Course Title: Social History of Ideas

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Social History of Ideas

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


330H Social Science & Planning


Sem 2 2006


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2009,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012

Course Coordinator: Rob Watts

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 8247

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 37.2.11

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

This is an introductory course for students enrolled in its undergraduate degrees on the City Campus. The course aims to introduce you to the legacy and influence of ideas, people and events that help us better understand the present. The course examines various key thinkers, texts and debates in philosophy, sociology, political theory, psychology and the history and philosophy of science with an emphasis on systemic schools of thought, their origin, context and impact. We want you to be able to link ideas with institutions and practices that have had, and are having, an ongoing influence in our lives. Stress is also placed on individuals who have contributed significantly to the leading intellectual traditions of modern times.

We want you to realise that ideas shape and influence the way we live, the means by which we are ruled and governed, and the ways we are expected to behave as citizens in a modern democracy. Emphasis is placed on the controversies that helped shape the boundaries of new knowledge. We want you to be able to think critically about notions of transformation and progress as part of the human condition, forces of change and resistance, and the nature and significance of these intellectual currents on living in the contemporary world. Finally, we want you to think about ideas and their relation to power and to understand that we are all in some way beneficiaries and victims of past legacies.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

At the end of this course you will be able to demonstrate a beginning-level ability to:

• identify and analyse the social and historical context of ideas;

• identify, analyse and account for how big ideas of the past directly influence the way we do things today;

• identify and to think critically about how ideas of human progress are products of historical social contexts and the way societies lived and experienced life back then;

• identify and think critically about the relationships between ideas of the human condition and mechanisms of prejudice, oppression and totalitarianism;

• communicate your findings and conclusions in ways that demonstrate both an understanding of your audience, and your mastery of basic university-level academic skills, including reading, development and critical analysis of an argument, identification of the elements of rhetoric, and academic writing.

In this course you will develop the following program capabilities:
• Communication
• Critical analysis
• Critical awareness
• Knowledge
• Social responsibility

Overview of Learning Activities

You will be able to engage in a variety of lectures and smaller classes.

Overview of Learning Resources

A prescribed reading pack has been prepared and is available from the RMIT bookstore. Copies of the reading pack are also available on closed reserve at the Swanston Library.

Overview of Assessment

You will demonstrate your learning in this course by completing assessment tasks with a total word length or equivalent of 4,000 words.