Introduction to Contemporary Social Theory

Study contemporary theories of the social world.

The strategies and intervention in the field of education arise and rest partially on theories of the social world. How we see the world and act in it is shaped through our concepts, interpretive schemes and narratives of others and ourselves. Social theory gives us a repertoire for thinking of all these possibilities and is indispensable in the intellectual apparatus of the policy-maker, activist, researcher and practitioner in education. 

In this course, we study contemporary theories of the social world. You will have encountered many of these across your courses, but here, we use theories to create building blocks through which to make sense of and strategize for social change. We start with Western Marxism and critical theory and study the industrial world, in which we encounter concepts of freedom, welfarism and liberal capitalism. We understand how totalitarianism emerges and address key concepts such as domination and hegemony. We will use relational linguistics, structuralism and post-structuralism to understand social relationships and culture. 

Postcolonial studies will help us create a cultural critique of power and domination, necessary from a location like ours in India. Symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology allow us to see the codes and construction of everyday life and tacit cultures. We arrive at feminist theories to break down how social interactions are shaped by various intersectional axes of gender, caste, class and race. 

Finally, we dip into modernism and the Enlightenment and how they have shaped cultural and social trends around the world, with globalisation as a new form of interconnecting social processes which have far ranging consequences on the policies and interventions we may wish to make. 

Through lectures, discussions and presentations, you will bring to this course a capacity to analyse and compare core readings in social theory.