Ladies and gentlemen, dear students. A warm welcome to you all. This is a massive open online course entirely devoted to sociological theory. In particular, classical theories, the ideas of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century thinkers. This title covers the subject matter conveniently, but it fails to convey the relevance of the theories that will be presented here. To be honest, it sounds a bit boring. And that is misleading. Because the books that I will present here are still very important for anybody who wants to research or just better understand contemporary societies. How did human societies develop? How are they structured? What are the opportunities and the challenges? Where are the most urgent problems located? And can those problems be solved, at least in part, by conscious human intervention? If you think that those questions are interesting, then this might be the course for you to follow. To answer those questions, we have to do research into the history and the structure of our present day societies. We have to read what the best experts can tell us about our own world. Not only sociologists, but also historians, social anthropologists, political scientists, economists. And yes also, journalists and literary authors with a sensitivity for the sociological aspects of human existence. But there is also another very important source of insight. And that is the body of articles and books written by the precursors of modern social science, who for the first time, tried to develop theoretical insights about the great transformation that took place during their lifetime. You could think of 18th century moral philosophers like Mandeville and Smith. 19th century intellectuals such as Comte, Tocqueville, and Marx. 20th century sociologists like Durkheim, Max Weber, Norbert Elias. Thinkers who sketched the first conceptual frames that helped their contemporaries and the generation after them to make sense of the seemingly chaotic and bewildering social developments they were confronted with. Their pioneering breakthroughs were so innovative, that we still feel their power. They were the first to catch entirely new social realities in their, lets say, theoretical fish nets. And although we have moved beyond some of their insights, they still offer us bold conjectures about modernity. My sincere enthusiasm for those classical theories has been my main motivation when I taught sociological theory here at the University of Amsterdam over the past 40 years. My name is Bart van Heerikhuizen, and since I began to study sociology In 1967, I never stopped being amazed by those theories. Discovering all kinds of aspects that then I wanted to share with my friends, and later of course with my students. And there always was and still is, that didactic challenge. How to make the writings of authors who lived under very different social conditions, who wrote in a style that is far removed from ours, readable for contemporary students. During those 40 years I have learned how to to do that in front of a lecture hall with, let's say, 150 students, or in a small seminar, with 20, 25 students. Today, that experience doesn't help me much. Here I am, in front of this camera, talking to you. Through, I must say, a very expensive microphone. And I really do miss your immediate feedback, an expression of surprise, a smile, just a raised eyebrow. What I'm doing here is really new to me, and what I'm experiencing right now is, well, what Karl Marx might have called alienation. But the possibilities for disseminating the core ideas of the classical sociologists are so impressive, that I really try to do whatever I can to make this MOOC a helpful tool of academic education.