PhD student Cinthya Guzman and Dan Silver on the place of the classic in Social Theory classes

PhD student Cinthya Guzman and Professor Dan Silver have recently published a paper assessing the practice of teaching theory in Canadian sociology courses. The paper, published in Canadian Review of Sociology,  reports on analyses of the courses taught in 64 Canadian degree-granting sociology programs, the instructors of theory courses, and theory course syllabi from 2012 to 2015. The research found that theory is central to the field, that Marx, Weber and Durkheim dominate the theory taught but that beyond this agreement of “classics,” the field is marked by variation. The findings show that the field of sociology is neither marked by universal agreement nor by absolute division when it comes to its theoretical underpinnings. To the extent that they reveal a unified field, the findings suggest that unity lies more in a distinctive form than in a distinctive content, which defines the space and structure of the field of sociology. Ms. Guzman is in her 3rd year of the PhD program where she is specializing in sociological theory, sociology of culture and studies of sex and gender. Professor Silver teaches and researches in the areas of sociological theory and the sociology of culture.

We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available in press and online.

Guzman, C. and Silver, D. (2018), The Institution of Sociological Theory in Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, 55: 9–39. doi: 10.1111/cars.12177

Using theory syllabi and departmental data collected for three academic years, this paper investigates the institutional practice of theory in sociology departments across Canada. In particular, it examines the position of theory within the sociological curriculum, and how this varies among universities. Taken together, our analyses indicate that theory remains deeply institutionalized at the core of sociological education and Canadian sociologists’ self-understanding; that theorists as a whole show some coherence in how they define themselves, but differ in various ways, especially along lines of region, intellectual background, and gender; that despite these differences, the classical versus contemporary heuristic largely cuts across these divides, as does the strongly ingrained position of a small group of European authors as classics of the discipline as a whole. Nevertheless, who is a classic remains an unsettled question, alternatives to the “classical versus contemporary” heuristic do exist, and theorists’ syllabi reveal diverse “others” as potential candidates. Our findings show that the field of sociology is neither marked by universal agreement nor by absolute division when it comes to its theoretical underpinnings. To the extent that they reveal a unified field, the findings suggest that unity lies more in a distinctive form than in a distinctive content, which defines the space and structure of the field of sociology.