SOC40730 Social and Political Thought: Basic texts and discussions

Academic Year 2023/2024

In this module we will look at some basic texts and discussions representing some of the most important milestones in modern social and political thought. The module consists of eleven seminars, broken down into four ‘historical’ blocks. The first section looks into what can be called pioneering ideas, first expressed in contract theories dealing with political and social unrest and the threat of civil war, and culminating one and half centuries later in the ‘Atlantic revolutions’ (R. R. Palmer). The second section looks at the ‘long’ 19th century and its struggle for inclusion and adequate social and political representation, the rise of the modern state and institutions, and how these were conceptualised at the time, and critiqued and developed further. In the third section we will discuss the rise of the modern Leviathan and the challenges posed by its ‘darker’ counterpoint, Behemoth (i.e. totalitarianism and authoritarian regimes). In this section we will also discuss the re-emergence of liberal democracy, its own complexities, blind spots and deficiencies. The final section deals with the return of the idea of civil society and how questions of justice (and injustice) can be addressed in the complex and splintered world of our time.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

This unit of study aims to provide students with: an advanced general understanding of the major approaches of modern social and political thought, and a detailed familiarity with some of its core paradigms; a detailed grasp of the relationships between the different thinkers and paradigms, as well as the ability to critically compare and contrast them with each other; the ability to analyse the ways in which these theories can be mobilised for social and political purposes and practices, being able to identify both the strengths of weaknesses of the various approaches in a modern context; the ability to communicate effectively an understanding of these core paradigms. By the end of this module, students will be able to understand, explain and use the work of a number of approaches in relation to a variety of social and political issues, problems and/or topics; understand how the conceptual and theoretical orientations of a variety of approaches communicate with each other over time and relate to each other, combined with the capacity to assess each perspective's strengths and weaknesses; effectively communicate that understanding of a variety of perspectives, both orally and in writing; research a particular social and political problem by using a theory-led approach or paradigm to address a particular social and political set of issues or problems. The aims and objectives of the unit are consistent with the generic attributes of graduates identified by the College of Human Sciences and offer students the opportunity to work towards improving their skills in all five areas of: research and inquiry, information literacy, personal and intellectual autonomy, ethical, social and professional understanding, and communication.

Indicative Module Content:

- How to theorize about and society and politics
- Understanding the normative dimensions of how society and politics operate
- Understanding the potential practical consequences of such normative assumptions
- Study modern social and political traditions ranging from classical contract theories to modern conceptions of democracy and civil society
- Throwing a light on different traditions and paradigms of mostly European and North American origins and their applicability beyond Europe and North America

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
- lectures and seminars;
- group discussions and student presentations
- self-directed learning 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Essay: 3,500 words Week 12 n/a Graded No


Presentation: < Description > Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be provided on assessed coursework after seminars/lectures and/or in person during office hours as appropriate.