Sociology (SOCI) 437

Deciphering Our Social Worlds (Revision 3)

SOCI 437

View previous revision

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: Any SOCI 300 level course or course coordinator approval.

Precluded course: SOCI 537. SOCI 437 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit in SOCI 537.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Sociology Studies home page

SOCI 437 has a Challenge for Credit option.

check availability


The main objective of this course is to show students how social theory may be relevant to their own lives. Social theory can often help us clarify and sharpen our understanding of the social world in which we live. This is because social theory can help us place personal situations and private experiences into a much broader social picture.

Course Overview

The main themes and key issues of the course are:

  • the different ways in which social theories may be conceptualized
  • some of the problems to look for when examining social theories
  • how social theories may differ in terms of their epistemological, ontological, and ideological assumptions
  • the differences between neo-functionalism and more traditional theories of structural functionalism
  • the differences between new conflict theory and earlier traditions of conflict theory
  • how contemporary schools of Marxism differ from the earlier tradition of historical materialism
  • some of the main ideas advanced by contemporary representatives of the tradition of critical theory
  • the concept of "system crisis" advanced in the theory of society associated with Jürgen Habermas
  • the differences between symbolic interactionism and other microsociological traditions, such as exchange theory and ethnomethodology
  • the differences between Erving Goffman's dramaturgical analysis and more established traditions of symbolic interactionism
  • how symbolic interactionists differ among themselves over the relative significance of "self" versus "structure"
  • the differences between ethnomethodology and other traditions of social theory
  • some of the methods of practical reasoning used in everyday life
  • how sociobiologists justify their theoretical and empirical contributions to the study of human society
  • how feminist theory departs from more traditional theories of society
  • how feminist theorists have critiqued and re-evaluated some of the sociological classics
  • the generational and ideological differences which distinguish different traditions of feminist theory
  • the differences between postmodernism and other traditions of social theory
  • the differences between strategic and radical postmodernism
  • the difference between social and sociological theory
  • the challenge of postmodernism for other traditions of social theory.


When you have completed this course, you should be able to:

  1. demonstrate familiarity with some of the major traditions of contemporary social theory.
  2. analyze each of the major theoretical traditions in terms of its basic assumptions, key concepts, main arguments and major representatives.
  3. analyze each of the major theoretical traditions as discourses, polemics, and as guides to action.
  4. critically evaluate each of the major theoretical traditions in terms of their interpretive and explanatory strengths and weaknesses.
  5. apply some of the key concepts and main arguments of each theoretical tradition to your social worlds and personal life experiences.
  6. analyze any social theory in terms of its domain assumptions.
  7. take into account the socio-historical background associated with the growth of any particular social theory.
  8. trace the intellectual genealogy of the ideas associated with any particular social theory.
  9. distinguish some of the openly espoused theories publicly used in our society from the more taken-for-granted theories used in our private lives.
  10. show the relevance of social theory to your own life experiences.


To receive credit for SOCI 437, you must submit all the required course assignments and complete them to the satisfaction of your tutor, achieve a grade of "C-" 60 percent or better on the final exam and an obtain an overall course grade of at least "C-" (60 percent).

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 15%
Assignment 2 25%
Assignment 3 30%
Final Examination 30%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Allan, K. (2013). Contemporary social and sociological theory: Visualizing social worlds. (3rd edition) London & New Delhi: SAGE Publications, Inc.

A print version of the eText may be available for purchase from the publisher through a direct-to-student link provided on the course website; you can also acquire the textbook on your own if you wish.


Lemert, C. (2005). Postmodernism is not what you think: Why globalization threatens modernity. Boulder: CO, Paradigm Publishers.

Power, N. (2009). One-Dimensional woman. Hants, UK: Zero Books.

Other Materials

There is a Study Guide consisting of twelve units. Each unit covers a specific topic in the course, identifies learning objectives to be achieved, lists reading assignments, and provides study questions to help students to assess their understanding of the material. Commentary is provided to explain and clarify issues brought forward from the assigned readings.

There are twelve online video lectures—one lecture for each unit.

All assigned readings, other than those from the textbooks, are available online.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the SOCI 437 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least C- (60 percent) on the examination. The two-part examinations are to be completed on the same day.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, May 10, 2019.

View previous revision