Classical Social Theory


This module is intended to introduce the work of three key social theorists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. Their work is used to critically illustrate the nature of capitalist modernity and the foundations of contemporary sociological theory and practice.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with :working knowledge of the principle ideas of the key contributors to the foundations of sociological thought.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Demonstrate an understanding of the philosophical influences upon the key contributors to the foundation of sociological thought.

2.  Illustrate an understanding of how each thinker interpreted the impact of modern capitalist society upon the 'human condition'.

3.  Articulate an understanding of how each thinker used different methodologies to analyse and explain the nature of social cohesion and social conflict.

4.  Display an ability to effectively communicate the similarities and differences between the key classical sociological thinkers.

5.  Critically assess the significance of the classical thinkers' social theory in the analysis of contemporary society.

Indicative Content


Capitalism, Workers` Movement and The Communist Manifesto (1848); Dialectics, Fetishism and the Purpose of Critique; Value, Labour, Money; Capital, Surplus Value and Exploitation; Primitive Accumulation, the Logic of Separation and the Question of Crisis; Class Struggle, Revolution and Communism.


Introduction: contextual overview and biography; The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; Conception of sociology and methodology; Bureaucratisation and rationalisation; Class, status and party; Political sociology: power, legitimacy and the state.


Introduction: contextual overview and biography; The Rules of Sociological Method; Suicide; The Division of Labour in Society; Morality and Religion; Crime, Deviance and the Law.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Teaching and learning for this module is delivered through the format of lectures and tutorials. Two one hour lectures per week are required to properly introduce key topics and direct further independent study. Weekly tutorials centred upon readings from the core text give students the opportunity to discuss core concepts, ask questions and gain guidance for the assessments. This module contains a strong PDP element at its core in that it encourages students to reflect upon themselves and their relationships towards family, work, education and wider contemporary social, economic and political issues through the prism of critical social theory. The module has been purposefully designed to integrate with the designated Abertay Attributes and provides an important means for students to consolidate, enhance and develop these attributes as part of their learning on the module. Graduate attributes are framed through encouragement of the sociological imagination that operates as a form of master framing narrative for the said attributes.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 22
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 30
Independent 136

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.