BASS Sociology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Contemporary Social Thought

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY10432
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The Frankfurt School / Functionalism and Talcott Parsons / Rational Action Theory and G.H. Mead's Symbolic Interactionism / Feminism / Foucault / Postmodernism / Habermas / Decolonising social thought.


This course aims to introduce students to a selection of important social thinkers from the 20th and 21st centuries. It uses their work to highlight the contested nature of what contemporary social thought is and should be. Students will critically engage with contemporary debates in social theory, including those around ‘modernity’ and ‘postmodernity’, ‘structure’ and ‘agency’, and efforts to 'decolonise' social thought.


The first part of the course considers critical developments of Marx, Weber and Durkheim’s theories of modernity, and the problems they have raised.

The course then explores ways in which social theorists have responded to the challenges present in modern social thought. Firstly, we look at those who see the problems as so fundamental that they abandon modern thought and develop ‘postmodern’ ways of thinking. Secondly, we look at contemporary thinkers who argue that modern social thought is not redundant but an ‘unfinished project’ and provide new perspectives on key themes like freedom and democracy.


The course prepares students for some of the theoretical frameworks they will encounter later on in their degree and, at the same time, affords them an opportunity to see how the theories discussed in sociological thought have been extended and developed.

Learning outcomes

Students who have completed the course should be able to write competently about a number of key theorists and issues in contemporary social theory. They should possess an understanding of how theories discussed in sociological thought have been extended, critiqued, and developed. Student should have a solid grasp of some of the key debates that structure contemporary social thought. They should be adequately prepared for engaging with the substantive theoretical content of any sociology courses they pursue later in their degree.

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly lectures Weekly tutorials

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

1 non-assessed assignment (400 words essay plan)

1 assessed coursework essay, 1500 words; 50% of mark

1 traditional format exam (2 hr/ 2 answers) 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

Allan, K. (2012). Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Verdine Etoria Unit coordinator

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