02504 - History of Sociological Thought

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Political, Social and International Sciences (cod. 8853)

Learning outcomes

Scopo dell'insegnamento è che (1) i partecipanti acquisiscano conoscenze sullo sviluppo storico e culturale dei principali approcci sociologici classici e contemporanei e (2) comprendano come lo studio dei principali contributi teorici ed empirici della sociologia in prospettiva storica costituisca un elemento essenziale per analizzare in maniera critica il mutamento di fenomeni di estrema rilevanza nell'attualità (lo sviluppo di nuove forme associative, la globalizzazione e il rischio sociale, l'insicurezza e il terrorismo, la globalizzazione, la costruzione dell'identità sociale, il mutamento delle relazioni tra arte e società).

Course contents

The course aims at retracing the history of sociological theories by providing deepened knowledge concerning the theoretical perspectives and the hinge concepts of sociological thought. The theories and the concepts studied during the course will be put at work in analysing broad issues in the public discourse – among them, social change, status and material inequalities, government of populations, social cohesion.
To this end, the course will particularly, but not exclusively, focus on the following theoretical issues and their political implications:
• the presence of organicist metaphors within sociological thought;
• the distinction between normality and abnormality (or deviance) within sociological thought.
• the ways power and its less visible dynamics, especially in the field of bureaucracy, are theorized and described within sociological thought;
• the state and the material and symbolic violence.
The course, therefore, aims to provide students the ability to master important categories of social analysis and interpret them critically and from a historical perspective. Particularly, it will be stressed the centrality of looking to the different theories not as alternative lens through which to understand the social world but as the expression of spatiotemporally particularistic priorities, interests, concerns, and points of view.


Given that this is an optional third-year course, knowledge of the basic categories and the main authors of sociological thought is considered a prerequisite. The preliminary reading of a manual text is highly recommended. Especially, the first 8 chapters of Jedlowski P., Il mondo in questione. Introduzione alla storia del pensiero sociologico, Carocci, 2009 (or following edition).

The reference book, to read mandatorily, is Procacci G. and Szakolczai A., La scoperta della società. Alle origini della sociologia, Carocci, 2003 (selected parts: introduction, chapters 1, 2, 3, 4).

Other mandatory and non-mandatory (integrative) readings are given below. When possible, texts will be made available on Virtuale.

Organicistic methapors in sociological theory and the concepts of "norm" and "normality":

mandatory readings:

  1. Canguilhem G., Il normale e il patologico, Einaudi, 1998 (selected parts: Section one: Preface to the Second Edition, Introduction; Part One: chapters I, II, III; Part Two: chapters I, II, III; Section Two: chapter I).
  2. Foucault, M., Medicina e biopolitica. La salute pubblica e il controllo sociale, a cura di Paolo Napoli, Donzelli, 2021;
  3. Dal Lago A., La produzione della devianza. Teoria sociale e meccanismi di controllo, Ombre Corte, 2000;
  4. Campesi G., Norma, normatività, normalizzazione. Un itinerario teorico tra Canguilhem e Foucault, in “Sociologia del diritto”, n. 2, 2008.

integrative (non-mandatory):

  1. Bovero M., Paradigmi e modelli politici nell’età moderna, in Ripensare i paradigmi del pensiero politico: gli antichi, i moderni e l’incertezza del presente, a cura di de Luise F., n. 3 dei “Quaderni del Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università degli Studi di Trento”, 2013;
  2. Gallino L., Dizionario di sociologia, UTET, 1978 (soltanto le seguenti voci: Dinamica sociale, Divisione del lavoro, Evoluzione sociale (e culturale), Funzionalismo, Morfologia sociale, Organizzazione sociale, Sistema sociale, Statica sociale, Struttura sociale.
  3. Von Wright G., Norma e azione. Un'analisi logica (chapter 1: Sulle norme in generale), Bologna, Il Mulino, pp. 37-54.

Teaching methods

The course will consist mainly in lectures, aimed at developing the course contents. Within these lessons, student participation, in the form of questions, remarks, and contributions, will be highly encouraged.
Some lessons could explicitly involve a more active participation from the students, who could be asked, on a voluntary basis, to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on a previously arranged topic.

Some lessons are focused on reading and commenting texts.

Assessment methods

Student apprehension will be assessed through a written exam, consisting of an open-ended question aiming at verifying the cross acquisition of the main concepts of the course and the ability to link them to one another.

Students enrolled at the exam will receive a link for accessing the Teams room. Once accessed it, they will receive all the information they need to attend the written test. Basically, students can choose one question to answer among different questions, sent through the Teams chat. They have three hours to provide a written answer (about 8/10.000 characters; the minimum lenght is 6000 characters, while the maximum lenght is 12.000 characters). They can use textbooks and other sources. If they literally quote a text, they have to indicate it clearly by using quotation marks and bibliographical references.

Students are evaluated on the basis of: the ability to deepen and put into connection with each other the main issues addressed in the course; the use of appropriate language with the specific nature of the discipline. It will produce discrete valuations: mnemonic knowledge of contents and partial ability to link the themes covered; the use of appropriate language. It will produce sufficient valuations: a minimal body of knowledge on the topics covered; the use of inappropriate language. It will produce negative valuations: lack of guidance within the themes addressed in the exam readings and training gaps; the use of inappropriate language.

Teaching tools

Audio-visual materials and PPT presentation.

Office hours

See the website of Enrico Gargiulo