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SOCL921: Contemporary Debates in Sociology 

Module convenor: Andrew Sayer

Module Aims

Introduce and compare the work of some recent social theorists, primarily by reference to their views, implicit or explicit, on the role and nature of critique and values in social science.

A secondary aim is to gain practice in close, critical reading of examples of such texts and examination of what they presuppose, and the criteria by which they might be assessed. In so doing, the course aims to illuminate the relation between science and values in contemporary social research.

Course Approach

There will be weekly workshops of 2 – 2.5 hours which will conclude an introductory, interruptible lecture, student presentations, group work, and general discussions.

There will also be opportunities for personal supervision in developing topics for the assessment.

Topics Covered

Cases include feminist critiques of gender orders, Bauman’s critique of modernity, Bourdieu’s critique of symbolic domination, Marxist critiques of exploitation, Foucault on power/knowledge and. In addition to the main topic of critique and value, sub-themes include power, universalism, discourse, structure and agency, and objectivity.


5000 word essay

Indicative Readings

  • Bauman, Z. (2011) Collateral Damage
  • Bourdieu, P. (2007) Political Interventions
  • Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge
  • Nussbaum, M. (2000) Women and Human Development
  • Archer, M. (2007) Making Our Way Through the World
  • Sayer, A. (2011) Why Things Matter to People

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