Skip to main content

The Political Sociology of the Modern State


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Dr Jason Edwards
  • Assessment: a 1000-word learning journal (20%) and 4000-word essay (80%)

      Module description

      How is political power formed and sustained? What is its relationship to the individual, to the claims to legitimacy of states, to authority and to violence?

      In this module you will gain an understanding of key concepts and arguments in political sociology. We will introduce you to some of the main perspectives within modern social theory and consider examples of their application to social and political phenomena. We will adopt a historical and theoretical approach; this module complements the Political Theory and Contemporary Politics module and contrasts approaches in social theory with more normative approaches in the history of political thought. In order to develop a critical and analytical approach to contemporary and social issues and to key readings, we combine attention to classical texts with case studies.

      We begin by explaining what is distinctive about political sociology, introducing some of its classical theorists: Marx, Durkheim and Weber. Their enduring influence will be apparent throughout the module. We then proceed to examine selected contemporary social theories and substantive analyses of the nature of politics, social movements and the legitimation of the modern state. We will draw upon Habermas’s Critical Theory, but also on Arendt, Foucault, Agamben, Zizek and others to explore the nature of contemporary power, the possibilities of a critical theory of modernity, and to assess the relative contributions of different accounts to the understanding of the modern state and forms of law, power, social protest, individualism, violence, and the possibilities of democracy.

      Learning objectives

      By the end of this module, you will have an understanding of key problems, concepts and arguments in political sociology.