Sociological diagnoses of our times

Course content

Ulrich Beck once claimed that sociology has three main tasks: 1. Theoretical work with the basic concepts of the discipline. 2. Examination of theories with the help of methodical empirical research. 3. Interpretations of the current situation and diagnoses of the times.


This course is about the last task. This task should not simply be understood as a description of the society that we live in. It is rather about diagnosing transformations of the social conditions of our times. It is a narrative of social change, that is, the way our times are different from previous times and in what direction we are heading (tendencies). Such diagnosis is comprehensive in the sense that it aims to grasp social change on both macro, meso and micro level and the relations between those levels. Further, sociological diagnosis of the times is different from the discipline of history in two senses. First, it is limited to changes of modern societies; second, it is focused on the structural changes, i.e. changes that concern the basic institutions of modern societies (e.g. intimate relations, economy, working life, and politics). Thus, the field of study of this course can be defined as structural transformations of modernity. In the first part of the course, this meaning of diagnosis of the times will be discussed.


In the second part of the course, we will look at different understandings of structural transformation. Classical sociology understood it as the transition from tradition to modernity. Conceptions of differentiation, rationalization, individualization, secularization are examples of that. After WW II, sociologists started to make distinctions within modernity; e.g. liberal and organized capitalism (Habermas), early and late modernity (Giddens), modern and postmodern conditions (Lyotard), first and second modernity (Beck), solid and liquid modernity (Bauman). Today some important contemporary sociologists distinguish between three epochs of the times within modernity; e.g. restricted liberal, organized and extended liberal modernity (Wagner), the three spirits of capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello), bourgeois, organized and late modernity (Reckwitz). Our focus in this part will be on such a tripartite conception. It will allows us to study the most recent structural transformations.


The term diagnosis indicates a relationship to medicine. Some sociologist claim that not only persons, but also societies can be understood as sick. Already Durkheim used the term pathology in a sociological context. Critical theorists like Habermas and especially Honneth see the analysis of “social pathologies” as a crucial part of their diagnoses of the times. Thus, a diagnosis can be used normatively in order to problematize and criticize structural change. This kind of normative use of social diagnosis will comprise the last part of the course.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Bachelor Programmes in Sociology
  • Bachelor Programmes in Psychology
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology 

Enrolled students can register the course directly through the Selfservice a KUnet without a preapproval.
Please contact the study administration at each programme for questions regarding registration.


Learning outcome

On successful completion of the course, the student is able to:



  • define the general meaning of diagnosis of the times and the role this kind of analysis plays in sociology


  • identify and distinguish between different conceptions of social transformation and how modern societies have changed over time


  • account for how this kind of analysis can be used to evaluate and criticize social change


  • analyze and evaluate social change



  • to plan and perform research
  • To carry out critical investigations of structural transformations of modern societies and institutions

Lectures, discussions, questions and answers

The main book will be The Society of Singularities by Andreas Reckwitz . The teacher uploads the full curriculum to Absalon

A basic course in social theory is advantageous


The second hour of each session will be devoted to the discussions of questions on the readings uploaded in advance on Absalon

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Free written take-home essays are assignments for which students define and formulate a problem within the parameters of the course and based on an individual exam syllabus. The free written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
Exam registration requirements

You need to be signed up for the course to attend the exam

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Find more information on your study page at KUnet.

Exchange students and Danish full degree guest students please see the homepage of Sociology; and


If the re-exam is taken during the ordinary exam period: see ordinary exam form

If the re-exam is taken during the re-exam period:

Individual/group. A written take-home essay is defined as an assignment that addresses one or more questions. The exam is based on the course syllabus, i.e. the literature set by the teacher. The written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. More details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.

Abovementioned applies to course registrations in Spring 2023 and onward.

If you have been registered for the course before Spring 2023, please write to the study administration:



This is an elective course. We can only guarantee that the exam can be taken during the 3 immediate exam periods after the course has ended.

Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 116
  • Exam Preparation
  • 48
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Bachelor choice

1 semester

See timetable
Vejl 46 personer.
Department of Sociology, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Mikael Carleheden   (2-5b514e817d713c79833c7279)

Mikael Carleheden, e-mail:

Saved on the 19-10-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students