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Author: Richard Mole
Instructor: Kerstin Zimmer
Credits: 8

Main goals

  • To attain knowledge of the social legacies of imperial and communist rule
  • To understand the social structures that have emerged in the region
  • To get a sound grasp of the social problems and opportunities created by the transition
  • To be able to distil information, present ideas and defend a theoretical position

General topics

  • Long-term socio-political traditions in Central and Eastern Europe and the communist legacy as essential preconditions for understanding the socio-structural changes now under way
  • Main social groups in the post-communist societies, social processes and issues
  • Analysis of these issues within broader debates about generational change and EU integration
  • Identification of both the commonalties and differences in the development of Central and East European societies


Students have to complete and pass a specified number of module tasks as well as submit and pass one research assignment (essay of 2,500 words).

Example tasks from the Society Module

This task refers to units 1-4.
Give your opinion on the following thesis: “In East European countries, historical legacies left little room for political actors to implement reforms after 1991.” Justify your opinion in approx. 600 words and post it to the discussion board. Between October 27 and November 2, react to/comment on three postings of your fellow students.

1. Chapter

"Sociology is one of several social sciences (together with political science, anthropology, economics, social psychology, etc.). The social sciences diverge from the humanities in that they emphasize the scientific method or other rigorous standards of evidence in the study of humanity.

The scope of sociological analysis is very broad. Put simply, sociology is the systematic study of human social life, paying special attention to modern, industrialized societies. Sociologists identify, explain, and interpret patterns and processes of human social relations. They analyze society and social action by studying groups and social institutions people form, as well as a variety of social, political, business and religious organizations. Moreover, they investigate the social interactions of people and groups, trace the origin and change of social processes, and analyze the impact of group activities on individual members and vice versa. Sociologists ask about the meaning and the structures of social action and about the related values and norms. They analyze both the society as a whole and its sub-systems: social systems, institutions, organizations and groupings.

As a science of social life, sociology is closely intertwined with the historical development and change of ideas, values, needs, interests, forms of power, conflicts and every day problems, i.e. the content, scientific interest and fields of research follow the given social structures and processes. The development of sociology as a discipline, however, does not only depend on the presence of urgent social problems, but also on the given power structures. Sociology developed in the 19th and 20th centuries in (Western) Europe and the United States (Wallerstein, 1996). Western sociology thus gained its categories and concepts from the analysis of Western societies, which were viewed as the maximum of modern societies. Social change has always been at the center of sociological analysis. While there are several theoretical approaches to social change, one theory has been especially influential with regard to Eastern Europe: Modernization Theory."

Kerstin Zimmer: Introduction of Unit 1: The Sociological View on Social Change. © East European Studies Online; 2010.