Social Theory through Television Paper Instructions
In class, we discuss two classical sociological theoretical concepts: Marx’s alienation and Weber’s iron
cage. Concepts like these capture the complex social conditions which we as sociologists (and as
members of society) are tasked to ‘figure out.’ These words are more than academic gobbledygook –
they are tools for tracing the historical social processes that have come to define modern society—
processes that are all around us and have implications for how our lives unfold.
This assignment offers an opportunity to practice your research skills and develop theoretical insight by
applying these famous classical concepts. You’ll need to find at least two (properly cited) external (not
used in-class) academic sources that inform your understanding of the two sociological concepts that
you choose. You’ll also need to watch some television to complete the assignment.
Your main task is to demonstrate your understanding of alienation and the iron cage by exploring how
they can be used to understand the experiences, personalities, circumstances of and decisions made a
central character in one of the following television shows:
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
The Sopranos (HBO)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Theory allows us to see facets of society only visible in the abstract. Knowing that we live in a
bureaucratic, scientific, capitalist, stratified, globalized social order, we can expect that people are to
some extent shaped by the social forces that characterise this order. In your Social Theory Through
Television paper, draw on Marx and Weber as you guide me through your interpretation of how society
has constrained and impacted the fictitious lives of those we find so interesting that we spend hours
living vicariously through them. Requirements:
In an analytical essay of no longer than 1250 words:
a) Briefly describe your selected television show. In some detail, describe the life of the character that
you plan to focus your analysis on.
b) With reference to the external sociological literature, briefly define alienation and the iron cage as
conceptualized by Marx and Weber.
c) Pick specific examples from your chosen television show that apply these concepts (serve as a means
of illustrating the concepts). You can refer to the entire series, a single season, a single episode, or even
focus on a single scene: there is lots of flexibility here.
d) Compare and contrast the concepts as potential lenses through which we can understand how your
chosen character (just as people in the real world are) can be said to experience these sociological
concepts. Do both concepts help make sense of why the character acts as she or he does? Is one more
applicable than the other? Are both inadequate? Why do you think so?
Submission and Style/Formatting Guidelines were followed ( /2.5 marks)
Maximum word count allocation was respected ( /2.5 marks)
Assignment is clearly and eloquently written ( /5 marks)
Introduction summarizes the intention of your work ( /5 marks)
The body of your paper systematically addresses all assignment requirements ( /10 marks)
Theoretical concepts are applied with precision using illustrations from your selected television show (
Assignment includes an accurate reading and citation of selected external academic sources ( /5
Total: 50 Marks