Contemporary Social Theory

General Course Information

Course Lecturer Name(s):  Oliver Benoit

Course Director Name: Oliver Benoit

Course Lecturer(s) Contact Information:

Course Director Contact Information: N/A 

Course Lecturer(s) Office Hours:  By appointment 

Course Director Office Hours:  N/A

Course Lecturer(s) Office Location:  Ballsier bldg. (upstairs)

Course Director Office Location:  N/A

Course Support:   Nikisha Thomas;; 3692

Course Management tool: To learn to use Sakai, the Course management tool, access the link

Course Curriculum Information

Course Description: 

The course is designed to provide students with a general knowledge of Contemporary Social Theory in an effort to help students understand how contemporary society functions, and to critically examine how sociological theory relates to real world situations and events, particularly in the Caribbean. Students will be expose to the major contributors to Contemporary Sociological Theory: Robert K. Merton; C.Wright Mills; Pierre Bourdieu; Jurgen Habermas; Anthony Giddens; Niklas Luhmann among others.  Emphasis will be placed of some of the major themes such as Functionalism, Conflict Theory,  Symbolic Interactionism, Phenomenology, Modernity and Postmodernity.

Course Objectives: 

  1. To understand the various theoretical developments in contemporary social theory.
  2. To understand the link between contemporary social theory and the founding fathers of sociology.
  3. To identify and explain major sociological concepts such as race, gender, race sexuality and power.
  4. To use contemporary social theory to critically analyse Caribbean social issues. 

Student Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  1. Understand the complexities of contemporary social systems. 
  2. Understand how Contemporary Social Theory helps students understand  empirical social reality. 
  3. Critically assess the theories of the major contributors to Contemporary Social Theory. 

Program Outcomes Met By This Course:

PO-1: Apply classical and contemporary sociological perspectives to explain complex social issues and problems, particularly Caribbean social reality. 

PO-2: Apply their critical thinking skills to sociological analysis.

SAS Grading Scale: Grades will be assigned as follows:

A  = 89.5% or better

B+ = 84.5 - 89.4%

B  = 79.5 - 84.4%

C+ = 74.5 - 79.4%

C = 69.5 - 74.4%

D = 64.5 - 69.4%

F = 64.4% or less

Course Materials:

Text: No special text

Supplementary Readings/Resources: to be provided as per module and topic during the course of the semester

Course Grading Requirement:

Method of Evaluation

Deadline for Submission

Maximum grade/points (%)

Attendance & Participation 






Midterm Paper 

1st March 


End of Semester Paper

30th April





Course Requirements:

Students will be required t submit two papers, 5-7 pages and 7-9 pages respectfully. Class participation is required and is determined by presentations, the quality of questions and comments on readings for the class.

 Course Schedule/ Lecture Outline 

Introduction. Methods and Theory

What is Contemporary Social theory? What is the relationship between theory and research?


Reading: Durkheim, “What is a Social Fact?” from

The Rules of the Sociological Method (1895)


Jan 18 & 20

Micro Sociological Analysis Readings:

The Phenomenology of the Social World  by Alfred Schutz

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Ervin Goffman

Jan. 25 & 27

Power and Inequality Reading: 

The Power Elite, from C.Wright Mills

On Hegemony ( selected from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci). Power: A Radical View, by Steven Lukas


Feb. 1 & 3

Power and Inequality, Cont’d

 State, Society and Modern History, by Anthony Giddens

 Dahrendorf, “Social Structure, Group Interests, and Conflict Groups” from Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society(1959).                 

 Feb. 8 & 10


Race, Gender Differences

The Conceptual Practices of Power (From The Conceptual Practice of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge), by Dorothy E. Smith.

Black Feminist Epistemology ( from Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment) by, Patricia Hill Collins


Feb. 15 & 17 

Race, Gender Differences, Cont’d

 Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon

 The Paradox of Integration, Orlando Patterson

Feb. 22 & 24

March 1st First Paper  


The Sociological Theory of Michel Foucault Readings:

The History of Sexuality

Truth and Power 

The Birth of the Prison (from Discipline and Punishment)

Mar. 1 & 3

Mar. 12 Mid-Term

 8 & 10

Class, status, and Power -The Sociological Theory of Pierre Bourdieu 


Social Space and Symbolic Space: Japanese reading of Distinction.   

Structures, Habitus and Practices, from  The Logic of Practice  The Field of Cultural Production


 Mar. 15 & 1


The Sociological Theory of Jurgen Habermas Readings:

Modernity: An Unfinished Project ( from Harbermas and the Unfinished project of Modernity)


 Mar.  22 & 24


The Sociological Theory of Jurgen Habermas, c’td

 The Rationalisation of the Lifeworld ( from The Theory of Communicative Action Volume 2: Lifeworld and Systems: A Critique of Functionalist Reasoning)

 Civil Society and the Political Public Sphere (from Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy)


Mar. 29 & 31

Modernity, Crisis and Change 


The Consequences of Modernity, by Anthony Giddens

We Have Never been Modern, Bruno Latour

April 5 & 7

Modernity, Crisis and Change, c’td 

Systemic and Antisystemic Crises (from Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineage of the Twenty-First Century), by Giovanni Arrighi.

The Modern World-System in Crisis (from World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction), by Immanuel Wallerstein

April 12 & 14

Review and Discussion

April 19 & 21

Class Discussion and Final Paper 

April 26

School of Arts and Sciences Master Syllabi — Info for All Sections

Plagiarism Policy

Academic Integrity

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Plagiarism is regarded as a cardinal offense in academia because it constitutes theft of the work of someone else, which is then purported as the original work of the plagiarist. Plagiarism draws into disrepute the credibility of the Institution, its faculty, and students; therefore, it is not tolerated” (p. 48).

Plagiarism also includes the unintentional copying or false accreditation of work, so double check your assignments BEFORE you hand them in.

Be sure to do good, honest work, credit your sources and reference accordingly and adhere to the University’s Honor Code. Plagiarism and cheating will be dealt with very seriously following the university’s policies on Plagiarism as outlined in the Student Manual.

Your work may be subject to submission to plagiarism detection software, submission to this system means that your work automatically becomes part of that database and can be compared with the work of your classmates.

Attendance Requirement

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

Students are expected to attend all classes and or clinical rotations for which they have registered. Although attendance may not be recorded at every academic activity, attendance may be taken randomly. Students’ absence may adversely affect their academic status as specified in the grading policy. If absence from individual classes, examinations, and activities, or from the University itself is anticipated, or occurs spontaneously due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, proper notification procedures must be followed. A particular course may define additional policies regarding specific attendance or participation” (p. 9).

Examination Attendance

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

All matriculated students are expected to attend all assigned academic activities for each course currently registered. Medical excuses will be based on self-reporting by students. Students who feel they are too sick to take an examination or other required activity on a specific day must submit the online SAS medical excuse, which is available on Carenage. Students are only allowed two such excuses a year. Upon consultation with the Director of University Health Service, the third excuse will result in a mandatory medical leave of absence. The policies regarding make-up examinations are at the option of the Course Director” (p.46).

For additional specific examination policies and procedures, refer to the St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020), pages 31 through 37.

Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services Policy

The St. George’s University Student Manual (2019/2020) states as follows:

A student with a disability or disabling condition that affects one or more major life activities, who would like to request an accommodation, must submit a completed application form and supporting documentation to the Student Accessibility and Accommodation Services (SAAS) located in the Dean of Students Office. It is highly recommended that students applying for accommodations do so at least one month before classes begin to allow for a more efficient and timely consideration of the request. If a fully completed application is not submitted in a timely fashion, an eligibility determination may not be made, and accommodations, where applicable, may not be granted prior to the commencement of classes and/or examinations” (p. 8).


It is the responsibility of the student to read and understand the policies, laws, rules and procedures that while they could affect your grade for a course, have not been specifically outlined in the course syllabus. These are contained in the St. George’s University Student Manual.