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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP1210 Formations of Modernity

20 creditsClass Size: 200

Module manager: Dr Paul Bagguley

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Module replaces

SLSP1010 Sociological Analysis of Contemporary Society

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

In this module, we will explore key features of modern society and culture from a sociological perspective. We will consider what aspects of the social world have changed, are changing and why. How are we to understand changing structures which shape our lives? As well as exploring these general debates and linked evidence we will look at the change in individual experience and social relationships: are we seeing a rise of individualism or the emergence of new kinds of solidarity? We will explore these questions through a focus on debates about global change, for example, in the global north, whether social class is still important and whether new social movements and forms of protest offer new visions for the future. In the global south, what does development mean? how does inequality affect citizens' livelihoods?


By exploring key themes and classic and contemporary debates in the history of sociology and of societies, on completing the module students will be better able to:
- Demonstrate their understanding of the main theoretical and policy perspectives relating to the historical transition of societies
- Contribute to informed debate in relation to issues surrounding key transitions in the shape of societies over time;
- Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various theories and perspectives on these issues

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module students should have provided evidence of being able to:
- demonstrate a familiarity with the basic concepts, historical information, and practical competencies and research techniques to develop a sociological understanding of modern societies;
- utilise expertise on the formations of modernity to assess with cultural and ethical sensitivity the social implications of modern society on the opportunities and life-chances for a wide variety of social, cultural, political, and economic groups;
- demonstrate an ability to evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches within the sociological study of modernity, with specific regard to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of competing narratives concerning the formation of modernity;
- be able to communicate the results of their work and to present a structured and coherent sociological argument;
- be able to assess their own competencies as independent learners and to develop self-awareness about the legitimacy of their own views about the formation of modern societies across history to the present day.


The module is divided into five blocks.

In Block 1 (STRUCTURES), we explore the global structuring of power in modern institutions, as well as how this connects to European and Western forms of action and organization. The lectures cover deebates on the conceptual origins of colonialism as well as 'European Colonialism; as a monologue on Modernity. They also debate the emergence of nation-states in Europe, their spread across the world and the originality and independence of postcolonial movements from them.

In Block 2 (AGENCIES), we consider how new forms of movement and new aesthetic formations questioned the rigidity of colonial and national structures, promoting new forms of human autonomy but also new forms of domination. The lectures cover the European origins of tourism, the establishment of tourist systems and their role in definitions of modern mobility. They also examined the development of media systems and their role in definitions of modernity. Finally, we consider how these changes contribute tothe expansion of cosmopolitan knowledge beyond national borders.

In Block 3 (RISK, ORDER AND VIOLENCE), we examine how new types of rationalization in the form of security, risk-aversion and population management especially in the growing urban formations of the world produce new opportunities and new cages for human beings aspiring to live a better life. Lectures consider the intertwined emergence of notions of risk prediction and violence rationalization as 'utopian projects' aspiring to perfect society but leading to exclusion and elimination of difference. We will also examine the relationship of urbanization to modernization with particular reference to housing and urban (dis)organisation.

In Block 4 (LABOUR MOBILITIES) we examine how massive population movements and labour settlements shape the world. Lectures include the spread of informal settlements in the Global South, issues pertaining patterns of internal migration and a discussion of relevant development issues in modern times.

Finally, in Block 5 (POVERTY, INEQUALITY AND DEVELOPMENT) we extend these questions to examine how we can approach questions of inequality, poverty and development globally, especially with regards to the rise of labour precarity. We will consider whether controversies over global inequality (is it going up or down?), as well as what it means to design an inclusive economic development. We will also examine forms of precarity and the role global elites play in such global changes.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours171.00
Total Contact hours29.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

109 hours preparation for lectures and tutorials
62 hours preparation for assessment

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contribution at tutorials

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 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: 01/12/2020


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