SOC-10029 - Social and Political Theory
Coordinator: Rebecca Leach Room: CBA0.017 Tel: +44 1782 7 33359
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

The objective of this module is to introduce the core concepts shared across politics and sociology, and to examine their significance in understanding and explaining modern society/polity. It is the starting point in a tradition of study that is often called `political sociology¿, focused on the institutions, structures and operations of power within society. The module also draws a little on theoretical approaches to economic and historical sociology, recognising that social science disciplines share concepts, although they may make use of them slightly differently.
We will examine what is sometimes called `the great transition¿ to `modern¿ society, exploring some of the key mechanisms of change, such as conflict, technological and knowledge development.
We will go on to trace the central institutional ideas of modern society and polity such as the state, market and citizenship, the idea of nation, and the interpretation of power/authority. In doing so, we¿ll examine some of the core thinkers on these topics, and also engage in critical reflection.
The module will end with an examination of those ideas underpinning modernity which were not always `seen¿, partly because of the exercise of power within modern societies/polities ¿ for example those sometimes `unseen¿ but dominant ideological forces such as consumerism, fascism/totalitarianism. On the other hand, those groups such as the colonised are often `unseen¿ and lacking recognition in models of Western society. We will also conclude with what can go wrong with `modern¿ concepts/thought ¿ ideas of entrapment, risk/failure, and the potential inadequacy of modern concepts to address late modern challenges will be briefly considered.

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the key traditions and concepts in social and political sciences by focusing on a thematic approach to modern society/polity and its institutions/processes, in particular where the disciplines meet as political and historical sociology.
Within this thematic approach, the module will touch upon key concepts and engage with core theoretical approaches which may include liberalism, social contract theory, pluralism, conflict theory, colonialism/postcolonialism and theories of fascism/totalitarianism. However, it will seek to engage these ideas not only with a focus on different bodies of theory, but to appreciate these ideas through a more 'applied' sense of historical, social and political institutions/phenomena which help to illustrate them.

Intended Learning Outcomes

describe key concepts in the tradition of modern, Western social and political theory (eg. State, citizen, power etc): 1,2
explain key social and political theories in historical context: 1,2
understand the value of social and political concepts for making sense of social and political realities, including their application in early and late modernity: 1,2
recognise a variety of social and political concepts, be able to link these to theoretical positions and identify commonalities and contrasts between them: 1,2
demonstrate understanding of the difference between explanatory and normative social and political theory: 1,2
understand and explain critical positions on core concepts in modern Western models of society/polity, with particular attention to those `Others¿ typically unaddressed in classical/modern thought.: 1,2

Study hours

11 x 1 hour lectures
11 x 1 hour tutorials
11 x 2 hours structured engagement with online resources (eg quiz activity, collation of materials, structured asynchronous discussion on Teams)
6 hours supervised scholarship development (5 hrs academic reading/writing work-in; assessment guidance)
30 hours tutorial preparation, including core readings and note-taking
20 hours independent study
50 hours assessment preparation , including assessment drop in, wider reading and note-taking, drafting plan, seeking/responding to feedback, developing study skills, intensive further reading, drafting final essay, revision/proofreading.

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Essay-Plan weighted 30%
Annotated bibliography and plan (max 500 words)
Students will submit a brief essay plan (of maximum 200 words) along with an annotated bibliography of 3 sources. For each, students should provide up to 100 words per source, briefly explaining the core ideas and relevance of this source. NB. Full, accurate reference details should be given in Harvard style, listed only at the end of the document as an alphabetical bibliography, but these will not be included in the word count.

2: Essay weighted 70%
Students are required to write a 1000 word essay on a key issue in social and political theory from a list of questions set out by the module leader, which align with topics covered on the module. This essay will develop and should respond to feedback on the prior summative assessed plan/annotated bibliography.