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


The paper investigates the variety of ways of theorizing social phenomena. It builds on insights from the founders of sociology—including Weber and Durkheim—and shows how these insights have been developed in recent work. The first eight lectures are devoted to understanding various theoretical perspectives. Some theories start with the individual and explain social phenomena as the result of individual action; others start with larger social and cultural structures and use these to explain individual action. The next eight lectures examine the basic sociological problems that theories must explain. These include the main axes of social division—class, gender, and ethnicity—as well as topics such as social norms and the problem of collective action.

Introduction for human scientists

Lectures: Theoretical Perspectives (Michaelmas 2016, 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