Centre for Social and Political Thought


The Centre for Social and Political Thought (formerly the Centre for Critical Social Theory) was established in 1997, as an interdisciplinary centre for research spanning social sciences and the humanities. It represents Sussex University's longstanding tradition in critical theory,  European philosophy and Social theory, and radical, cutting-edge thinking.

Research in the Centre is diverse but is committed to critical social theory broadly construed. More specifically, research at the Centre is focused around the following interests:

  • Hegel, Marx & the Frankfurt School
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Modernity
  • Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • Feminist Social Theory
  • Socialist & Anarchist Thought

The vibrant intellectual culture of the Centre for Social and Political Thought grows out of the best traditions of the University of Sussex: radical thinking and academic excellence in teaching and research. The Centre is the home of the European Journal of Social Theory. It is host to several post-doctoral research fellows.The Centre organises a weekly research seminar. In addition SPT graduate students edit, produce and publish their own peer-reviewed journal, Studies in Social and Political Thought.

Please see the publications page for a selection of recent work by SPT faculty.

Critical Social Theory

Critical social theory can be thought of broadly as covering the interactions between the explanatory, the normative and the ideological dimensions of social and political thought.

More specifically, if 'social theory' is used as a generic term to describe the attempt to theorise the modern social world in any of its spheres (the psychological, the cultural, the economic, the legal, or the political), then 'critical social theory' means firstly, social theory which is capable of taking a critical stance towards itself, by recognising its own presuppositions and its own role in the social world, and secondly, social theory which takes a critical stance towards the social reality that it investigates, by providing grounds for the justification and criticism of the institutions, practices and mentalities that make up that reality.

As such, critical social theory bridges the usual divides in social thought between explanation and justification, between philosophical and substantive concerns, between 'pure' and 'applied' theory, and between contemporary thinking and the study of earlier thinkers.

Thus a political philosopher concerned with the way in which philosophy interacts with social and political reality; a sociologist or political scientist attempting to relate empirical analysis to normative evaluation; and a cultural theorist or international relations theorist engaging with the ways in which existing theory in those fields has had a constitutive effect on the social reality it purports to describe, could all be described as engaged in some form of critical social theory.