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Teaching Social Theory as Alternative Discourse

The social sciences are taught in the developing world in a Eurocentric manner. This has contributed to the alienation of social scientists from local and regional scholarly traditions. Further, courses in sociology and the other social sciences generally do not attempt to correct the Orientalist bias by introducing non-western thinkers. This paper highlights the contributions of Filipino thinker and activist José Rizal and draws attention to a course that used the theme of Eurocentrism to provide a critical stance from which to understand the discipline of sociology.


Teaching Social Theory as Alternative Discourse

Syed Farid Alatas

The social sciences are taught in the developing world in a Eurocentric manner. This has contributed to the alienation of social scientists from local and regional scholarly traditions. Further, courses in sociology and the other social sciences generally do not attempt to correct the Orientalist bias by introducing non-western thinkers. This paper highlights the contributions of Filipino thinker and activist José Rizal and draws attention to a course that used the theme of Eurocentrism to provide a critical stance from which to understand the discipline of sociology.

Syed Farid Alatas ( is at the National University of Singapore.

rientalism defines the content of education in such a way that the origins of the social sciences and the question of alternative points of view are not thematised. It is this lack of thematisation which makes it highly unlikely that the works of non-European thinkers would be given the same attention as European and American social theorists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and others. Orientalism is a thought style that is not restricted to Europeans. The social sciences are taught in the third world in a Eurocentric manner. This has contributed to the alienation of social scientists from local and regional scholarly traditions. Further, courses in sociology and the other social sciences generally do not attempt to correct the Orientalist bias by introducing non-western thinkers.

If we take the 19th century as an example, the impression given is that during the period that Europeans such as Marx, Weber, Durkheim and others were thinking about the nature of society and its development, there were no thinkers in Asia and Africa doing the same. The absence of non-European thinkers in these accounts is particularly glaring in cases where non-Europeans did influence the development of social thought. Typically, a history of social thought or a course on social thought and theory would cover theorists such as Montesquieu, Giovanni Battista Vico, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Ferdinand Toennies, Werner Sombart, Karl Mannheim, Vilfredo Pareto, William Graham Sumner, Lester Ward, Albion Woodbury Small, and others. Generally, non-western thinkers are excluded.

Here it is necessary to make a distinction between Orientalism as the blatantly stereotypical portrayal of the “Orient” that was so typical of 19th century scholarship, and the new Orientalism of today that is characterised by the neglect and silencing of non-western voices. If at all non-Europeans appear in the texts and courses, they are objects of study of European scholars and not knowing subjects; that is, sources of sociological theories and ideas. This is what is meant by the silencing or marginalisation of non-western thinkers.

Universalising the Canon

It seems fitting, therefore, to provide examples of social theorists of non-European backgrounds who wrote on topics and theorised problems that would be of interest to those studying the broad range of macro processes that have become the hallmark of classical sociological thought and theory. In my own teaching, I have been concentrating on Ibn Khaldun and Jose Rizal (Alatas 2009). I would like to say a few words about the latter, as I believe that his work is of particular interest to us in south-east Asia.

Filipino thinker and activist Rizal (1861-1896) was probably the first systematic social thinker in south-east Asia. As a social thinker,

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he raised original problems and treated them in a creative way. He lived during the formative period of sociology but theorised about the nature of society in ways not done by western sociologists. He provides us with a different perspective on the colonial dimension of the emerging modernity of the 19th century.

Rizal was born into a wealthy family. His father ran a sugar plantation on land leased from the Dominican order. As a result, he was able to attend the best schools in Manila. He continued his higher studies at the Ateneo de Manila University and then the University of Santo Thomas. In 1882, he departed for Spain, where he studied medicine and the humanities at the Universidad Central in Madrid. Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1887. This was also the year that his first novel, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) was published. The novel was a reflection of exploitative conditions under Spanish colonial rule and enraged the Spanish friars. It was a diagnosis of the problems of Filipino society and a reflection of the problems of exploitation in Filipino colonial society. His second novel, El Filibusterismo (The Revolution), published in 1891, examined the possibilities and consequences of revolution.

If we were to construct a sociological theory from Rizal’s works, three broad aspects can be discerned. First, we have his theory of colonial society, a theory that explains the nature and conditions of colonial society. Second, there is his critique of colonial knowledge of the Philippines. Finally, there is his discourse on the meaning and requirements for emancipation. In Rizal’s thought, the corrupt Spanish colonial government and its officials oppressed and exploited Filipinos, while blaming their backwardness on their alleged laziness. His project was to show that the Filipinos were actually a relatively advanced society in precolonial times, and that their backwardness was a product of colonialism. This required a reinterpretation of Filipino history.

During Rizal’s time, there was little critique of the state of knowledge about the Philippines among Spanish colonial and Filipino scholars. Being well acquainted with Orientalist scholarship in Europe, he was aware of what would today be referred to as Orientalist constructions. This can be seen from his annotation and republication of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Historical Events of the Philippine Islands), which first appeared in 1609. De Morga, a Spaniard, served eight years in the Philippines as lieutenant governor general and captain general and was also a justice of the supreme court of Manila (Audiencia Real de Manila) (1890-1962: xxxv).

Rizal republished this work with his own annotation to correct what he saw as false reports and slanderous statements found in most Spanish works on the Philippines, as well as to bring to light the precolonial past that was wiped out from the memory of Filipinos by colonisation (1890-1962: vii). This included the destruction of pre-Spanish records such as artefacts that would have thrown light on the nature of pre-colonial society (Zaide 1993: 5). Rizal found Morga’s work apt as it was, according to Ocampo, the only civil history of the Philippines written during the Spanish colonial period, other works being mainly ecclesiastical histories (1998: 192). The problem with ecclesiastical histories, apart from falsifications and slander, was that they “abound in stories of devils, miracles, apparitions, etc, these forming the bulk of the voluminous histories of the Philippines” (de Morga, 1890-1962: 291 n 4).

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For Rizal, therefore, existing histories of the Philippines were false and biased as well as unscientific and irrational. What his annotations accomplished were the following:

  • They provide examples of Filipino advances in agriculture and industry in precolonial times.
  • They provide the colonised’s point of view on various issues.
  • They point out the cruelties perpetrated by the colonisers.
  • They furnish instances of hypocrisy of the colonisers, particularly the Catholic church.
  • They expose the irrationalities of the church’s discourse on colonial topics.
  • Rizal noted that the “‘miseries of a people without freedom should not be imputed to the people but to their rulers” (1963b: 31). His novels, political writings and letters provide examples such as the confiscation of lands, appropriation of labour of farmers, high taxes, forced labour without payment, and so on (1963c). Colonial policy was exploitative despite the claims or intentions of the colonial government and the Catholic church. Rizal was extremely critical of the “boasted ministers of God [the friars] and propagators of light (!) [who] have not sowed nor do they sow Christian morals, they have not taught religion, but rituals and superstitions” (1963b: 38). This position required him to critique colonial knowledge of the Filipinos. He went into history to address the colonial allegation concerning Filipino indolence. This led to an understanding of the conditions for emancipation and the possibilities of revolution.

    Lazy Myths

    Bearing in mind the reinterpreted account of Filipino history, Rizal undertakes a critique of the discourse on the lazy Filipino that was perpetuated by the Spaniards. The theme of indolence in colonial scholarship is an important one that formed a vital part of the ideology of colonial capitalism. Rizal was probably the first to deal with it systematically. This concern was later taken up by Syed Hussein Alatas in his seminal work The Myth of the Lazy Native (1977), which contains a chapter entitled “The Indolence of the Filipinos”, in honour of Rizal’s essay of the same title (1963a).

    The basis of Rizal’s sociology is his critique of the myth of the indolent Filipino. It is this critique and the rejection of the idea that the backwardness of Filipino society was due to the Filipinos themselves that provide the proper background for understanding his criticisms of the clerical establishment and colonial admini stration. In his “The Indolence of the Filipinos” he defines indolence as “little love for work, lack of activity” (1963a: 111). He then refers to indolence in two senses. First, there is indolence in the sense of the lack of activity caused by the warm tropical climate of the Philippines that “requires quiet and rest for the individual, just as cold incites him to work and to action” (1963a: 113). His argument is as follows:

    The fact is that in the tropical countries severe work is not a good thing as in cold countries, for there it is annihilation, it is death, it is destruction. Nature, as a just mother knowing this, has therefore made the land more fertile, more productive, as a compensation. An hour’s work under that burning sun and in the midst of pernicious influences coming out of an active nature is equivalent to a day’s work in a temperate climate; it is proper then that the land yield a hundredfold! Moreover, don’t we see the active European who has gained


    strength during winter, who feels the fresh blood of spring boil in his veins, don’t we see him abandon his work during the few days of his changeable summer, close his office, where the work after all is not hard – for many, consisting of talking and gesticulating in the shade beside a desk – run to watering places, sit down at the cafes, stroll about, etc? What wonder then that the inhabitant of tropical countries, worn out and with his blood thinned by the prolonged and excessive heat, is reduced to inaction? (1963a: 113)

    What Rizal is referring to here is the physiological reaction to the heat of a tropical climate, which strictly speaking, as S H Alatas noted, is not consistent with his own definition of indolence; that is, “little love for work”. The adjustment of working habits to a tropical climate should not be understood to be a result of laziness or little love for work (Alatas 1977: 100). There is a second aspect to Rizal’s concept of indolence (1963a: 114) that is more significant, sociologically speaking. This is indolence in the real sense of the term; that is, little love for work or the lack of motivation to work.

    The evil is not that a more or less latent indolence [in the first sense, that is, the lack of activity] exists, but that it is fostered and magnified. Among men, as well as among nations, there exist not only aptitudes but also tendencies toward good and evil. To foster the good ones and aid them, as well as correct the bad ones and repress them would be the duty of society or of governments, if less noble thoughts did not absorb their attention. The evil is that indolence in the Philippines is a magnified indolence, a snowball indolence, if we may be permitted the expression, an evil which increases in direct proportion to the square of the periods of time, an effect of misgovernment and backwardness, as we said and not a cause of them.

    A similar point was made by Gilberto Freyre (1956: 48) in the context of Brazil.

    And when all this practically useless population of caboclos and lightskinned mulattoes, worth more as clinical material than they are as an economic force, is discovered in the state of economic wretchedness and non-productive inertia in which Miguel Pereira and Belisário Penna found them living – in such a case those who lament our lack of racial purity and the fact that Brazil is not a temperate climate at once see in this wretchedness and inertia the result of intercourse, forever damned, between white men and black women, between Portuguese males and Indian women. In other words, the inertia and indolence are a matter of race ... All of which means little to this particular school of sociology. Which is more alarmed by the stigmata of miscegenation than it is by those of syphilis, which is more concerned with the effects of climate than it is with social causes that are susceptible to control or rectification; nor does it take into account the influence exerted upon mestizo populations – above all, the free ones – by the scarcity of foodstuffs resulting from monoculture and a system of slave labour, it disregards likewise the chemical poverty of the traditional foods that these peoples, or rather all Brazilians, with a regional exception here and there, have for more than three centuries consumed; it overlooks the irregularity of food supply and the prevailing lack of hygiene in the conservation and distribution of such products.

    Rizal’s important sociological contribution was his raising the problem of indolence to begin with as well as his treatment of the subject, particularly his view that indolence was not a cause of the backwardness of Filipino society. Rather it was the backwardness and disorder of Filipino colonial society that caused indolence. For Rizal, indolence was a result of the social and historical experience of the Filipinos under Spanish rule. We may again take issue with him as to whether this actually constitutes indolence as opposed to a reluctance to work under exploitative conditions. What is important, however, is his attempt to deal with the theme systematically. He examined historical accounts by Europeans from centuries earlier which showed Filipinos to be industrious. This included de Morga’s writings. Therefore, indolence must have social causes and these were to be found in the nature of colonial rule. Rizal would have agreed with Freyre.

    It was not the “inferior race” that was the source of corruption, but the abuse of one race by another, an abuse that demanded a servile conformity on the part of the Negro to the appetites of the all-powerful lords of the land. Those appetites were stimulated by idleness, by a “wealth acquired without labour ...” (1956: 329)

    Freyre suggested that it was the masters rather than the slaves who were idle and lazy. He referred to the slave being “at the service of his idle master’s economic interests and voluptuous pleasure” (1956: 329).

    Correcting the Biases

    A course on social theory that corrects the Eurocentric bias should not just focus on non-western thinkers. It should also critically deal with western thinkers that make up the canon. This is what a colleague and I have done in our course on “Social Thought and Social Theory”, a discussion of which was carried out in the journal Teaching Sociology (Alatas and Sinha 2001). The discussion in the rest of this section is drawn from that paper.

    Given that sociological theory is of western origin, we decided that the theme of Eurocentrism was an appropriate, if not sole, point of orientation that could provide a critical stance from which to understand the discipline of sociology. We were very careful in defining Eurocentrism. We made it clear to the students that Eurocentrism was not confined to Europeans and Americans and that not all western scholars were necessarily Eurocentric. Further, Eurocentrism was commonly an attribute of non-western scholars. Eurocentrism refers to a particular position or perspective that is founded on a number of problematic claims and assumptions. We were also careful to point out that the various theorists discussed in the course were Eurocentric in different ways. For example, Marx and Weber made explicitly Eurocentric statements about the so-called Orient. Much of Durkheim’s Eurocentrism, on the other hand, has to do with his silence on non-western questions.

    It is also necessary to state that the recognition of Eurocentrism in the writings of western social thinkers such as Marx, Weber and Durkheim is neither surprising nor a recent discovery. What is surprising, however, is that the critique of Eurocentrism has till now failed to reshape or revolutionise the way we think about sociological theory and its history. Although many have claimed for some decades now that there are aspects of Marx’s, Weber’s and Durkheim’s writings that are Eurocentric, this awareness has not yet translated into new readings of social theory and the history of sociology.

    As a starting point for dealing with these issues, the students were required to read an essay by Immanuel Wallerstein on Eurocentrism (1996). While there is no new conceptualisation of Eurocentrism in this essay, it provides a concise and readable account of the ways in which the social sciences are Eurocentric. Eurocentric historiography yielded accounts according to which whatever Europe was dominant in (bureaucratisation, capitalism, democracy, and so on) was good and superior and that such

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    dominance was explained in terms of characteristics peculiar to Europeans. Thus Europe considered itself to be a unique civilisation in the sense that it was the site of the origin of modernity, the autonomy of the individual (vis-à-vis family, community, state, religion), and non-brutal behaviour in everyday life. The idea that European society was progressive (industrialisation, democracy, literacy, education) and that this progress would spread elsewhere became entrenched in the social sciences. Further, social science theories assumed that the development of modern capitalist society in Europe was not only good, but also would be replicated elsewhere and that, therefore, scientific theories were valid across time and space.

    Our objective in rereading social theory and its history was not merely to identify other founding “fathers” of sociology, such as Rizal, but also to ask how we should reread Marx, Weber or Durkheim from a non-Eurocentric perspective. It was therefore necessary to expose those aspects of their works that were clearly Eurocentric in their orientation and to suggest how it would be possible to have a Marxist, Weberian or Durkheimian understanding of society that was relieved of the Eurocentric assumptions. This was achieved by, for example, reading Marx on the Asiatic mode of production and colonialism in India (Marx and Engels 1968). While we did not exclude Marx’s many other writings, we did make it a point to include topics that continue to be routinely excluded in sociological theory courses and textbooks today.

    The need to revamp the teaching of sociological theory in this way can be seen to be all the more important when it is realised that Eurocentrism is not only found in European and North American scholarship, but also permeates the social sciences in Asia and Africa in various ways.

  • (i) In the Ignorance of Our Own Histories: In textbooks used in Asia and Africa, there tends to be less information on these parts of the world because they are invariably written in the US or the UK. For example, we know more about the daily life of the European pre-modern family than that of our own. The European historical context is the defining one because sociology arose in the context of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Normal development is defined as a move from feudalism to capitalism, and that is the normal thing to study. The object of study is defined by this bias of normal development. In our own societies, while the priority is to study modern capitalist societies as well, the problem is that we begin with European pre-capitalist societies and draw attention to our own pre-capitalist societies to show that they constituted obstacles to modernisation.
  • (ii) In Changing Constructions: Eurocentric constructions of our societies are so real and compelling and remain so until an alternative construction, which may be equally Eurocentric, is generated. For example, it was widely held that values, attitudes and cultural patterns as a whole change in the process of modernisation and that such change was inevitable (Rudolph and Rudolph 1967; Kahn 1979). However, the successful developmental experiences of East Asia in the 1980s and early 1990s led to the idea that it was traditional cultural patterns such as those founded on Confucianism that explained growth. But the Asian
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    financial crisis in 1997 laid that theory to rest and Confucianism and Asian values were even implicated in the economic decline.

    (iii) In the Imitation of Theories: The market being flooded with North American and British theoretical, methodological and empirical works, there tends to be a wholesale adoption of them and a consequential lack of originality, particularly in the areas of theory and methodology. There is an uncritical consumption of imported theories, techniques and research agendas.

    In view of these problems, we stressed to our students that they should be cognisant of the context in which social thought and theory emerged; gauge its utility for the study of non-western societies; and be conscious of the Eurocentric aspects of sociology because these detract from its scientific value. In dealing with the theme of Eurocentrism in the course, we presented to our students the assessments of specific aspects of the works of Marx, Weber and Durkheim. Here I discuss the example of Marx.

    Non-European Marx

    There was no attempt on our part to do away with traditional topics such as the transition from feudalism to capitalism, circulation and production, alienation, class consciousness, the state, and ideology. What we did do, however, was to work into the readings and discussions the three objectives stated above. For example, we suggested to the students that the significance of Marx’s discussion on the transition from feudalism to capitalism is that it viewed an emergent bourgeois class and a weak decentralised state in feudal society as preconditions for the rise of capitalism. Students were asked to think about what this implied for non-European societies. Did it imply that these preconditions were non-existent in non-European societies? If this was Marx’s view, to what extent was it a fact? Or could it be seen as a Eurocentric view?

    In line with Eurocentric assumptions that Europe was unique, it was assumed that such prerequisites were not to be found outside Europe and that pre-capitalist modes of production outside Europe were obstacles to capitalist development. An example was the Asiatic mode of production on which students were assigned readings. We pointed out to the students that in Marx’s characterisation of the Asiatic mode of production, he was often factually wrong in his pronouncements on “Asiatic” economies and societies, and that informing his political economy were Orientalist assumptions that viewed non-European societies as backward contrasts to Europe. We also stressed that recognition of the problems associated with Marx’s characterisation of the Asiatic mode of production (India and Algeria) did not suggest that his concept of the “mode of production” has to be jettisoned from sociological theory. As a matter of fact, it was important to engage in a critique of Marx’s Asiatic mode of production thesis to separate it from the more valid concepts and ideas in his work.

    Discussions on the Eurocentric aspects of Marx’s thought would make it possible to engage in a more critical interpretation of our own histories while retaining the valid and universal aspects of Marx’s theory. An example is an article on colonial ideology in British Malaya that we assigned (Hirschman 1986). Through this article, we were able to show the usefulness of Marx’s concept of ideology for a critique of various Eurocentric ideas of the colonisers.


    Although conventional topics such as class consciousness, the state, and ideology were discussed, we always made it a point to include readings on contemporary third world societies to make it clear to students that there were universal aspects of the thought of Marx that are relevant to regions and areas outside his own. In other words, the exposé of Eurocentrism was both a critique of Marx, to the extent that his views were informed by the Orientalist “wisdom” of his time, and a rescue of Marx, to the extent that there are universal elements in his theoretical contributions.

    The Captive Mind, Academic Dependency and Teaching

    My interest in this topic is due in large part to the lifelong concerns of my late father, Syed Hussein Alatas (1928-2007), with the role of intellectuals in developing societies. On this topic, he wrote a number of works that developed themes such as the captive mind (1969a, 1972, 1974) and intellectual imperialism (1969b, 2000). The idea of intellectual imperialism is an important starting point for the understanding of academic dependency. According to Alatas, intellectual imperialism is analogous to political and economic imperialism in that it refers to the “domination of one people by another in their world of thinking” (2000: 24). Intellectual imperialism was more direct in the colonial period, whereas today it has more to do with the control and influence the west exerts over the flow of social scientific knowledge rather than its ownership and control of academic institutions. Indeed, this form of hegemony was “not imposed by the West through colonial domination, but accepted willingly with confident enthusiasm by scholars and planners of the former colonial territories and even in the few countries that remained independent during that period” (Alatas, S H 2006: 7-8).

    Intellectual imperialism is the context within which academic dependency exists. Academic dependency theory theorises the global state of the social sciences. Academic dependency is defined as a condition in which knowledge production of certain social science communities are conditioned by the development and growth of knowledge of other scholarly communities to which the former is bound. The relations of interdependence between two or more scientific communities, and between these and global transactions in knowledge, assume the form of dependency when some scientific communities (those located in the knowledge powers) can expand according to certain criteria of development and progress, while other scientific communities (such as those in the developing societies) can only do this as a reflection of that expansion, which generally has negative effects on their development.

    This definition of academic dependency parallels that of economic dependency in the classic form, which Theotonio dos Santos pointed out,

    By dependence we mean a situation in which the economy of certain countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which the former is subjected. The relation of interdependence between two or more economies, and between these and world trade, assumes the form of dependence when some countries (the dominant ones) can expand and be self-sustaining, while other countries (the dependent ones) can do this only as a reflection of this expansion, which can have either a positive or a negative effect on their immediate development (1970: 231).

    The psychological dimension of this dependency, conceptualised by S H Alatas as the captive mind (1969a, 1972, 1974), is that the academically dependent scholar is a passive recipient of research agendas, theories and methods from the knowledge powers (Alatas, S F 2003: 603). It is no coincidence that the great economic powers are also the great social science powers, according to Garreau (1985: 64, 81, 89) and Chekki (1987), although this is only partially true as some economic powers are actually marginal as social science knowledge producers, Japan being an interesting example.

    In earlier work, I had listed five dimensions of academic dependency. These are (a) dependence on ideas; (b) dependence on the media of ideas; (c) dependence on the technology of education;

    (d) dependence on aid for research and teaching; (e) dependence on investment in education; and (f) dependence of scholars in developing societies on demand in the knowledge powers for their skills (2003: 604). I would like to add a sixth dimension, dependence on recognition. Dependency on recognition of our works manifests itself in terms of the effort to enter our journals and universities into international ranking protocols. Our universities and journals strive to attain higher and higher places in the rankings. Institutional development as well as individual assessment are undertaken to achieve a higher status in the ranking system, with systems of rewards and punishments to provide the necessary incentives that centre on promotion, tenure and bonuses. The consequences of this form of dependency include a de-emphasis on publications in local journals, to the extent that they are not listed in international rankings. The result of this is the underdevelopment of social scientific discourse in local languages.

    The problem is not coming up with alternative ways of teaching the social sciences. Nor has it to do with difficulties of developing adequate or relevant textbooks and readings. These can be easily done. Rather, it has to do with the psychological problem of mental captivity and the structural constraints within which this takes place, that is, academic dependency.


    The idea behind promoting scholars such as Rizal and Ibn Khaldun and a host of other well-known and lesser-known thinkers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and also Europe and North America, is to contribute to the universalisation of sociology. Sociology may be a global discipline but it is not a universal one as long as the various civilisational voices that have something to say about society are not rendered audible by the institutions and practices of the discipline.

    While the critique of Orientalism in the social sciences is well known, this has yet to be reflected in the teaching of basic and mainstream social science course in most universities around the world. Basic introductory courses in the social sciences are generally biased in favour of American or British theoretical perspectives, illustrations and reading material. On the other hand, the logical consequence of the critique of Orientalism in the social sciences is the development of alternative concepts and theories that are not restricted to western civilisation as their source. But, for this to be done, the critique of Orientalism must become a widespread theme in the teaching of the social sciences.

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    Alatas, Syed Farid and Vineeta Sinha (2001): “Teaching Classical Sociological Theory in Singapore: The Context of Eurocentrism”, Teaching Sociology, 29 (3), pp 316-31.

    Alatas, Syed Farid (2003): “Academic Dependency and the Global Division of Labour in the Social Sciences”, Current Sociology, 51 (6), pp 599-613.

  • (2006): Alternative Discourses in Asian Social Science: Responses to Eurocentrism (New Delhi: Sage).
  • (2009): “Religion and Reform: Two Exemplars for Autonomous Sociology in the Non-Western Context” in Sujata Patel (ed.), The ISA Handbook of Diverse Sociological Traditions (London: Sage).
  • Alatas, Syed Hussein (1969a): “The Captive Mind and Creative Development” in K B Madhava (ed.), International Development (New York: Oceania Publications).

  • (1969b): “Academic Imperialism”, Lecture at the History Society, University of Singapore, 26 September.
  • (1972): “The Captive Mind in Development Studies”, International Social Science Journal, 34 (1), pp 9-25.
  • (1974): “The Captive Mind and Creative Development”, International Social Science Journal, 36 (4), pp 691-99.
  • (1977): The Myth of the Lazy Native: A Study of the Image of the Malays, Filipinos and Javanese from the 16th to the 20th Century and Its Function in the Ideology of Colonial Capitalism (London: Frank Cass).
  • (2000): “Intellectual Imperialism: Definition, Traits, and Problems”, Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science, 28 (1), pp 23-45.
  • (2006): “The Autonomous, the Universal and the Future of Sociology”, Current Sociology, 54 (1), pp 7-23.
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    Dos Santos, Teotonio (1970): “The Structure of Dependence”, American Economic Review, LX.

    Freyre, Gilberto (1956). The Masters and the Slaves (Casa-grande and Senzala): A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilisation (New York: Knopf).

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    Hirschman, Charles (1986): “The Making of Race in Colonial Malaya: Political Economy and Racial Ideology”, Sociological Forum, 1 (2), pp 330-61.

    Kahn, Herman (1979): World Economic Development: 1979 and Beyond (London: Croom Helm).

    Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels (1968): On Colonialism (Moscow: Progress Publishers), pp 35-41; 81-87.

    Ocampo, Ambeth R (1998): “Rizal’s Morga and Views of Philippine History”, Philippine Studies, 46, pp 184-214.

    Rizal, José (1963a): “The Indolence of the Filipino”, Political and Historical Writings, National Historical Institute, Manila, pp 111-39.

    – (1963b): “The Truth for All”, Political and Historical Writings, National Historical Institute, Manila, pp 31-38.

    Rudolph, Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph (1967): “The Place of Tradition in Modernisation”, Development Digest (Washington DC: National Planning Association), pp 62-66.

    Wallerstein, Immanuel (1996): “Eurocentrism and Its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science”, Paper presented to Korean Sociological Association- International Sociological Association East Asian

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    Regional Colloquium on “The Future of Sociology

    in East Asia”, Seoul, 22-23 November. Zaide, S (1993): “Historiography in the Spanish Period”

    in Philippine Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences

    (Quezon City: Philippine Social Science Council),

    pp 4-19.


    National University of Singapore, Department of Sociology, Sc3101: Social Thought and Social Theory, Session 2005-2006 (Semester Ii), Lecturers and Tutors: Syed Farid Alatas and Vineeta Sinha, Lectures: Monday 8 am to 10 am; Venue: LT 9

    Course Description

    This course aims to develop a critical appreciation of classical social thought and theory. We will concentrate on the contributions of five major thinkers, Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Jose Rizal (1861-1896), Max Weber (1864-1920) and Emile Durkheim (1857-1917). These thinkers, among others, offered novel analyses of the rise of modernity and the nature of modern society. What are the largescale sociological processes in the making of modern society? What are its antecedents? What are its characteristic tendencies? And what are its human consequences? What is the relevance of these theories to our own condition today? In attempting to address these basic questions, this course will take us back to the classics that have shaped the development of sociology. How did each theorist grapple with the problem of modernity? What are the affinities and contrasts in their analyses? What is living or dead in their works in the light of the contemporary world as we experience it? In what ways can their ideas and arguments, their concepts and methods, still inform our analyses of the world we live in? What is the practical value of social theory? And what does the discipline of sociology mean for us? These are questions that students are encouraged to pursue without settling for quick and easy answers.


    Irving M Zeitlin (1997): Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory, 6th ed, Upper Saddle River (New Jersey: Prentice Hall), available at NUS Coop.

    Course Requirements

    In addition to lecture and tutorial attendance, students are required to complete a term paper. Details of the term paper can be found on the IVLE for this module. Tutorial attendance and participation (20%) and the term project (20%) comprise 40% of the final assessment. Students are also required to view the movies, Brazil, and Jose Rizal. Viewing times are announced in the course outline below but you may also view them on your own at other times.

    Lectures and Readings

    Note: All readings are required and are to be completed prior to attending lectures. A course reader will be available.

    vol xlvi no 46

    Introduction to the Course
    Housekeeping matters (9 January 2006)

    Course outline Lecture and reading schedule Tutorials

    What Is Sociological Theory? (9 January 2006)

    Why only Marx, Weber and Durkheim? Modern capitalist society and its traits Social forces behind the rise of sociological theory European domination, Eurocentrism and androcentrism Non-western social thinkers Immanuel Wallerstein, “Eurocentrism and Its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science”. Paper presented to the KSA-ISA Joint East Asian Colloquium on “The Future of Sociology in East Asia”, Seoul, November 22-23, 1996. Mary Jo Deegan, “Transcending a Patriarchal Past: Teaching the History of Women in Sociology”, Teaching Sociology 16, 1988, 141-150.

    The Problem of Androcentrism

    Classical Theory Minus Gender (16 January 2006)

    Androcentrism Female invisibility Artemis March, “Female Invisibility in Androcentric Sociological Theory”, Insurgent Sociologist, Vol XI, 2, 1982, pp 99-107. R A Sydie, “Sex and the Sociological Fathers”, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, Vol 31, 2, 1994, pp 117-138.

    Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)

    The First Woman Sociologist? (16 January 2006)

    Demarcating the object of study Martineau’s methodology: Science of morals and manners Paul L Riedesel, “Who Was Harriet Martineau?” Journal of the History of Sociology, 3, 2, 1981, pp 63-80. Harriet Martineau, How to Observe Morals and Manners, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1838/1988, pp 13-22, 71-77, 223-231.

    Martineau’s Sociological Insights (23 January 2006)

    Sociology of slavery Ethnic relations/racism Women’s studies Harriet Martineau, Society in America, edited by S M Lipset, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers 1836/1962, pp 47-56, 291-314, 355-357.

    Karl Marx (1818-1883)

    Feudalism, Capitalism and the Asiatic Mode of Production (23 January 2006)

    An outline of Marx’s sociological theory The feudal system The rise of the capitalist mode of production and its relevance Oriental despotism Karl Marx, “The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism” in R C Edwards, M Reich and T E Weisskopf (ed.), The Capitalist System: A Radical Analysis of American Society, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972, pp 61-66.


    Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Colonialism (Moscow: Progress Publishers), 1968, pp 35-41; 81-87. Suniti Kumar Ghosh, “Marx on India”, Monthly Review, 35, 1984, pp 39-53.

    Alienation, Class and Class Consciousness (6 February 2006)

    The theory of surplus value The pauperisation thesis Alienation Bourgeois, proletarians, and communists Class consciousness Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (New York: International Publishers), 1982, pp 106-119. Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, T B Bottomore, trans (New York: McGraw-Hill), 1956, pp 178-191 [stop at line 2]; pp 200-201 [start at “The history ...”].

    Capitalism and the State (6 February 2006)

    The capitalist state The ruling class Karl Marx, “The Relation of State and Law to Property” in The German Ideology (New York: International Publishers), 1970, pp 79-81. William Domhoff, “State and Ruling Class in Corporate America”, Insurgent Sociologist, 4, 3, 1974, pp 3-16.

    Ideology (13 February 2006)

    Ideology and the sociology of knowledge Colonial ideology Karl Marx, “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas”, in The German Ideology, pp 64-68. Charles Hirschman, “The Making of Race in Colonial Malaya: Political Economy and Racial Ideology”, Sociological Forum, 1, 2, 1986, pp 330-61.

    Max Weber (1864-1920)

    The Origins of Modern Capitalism (13 February 2006)

    An outline of Weber’s theory An idealist theory of the development of capitalism The Protestant ethic and the rise of capitalism The metaphor of the iron cage Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 1958, ch 2, pp 47-53 [stop at “...before kings”]; ch 4, pp 95-128; ch 5, pp 170-183 [from “This worldly Protestant ...”].

    20 February 2006 – Film viewing session – Brazil in Theatrette I 8 am No lecture scheduled The Protestant Ethic Thesis and Southeast Asia (27 February 2006)

    Weberian Orientalism? Southeast Asian interpretations of Weber The relevance of Max Weber to Southeast Asian development Syed Hussein Alatas, “The Weber Thesis and Southeast Asia” in idem, Modernisation and Social Change: Studies in Social Change in Southeast Asia

    (Sydney: Angus and Robertson), 1972, pp 1-20. Andreas Buss, “Max Weber’s Heritage and Modern Southeast Asian Thinking on Development”, Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 12, 1, 1984, pp 1-15.

    Rationalisation, Social Action and Bureaucracy (27 February 2006)

    The types of social action The types of rationalisation Bureaucracy and excessive rationalisation Weber, Economy and Society, Vol 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press), 1978, pp 22-26, 85-86. Weber, “The Social Psychology of World Religions” in Hans H Gerth and C Wright Mills (ed.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press), 1958, p 293. Weber, Economy and Society, Vol 2, pp 956-58. Gerald E Caiden, “Excessive Bureaucratisation: The J-Curve Theory of Bureaucracy and Max Weber through the Looking Glass” in Ali Farazmand (ed.), Handbook of Bureaucracy (New York: Marcel Dekker), 1994, pp 29-40.

    Weber’s Comparative Sociology of Religion: “The Religion of China” (6 March 2006)

    Economic ethic Chinese traditionalism Confucian rationalism and Puritan rationalism Weber and Eurocentrism Weber, The Religion of China (New York: The Macmillan Press), 1964, pp 142-170. Stephen Molloy, “Max Weber and the Religions of China: Any Way Out of the Maze?”, British Journal of Sociology 31, 3, 1980, pp 377-400.

    Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

    Durkheim’s Project: Defining Sociology (6 March 2006)

    The realm of the social Sociology as science Sociological explanation Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, Steven Lukes, ed., translated by W D Halls (New York: Free Press), 1895/1982, pp 50-59, 119-146, 175-208. Mike Gane, “A Fresh look at Durkheim’s Sociological Method” in Pickering and Martins (ed.), Debating Durkheim, 1994, pp 66-85.

    The Problem of Modernity (13 March 2006)

    Durkheim’s theoretical trajectory Mechanical and organic solidarity Colonialism and Durkheim’s theory of social change Normal division of labour Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society (New York: Free Press), 1933, pp 79-82, 105-10, 200-06, 226-28. Edward Tiryakian, “Revisiting Sociology’s First Classic: The Division of Labour in Society and Its Actuality”, Sociological Forum, Vol 19, No 1, 1994, pp 3-15.

    The Problem of Modernity (cont’d) (13 March 2006)

    Abnormal division of labour Anomie, egoism and individualism Individual happiness and freedom Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labour in Society (New York: Free Press), 1933, pp 353-57, 374-78, 389-93, 396-409. Stejpan G Mestrovic, “Anomie and the Unleashing of the Will”, Emile Durkheim and the Reformation of Sociology (New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield), 1988, ch 4.

    20 March 2006 – Film viewing session – Jose Rizal in Theatrette I 8 am No lecture scheduled Applying Durkheim’s Method: Suicide (27 March 2006)

    Social integration Typology of suicide Emile Durkheim, Suicide: A Study in Sociology (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul), 1952, pp 41-53, 145-151, 378-384. Steven Lukes, “Alienation and Anomie” in Peter Hamilton, Suggested Readings from Emile Durkheim: Critical Assessments, Vol II (London: Routledge), 1990, pp 77-97.

    Jose Rizal (1861-1896)

    The Development of Colonial Society (27 March 2006)

    Colonial exploitation The question of indolent natives Jose Rizal, “Filipino Farmers”, Political and Historical Writings, National Historical Institute, Manila, 1963, pp 19-22. Rizal, “The Truth for All”, Political and Historical Writings, National Historical Institute, Manila, 1963, pp 31-38. Rizal, “The Indolence of the Filipino”, Political and Historical Writings, National Historical Institute, Manila, 1963, pp 111-139.

    Rizal and the Enlightenment (3 April 2006)

    The Enlightenment and the Church Rizal and reason Raul J Bonoan, S J, The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press), 1994, pp 40-57; 75-79.

    The Revolution (3 April 2006)

    El Filibusterismo

    Jose Rizal [video recording]; a GMA Network film, produced by Butch Jimenez, Jimmy Duavit and Marilou Diaz-Abaya; directed Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Manila, 1999. Jose Rizal, “Mi Último Adiós” (“My Last Farewell”), in Dr Jose Rizal’s Mi Último Adiós in Foreign and Local Translations, Vol 1, National Historical Institute, Manila, 1989, pp 1-3; 38-40.

    Major Themes (10 April 2006)

    Eurocentrism and androcentrism Idealism and materialism The problem of freedom Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow: Progress Publishers), 1970, preface. Max Weber, General Economic History (New Brunswick: Transaction Books), 1981, ch 22. C Wright Mills, “Freedom and Reason” in The Sociological Imagination (London: Oxford University Press), 1959.

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    november 12, 2011 vol xlvi no 46

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