Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Sociology of Freedom (SCIL10093)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFreedom is a central idea for modern society, and a problem for sociology. Where does freedom lie: in the individual, in social groups, or in the state? What if there are trade-offs in how freedom is distributed within society, or between freedom and other values, such as order, community, or equality? Taking a sociological perspective, this course examines how the idea of freedom (also called 'liberty', 'emancipation') has evolved from the time of classical sociology to the present, and how it relates to different kinds of society and social organization. The latter part of the course explores various topical controversies which hinge on questions of freedom, e.g. over choice, bodily autonomy, thought and speech.
Course description Freedom is a central idea for modern society, but is too often taken for granted in contemporary sociology, leaving us blind to its complexity. This course scrutinises the concept of freedom from a sociological perspective. By exploring the concept's relationship to historical changes in societal norms, institutional and social structures, and polarised political positions, the course allow students to explore the conceptual links between classical sociology, political theory, and contemporary social theory.

By the end of the course, students will be able to identify the complexities and social tensions involved in the value of freedom, and to understand better why it arose to become central in modern society. Students will be able to recognize the enduring relevance of classical social theory in regard to these questions, including the problem of the relationship of the individual to society. And students will be able to approach current social debates that involve questions of freedom (for example, freedom of speech) with an ability to take multiple perspectives, and to analyse the reasons for those different sides to the issue.

The course begins by examining the concept of freedom itself, then looking at how classical sociological theorists treated it. This includes topics such as: the tensions between equality and liberty; the politics of the crowd; and the role played by intermediary institutions ('civil society') in securing liberty in liberal societies.

The latter half of the course addresses contemporary debates and controversies. Some topics will reflect long-standing points of political and social contestation in recent decades. Others will involve in-depth studies of more current cases of dispute. There will be some scope to be responsive to the present moment of teaching.

The course takes the form of weekly lectures and tutorials. The lectures involve the presentation of concepts and their history, alongside illustrative examples. The tutorials provide students with an opportunity to discuss and debate these ideas, alongside the topics to which they are applied. Students will demonstrate their learning by writing two essays where they make use of the concepts introduced on the course to analyse social issues where freedom is a major point of contestation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Mid-term essay 30% (1200-1500 words)«br /»
Final essay 70% (2500-3000 words)
Feedback Essays will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission. The midterm essay deadline is in week 6 of the course meaning that the feedback on the essays serves as formative feedback in preparation for the final essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Conceptualise freedom sociologically and relate it to contemporary issues and debates.
  2. Think with greater subtlety about the relationship between the individual and society, and how freedom is implicated in it.
  3. Evaluate the contribution of classical sociological concepts for making sense of contemporary debates and controversies relating to freedom.
  4. Relate sociological discussions of freedom to those in other disciplines, such as political theory.
  5. Engage in debates over controversial subjects involving questions of freedom with an open mind, but also an ability to formulate a view.
Reading List
- Hume, D. (1985/1777) 'Of the Liberty of the Press' and 'Of Civil Liberty', In: Essays: Moral, Political and Literary, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
- Tocqueville, A. (1994/1835) Democracy in America. London: Everyman's Library.
- Berger, P. L. (1971) 'Sociology and Freedom', The American Sociologist 6(1): 1-5.
- Borch, C. (2012) The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Lehmann, C. et al. (2020) Panics and Persecutions: 20 Quillette Tales of Excommunication in the Digital Age. London: Eyewear Publishing.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will develop key skills including: (1) describing and analysing complex and controversial issues, (2) argumentation, including logical reasoning, use of evidence, anticipation of counter-arguments, (3) effective communication, both spoken and written, around sensitive and disputed topics, (4) the ability to adopt multiple perspectives on a debated issue, while also formulating one's own considered opinion.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nathan Coombs
Course secretaryMiss Anna Hallam
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information