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Unit information: Perspectives on Power in 2020/21

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Unit name Perspectives on Power
Unit code SOCI30062
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Thomas Osborne
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit focuses on the concept of power in social theory and political sociology. The first half of the unit is oriented to the work of Max Weber on forms of domination and to that of Michel Foucault on power, political rationality and government. The second half of the unit goes on to consider particular topics in the political sociology of power taking in aspects of the work of thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Theodor Adorno, Zygmunt Bauman and Michael Mann and others centred on such topics as the analysis of totalitarianism, political ethics and the social psychology of power and authority. The unit aims to highlight distinctive approaches in the social theory of power, political reason, authority and social order, and to introduce students to the application of different notions of power to particular fields such as those of political rationalities of liberalism and neo-liberalism, totalitarianism, bureaucracy and the ethics of power.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of various writings from the social sciences and humanities on questions of power and expertise
  • compare and contrast different styles of explanation in the social sciences
  • demonstrate the ability to read, analyse and discuss critically, imaginatively and in detail original texts in the social sciences.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

  • Formative: 1500 word essay
  • Summative: 3000 word essay

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes.

Reading and References

  • Foucault, M.(2001) Power, Penguin
  • Lukes, S. (2005) Power: a radical view, Palgrave
  • Mann, M. (2005) The Dark Side of Democracy, CUP
  • Rose, N. (1999) Powers of Freedom, CUP
  • Weber, M. (1994) Political Writings, CUP