Introduction to Theoretical Perspectives

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSDS2DS1024

Semester and Year Offered: Second semester, first year

Course Coordinator and Team: Anirban Sengupta and Ivy Dhar

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: How we comprehend any phenomenon depends upon the perspective from where we seek to understand them. To take the example of development, its meaning changes depending on the perspective from which it is looked at. It is also important to explore how one’s view of processes, events, and causes differs depending on the lens through which one approaches them. This course will introduce students to crucial theoretical ideas that will allow them to critically reflect upon social realities which the process of development seeks to transform or upon the development process itself. The course seeks to fulfil this aim by using modernity as its central theme given that social theory, in a large way, developed around this concept. The course is divided into three units that are organized chronologically around the central theme of modernity. It begins with developments in social theory during the rise of modernity. It proceeds to transformations in social theory in response to contradictions of modernity and finally moves to theorization about the conceptual phase beyond modernity.

The course is meant for beginners in social theory. The primary aim of this course is to enable the students to identify theoretical background of texts they read and also use diverse theoretical perspectives to analyse the social realities they experience in the field during their internship and also during their dissertation.

Upon completion of this course the students are expected to build up an ability to comprehend and apply theoretical perspectives in general and particularly develop a sound knowledge about foundations

of Liberalism, Modernism, Positivism, Marxism, Post-modernism, and Subalternism. They are also expected to develop a clear understanding about political currents like Communism, Maoism and Naxalism and at the same time comprehend the politics around culture and knowledge.

Course Outcomes:

The course is expected to:

1. Build up an ability to comprehend and apply theoretical perspectives

2. Develop a sound knowledge about foundations of Liberalism, Modernism, Positivism, Marxism, Post-modernism, and Subalternism

3. Develop a clear understanding about political currents like Communism, Maoism and Naxalism

4. Comprehend the politics around culture and knowledge


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

1. Enlightenment and rise of Liberalism

2. Modernity and Modernism

3. Positivism and its development

4. Marxism and the contemporary world

5. Conflicts in the contemporary world

6. Deconstruction

7. Postmodernism and global plural society

8. Subaltern perspectives: Revisiting identities

Assessment Details with weights:

S.NoAssessmentDate/period in which Assessment will take placeWeightage
1Assessment 1Fourth week of August10 per cent
2Assessment 2Second week of September20 per cent
3Assessment 3First week of October20 per cent
4Assessment 4Third week of October10 per cent
5Assessment 5Third week of NovemberPart 1: 20 per cent and Part 2: 10 per cent


Reading List:

  • Hamilton, Peter. (1995). The Enlightenment and the birth of social science. In Formations of Modernity (pp. 17-70) Edited by Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben. Cambridge: The Open University Press and Polity Press.
  • Held, David. (1998). Political theory and the modern state (Chapter 1: Central perspectives on the modern state, pp. 11-55). New Delhi: Maya and Polity Press.
  • Vincent, Andrew. (2010). Modern political ideologies (Chapter 2: Liberalism, pp. 23-55). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Sztompka, Piotr. The Sociology of social change (Chapter 5: Modernity and Beyond, pp. 69-85). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  • Ritzer, George. 2008. Sociological Theory (Chapter 15: Contemporary Theories of Modernity, pp. 547-573). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Wilson, John. 1983. Social Theory (Chapter 2: Positivism, pp. 11-18). Englewood Cliffs, USA: Prentice-Hall Inc.
  • Benton, Ted and Craib, Ian. (2001). Philosophy of Social Science: The Philosophical foundations of social thought (Chapter 2: Empiricism and Positivism in Science and Chapter 3: Some problems of Empiricism and Positivism, pp, 13-49). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave.
  • Wilson, John. 1983. Social Theory (Chapter 11: Historical Materialism and Chapter 12: Historical Materialism Considered, pp. 176-213). Englewood Cliffs, USA: Prentice-Hall Inc.
  • Jayaram, N. (2008). Why read Marx now? (Dr. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya Memorial Lecture). Bengaluru: Ma-Le Prakashana.
  • Noble, Trevor. (2000). Social Theory and Social Change (Chapter 4: Theories of revolutionary change, pp. 71-100). Hampshire, UK: Macmillan Press Ltd.
  • Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajat Kumar Kujur, “Introduction” in Maoism in India: Reincarnation of Ultra left Wing Extremism in the Twenty-first Century (London and New York: Routledge, 2010); pp. 1-16.
  • Bela Bhatia, “The Naxalite Movement in Central Bihar” in Economic and Political Weekly, April 9, 2005, pp. 1536-1549.
  • Arthuro Escobar, “Introduction: Development and the Anthropology of Modernity” in Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995); pp. 3-20
  • Gustavo Estava, “Development” in Wolfgang Sachs ed. The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, 2nd Edition (London and New York: Zed Books, 1992); pp. 1-23.
  • Stuart Hall, David Held and Tony McGrew, “Social Pluralism and Post Modernity” in Modernity and its Futures (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992); pp. 117-255
  • Peter Kivisto, “Postmodernity as an Internal Critique of Modernity” in Postmodernism in a Global Perspective (New Delhi: Sage, 2014); pp. 92-115.
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Minorities History and Subaltern Past” in Saurabh Dube ed, Postcolonial Passages: Contemporary History-writing on India (New Delhi: OUP, 2004); pp. 229-242
  • Kancha Illaih, “Productive Labour, Consciousness and History: The Dalit Bahujan Alternatives” in Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarthy ed, Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Oxford: OUP, 1996); pp. 165-200.
  • Joseph S. Wu, “Understanding Maoism: A Chinese Philosopher's Critique” in Studies in Soviet Thought, Vol. 15, No. 2, Jun., 1975, pp. 99-118
  • Aditya Nigam, ‘The Rumour of Maoism’, Seminar, No.607 (March 2010),, accessed on 20.01.13
  • Bernard D'Mello, “What Is Maoism?” in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 44, No. 47, Nov.21-27, 2009, pp. 39-48.
  • Majid Rehnema and Victoria Bawtree, ed., The Post Development Reader (New Jersey: Zed Books, 1997).
  • Wolfgang Sachs, ed. The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, 2nd Edition (London and New York: Zed Books, 1992).
  • David Harvey, “Postmodernism” in The Conditions of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990); pp. 39-65
  • Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash, “From Global to Local” in Grassroots Postmodernism: Remaking the Soils of Culture (New York: St.Martin’s, 1998); pp. 19-49
  • Arif Dirlik, “Formations of Globality and Radical Politics” in Postmodernity’s Histories: The Past as Legacy and Project (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000); pp. 99-118.
  • Ludden, David, “A brief history of Subalterneity” in Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning and Globalisation of South Asia ( London: Anthem Press, 2002); pp. 1-39
  • Sanjay Kumar, “Representation, Resistance and Identity: The Mushahars of Middle Gangetic Plains” in Federique Apffel-Marglin, ed, Interrogating Development: Insights from the Margins (New Delhi: OUP, 2010); pp. 151-171
  • Shahid Amin, “Representing the Musalman: Then and Now, Now and then” in Shail Mayaram, M.S.S. Pandian and Ajay Skaria ed, Muslims, Dalits and Fabrications of History (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2005); pp. 1-35.