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Unit information: Conceptualising the Social in 2016/17

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Unit name Conceptualising the Social
Unit code SOCI20016
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Will Atkinson
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit offers an historical overview of the development of post-classical sociological theory such as Functionalism, interactionism and postmodernism, via an exploration of the work of a selection of key sociological theorists such as Talcott Parsons, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu, Jurgen Habermas, Judith Butler, Ulrich Beck, Manuel Castells. Key concepts developed by these thinkers are explored in relation to the themes of structure and agency, culture/ideology, and sociological understanding.


  • To introduce students to the key theorists and paradigms of modern sociology
  • To give a coherent and connected account of the way sociological theory has developed in the Twentieth century
  • To encourage a critical and independent approach to theoretical understanding
  • To convey a sense of current debate amongst sociological theorists

Intended learning outcomes

a. exposit and analyse a range of schools and thinkers in modern macro-sociology

b. develop a critical account of developments and debates in social theory

c. show familiarity with the key ideas and concepts of a variety of theorists

d. compare and contrast theories and theorists according to specified themes of analysis

Teaching details

1 x 2hr lecture and 1 hour seminar

Assessment Details

Formative assessment is a 1 hour mock exam. Summative assessment consists of one 2 hour exam (students to answer 2 questions).

  • formative and summative exams will assess outcomes a,b,c & d

Reading and References

  • Harrington, A (ed) (2005) Modern Social Theory Oxford University Press
  • Alan Swingewood, (2000) A Short History of Sociological Thought, 3rd edition, Macmillan, 2000.
  • Seidman, S. (1998) Contested Knowledge, 2nd.ed. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Craib, I. (1992) Modern Sociological Theory from Parsons to Habermas, 2nd ed. Brighton: Wheatsheaf Books