Sociological Alternatives: Ways to Change the World SOCIO4099

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

As you will have already discovered, sociology often defines itself by the purpose of critiquing what is, as Bauman puts it: defamiliarizing the familiar. Often this involves sociologists saying something is wrong or 'unfair' so, if we say something is wrong or unfair, what's the alternative? This is a question sociologists have been dealing with since the beginning of the discipline: should sociologists offer alternatives and, if they should, how should they go about it? These are the questions you will study on this course. We will consider whether sociology should be about saying what should happen, or whether it is a discipline concerned simply with explaining what is; to put it in the correct terminology, is sociology a value-free discipline? From here we will look at the alternatives some sociologists and social theorists, such as Durkheim, Du Bois, Mead, Dworkin, Mannheim, Marcuse, Giddens and Levitas have offered and consider the role sociologists should play. Among these alternatives are questions such as: should inheritance be banned? Would a distinct co-operative economic structure help lessen racial inequality? Should sociologists teach us what we norms we should follow? Should we ban pornography? Would a basic income lessen economic inequality? And what does it mean to say we should be led by a concern not for profit but for beauty? From there we will discuss whether, in furthering such ideas, sociologists should be taking to the streets with social movements, organising in the local community, working for the government to create policy or writing newspaper articles/appearing on TV to contribute to public debate? Since sociology in the 21st Century is greatly concerned with being a 'public' sociology this course is your opportunity to think about how it should go about doing this.


20 contact hours over the course of a single semester. This will normally consist of 2 hours per week and may be a combination of lectures and seminars/workshops.

Requirements of Entry

MA (SocSci), MA (Arts) and a relevant Joint Honours combinations.

Excluded Courses





One 4000 word essay.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

The general aims of the course follow from our subject area's aim of developing a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the academic discipline of Sociology. More specifically however, this course will allow you to reflect on how you might want to use sociological knowledge during your life. Further aims include:

■ Investigate the role of normativity within sociology and the extent to which the discipline should be value-driven.

■ Examine examples of sociological alternatives.

■ Develop an awareness of the public roles sociologists have played and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of these.

■ Deepen your overall understanding of sociology, social theory and the purpose of the discipline

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course you will be able to:

■ Demonstrate an understanding of the key debates concerning normative sociology.

■ Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses concerning claims of sociology as a 'value-free' discipline.

■ Analyze the alternatives which have been offered by sociologists, both in terms of their sociological coherence and contemporary relevance.

■ Critically examine the roles sociologists have, and could, play when advocating their alternatives.

■ Develop a sophisticated understanding of the ethical, practical and political questions involved with applying sociological knowledge in your day-to-day life.

■ Be able to defend OR critique the idea of a publically engaged sociology.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.