Skip to main content

Contemporary Political Sociology


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Samantha Ashenden
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

This module examines key contemporary social theories and substantive analyses of the nature of politics, social movements and the legitimation of the modern state. It draws upon on a range of authors, including those writing in the tradition of critical theory such as Habermas, but also important thinkers who challenge some of the central assumptions and argument of that tradition, such as Arendt, Foucault, Agamben and Zizek. At the centre of these authors’ concerns are an exploration of the nature of contemporary power, the possibilities of a critical theory of modernity, and an assessment of the relative contributions of different accounts to the understanding of the modern state and forms of law, power, social protest, violence and the possibilities of democracy.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Habermas: the emancipatory potential of modern society
  • Luhmann: systems theory of society
  • Foucault: genealogy, power/knowledge and modern political rationalities
  • Agamben: the camp as nomos of the modern
  • Stratification: dynamic categories of race, class and gender in modern society
  • Identity claims, epistemologies and politics
  • Public and private
  • Social movements and institutional politics
  • Migrations, rights and struggles for recognition
  • Violence, social order and the state

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have a critical understanding of the work of a range of key authors in contemporary social theory and political sociology
  • be able to engage with, and evaluate arguments in, contemporary political sociology concerning the state, legitimacy, modernity and power
  • be able to understand and assess arguments on central issues in contemporary social theory and political sociology, such as the legal character of the modern state, the concept of power, the constitution of social movements, the use of violence by the state and the prospects of democracy
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.