Contemporary Social Theory


This is a social theory module. It is not a history or biography of great thinkers. It encourages students to read closely the arguments of leading schools of social theory and develop their analytical capacities by discussing and further elaborating some of the main developments in social thought over the past half century or so.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with :evaluative skills by making explicit the evidential and analytical grounds for contemporary social theory.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Understand theoretical debates on key sociological concepts.

2.  Evaluate competing theories and different schools of social thought.

3.  Relate theory to specific themes of Civilizing Process, Critical Theory, Power, Cultural Capital and Postmodernism.

Indicative Content

1 Norbert Elias and the Civilizing Process

The Civilizing Process in Context; The State and the De-Civilizing Process.

2 The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

Traditional and Critical Theory; Walter Benjamin: `Theses on the Philosophy of History'.

3 Relational Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu

`The Real is Relational': Habitus, Doxa, Field and Capital; Bourdieu and the Field of Culture;

4 Foucault

History, Power, Knowledge; Discipline and Punish.

5 Postmodernism

Postmodernism & Postmodernity; Habermas: Rejecting Postmodernism and Reconstructing Modernity.


Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

This module combines selected readings, lectures and class based workshops/discussions/seminars in order to advance the teaching and learning of students. This is a self-directed, reading-centred module, exploring competing schools of social theory. Seminars are based around a focus upon student group presentations, case studies and completing group work exercises. Before the seminars students must undertake the readings and research the particular case studies for that seminar. They must be ready to take on different roles in the group exercises, participate in the group discussions, and then give feedback to the rest of the class. These seminars help students to develop important critical reasoning, presentation, communication and collaborative skills. The module has been purposefully designed to integrate with the designated Abertay Attributes and provides an important means for students to consolidate, enhance and develop these attributes as part of their learning on the module.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 24
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 30
Independent 134

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.