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[SI0066] - Social Theory

Module Code: SI0066
Module Leader: Finn Bowring
Year: 2
Semester: Both
Number of Credits: 20
Recommended 1st Year Modules: SI0169

Teaching Method: Lectures and seminars.
Assessment: Written examination 2 hours (50%) - Autumn Semester; Coursework (essays) 3500 words (50%) - Spring Semester
Degree Schemes: Sociology


Module Aims

This module explores the development of modern social theory, from the classical sociologists of the nineteenth century, through to contemporary social thinkers and some of the leading theorists of the last 50 years.

Through the guided reading of primary texts, students learn to map the connections, the disconnections, and the lineages of the key perspectives and thinkers in the social science tradition. By critically engaging with the material taught on the course, students should be able to apply the various theoretical principles they encounter to a range of different social settings, problems and topics.

The aim of this module is to extend students’ knowledge of modern social theory, to explore its historical roots and origins, and to show how this theory can be applied to contemporary life.


Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Comprehension

  • Compare and contrast different sociological traditions.
  • Summarise the development of modern social theory and identify the threads that link the work of the founders to that of contemporary theorists.
  • Display a strong theoretical vocabulary which utilises key terms and concepts in the discipline.

Skills (Application and Analysis)

  • Work with both secondary and original texts.
  • Communicate, in both written and verbal form, the knowledge and understanding acquired from scholarly texts.
  • Think critically.
  • Make a strong and fruitful link between theory and practice.

Understanding (Synthesis and Evaluation)

  • Show a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different theorists and theoretical traditions.
  • Illustrate theoretical concepts and arguments with concrete examples.
  • Apply theoretical approaches to specific social contexts and problems.
  • Show how social theory contributes to our understanding of social order, social conflict, and social change

Transferable Skills

The module will contribute to the development of the following transferable skills: Communication skills, analytical skills, the ability to interpret and explain complex texts, working with abstract ideas and the capacity to connect theory to practice.


Synopsis of Module Content

Students will critically explore the central themes and concepts of social theory, including rationalisation, demoralisation, social order, social transformation, power and injustice, objectivity, alienation,happiness, ideology, risk, reflexivity, liquid modernity and others.


Opportunities for Formative Assessment

Seminar presentations of essay plans will be assessed by the seminar tutor. Question mark perception tests are available online for students to test their understanding of seminar readings.


Arrangements for Feedback on Work

Students are given verbal feedback on essay plans, written feedback on marked essays and general feedback on the exam, which is written up and posted on Learning Central.


Indicative Reading

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity.

Cohen, G.A. (2000) Karl Marx’s  Theory of History, Oxford: Clarendon.

Dodd, N. (1999) Social Theory and Modernity, Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers

Durkheim, E. (1951) Suicide: A Study in Sociology, London: Routledge.

Fever, R. (2000) The Demoralization of Western Culture. London: Continuum.

Rabinow, P. (1986) The Foucault Reader, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Weber, M. (1930) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (various publishers).