UCL Module Catalogue


Understanding Society: Introduction to Social Theory (SESS0013)

Key information

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Teaching department
School of Slavonic and East European Studies
Credit value
This is a compulsory first year module for SSEES BA Politics and Sociology students and an optional module for first year SSEES BA History Politics and Economics and BA Economics and Business (with East European Studies) students. We will accept first year students from other UCL departments if spaces are available, particularly first year BASc students on the Societies Pathway.
Link to online timetable

Alternative credit options

There are no alternative credit options available for this module.



The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the sociological perspective and to offer theoretical tools for understanding the modern world. In its simplest form, a theory is an idea that directs and elucidates observations of the world. Each empirical discipline, ranging from astronomy to zoology, relies on theories to guide observations, informing observers about what to seek and what qualifies as data or knowledge, while also offering explanations. Sociology, as a discipline, focuses on observing and elucidating 'social things' or 'social facts'—the phenomena, characteristics, and dynamics of the social world. Until recently, social theory's foundational texts were authored by Durkheim, Max, and Weber— all males, all white, all European, and indisputably, all deceased. In this module, it is crucial to recognize that these 'classical sociologists' achieved their status within a specific cultural context, shaped by the fact that sociological textbooks were predominantly written by other white, European (and middle-class) men. Fortunately, sociology as a social science encompasses much more diversity. The history of social theory does not follow a linear trajectory of Western progress alone. European social theory represents only a fraction of sociological theorizing, and 'colonized and peripheral societies produce social thought about the modern world that possesses equal intellectual prowess and greater political relevance than metropolitan social thought' (Connell 2007: 231).

Teaching Delivery

The instruction will be delivered through one-hour lectures and one-hour small-group seminars. Each week, students are expected to prepare for seminars by engaging in compulsory readings outlined in the Module Syllabus and discuss them in class.

Indicative Lecture Topics

  • What constitutes social theory?
  • Post-colonial social theory
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Social Solidarity
  • Class and social conflict
  • Intersectionality
  • Social capital and habitus

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the module, students should be able to:

  • Comprehend the historical and geo-political foundations of social theory.
  • Critically analyse theoretical concepts and apply them to their research.
  • Reflect on the social construct nature of the social theory canon.
  • Demonstrate diverse sources of sociological knowledge.

Module deliveries for 2024/25 academic year

Intended teaching term: Term 1     Undergraduate (FHEQ Level 4)

Teaching and assessment

Mode of study
In person
Methods of assessment
100% Coursework
Mark scheme
Numeric Marks

Other information

Number of students on module in previous year
Module leader
Dr Chiara Amini
Who to contact for more information

Last updated

This module description was last updated on 8th April 2024.