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Module SXS-3003:
Theorizing Society & Politics

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Marcel Stoetzler

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To develop the ability to use the vocabulary of contemporary social and political theory in appropriate ways.
  2. To cultivate comparative awareness of how a range of contemporary social and political theorists conceptualize 'structure' and 'agency'.
  3. To explain the influence of trends in social and political philosophy (including Critical Theory, feminism and postmodernism) on recent sociological theory.
  4. To demonstrate how social context influences social and political thinking.

Course content

This module explores the origins, nature and significance of social and political theories and concepts developed in the 20th century. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of such approaches as Critical Theory (such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse), post-structuralism (such as Foucault, Bauman, Lyotard), and feminist 'standpoint' and 'intersectionality' theory. It considers a range of theories which seek to address knowledge, power and subordination in terms of gender divisions and differences of class, race and/or sexuality. The module seeks to ask questions about the relationship between social and political theory, social action, movements, modernity, capitalism, social change, research and everyday life. The module aims to encourage students to reflect on their own position as participants in social and political interaction.

Assessment Criteria


To pass the module students must have achieved the expected outcomes at a basic level. They will be able to identify the main contributors to contemporary sociological theory and offer a basic description of their theories in context. They will show an adequate awareness of recent trends and the main similarities and contrasts between them. They will show some understanding of how theories may be applied to selected contemporary social issues.


Good students will be able to identify the main contributors to contemporary sociological theory, summarise their theories and explain their origins. They will show a good awareness of recent trends and the main similarities and contrasts between them. They will show a good understanding and reflexive awareness of how theories may be applied to contemporary social issues.


Excellent students will be able to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge and a developed understanding of contemporary sociological theory, its social context and relationship to other social theories. They will display mature reflexive awareness and critical judgement in the application of recent theories to a range of contemporary issues.

Learning outcomes

  1. To provide an account of key ideas and arguments in contemporary social and political thought.

  2. To show a critical appreciation of the nature and antecedents of current approaches to social and political theories.

  3. To compare, contrast and evaluate different perspectives and points of view.

  4. To assess the viability of competing theories for explaining social and political questions.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Individual or Group Presentation

Presentations take place throughout the term.

WRITTEN PLAN Essay outline, plan and annotated bibliography 10
LOGBOOK OR PORTFOLIO Weekly excerpt from core readings

Journal entries are to be submitted every week.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 178

The module is delivered via a weekly two-hour session consisting of a mixture of lecture and seminar elements. The lecture topics are based on presentations of key authors and themes grouped to reflect key developments and controversies in contemporary social and political theory. The seminar elements are designed to cultivate skills in reading theory and communicating theoretical ideas. The formats include close textual interpretation, debate, and discussion of set topics related to the lectures. Seminars will include presentations by students and tasks designed to assist in the preparation of assignments. Regular independent reading of difficult texts and independent study supported by Blackboard is an important aspect of the learning experience. This will be complemented by individual tutorial support for assessment work.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Capacity to identify and describe the causes and consequences of social order and change in specific contexts.
  • Ability to formulate and investigate sociologically informed questions.
  • the ability to formulate and investigate sociologically informed questions
  • competence in using major theoretical perspectives and concepts in sociology, and their application to social life
  • the capacity to analyse, assess and communicate empirical sociological information
  • the ability to identify a range of qualitative and quantitative research strategies and methods
  • the ability to undertake and present scholarly work
  • the ability to understand the ethical implications of sociological enquiry
  • the ability to recognise the relevance of sociological knowledge to social, public and civic policy.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: