: 1012-1021. [JS- TOR

  • Emirbayer, Mustafa. 1996a “Useful Durkheim.” Sociological Theory 14: 109-130. [JS- TOR

  • Emirbayer, Mustafa. 1996b. “Durkheim’s Contribution to the Sociological Analysis of History.” Sociological Forum 11: 263-284. [JSTOR]

  • Hawkins, Mike. 1994. “Durkheim on Occupational Corporations: An Exegesis and Interpretation.” Journal of the History of Ideas 55: 461-481. [JSTOR]

  • Hamilton Peter (1990) Emile Durkheim: Critical assessments, London: Routledge. 310.0924 Dur.H.

  • Hilbert, Richard A. 1986. “Anomie and the Moral Regulation of Reality: The Durkheimian Tradition in Modern Relief.” Sociological Theory 4: 1-19. [JSTOR]

  • Hynes, Eugene. 1975. “Suicide and Homo Duplex an Interpretation of Durkheim’s Typology of Suicide.” Sociological Quarterly 16: 87-104. [JSTOR]

  • Jones Susan S. 2001. Durkheim Reconsidered Cambridge: Polity.

  • Jones Robert 1986 Emile Durkheim: An introduction to four major works. London: Sage. 301.01 DUR.J

  • Stedman Jones, Sue. 2003. “From Varieties to Elementary Forms: Emile Durkheim on Religious Life” Journal of Classical Sociology 3: 99-121

  • Némedi, Dénes. 1995. “Collective Consciousness, Morphology, and Collective Representations: Durkheim’s Sociology of Knowledge, 1894-1900.” Sociological Per- spectives 38: 41-56. [JSTOR]

  • Merton, Robert K. 1934. “Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society.” American Journal of Sociology 40: 319-328. [JSTOR]

  • Pescosolido, Bernice A. and Sharon Georgianna. 1989. “Durkheim, Suicide, and Religion: Toward a Network Theory of Suicide.” American Sociological Review 54: 33- 48. [JSTOR]

  • Pickering W.S. F. (2001) Durkheim’s Suicide: A century of research and debate London: Sage 301 DUR

  • Pickering W.S. Emile Durkheim: Critical Assessments of leading sociologists. London: Routledge. 301 DUR

  • Pope, Whitney and Barclay D. Johnson. 1983. “Inside Organic Solidarity.” American Sociological Review 48: 681-692. [JSTOR]

  • Sirianni, Carmen J. 1984. “Justice and the Division of Labor: A Reconsideration of Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society.” Sociological Review 32: 449-470.

  • Turner, Stephen P. 1995. “Durkheim’s ‘The Rules of Sociological Method’: Is It a Classic?” Sociological Perspectives 38: 1-13. [JSTOR]

Primary sources:

  • Durkheim E. (1984) The Division of Labour in Society. Basingstoke, Macmillan, 301. 1813 – Also, new edition in press, ed by S. Lukes.

  • Durkheim E. (1952) Suicide, London: Routledge. 343.614.

  • Durkheim E. (1965) The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, New York, Free Press. 291 DUR.

  • Durkheim E. (1972) Selected Writings (ed) A. Giddens, Cambridge: Polity. 301 DUR.


  • Albrow M. (1990) Max Weber and the Construction of Social Theory, London: Macmillan. 301.Web.A

  • Bendix Reinhard (1966) Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait, London: Methuen. 301 WEB

  • Beetham, David (1985) Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics, Cambridge, Polity Press.

  • Birnbaum, N. 1943. “Conflicting Interpretations of the Rise of Capitalism: Marx and Weber.” British Journal of Sociology 4: 125-141. [JSTOR]

  • Collins, Randall (1986) Max Weber: a skeleton key, London: Sage Publications, 301.WEB.C

  • Cox, Oliver C. 1950. “Max Weber on Social Stratification: a Critique.” American Sociological Review 15: 223-227

  • Eldridge, J.E.T (1971) Weber: The interpretation of social reality, New York: Scribner's. 301WEB.

  • Eisenstadt, S. N. 1959. “Bureaucracy, Bureaucratization, and Debureaucratization.” Administrative Science Quarterly 4: 302-320. [JSTOR]

  • Eisenstadt, S. N. 1958. “Bureaucracy and Bureaucratization.” Current Sociology 7: 99-124.

  • Hennis, Wilhelm, (1988) Max Weber: essays in reconstruction, London : Allen & Unwin.

  • Kasler, Dirk (1988) Max Weber : an introduction to his life and work, Cambridge: Polity. 301.WEB.K

  • Lehmann, Hartmut and Roth, Guenther (1993) Weber's Protestant Ethic: origins, evidence, contexts, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993. 306.6Web.

  • Marshall, Gordon, (1980) Presbyteries and profits: Calvinism and the development of capitalism in Scotland, 1560-1707, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Mommsen, Wolfgang. 1965. “Max Weber’s Political Sociology and his Philosophy of World History.” International Social Science Journal 17: 23-45.

  • Mommsen W. (1992) The Political and Social Theory of Max Weber, Cambridge: Polity. 320.web.m

  • Satow, Roberta Lynn. 1975. “Value-Rational Authority and Professional Organizations: Weber’s Missing Type.” Administrative Science Quarterly 20: 526-531

  • Sterling, Joyce S. and Wilbert E. Moore. 1987. “Weber’s Analysis of Legal Ratio- nalization: A Critique and Constructive Modification.” Sociological Forum 2: 67-89. [JSTOR]

  • Swidler, Ann. 1973. “The Concept of Rationality in the Work of Max Weber.” Sociological Inquiry 43: 35-42.

  • Ritzer, George. 1975. “Professionalization, Bureaucratization and Rationalization: The Views of Max Weber.” Social Forces 53: 627-634. [JSTOR]

  • Schroeder, Ralph (1992) Max Weber and the Sociology of Culture, London : SAGE. 301 WEB.S

  • Shils, Edward. 1965. “Charisma, Order, and Status.” American Sociological Review 30: 199-213. [JSTOR]

  • Turner, Bryan S. 1996) For Weber : essays on the sociology of fate, London: Sage Publications. 301.01.Tur

  • Wiley, Norbert (1987) The Marx-Weber Debate, London: Sage. 301.001

Primary sources:

  • Weber M (1970) From Max Weber, Essays in Sociology (ed.) H.H. Gerth & C. Wright Mills, New York: Galaxy. 301 Web. (Good selection, you might wish to purchase)

  • Weber. M. [1904-5] (1976) The Protestant Ethic and the Sprit of Capitalism, (ed) A. Giddens, London Allen and Unwin. There are various other editions of this classic work, all of which are fine – you might wish to purchase if you are really interested in this work, which is a classic.

  • Weber M. (1978) Selections (ed.) W. Runciman, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Weber. M. (1978) Economy and Society: an outline of interpretive sociology, edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich; Berkeley: University of California Press.


  • Frisby David (2002) Georg Simmel: revised edition, London: Sage. (best introduction)

  • Frisby David (2012) Simmel and Since: Essays on Georg Simmel’s social theory. London: Sage.

  • Horst J. Helle (2015) The Social Thought of Georg Simmel, London: Sage. (Also good introduction)

  • Levin Donald N. (1972) Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Wolff Kurt (2012) [1923] The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Ulan Press.


  • Simmel, Georg (2011) The Philosophy of Money. London: Routledge. This is a re-edition, and there are many others.

  • Frisby David and Mike Featherstone (1998) (ed) Simmel on Culture, London: Sage. This is collection of Simmel’s essays, and also contains a useful introduction.

  • Simmel, Georg (1964) Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliations. New York: Free Press.

  • Simmel, Georg (2015) The Sociology of Secrecy and Secret Societies. London: Create Space.

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