Modern Social Thought

This course introduces students to foundational figures of modern social thought and explores the ways in which their writings have been used in recent social analysis and political practice in different parts of the world. Taking Ibn Khaldun’s pre-modern analysis of society as a point of departure, students immerse themselves in the complex ideas of Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Michel Foucault, and other social theorists whose works reveal the explanatory power of the social sciences. The course also grapples with several other modern developments including the revolution in thought and practice ushered in by feminists like Olympe de Gouges, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Joan Scott and Saba Mahmood, and the provincialising of European understandings of society and modernity as articulated by Mohandas Gandhi, Dadabhai Naoroji, Edward Said, Arjun Appadurai and Ashis Nandy, among others.

Learning Goals

Modern Social Thought builds on
Comparative Social Inquiry, Quantitative Reasoning, and Philosophy and Political Thought. Students come to:

  • Understand competing theories about the modern world and be able to trace the influence of these theories on actual political movements.
  • Recognise that it is possible to view the social world through different theoretical lenses.
  • Develop a sense of the ethical implications of each theoretical approach.