Contemporary Sociological Theory - SOCI7270

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 5 15 (7.5) Joy Y Zhang 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 feminising of social theory; Globalisation, networks and mobilities; New challenges for the twenty-first century.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


Sociology single and joint honours bachelor degrees - compulsory module

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Coursework - seminar participation - 20%
Coursework - essay outline (500 words) - 20%
Coursework - essay (3000 words) - 60%

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

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

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Articulate an awareness of the range of key sociological theories and concepts as featured in contemporary arenas of debate
8.2 Critically understand the contexts and problems for which sociological theories are developed
8.3 Apply key concepts to the phenomena that sociological theorists seek to explain
8.4 Demonstrate a critical understanding of the theorists that are recognised as of 'contemporary' relevance to sociology
8.5 Demonstrate a critical understanding of how theoretical ideas are shaping the discipline of sociology

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
9.1 Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with their area(s) of study
9.2 Evaluate and interpret these within the context of that area of study
9.3 Develop lines of argument and make sound judgements in accordance with basic theories and concepts of their subject(s) of study.
9.4 Express themselves well, orally and in writing
9.5 Plan work and study independently


  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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