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Political Sociology of the Modern State


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Jason Edwards
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

In this module we examine central theories and concepts concerning the emergence, development and prospects of the modern state. By the ‘modern state’ here we mean the form of political organisation that arose in Europe around the sixteenth century and which developed the characteristics we take today to be definitive of the state: sovereignty, exclusive territoriality, and a hierarchically organised legal and administrative order.

We will consider the work of key founding authors in the tradition of political sociology and their accounts of the relationship between the state and society in the modern world, particularly in relation to capitalism and industrial economic organisation.

Indicative syllabus

  • State, society and nation in the early nineteenth century
  • Anthropology, culture and the state
  • Durkheim and the evolution of society and the state
  • Durkheim on religion
  • Marx on politics and class
  • Marxism and the state
  • Weber and capitalism
  • Weber on democracy and modernity
  • The Frankfurt School on reason and domination
  • Mass media, culture and politics

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand and be able to apply the key concepts and theories in political sociology regarding the development and operation of the modern state
  • be able to critically evaluate classic accounts of the state in political sociology, such as those of Marx and Marxists, Durkheim, Weber, and the Frankfurt School
  • be able to systematically investigate and evaluate central problems in political sociology concerning the state in relation to the political, economic and social features of modernity
  • be able to synthesise a variety of materials across primary and secondary texts to explain and support your own arguments concerning the key problems of the political sociology of the modern state
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.