SO231      Half Unit
Knowledge, Power, and Social Change

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Leon Wansleben STC208


This course is available on the BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The aims of the course are threefold: First, the course will provide an introduction to how key sociological theories reflect upon the nature of knowledge in society; it will thereby strongly connect to other theory courses. Second, the course will explore knowledge and expertise as critical aspects of contemporary society, which contribute to the reproduction, as well as alteration, of social inequalities and relationships of power. Third, the course will provide a forum for thinking about our own roles, as sociologists, outside the university.

By the end of the course, students will feel capable of questioning the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ of authoritative knowledge and to critically analyse how social actors make knowledge claims . Second, students will be able to examine, evaluate, both in written and oral form, theories and debates within the sociological discourse on knowledge. Thirdly, students will be able to explore knowledge production and dissemination in contemporary society and develop corresponding sociological research projects (case studies) related these issues.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study and 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

Espeland, Wendy N., & Sauder, Michael (2007). Rankings and Reactivity: How Public Measures Recreate Social Worlds. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 113 No. 1, S. 1-40.

Foucault, Michel (1984). What is Enlightenment? In The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow, pp. 32-50. New York: Pantheon Books.

Mannheim, Karl (1936). Ideology and Utopia: an introduction to the sociology of knowledge. London, Keagan Paul.

Porter, Theodore M. (1995) Trust in Numbers. The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay, with submission sheets attached to each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S116, no later than 16:30 on the first Tuesday of Lent Term.An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2016/17: 16

Average class size 2016/17: 9

Capped 2016/17: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication