SO490      Half Unit
Contemporary Social Thought

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Chetan Bhatt STC.S107


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is not an introductory course in social theory. It is ideally suited to students familiar and comfortable with advanced modern social and political thought, philosophy, and political philosophy, including complex, advanced, and challenging readings in these areas.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Places are allocated based on a written statement, with priority given to students on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Sociology. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.

Course content

Contemporary Social Thought covers several areas in contemporary social theory and links these areas to several traditions of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinking. This includes critical assessment of Enlightenment philosophers such as Kant and Hegel, and also more recent thinkers, including Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, Jacques Derrida, Achille Mbembe, Donna Haraway, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Stuart Hall, and Walter Mignolo.  The course also aims to link theoretical areas with new and emerging social and political issues – for example, how theoretical approaches can be used to analyse a contemporary phenomenon. The substantive topics covered in the course vary by year, but may include: technology and transhumanism, politics and violence, the new identity politics, transformations in the far-right, authoritarian populism, decolonialism,  global or world sociology, wars and technology; and violent religious movements.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours in the MT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

One essay of 1,500 words to be submitted in Michaelmas Term.

Indicative reading

A. Loomba (2015), Colonialism/Postcolonialism [Third Edition], Routledge.

A. Elliott (2014), Contemporary Social Theory: an introduction [Second Edition], Routledge.

J. Wolff (2015), An Introduction to Political Philosophy [Third Edition], Oxford University Press.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on Wednesday week one of LT. 

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 20.5
Merit 53.4
Pass 25
Fail 1.1

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2020/21: 36

Average class size 2020/21: 18

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication