Skip to main content

Challenges in Contemporary Politics


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6

Module description

This module focuses on some of the major social and political challenges that are confronting contemporary developed societies and the liberal-democratic state. The module is designed to help you look critically and analytically at some of the profoundly normative and structural changes that are affecting politics, economics, society and culture in the twenty-first century.

The approach is interdisciplinary and mainly theoretical, but we also engage with current events by examining specific case studies and policy documents. The subject matter is structured by focusing on a number of key themes and issues.

The five principal themes for the module are:

  • The development of new forms of power and governance, such as biopower and social capital, and corresponding challenges to freedom.
  • Resistance to new modes of power, as manifest in the emergence of new and contemporary social movements. Case studies here will include: the women’s movement and contemporary feminism; the environmental movement and the changing nature of green politics, and the anti-globalisation and Occupy movements.
  • The changing nature of the economy and its social and political significance, in particular as this is manifest in the global 'postmodern' economy of post-Fordism, the idea of the risk society and the neoliberal emphasis on free markets.
  • The significance of demographic change, in particular population size (related to declining fertility, increased immigration and the impact of growing affluent populations on the environment) and age profiles (notably, the significance for developed countries of ageing populations).
  • Different models of democracy and citizenship, especially as these pertain to the emergence and vitality of the public sphere and civil society, deliberative democracy and citizen governance, individual, group and citizenship rights, inclusion, exclusion and social cohesion,  identity politics and the politics of difference, and gender and multiculturalism.