Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Knowledge and Power
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 14 Hours (14 x 1 hour)
Seminars / Tutorials 7 Hours (7 x 1 hour)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment Seminar Performance  10%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay, if essay element failed  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay, if essay element failed  50%
Supplementary Assessment 3x500 word seminar reading in lieu of seminar performance  10%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of key concepts, dichotomies, and problems in the philosophy of social science and social theory;
2. Identify the characteristic features of different types of discourses on social reality;
3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of, and capacity to mobilize, different definitions and theories of power;
4. Critically reflect on the relationships between the nature and purpose of knowledge on the one hand, and the nature and structure of political order, authority, and power on the other;
5. Formulate questions involving a problematization of seemingly uncontroversial or settled 'truths' and assumptions about knowledge, power, and political order.

Brief description

This module explores the cognitive, socio-political, and moral dimensions, challenges, and dilemmas of social-scientific research, focusing on their interconnectedness and the ways they shape our understanding of the political. It starts with a review of key classical dichotomies in the philosophy of social science (facts vs. values, objectivity vs. subjectivity, structure vs. agency, material vs. ideational,...), whose meaning and validity are gradually and critically assessed throughout the module, following three lines of inquiry: the first addresses the nature and standards of scientific knowledge, with a focus on the notions of 'truth', 'objectivity', and 'detachment'; the second engages contending views on the nature, characteristics, and realms of power, and explores its relation to ideology, language, and the reproduction of social order; the third problematises the relationship between knowledge and power to bring forth the politics of scientific representations, discourses, and practices, interrogate academic responsibility, and delineate the problématique of reflexivity.


1. Key Dichotomies in the Philosophy of Social Science (1 lecture)
Part 1: The Nature of Knowledge
2. Objectivity and the Fact-Value Dichotomy (2 lectures, 1 seminar)
3. The Embeddedness of Knowledge in Power, Values, and Ideology (2 lectures, 1 seminar)

Part 2: The Nature of Power
4. The Classical View (2 lectures, 1 seminar)
5. The Critical View (2 lectures, 1 seminar)

Part 3: Power-Knowledge in Theory and Action
6. Truth and Power (2 lectures, 1 seminar)
7. The Politics of Neutrality and Engagement (2 lectures, 1 seminar)

8. Reflexivity as Method, Ethos, and Praxis (1 lecture, 1 seminar)


The module contributes to the Department's undergraduate curriculum by providing students with a focused and methodical engagement with a theme that they encounter in other modules and that permeates all critical social and international theories, namely, the relationship between knowledge and power, in both theory and practice. The module complements departmental offerings by expanding students' engagement with a wide range of thematically interconnected literatures in the social sciences and philosophy, which they will be able to draw on in their other modules and research projects.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to how to present their arguments most effectively. They will learn the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Students will also be required to submit their essays in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convenor and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and exercising their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework and presentation topics. The need to prepare for assessed seminar participation and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources.
Personal Development and Career planning This module is designed to hone and test skills of use to students in their working lives, particularly in speaking to small groups, listening, thinking and responding to the statement of others. Moreover, the written work includes writing clearly and concisely, which is a common task in the workplace. Students will be encouraged throughout to reflect on their performance and to consider lessons for future application.
Problem solving Independent work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of two essays will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills Students will be required to undertake independent research for elements of the assessed work. This will involve utilizing media and web sources, as well as more conventional academic texts. Students will in part be assessed on their ability to gather appropriate and interesting resources materials.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and contemporary political problems.
Team work Students will undertake team exercises in the seminars. For many of the topics of this module, seminars will consist of small-group discussions where students will be asked to discuss as a group the core issues related to the seminar topic. These class discussions and debates form a significant part of the module, and will allow students to approach and examine a given topic through team work.


This module is at CQFW Level 6