SOC-20049 - Contemporary Social Theory
Coordinator: Siobhan Holohan Room: CBC0.025 Tel: +44 1782 7 34230
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

If Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel were central figures in the nineteenth century project to think through the problems associated with the development of modern western capitalist, society and the relationship between the individual and society. They identified a number of what they viewed as key elements or factors and developed concepts for understanding modern society (for example, class conflict, alienation, means end rationality, bureaucracy, anomie, division of labour, the blasť and cynical personality, the importance and effect of money, etc.) The key thinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have built upon their achievements and expanded and developed social theory and analysis that has sought to account for changes (and the unexpected lack of them) in contemporary societies.
The object of this course is to introduce a number of theorists and perspectives that have developed and expanded the achievements of the Classical theorists. That is, to consider how social theory has sought to hypothesise and explain the effects and consequences on the individual and society, of difference and division, of social, cultural, political and technological changes as they were and continue to be manifest in the twentieth and twenty-first century. As such we will consider twentieth and twenty-first century social theories that may include: the nature of social theory, Symbolic Interactionism, the French structuralists, and the work of the Frankfurt School who provided perhaps the most important critique of modern capitalist culture. The module also covers the works of Bourdieu, feminist theory, and post-colonial writers.
The final section of the module will explore theory in contemporary society in which the collapse of the modern idea of progress, of the celebration of individualism, consumerism, and the all-pervasive media society, impacts on how we think and act in the world. Here we will focus on globalisation and the idea of risk.
The aims of the module are to familiarise you with developments and continuing debates and arguments within sociology concerning the relevance and veracity of social theory for framing and providing a critical context in which to examine and analyse the world.

- To introduce students to contemporary theoretical approaches in social theory and to locate them within their intellectual context.
- To develop students' ability to evaluate sociological ideas in the context of real-life ethical, social, political issues.
- To develop students' understandings of the sociological dimensions of theories of society.
- To provide opportunities through discussion and written work in which students may develop their skills of scholarly discussion and exposition of complex ideas.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Summarise contemporary theoretical approaches in social theory and to locate them within their 19th century intellectual contexts: 1
Discuss contemporary social theory and make independent judgements about the strengths and weaknesses of twentieth century theories of society: 1
Review the sociological dimensions of social theory and formulate theoretically informed questions about the social world: 1
Explain understandings of the sociological dimensions of theories of society in a range of teaching and learning contexts: 1
Explain key concepts in social science, such as structure, agency, truth, and interpretation, and the ways these ideas can be applied to different contexts: 1
Critically analyse key concepts in contemporary social theory and distinguish between the major theoretical approaches: 1

Study hours

20 Hours Contact (10 Lectures / 10 Tutorials)
60 Lecture / Tutorial Preparation
70 Assessment Preparation

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Book Review weighted 100%
2500 word critical appreciation
Students choose a text from an approved list and then complete a critical appreciation of said text taking into account intellectual context, impact, and criticisms.