Social and Cultural Theory Since 1900

This course is a graduate level survey of social and cultural theory since 1900. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the key theoretical debates that have dominated social science and humanities scholarship over the past 150 years. Each section of the course will include a summary text that provides historical and scholarly context as well as a selection of exemplary readings that the class will discuss in detail. By the end of this course:


  1. Students will be able to outline the broad history of social and cultural theory since 1900.
  2. Through comparing and contrasting the major theoretical strands of social and cultural theory, students will be able to construct a visual model that highlights key themes and turning points in debates.
  3. Students will be able to identify when and summarize how current literature in the social sciences and humanities uses and/or transforms social and cultural theories.
  4. By comparing and contrasting the philosophical and historical contexts of debates over social and cultural theory over the past 150 years, students will be able evaluate the methodological and ethical implications of the various theoretical models.
  5. Students will be able to explain how theory is both relevant and responsive to applied practice. 

In a more general sense, students will develop and refine skills to comprehend, interpret, analyze, and compare scholarly writing. 


Week 1


Week 2

  • Callinicos, Alex. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, 78-122. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  • Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology: Part I.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 2nd ed., 146–200. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978.


Week 3

  • Callinicos, Alex. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, 123-178. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  • Durkheim, Emile. “What Is a Social Fact?” In The Rules of Sociological Method, 1–13. New York: Free Press, 1964.
  • Weber, Max. “Science as a Vocation.” In From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by Hans Heinrich Gerth and C. Wright (Charles Wright) Mills, 129–56. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
  • ———. “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism.” In From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by Hans Heinrich Gerth and C. Wright (Charles Wright) Mills, 302–22. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.


Week 4

  • Callinicos, Alex. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, 179-226. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  • Gramsci, Antonio. Antonio Gramsci: Selections from Political Writings, 1910-1920. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1977.
    • “Oppressed and Oppressors,” [3]-5.
    • “Active and Operative Neutrality,” [6]-9.
    • “Men or Machines,” [25]-27. 
    • “The Problem of Power,” [130]-134. 
    • “The Historical Role of the Cities,” [150]-153.
  • Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York: International Publishers, 1971.
    • “The Intellectuals: The Formation of the Intellectuals,” [5]-14.
    • “On Education: The Organisation of Education and of Culture,” [26]-33.
    • “Hegemony (Civil Society) and Separation of Powers,” 245-246.
    • “Rationalisation of Production and Work,” 301-306.
  • Gramsci, Antonio. “Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc.” In The Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935, edited by David Forgacs, 189–221. New York: NYU Press, 2000.
  • Kollontai, Alexandra. “Theses on Communist Morality in the Sphere of Marital Relations (1921).” In Alexandra Kollontai: Selected Writings. Allison & Busby, 1977.


Week 5

  • Callinicos, Alex. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, 227-257. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  • Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Second Version.” In The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, 19–55. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press’, 2008.
  • Horkheimer, Max. “Traditional and Critical Theory.” In Critical Theory: Selected Essays, 188–243. New York: Continuum, 2002.
  • Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. “The Culture Industry.” In Dialectic of Enlightenment, edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, translated by Edmund Jephcott, 94–136. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.


Week 6

  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Richard Philcox. Revised edition. New York: Grove Press, 2008.


Week 7

  • Callinicos, Alex. Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, 258-298. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  • Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. Reissue edition. New York: Vintage, 1990.


Week 8

  • Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation).” In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, translated by Ben Brewster, 127–86. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.
  • Barthes, Roland. “The Rhetoric of the Image.” In Image-Music-Text, edited by Stephen Heath, 32–51. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.
  • Hall, Stuart. “Encoding, Decoding.” In The Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Simon During, 3rd ed., 90–103. London: Routledge, 2007.
  • Hooks, Bell. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” In Black Looks: Race and Representation, 115–31. Boston: South End Press, 1992.
  • Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” In This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, 2nd ed., 94-101. New York, NY: Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, 1983.


Week 9

  • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France.” Past & Present 59, no. 1 (1973): 51–91.
  • Geertz, Clifford. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” Daedalus 101, no. 1 (1972): 1–37.
  • ———. “Thick Description: Toward and Interpretive Theory of Culture.” In The Interpretation Of Cultures, 3–30. New York: Basic Books, 1977.
  • Ortner, Sherry B. “Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no. 1 (1995): 173–93.
  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140 (1989): 139–167.
  • Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 149–82. New York: Routledge, 1991.


Week 10

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Routledge, 2013.


Week 11

  • Spivak. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, 271–314. University of Illinois Press, 1988.
  • Sandoval, Chela. “U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World.” Genders 10 (1991): 1–24.
  • Butler, Judith. “Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire.” In Feminism and Politics, edited by Anne Phillips, 273–911. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Weeks, Kathi. “‘Hours for What We Will’: Work, Family, and the Movement for Shorter Hours.” Feminist Studies 35, no. 1 (2009): 101–27.
  • Lindsey, Treva B. “Post-Ferguson: A ‘Herstorical’ Approach to Black Violability.” Feminist Studies 41, no. 1 (2015): 232–37.


Week 12

  • Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2010.
  • Castro, Eduardo Viveiros de. “The Relative Native.” Translated by Julia Sauma and Martin Holbraad. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3, no. 3 (2013): 469–502.


Week 13

  • Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992.


Week 14

  • Certeau, Michel de. “Walking in the City.” In The Practice of Everyday Life, translated by Steven F. Rendall, 91–110. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
  • Harris, Cheryl I. “Whiteness as Property.” Harvard Law Review 106, no. 8 (1993): 1707–91.
  • Harvey, David. “The Right to the City.” New Left Review, II, no. 53 (2008): 23–40.


Week 15

  • Soja, Edward W. Seeking Spatial Justice. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 2010.