Contemporary Social Theory (Spr)

Module code: L4046B
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module provides a critical assessment of the some of the most prominent sociological theorists in the late 20th century. This period can be described as post-classical in the sense that the various schools of classical sociological theory associated with Marx, Weber, Durkheim and their later followers gave way to a range of new approaches such as those linked to post-structuralism, such as Foucault - as well as to new interpretations of the classical approaches, such as social constructionism, western Marxism and critical theory. The central aim of the module is to show how contemporary thinkers have understood the major transformations in modern society (ie from industrial to post-industrial society, globalisation, new social movements such as feminism, environmental movements, identity politics). This will involve a consideration of some of the most important debates in sociological theory, such as the debates about modernity versus postmodernity, structure versus agency as well as the influence of psychoanalytic social theory emanating from feminist theory and from post-structuralism.

The weekly topics include: social constructionism; Foucault and govementality; Habermas and critical theory; recognition theory (Honneth); marxism after postmodernism; Bourdieu and recent French sociology; poststructuralism and psychoanalysis: Derrida, Lacan, Deleuze; Bauman's postmodern ethics; network theory: Latour and Castells; theories of modernity; cosmopolitanism and social theory; culture and social theory (performativity, Alexander).

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of the main debates and key thinkers in contemporary social theory
  • Produce systematic comparisons of a variety of theoretical perspectives from this body of literature
  • Assimilate and evaluate empirical material from recent academic research which is of relevance to the theoretical frameworks covered in the course
  • Critically evaluate the contributions and limitations of at least one theoretical perspective or theorist
  • Make appropriate use of both empirical data and academic sources to produce coherent and detailed written work for an academic audience