What you will study
Introducing the social sciences provides an approachable and contemporary introduction to the disciplines and subjects that form the social sciences, as well as the questions and issues that social scientists investigate and explore. It is ideal preparation for OU level 2 modules in a range of social science and related qualifications.
The first module-wide question is: How is society made and repaired? This question asks about how people make society in their relations with one another and with the material world, and how, in turn, society shapes people. The second question is: How are differences and inequalities produced? People making and being shaped by society generate differences between and inequalities among groups and individuals – where do these come from and how do they change? And the third question is: How do we know? That is, how do social scientists set about investigating and answering questions about society? Social science answers to these questions are explored by looking at three strands of study materials called: Material Lives, Connected Lives and Ordered Lives.
Material Lives considers how the making of society involves not only relations between people, but also relations between people and things and their environments; how society shapes and is shaped not just by humans but by material objects and the environment; and some of the consequences of the fact that our lives are influenced by both the human and material worlds. In the first half of the module this strand is developed through an examination of consumption and consumer society, questions of power and markets, and issues of waste and sustainability. In the second half of the module the strand considers whether increased material consumption contributes to greater happiness and well-being, and whether our material lives are becoming more or less sustainable, how we live with and respond to the risks and uncertainties of our material environment, and how global problems such as climate change can be addressed in a world of many, competing states.
Connected Lives also considers people’s connections to material places but the focus is on the people themselves and how they are connected and disconnected from one another, how they see themselves and others, where they live and the mobility of things and people involved in making and breaking connections. In the first half of the module this strand is developed through an examination of questions of identity in relation to personal and social lives, issues around our connections to place and the natural and built environment and the social life of neighbourhoods or communities. In the second half of the module the strand considers migration and the making of identities, places and institutions, the contested nature of British identity in a national and international context and the changes of identity involved in the lifecycle especially in relation to motherhood and mothering.
Ordered Lives explores some of the different ways in which social life is ordered and governed through the rules, norms and expectations people have of one another in day-to-day interaction and how these arise and are sustained; how does social order and ordering vary in time and place; and how is social order contested, challenged, sometimes broken and repaired, including by institutions that claim various kinds of expertise and authority. In the first half of the module this strand is developed by an examination of day-to-day ordering in daily lives, through the issue of the anti-social as a certain kind of challenge to normal ways of ordering and by looking at aspects of how governments seek to assemble and regulate their populations. In the second half of the module the strand considers how various kinds of authority seek to govern social order, the role played by political authorities (states) in claiming certain kinds of legitimate authority to govern and questions of order and disorder in relations between states in transnational and international interactions.
You will learn
You will learn about the nature of the social sciences and the ways they develop through a process of questions, arguments, evidence and evaluation. You will also learn about some key issues and debates at the centre of life in the contemporary UK. You’ll develop an awareness of a range of different disciplinary approaches in the social sciences. You will gain confidence and skills in studying and accessing information from a range of sources; constructing arguments; reading, interpreting and evaluating evidence; and presenting and communicating ideas and information in a variety of formats. You will also practice how to manage your time effectively and organise and complete a programme of work, how to learn from feedback and reflect on your own learning and have an opportunity to plan a study pathway leading to personal and/or career goals.
After this module, further study in the social sciences could open up employment opportunities in a wide range of occupations in business, banking, insurance, education, health professions, administration, law, social services, voluntary and campaigning organisations, the media, public relations, public service organisations and government (national and local), planning and environmental management, the criminal justice system, and social welfare organisations. The module builds a strong basis of vocationally oriented skills that are transferable to the job market: clarity of written communication; critical thinking; ability to analyse, reflect on and present arguments, evidence and theories; problem-solving; evaluating issues; time management; self-motivation; and basic numerical skills.