Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

BAEcon Economics and Finance / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Identity, Power & Modernity

Unit code SOCY30171
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


1. Introduction
2. Capitalism and Modernity: Karl Marx
3. Power/Knowledge and Discipline: Michel Foucault
4. Biopower and Sexuality: Michel Foucault
5. Media and Perception: Marshall McLuhan
6. 'Race' and the Black Atlantic: Paul Gilroy
7. Brands and Commodity Culture: Naomi Klein
8. Sensation and the City: Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin
9. Markets and the Neoliberal Individual: Wendy Brown
10. Empire and Multitude: Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri


This course examines identity and power in contemporary culture, focusing on themes of technology, sexuality, the city, the commodity, neoliberalism, and racialisation. The first part of the course explores the understanding of modernity developed by Marx and Foucault, an experience that Marx describes as one of continuous change, where 'all that is solid melts into air'. The course then turns to consider a series of substantive themes in the analysis of contemporary culture (listed below), exploring each through the work of one prominent social theorist: Marshall McLuhan, Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Naomi Klein, Paul Gilroy, Wendy Brown, and Antonio Negri.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course students will:
- be familiar with contemporary debates in identity and power
- have developed advanced skills in reading primary texts
- be familiar with advanced critical thought on the nature of modernity

Teaching and learning methods

3 hour weekly workshop consisting of a lecture and a tutorial.

Assessment methods

  • Compulsory weekly reading notes (1 point penalty for each two non-submissions); students select a set on which to receive formative feedback
  • 1 assessed coursework essay (3000 words, 50% of mark)
  • 1 online open book exam (2 answers, 1250 words per answer as guidance, 50% of mark) 

Feedback methods


All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

These texts are indications of the reading undertaken on the course:
Foucault, M. (1980) 'Right of Death and Power over Life', in The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, London: Penguin.
Benjamin, W. (1978) 'Naples', in Reflections, New York: Schocken Books.
Gilroy, P. (1993) 'One Nation Under a Groove', in Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures, London: Serpent's Tale.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Thoburn Unit coordinator

Additional notes

2015/16 timetable

Tuesday 14:00 - 17:00

Return to course details