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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP5141M Contemporary Social Thought

30 creditsClass Size: 20

Module manager: Dr Austin Harrington

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

2:1 BA (Hons) in the Social Sciences or related discipline
English Language requirements as directed by School policy

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the rich variety of sociological, social and political thought at an advanced level. - The module will foster a critical approach to this body of theoretical work in order to allow students to develop a critical understanding of contemporary social and political life. - The module aims to develop and to extend theoretical ideas in a number of areas and to provide students with the conceptual tools required for a robust analysis of all contemporary social and political problems.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- introduce students to contemporary sociological, social and political theory at an advanced level;
- encourage students to engage critically with questions that emerge from this work and to develop advanced critical capabilities through a robust understanding of sociological, social and political theory;
- explore contemporary social and political problems and issues through the lens of this theoretical work, and to develop an advanced understanding of relevant conceptual and analytical tools necessary for such study;
- foster an academic environment in which students can acquire increased critical reasoning, refined communication skills, and begin to develop their own critical position on a number of major social and political themes.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module students should show evidence of being able to:

- demonstrate an advanced grounding in sociological, social and political theory as expressed in the module content;
- assess the importance of theoretical work in the practical analysis of society and how this has developed historically and culturally;
- evaluate critically social and political phenomena in order to implement the use of concepts and theory in the practical analysis of such;
- exhibit mastery in the exercise of both generic and specific intellectual abilities relevant to the study of a range of social and political realities;
- think critically, to understand the differences between alternative explanations of social and political realities, and to assess and evaluate competing theoretical perspectives.

Skills outcomes
This module will develop skills of critical thinking through participation in lectures, seminars and writing. It will foster students' ability to explore both the insights and limitations of sociological, social and political theory and to seek practical applications of these ideas to contemporary modes of living.

Students will also have the opportunity to develop the following transferable skills that are essential to becoming an independent researcher at an advanced level:

- to demonstrate self-directed learning and effective decision-making across a range of difference research situations;
- to demonstrate independent learning skills and self-management, as well as the ability to work collaboratively as part of a group;
- to display advanced communication skills, both written and oral, and presentation skills;
- to demonstrate analytical skills, flexibility and adaptability;
- to evaluate individual progress in relation to identified learning outcomes.


Given the contemporary focus of the module, and the fluidity of world events that we seek to capture and interrogate through social and political theory, the content of the module is revised each year. This review is conducted initially by staff members involved in teaching the module, but suggestions for contemporary topics/theories of interest are also solicited from students registered on the module that year. Although the final decision rests with the module staff, the intention here is to be open and to collaborate with our students in designing a module that reflects their contemporary interests whilst ensuring the overall learning objectives and pedagogic approach of the module are achieved.

As a broad guide, in recent years the module has covered issues such as: Social Media and Democracy; Money, Morality and Market Freedom after the Global Financial Crisis; Temporality, Morality and Subjectivity in Neoliberal Economies; Multiple Modernities; The Return of the Religious; UK, Brexit and Theorizing Europe; Bio-Politics, Government and Governmentality; Bio-politics and Technological Development in the Twenty-First Century; Post-war á la Française: Lessons from Existentialism, Structuralism, Situationism; Modernity and Cosmopolitan Social Theory; Varieties of Capitalism; On the Significance of China for Social and Political Thought.

Some of these topics will recur due to their ongoing significance, whereas others will be replaced with the emergent concerns of contemporary social and political thought.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Private study involves a very considerable level of reading and study into the sociological, social and political theories covered by the module, including both primary and secondary sources. This is a principal learning outcome and it is for this reason that such a heavy stress is placed upon independent private study.

Another key reason for this emphasis is to enable students to develop the core analytical and transferable skills identified above and to have realised these in practice as a central outcome of the module.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored during lectures / tutorials and open door sessions, when students will be encouraged to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and levels of criticality in relation to the theoretical and conceptual content of the module.

Student progress will also be monitored by an initial 2,000 word formative essay and a final 6000 word assessed essay.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 21/09/2021 10:49:28


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