Sociology, Social Policy and Social Theory at Melbourne
Sociology investigates the complexity and breadth of our lives in today’s societies. The broad subject matter and the multiple approaches sociologist use makes it hard to define quickly what sociology is. As the American sociologist C Wright Mills says, however, what sociologists have in common is a ‘sociological imagination’ that questions the taken-for-granted. Sociology is the subject that pushes us to look behind our commonsense understandings and assumptions about what it means to live with others. Developing your sociological imagination allows you link ‘private trouble’ to ‘public issues’, to see how society shapes the opportunities and experiences open to the people who live in it and how people in turn shape their society.
Sociology has its origins in the 19th Century in efforts to understand the consequences of the industrial revolution fracturing European society but has grown to become a global discipline bringing together perspectives from all over the world. Worldwide it is now one of the most popular fields of university study and many sociological concepts, such as ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, ‘collective conscious’ ‘charisma’, and ‘moral panic’, are now part of everyday language. The University of Melbourne is one of the world’s best universities for studying social sciences and sociology at Melbourne was ranked equal first in Australia in the most recent Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ratings.
Studying sociology at the University of Melbourne gives you the opportunity to understand our changing social world. Our subjects explore the transformations in the life course, contemporary families, gender relations, ethnic, racial and sexual identity through to the media, technological change, new social movements, and local and global inequalities. A major in sociology at Melbourne will also develop your skills in using multiple social-research methods and in applying key sociological concepts such as ‘globalisation’ and ‘individualisation’. We also offer a popular internship program that gives you a chance to apply your social-research skills in the ‘real world’ through a placement in an NGO, government organisation or the private sector.
Our graduates have a rare capacity to see the big picture; a capacity is highly valued by organisations operating in a complex environment. Our graduates go on to employment in the community, government, business, publishing and media, social services, health and education sectors among others. Many of our graduates also go on to further study, here or abroad. We offer Graduate and Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas in Sociology, as well as an Honours program. Our students can also study the Master of Social Policy [http://graduate.arts.unimelb.edu.au/ss/master-of-social-policy.html], which brings together sociology and social policy to create a degree at the cutting edge of theory and practice relevant to a number of fields of professional practice. This is secured by a longstanding collaboration between the University and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, a prominent NGO that fights social disadvantage through research, practical support and policy advice.
Melbourne Sociology is research focused and our academics investigate many of the areas in which we teach. In particular we are recognised internationally in the areas of risk and identity. Our research asks why a pervasive consciousness of risk arisen in today’s world, why some identities are seen to be risky and some people ‘at-risk’, and what new risks are reshaping social relations and the life-course? A Masters (by research) or a PhD degree at Melbourne offers you to opportunity to make your own contribution to understanding these and other pressing sociological questions.
At the undergraduate level students can take a major in Sociology.
An honours program is available in Sociology.
At the graduate level, students are able to take a Graduate and Postgraduate Certificate or Graduate and Postgraduate Diploma in Sociology. At the graduate level, students are also able to study for a Master of Social Policy (coursework only, or coursework and thesis), a degree that brings together sociology and social policy to create an innovative curriculum that reflects cutting edge theory and practice relevant to a number of fields of professional practice.
The Interdisciplinary Program in Social Theory
The Ashworth Program in Social Theory offers an interdisciplinary program in Social Theory from a Minor program to Postgraduate Diploma, M.A. and PhD by research. Its subjects are taught by Social Theory and other SSPS as well as other contributing Schools from within the Arts Faculty. This arrangement promotes both the interdisciplinary and social theoretical aspects of the program. For undergraduates it is possible to do a Minor sequence in Social Theory and a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Theory. Social Theory also has an active postgraduate research program leading to the MA or PhD degree. The Social Theory Program promotes research in social theory and conducts open seminars during the year.
WHAT IS SOCIAL THEORY?
Social Theory analyses the ways in which social life is organised and, sometimes, transformed. It questions the everyday assumptions which shape our lives and reflects in a systematic manner on such issues as the division of power, the nature of identity, forms of agency and rationality and our experiences as pre-modern, modern or postmodern subjects.
Social Theory critically assesses the adequacy of the descriptions, analyses and critiques which are already prevalent in the social science literature and responds, at the level of theory, to the inadequacies it uncovers. In this manner it serves as a field of critical inquiry which is interdisciplinary in character and which addresses the various social and human sciences.
The interdisciplinary setting of Social Theory provides a context where the theoretical and substantive issues raised in such disciplines as Sociology, Anthropology, Gender Studies, Political Science, Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, and Cultural Studies can be further explored and critically reflected upon. This makes Social Theory an appropriate Minor to accompany the above disciplines and for students with a critical interest in any of the social or human sciences.
The Ashworth Program in Social Theory organizes its teaching around four major themes or concerns of contemporary Social Theory. These are:
. Contemporary critical theories
. Classical and contemporary social theory
. Psychoanalysis and the analysis of social and political relations
. Modernity and multiple modernities
The Social Theory program offers the opportunity for students to explore these themes as a Minor sequence with courses taken from a range of core and periphery subjects. As part of its program Social Theory also offers subjects that can be taken as part of the Majors in Sociology and Anthropology. As not all courses are on offer each year, please check the Handbook.
Students may elect to take individual subjects from the full list of Social Theory offerings or they may elect to take a Minor in Social Theory. A Minor comprises:
Two core subjects at second-year level
and two core subjects at third year level
Non-core electives are also available in second and third years. Please consult the subject Handbook.