(Human Sciences 5b; PPE and History & Politics 218)


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. Why do social norms change? How do some groups manage to solve problems of collective action? What similarities exist between states and mafias? Throughout, you will learn how the insights of classical sociologists are being advanced in contemporary research.

Reading list

Introduction for human scientists

Lectures: Theoretical Perspectives (Michaelmas 2017, Monday 3-4pm, Exam Schools)
Slides will be posted by 9am on Monday

  1. Rational choice
  2. Evolutionary psychology
  3. Values and meaning
  4. Interpersonal interaction
  5. Social integration
  6. Social networks
  7. Semiotic systems
  8. Functionalism and cultural evolution


Michael Biggs, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford