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MA in Social and Political Thought

How can we think clearly and imaginatively about the social and political challenges that confront us? This MA programme seeks to provide some of the tools with which to do so.

Programme content

The programme is structured around two core modules. The first of these is ‘Politics and Social Theory: Into and Out of the Labyrinth’ (convened by Charles Turner). The tradition of modern social and political thought is really several different ones. The purpose of this module is threefold: to understand where certain influential or familiar ideas and concepts come from; to explore how the thought of some notable modern social and political thinkers (Hobbes and Hegel, de Tocqueville and Marx, Weber and Arendt, and several others) ran up against the political problems of their day, and to appreciate major analytical themes cutting across all of them. These include: the relationship between individuals, the state and civil society; legitimacy and power; freedom and citizenship, and the place of politics in a human life.

The second core module is ‘State, Capitalism and Market’ (convened by Nicholas Gane), which uses the work of thinkers such as Stuart Hall, Wendy Brown and Michel Foucault to think analytically and critically about capitalism and its recurrent crises. This module looks closely at the pro-market form of governance known as neoliberalism, and examines the historical relation of neoliberalism to other forms of political-economic thought, in particular, classical liberalism, conservatism and libertarianism. The module moves into the present by analysing the ways in which the recent financial crisis has presented the political Right with further opportunities to assert the sovereignty of market forces over all things ‘social’. This module asks why this has been the case, and what has happened to the political Left in the post-crisis period?

Following these two core modules, four modules from a wide range of options may be taken, followed by a 15,000 word dissertation. In this way, students may pursue their own research interests in greater depth and tackle more contemporary problems head on, including consumerism, biopolitics, posthumanism, memory and history, culture and politics, as well as the intellectual debates and controversies they have spawned.

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