How can thinking help us to approach empirical problems in new ways? In asking this question Contemporary Social Theory puts forward a case for the practical value of theory. It is not simply that empirical problems exist ‘out there’ in the world awaiting analysis, but the way that we figure and think through a problem is a good part of its solution. Most importantly, then, the course aims to develop skills and give you confidence in your capacity to think, so that you can engage with issues and empirical problems in an original way.
While Contemporary Social Theory covers some of the important thinkers of the post- war period, its aim is not to provide a comprehensive survey of the vast array of social theorists that you might find in a text on social or sociological theory. The idea is to expose you to some of the key problems that have animated sociology and cognate disciplines in recent years, with the hope that you might have a window into these and similar theoretical and practical problems. On the way through the course, we will pay attention to the question of what it means for thinking to be ‘contemporary’. The issue of how we grasp what ‘our present’ is raises important questions about who the ‘we’ is here, as well as the relationship between thinking and time. In exploring these and other theoretical questions, the course will relate key theoretical problems to diverse empirical examples - from consumerism and globalisation to terrorism, the information and genetic revolutions and the role of science - with the hope that it will bring the theories alive for you.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1. Interpret original texts and discuss their implications
2. Evaluate the theories encountered and assess their relevance to contemporary problems
3. Reflect on the kinds of claims that a theory makes for itself (for example: does the theory claim to diagnose the ills of our contemporary social reality or to criticise the claims of modern knowledge?)
4. Produce an argument and marshal evidence for it
5. Discuss key themes, concepts and theories with your peers
Indicative AssessmentCritical Engagement Exercise, 750 words (20%), LO 1,2,4
Research Essay, 2000 words (50%), LO 1,2,4
Synoptic Essay, 1500 words (20%), LO, 2,3
Tutorial Participation (10%) LO, 1,2,5
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Workload130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures, and 12 hours of tutorials; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.
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- 6 units
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