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Course 2023-2024 a.y.


All Programs
Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 13 - 23

BESS-CLES (7 credits - II sem. - OB  |  SPS/07)

Classes: 13 (II sem.)

Synchronous Blended: Lezioni erogate in modalità sincrona in aula (max 1 ora per credito online sincrona)

Suggested background knowledge

There are no prerequisites. This is an introductory course.

Mission & Content Summary

The purpose of this course is to expose students to the prevailing theories, methods, and research issues of contemporary sociology, with a special focus on economic and political phenomena. The course links key research issues and debates in sociology with research methods and analytic strategies so that students can understand how a sociological perspective contributes to our ability to explain both the macro- and micro-aspects of societies and social organization.


Networks and markets
Economic sociology
The state and the economy

Globalization and its critics
Global value chains and global wealth chains
Case study: the Zambian developmental experience

Case study: the Korean developmental experience

Case study: Mauritius as an offshore center

Social stratification and social mobility
Poverty and inequality
Case study: Poverty in the EU and US during COVID-19

Why do welfare states exist?
The social safety net
Housing and the welfare state
Migration and the welfare state
Robots, platforms, AI and the welfare state

Case study: The Finnish basic income experiment

Case study: Migration and the welfare state in Germany


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Think sociologically about world phenomena.
  • Differentiate sociological thinking from other disciplines.
  • Use conceptual tools from sociology to explain social, political and economic dynamics.
At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Apply sociological reasoning and sociological tools so that they can formulate broader or fuller explanations for social phenomena, compared to those offered by other social science disciplines.
  • Interpret data in ways that problematize overly simple solutions and rely on strong explanatory frameworks.

Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Group assignments

The class is evaluated through two exams (midterm and final) and through three unannounced quizzes over the course of the term (see Assessment Methods).

Assessment methods
  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • x x  

    Two exams (35% of final grade each)

    In the exams, you will be given a recent article (either a news story or an opinion piece on current affairs) and you will be asked to discuss it with reference to concepts, arguments and empirical material covered in the lectures. Consequently, there will not be a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answer in the same way that this would be the case of a multiple-choice exam or factual questions. Instead, you will be evaluated in your ability to synthesize material we have covered in class and apply them to your reasoning vis-à-vis the prompt. In other words, while you must study the readings and slides of classes, your critical thinking and conceptual synthesis skills are equally relevant. We will have a mock exam discussion in class on 27/2. The first exam (midterm) will cover material of the first half of the course, and the second exam (final) will cover material of the second half of the course. The exams will last 2 hours.


    Three unannounced in-class quizzes (30% of final grade)

    Over the duration of the course, you will be given three unannounced quick quizzes. Each of these quizzes will ask you a short question on material covered in class in the previous week (slides plus readings). This means that: (a) you are expected to study the course material on a rolling basis, as lectures build on each other to help you deepen your knowledge on the course topics, and (b) you should regularly come to class, so that you are present when the quiz is handed out. Your average grade of the three quizzes counts for 30% of your final grade. If you miss one quiz, then the average will be calculated on the basis of the two quizzes you sat. If you miss two quizzes, then you will be graded only according to the one quiz you sat. You must pass at least one in-class quiz in order to qualify as an attending student. Quiz grades will only be announced at the end of term.


    Optional assignment

    In a group of two, you must develop a podcast on a topic related to the material covered in this course. So, you should tailor the podcast to a topic of your choice in a way that deepens knowledge on issues covered in class. If in doubt about the suitability of your podcast ideas, there will be collective office hours where you can raise your questions. A discussion page on Blackboard will aid the process of finding a partner. Teaching staff on the course will not be involved in this matching process—it is up to you to find a colleague to collaborate with.

    Detailed instructions on how to produce your podcast (preparing the structure, settling on the content, using specific software, etc.) as well as a sample podcast from last year are available on the ‘Assessments’ page on Blackboard. Length should be up to 25 minutes (overlong podcasts will be penalised).

    Podcasts will be graded on a continuum between excellent (adds 1.5 point to the final mark of both students) and poor (does not alter your final mark). The deadline for submitting the assignment (via Blackboard) is Sunday 5/5 at 23:59. Both team members must submit the same podcast file that must be named using the following convention ‘short title_student number.’ The short title used must be identical in both submissions.


    Final written exam (100%)

    The final exam includes two types of questions:

    • 20 multiple choice questions (1 point each).
    • 2 essay-style questions out of a choice of 3 questions (5 points each).

    The questions cover all topics of the course. Please see readings and material covered in the slides.


    In line with the course's Intended Learning Outcomes, this exam will seek to ascertain whether students can use the conceptual and empirical tools of sociology to explain social, political and economic phenomena.

    Teaching materials

    Students are provided with a selection of readings on the course Bboard site. There is no need to purchase anything.

    Last change 09/12/2023 21:30

    BIG (7 credits - I sem. - OB  |  SPS/07)
    Course Director:

    Classes: 23 (I sem.)

    Synchronous Blended: Lezioni erogate in modalità sincrona in aula (max 1 ora per credito online sincrona)

    Mission & Content Summary

    This course is designed to be a broad introduction to the field of sociology. Students encounter some of the most influential theories developed, imagined and used by sociologists to make sense of the social world. We discuss and acquire familiarity with the concepts sociologists typically use in their work, and with some of the core methods sociologists employ to investigate the social world. For instance, students gain an understanding of what sociologists mean when they talk about culture, socialization and social structure, and how sociologists analyse these concepts linking theory and empirical analyses. The course also encourages students to think critically (i.e. as a social scientist, about human life and societies and develop their own questions about social life). Finally, the course pays particular attention to the broad themes of inequality as it pertains to race, class and gender, the digital revolution and the social changes it brought about, and family changes, by adopting a life course perspective.


    First part

    What is sociology?

    Sociological perspectives

    Values, norms and socialization

    Gender and sexuality

    Social interactions, networks and capital

    Crime and deviance


    Second part:

    Families and intimate relationships

    The life course

    Health and disability

    Sociology of COVID-19

    Stratification and social class

    Race, Ethnicity and Migration

    Digital Revolution


    Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
    At the end of the course student will be able to...
    • Autonomously and critically search, and understand, sociological research on a wide range of topics, with diverse methodological approaches, linking this research to wider knowledge across the spectrum of social sciences.
    At the end of the course student will be able to...
    • Cast sociological explanatory hypotheses on a wide range of social phenomena, in particular concerning policy-relevant issues, and to sketch research designs useful to test such hypotheses.

    Teaching methods
    • Face-to-face lectures
    • Interactive class activities on campus/online (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)
    • Interactive class activities: in almost every lecture there are interactive class activties, such as discussion sessions and puzzles to be solved in group

    Assessment methods
      Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  •   x x
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  •   x x
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  •   x x


    Students can choose between two options:

    1.         Two mid-term exams (each with a 2/5 weight towards the overall grade) or a written exam, plus a short paper, written individually or together with another student (with a 1/5 weight towards the overall grade)

    2.         A written exam, either taken through two mid-term exams (each with a 1/2 weight towards the overall grade) or one general exam (with a 100% weight towards the overall grade).


    Exams: written exams include both short answers and essay-style questions. The questions cover theory, and interpretation of the results of applied research. The exam covers all topics of the course. Material covered in the lectures, in the text book and other set readings may be included in the exam. 

    Teaching materials
    • Book: A. GIDDENS, P.W. SUTTON, Sociology,  Polity, 9th Edition.
    • Readings: a set of readings and lecture slides are available on Bboard.
    Last change 22/05/2023 17:24