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SP30118: Power in society

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • CW (100%) (CW 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
SP30118 - Reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: This unit seeks to:
1. Introduce students to the sociological concept of power
2. Provide students with a fundamental understanding of key traditions and debates in the study of power
3. Enable students to identify and critically analyse power in key areas of social science interest for contemporary British and global society.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the unit, students should be able to:
1. Understand the complexity of the nature of power
2. Appreciate the significance of the study of power for understanding contemporary society
3. Identify and characterise key approaches to studying power in social science
4. Critically analyse the applications of particular theoretical approaches to studying power relationships involved in contemporary social issues.

Skills: Intellectual skills
* Knowledge of key ways in which theorists have attempted to understand 'society'
* Knowledge of the fundamental concepts of sociology
* Knowledge of the theoretical basis of sociological perspectives
* Knowledge of classical perspectives in sociology
* Knowledge of the relationship between sociology and other cognate disciplines
Transferable/Key Skills
* To think creatively and analytically;
* To communicate an argument;
* To evaluate others' arguments and research;
* To critically evaluate and assess research and evidence as well as a variety of other information;
* To gather information, data, research and literature from a number of different sources (i.e. library, web-based, archives etc.);
* To select appropriate and relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge;
* To synthesise information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding; Revision and Examination skills;
* Understanding of how to apply knowledge and concepts from across various social sciences disciplines;
* Study and learning skills (note-taking, avoiding plagiarism, using the library, gathering and using information, constructing a bibliography, referencing).

Content: In focusing on the issue of power, this unit builds on theories introduced by other units, including SP10043, SP10044, and SP20112. The unit has two parts. The first part introduces students to the study of power and outlines key theoretical traditions and debates related to the issue of power. The second part of the unit provides students with case studies of power relationships involved in key contemporary social issues.
The lecture programme is underpinned by several key questions: What is power? Can power be measured, and if so, how? How is power distributed in society? What are the implications of different patterns of power distribution for the functioning of society (including issues such as justice)?

Programme availability:

SP30118 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)

SP30118 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Psychology Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AFB21 : BSc(Hons) International Development with Economics (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB21 : BSc(Hons) International Development with Economics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
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