Contemporary Social Theory - SOCI8830

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 7 20 (10) Veronika Stoyanova checkmark-circle


Social theory is a nebulous field of inquiry with fuzzy boundaries. Some of the most significant contributions to it in terms of ideas and concepts have historically originated in the work of thinkers diversely identified with a wide range of disciplines - such as psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology, literary and aesthetic theory, historical and cultural studies, as well as with sociology. This module approaches contemporary social theory by exploring a set of themes through close readings and analyses of several texts by 20th and 21st century theorists whose work has been to varying degrees appropriated across the social sciences and the humanities, but yet whose contribution to 'social theory' per se is still open to question, in any case far from canonical.
In working through these selected primary texts within a seminar group, the aim is to critically investigate and evaluate what they offer to social theory, and to critically assess their usefulness for understanding various social and political phenomena characteristic of contemporary life and society in a globalised world. During the course of such detailed discussions, we will also, no doubt, reflect on the distinction between modern and postmodern social theory; the 'linguistic turn', the ‘cultural turn’, the ‘ethical turn’, the shift from narrative to image based culture, and other general parameters of social theorizing in recent times.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


Sociology MA
International Social Policy MA
Criminology MA
Criminology with a term Abroad MA
Methods of Social Research MA
Two year masters versions of the appropriate programmes listed above

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework – essay 4,000 – 5,000 words) – 85%
Coursework –seminar participation – 15%

Reassessment methods

100% coursework.

Indicative reading

Barthes, R. and A. Lavers (1972) Mythologies. New York: Hill & Wang.
Boltanski, L.and L. Thévenot. (2006) On Justification: Economies of worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Foucault, M. (1978) The History of Sexuality. New York: Pantheon Books.
Habermas, J. (1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford University Press, USA.
Luhmann, N. (1977) "Differentiation of society." The Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers Canadiens de Sociologie 2:29–53.
West, C., and D. H Zimmerman (1987) "Doing gender." Gender and society 1:125–151.

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 Critically analyse links between important debates about social and political life and their theoretical underpinning
8.2 Display a critical understanding of the implications of different theoretical approaches for the way society is known.
8.3 Employ advanced analytical tools in various traditions of social theory to examine a range of analytical aspects of social life and a range of
empirical cases.
8.4 Critically evaluate competing theoretical perspectives using logic and drawing on relevant empirical evidence.
8.5 Provide original insights when critically discussing issues in social theory within a global framework.

9. The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 Respond to written sources and present information orally and in writing in a clear and organized way commensurate with postgraduate
9.2 Develop argumentation based upon sound reasoning and understanding of the material and express these arguments in a written format.
9.3 Undertake desk-based research. Students will be able to gather library and web-based resources appropriate for postgraduate study;
make critical judgements about their merits and use the available evidence to construct a developed argument to be presented orally or in


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  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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