Faculty of Arts


Theory and Society

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for SOCIOL 200.


Max Horkheimer wrote that critical theory sheds "critical light on present-day society ... under the hope of radically improving human existence". Theory and Society takes this approach. Theory is deployed as a tool to understand and explain the embedded structures and relationships that give form to life and weapon to bring about their transformation.

With Marx we examine why in a free society so much of our time is taken up with getting and maintaining a job. We examine why people act against their own interest by defending the power and privileges of the elites. With Freud and Lacan we plunge deep into our innermost desires and with the help of both Marcuse and Žižek, whose critical theories have drawn on Freud and Lacan respectively, offer an explanation, among other things, for our consumer passions. Foucault helps explain how in everyday life we police one another’s behaviour, including, we can add, in social media where every image and utterance is subject to the gaze of others and their judgements. With Deleuze and Guattari we discuss our enslavement to machines, worldwide assemblages made up of corporations, governments, communication networks and so forth that thrive on our energies.

The question for them and for the course in general is how to unplug ourselves from these catastrophic assemblages, an immensely difficult task when we are unable to recognise them or their power to decide upon life and death.

Theory and Society brings the hidden – the unconscious – to light.

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Dr Ciara Cremin


A course reader will be made available if required.


Coursework + exam


SOCIOL 200: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage I in Sociology or 15 points at Stage I in Sociology with a minimum B+ pass

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