SDC-32806 Sociology in Development: Towards a Critical Perspective


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper
Group work
Excursion (one day)4
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. MCM Nuijten
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. MCM Nuijten
dr. BJ Jansen
dr. ir. JP Jongerden
dr. ir. PJM Oosterveer
Examiner(s)dr. ir. MCM Nuijten
dr. BJ Jansen
dr. ir. PJM Oosterveer
dr. ir. JP Jongerden

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

BSc degree in Social Sciences.

Continuation courses:

SDC-32306 Anthropology and Development; SDC-34306 Conflict, Development and Disaster; ENP-32806 Sociological Perspectives on Environmental Change; RSO-31806 Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development.


This course aims to introduce students to key debates in the social sciences around the topics of modernity and social exclusion. These debates illustrate well how sociologists may choose between different theoretical perspectives, ethical viewpoints and strategies of intervention. The course also aims to give students a view of the various roles social scientists may be asked to play as a practitioner.
Zygmunt Bauman, one of the foremost sociologists of our times has developed an important theory for understanding the sources and consequences of exclusion as a modern and global phenomenon. Each of the participating lecturers will complement Bauman's theory with his or her expertise in the field of development. Central to the course is the concept of 'wasted lives': the 'superfluous' populations of poor and unemployed people, migrants, refugees and other outcasts. 'Wasted lives', as Bauman puts it, are the inevitable outcome of modernization and the unavoidable side-effects of economic progress and the quest for order which is characteristic of modernity.
The course starts with the discussion of a number of contrasting cases of 'wasted modernity' (the 'wasted lives' in slums and ghettos; the exclusion and waste of regions as a result of agricultural modernization; environmental anxieties occasioned by economic progress, the exclusionary effects of policy interventions aimed at confronting conflicts, natural disasters and economic breakdown). In the second week Bauman's critique of modernity and modernization as outlined in his book 'wasted lives' is discussed. In the third week, each lecturer elaborates further on the consequences of specific kinds of exclusion, with a focus on popular protest, forms of resistance and alternative modes of socio-economic ordering.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- discuss and appraise the work of a major sociological theoretician (in this case that of Zygmunt Bauman) and determine the strengths and weaknesses of his argumentation;
- assess different positions in current academic debates on modernity and social exclusion and determine their merits or pitfalls in comparison with Bauman's perspective;
- analyse a variety of possible responses to social exclusion throughout the world, be it in terms of different livelihoods, alternatives to modernity, novel forms of intervention, or protest movements;
- judge the kinds of interventions that different theoretical perspectives enable or prescribe, and reflect critically upon the different roles sociologists may play as practitioners, with special emphasis on the strategic and ethical consequences such a role may entail;
- design and write an individual paper in which Bauman's work and that of other authors is applied, criticized or modified on the basis of a case study that sheds light on global forms of exclusion and local responses thereto.


The course requires a full-time commitment over a period of four weeks. Course activities are scheduled to fill the entire day (Mon-Fri). This programme consists of classroom lectures, collective workshops with group assignments, group presentations, and a film session in the movie theater. During the course students will write an individual paper under the supervision of one of the four lecturers. The course ends with a written exam.


- written test with open questions (60%);
- individual essay (40%).
The minimum mark for each of the components is 5.50.


Reader (available at start of the course).
Zygmunt Bauman. (2004). Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts. Oxford: Polity Press. 152p. ISBN-13: 978-0745631653.

Compulsory for: MIDInternational Development StudiesMScA: Sociology of Development3WD