Contemporary Sociological Theory - SO727

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 5 15 (7.5) PROF I Wilkinson checkmark-circle


This module provides an introduction to the major issues and controversies that have shaped key developments in contemporary social theory. It surveys the development of social theory through the second half of the twentieth century and up to the present day. Following on from the SO408 module on ‘classical’ social theory, it questions the distinction between the ‘classical’ and the ‘contemporary’ so as to highlight the intellectual decisions, values and problems involved in the packaging of social theory under these terms. It also provides critical introductions to the following theorists and issues: Talcott Parsons and his legacy; Symbolic Interactionism up to Goffman and beyond; The Frankfurt School: Critical theory and the crisis of western marxism; Jurgen Habermas and the decline of the public sphere; Michel Foucault and a his understanding of ‘power’; Pierre Bourdieu and the reproduction of inequality; From Modernity to Post-modernity?; The feminizing of social theory; Globalization, networks and mobilities; New challenges for the twenty-first century.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

22 contact hours of lectures and seminars. Lectures will consist of presentation of the key themes listed below. Seminars will consist of discussions of the material from the lecture and the recommended reading for each week.

Method of assessment

100% course work (two essays 2500 - 3500 words).

Indicative reading

Callinicos, A. (2007 2nd edition) Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, Polity
Crow, G. (2005) The Art of Sociological Argument, Basingstoke: Palgrave
Dillon, M. (2010) Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
Elliott. A. (2008) Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, Routledge
Harrington, A. (2010) Modern Social Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Jones, P. Bradbury, L and Le Boutiller, S. (2011) Introducing Social Theory, Cambridge: Polity
Ritzer, G and Stepnisky, J. (2011) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Major Social Theorists (Vol 2 on the ‘Contemporary’) Wiley-Blackwell
Seidman, S. (2012 5th edition) Contested Knowledge: Social Theory Today, Wiley-Blackwell

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

This modules is designed to provide students with:

A basic knowledge of key sociological theories and concepts as featured in contemporary arenas of debate
An understanding of the contexts and problems for which theories are developed
An understanding of the phenomena that theorists seek to explain
An understanding of the theorists that are recognised as of ‘contemporary’ relevance to sociology
An understanding of how theoretical ideas are shaping the discipline of sociology


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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