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How to Change the World

  • Module code: SO5011
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

Building on SO4001 ‘Contemporary Issues in Sociology' and SO4003 ‘Social Selves', this module will develop the concept of ‘the sociological imagination', first outlined by the US theorist C. Wright Mills to indicate "the vivid awareness of the relationship between personal experience and the wider society" (1959). Although Mills was writing in the post-war era, the concept can be traced back to the development of the discipline as it emerged in response to the challenges of social life in industrial cities of the 19th century. Hence this module will use a range of classic and contemporary thinkers to address the double role that sociology has inherited from its origins: not just to understand the world, but to try to change it. This problem will be explored within the context of the city as a strategic unit of analysis in order to understand wider processes of modernisation, industrialisation and the subsequent onset of postmodernity and post-industrialism.

By studying original texts and placing them within their social and historical contexts, students will deepen their understanding of the discipline's critical engagement with different aspects of social life. There will be a strong focus on London with opportunities for fieldwork.

The module will be team-taught and will address the underlying questions: what role can sociologists play in tackling different forms of social injustice and inequality?   

Aims

  • To provide students with a framework to help them understand a diversity of sociological approaches
  • To advance student understanding of the way in which sociological theory has analysed significant movements for reform, social change and resistance through case studies
  • To provide students with a strong sociological background for a variety of professions in which knowledge about social processes is relevant

Learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate their understanding of a range of sociological approaches and methods
  • Demonstrate their understanding of why the city represents a strategic site of sociological analysis
  • Demonstrate an ability to think both critically and historically about contemporary social issues
  • Theorize how individuals can become involved in attempts to shape society and how social processes shape the life chances of people from different backgrounds
  • Present discussion of contemporary issues and debates with reference to sociological concepts such as ‘new social movements' and the ‘network society'

Curriculum content

The module is organised through the following questions:

  • How have sociologists conceptualised the relationship between personal experience and the wider society?
  • How do sociologists theorise the concept of ‘suffering'?
  • Why is the city such a strategic site of sociological analysis?
  • How have sociologists theorised concepts such as the social contract and citizenship?
  • What is meant by the term 'public space' and how does this relate to the ‘public sphere'? Can we still talk about ‘the street'?
  • How have forms of public protest changed since the emergence of the industrial city and how has this changed in the light of securitisation and surveillance today?
  • What is a ‘social movement'? What makes it ‘new'?
  • How do contemporary social theorists address questions such as: how do we build fairer cities? 

Teaching and learning strategy

This module is organised around a weekly three-hour workshop. Workshops will provide students with a combination of contextualisation and explanation of theoretical concepts and methodological approaches. In-class exercises will consist of discussions, small-group activities, reading groups, media presentations, and other activities that will allow students to engage individually and collectively with, and work through, the course material in order to achieve the aims and outcomes of the module.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching workshops (3 hrs x 22 weeks) 66
Guided independent study Field work; independent research 234
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Summative assessment:

  1. Essay (1,000 words)
  2. Reflection on field trip or guest speaker (500 words)
  3. Seen Exam (2 questions in two hours)

The essay will evidence their substantial learning of topics addressed in the first part of the module, and will include a short reflection on either a fieldwork exercise or a guest speaker.

The seen exam will assess students' understanding of theoretical concepts studied in TB2 and their ability to illustrate them with a case study drawn from independent research.

 Formative assessment:

  1. Individual blog posts and other contributions (individual or group) to shared module site.
  2. Essay plan in preparation for exam (midway through TB2)

 This module will also be formatively assessed through individual and group contributions to a shared module site. The site will be discussed on a weekly basis and groups will be given responsibility for moderating and encouraging content/participation. 

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Demonstrate their understanding of why the city represents a strategic site of sociological analysis Essay, formative essay plan & exam, plus contributions to shared module site
How have sociologists conceptualised the relationship between personal experience and the wider society? Essay, formative essay plan & exam
Demonstrate an ability to think both critically and historically about contemporary social issues Essay, formative essay plan & exam
Demonstrate their understanding of a range of sociological approaches and processes Essay, formative essay plan & exam
Theorize how individuals can become involved in attempts to shape society and how social processes shape the life chances of people from different backgrounds Essay, formative essay plan & exam
Present discussion of contemporary issues and debates with reference to sociological concepts of 'new social movements' and the 'network society' Essay, formative essay plan exam and reflections on fieldwork/guest speakers, plus contributions to shared module site

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
EXWR Examination seen 60
CWK Essay 1000 Words 30
CWK Reflection 500 Words 10
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Core Text(s):

Dawson, Matt (2015) Social Theory for Alternative Societies, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Abbott, P. & Wallace, C. (2005) An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives (3rd edn). London: Routledge.

Engels, F. (1845/2009) ‘The Great Towns' in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. London: Penguin.

Giddens, A. & Sutton, P.W. (2014) Essential Concepts in Sociology Cambridge: Polity.

Hall, S. & Gieben, B. (1992) Formations of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity.

Castells M (2015) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Cambridge: Polity 2015, 2nd ed.)

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