Module Identifier IP33020  
Academic Year 2007/2008  
Co-ordinator Dr Milja H Kurki  
Semester Semester 1  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   11 x 2 hour seminars  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam2 Hours  50%

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the key principles and concepts characteristic of relevant schools of thought.
2. Evaluate debates over the notions of 'critical theory' and the 'critical theory tradition'.
3. Identify the key areas of debate between the relevant schools of thought.
4. Explain the political and normative implications of theoretical disagreements between the relevant schools of thought.
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the salience and significance of critical theories in contemporary context.
6. Demonstrate an ability to apply the key principles of critical theories to concrete social and political debates.

Brief description

This module will examine the idea of critical theory through investigating the nature and contributions of a selection of critical theories. To give students a sense of the diverse forms of thought associated with the term critical theory, this module aims to investigate critical theories in a broad sense of the term. We will examine classical critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School, but also a set of diverse contributions encapsulating Western Marxism of Gramsci, poststructuralism, post-Marxism, feminism and postcolonialism. We will also examine Marxism, the framework of ideas from which many of the critical theory contributions originate. The range of theories examined on this module is by no means exhaustive of theories that go under the title `critical theory' but will provide us with a fairly broad selection of ideas to examine, assess, compare and contrast.

The module has as its key themes examination of the ways in which critical theories analyze the nature of oppression/domination, emancipation and resistance politics. Besides pointing to the commonalities between critical theory perspectives on these issues, the module also seeks to investigate the lines of contention between the critical theory approaches, notably over whether and how we acquire knowledge about structures of domination and oppression and over what could be said to constitute `emancipation'. Students are encouraged to reflect on the political consequences of the disagreements among critical theorists in reference to concrete political contexts and to evaluate the sense in which critical theorists make up a coherent `tradition' of thought.


1. Aims and introduction
2. Origins of critical theory - Marxism and liberalism
3. Frankfurt School and emancipation
4. Gramsci and hegemony
5. Poststructuralism: critiques of emancipatory politics
6. Post-Marxism: rethinking resistance politics
7. Postcolonialism: critiques of 'western' critical theory
8. Feminism(s) on oppression and emancipation
9. Capitalism and globalisation
10. Democratic politics in contemporary context
11. Summary and revision


The module offers a focused and holistic examination of critical theories and their internal lines of debate. It especially complements existing provision in the areas of political theory, poststructuralism, International Relations theory, Critical Security Studies and Postcolonial Studies. It seeks to examine the aims and nature of critical theorizing, the uses of critical theories in today's political contexts, and the theoretical and political lines of contention between critical theory perspectives.

Module Skills

Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of coursework will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar presentations will also enable students to develop independent project 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; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of students' ability to work alone can be undertaken.  
Research skills The submission of coursework will reflect the independent research skills of students. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for a seminar presentation will also enable students to develop independent project skills. A final examination will ensure that an assessment of students' ability to work alone can be undertaken.  
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to present their arguments most effectively. They will understand 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 the 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. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and 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 to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework and presentation topics. The need to conduct a seminar presentation and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.  
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such class room debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.  
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 (such as Web of Science and OCLC). Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on the Blackboard VLE.  
Application of Number N/A  
Personal Development and Career planning The discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning coursework and a presentation, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing them through to completion will contribute towards students' portfolios of transferable skills.  
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 - Ability to evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques - Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and political problems  

Reading Lists

** Essential Reading
Boggs (1976) Gramsci's Marxism Pluto Press
Callinicos, Alex (2003) Anti-capitalist Manifesto Polity Press
Gramsci, Antonio Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci.
Horkheimer (1982) Critical Theory: Selected Essays Continuum
Horkheimer and Adorno (1973) Dialectic of Enlightenment Allen Lane
Kellner, Douglas (1992) Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity. Johns Hopkins University Press
Laclau and Mouffe (2001) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. towards a radical democratic politics. Verso
Miliband, Ralph (1977) Marxism and Politics OUP
Said, E. (2003) Orientalism Penguin
Tallack, D (1995) Critical Theory: a Reader Harvester Wheatsheaf
** Recommended Text
Bronner, S.E. (1994) Of critical theory and its theorists. Blackwell
Callinicos, Alex (1989) Against Postmodernism Polity
Femia, J. (1981) Gramsci¿s Political Thought: Hegemony Consciousness and the Revolutionary Process. Clarendon Press
Forbes and Smith (1983) Politics and Human Nature Frances Pinter
Gill, S. (1993) Gramsci, historical materialism and international relations Cambridge University Press
Hoy and McCarthy (1994) Critical Theory Blackwell
Malpas and Wake (2004) Routledge Companion to Critical Theory. Routledge
Rasmussen, David (1996) Handbook to Critical Theory Blackwell
Rasmussen, David and Swindall (2004) Critical Theory vols 1 and 2. Sage
Rush, Fred (2004) Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory. CUP
Schroyer, Trent (1973) Critique of Domination George Brazillier
Simons, Jon. (2004) Contemporary Critical Theorists from Lacan to Said Edinburgh University Press
Stirk, Peter (2005) Critical Theory, politics and society: an Introduction. Continuum
** Recommended Consultation
Bhagwati, J. (2004) In defense of globalization Oxford University Press
Hardt and Negri (2001) Empire Harvard University Press
Held, David (1980) Introduction to Critical Theory: From Horkheimer to Habermas California University Press
Jameson, F. (1991) Postmodernism, or, The cultural logic of late capitalism. Verso
Linklater, Andrew (1998) Transformation of political community Polity Press
Marchand and Runyan (2000) Gender and global restructuring : sightings, sites and resistances. Routledge


This module is at CQFW Level 6