Contemporary Critical Theory

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
19 May 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA VL5212 Social and Political Thought

Module description

What is 'critical theory'? At one level, it is a tradition that can be traced back to 'Frankfurt School' thinkers such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. But the term has also come to be used more broadly, to encompass independent traditions of thought such as (certain strands within) feminism, anti-racism, post-colonialism, queer theory and critical pedagogy.

This course aims to give a 'critical' introduction to critical theory, paying attention both to some of its canonical thinkers as well as to wider currents of radical thought and politics, and asking: What does critical theory look like in the 21st century?

In 2022-23, our topic will be "Recognition." The theory of recognition has been a prominent form of critical theory since the publication of Axel Honneth's The Struggle for Recognition in 1992. We will study this landmark text together with other writings on recognition by Honneth and his critics and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of recognition as a critical theory of society.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to key thinkers in contemporary critical theory.

  • To introduce students to historical and contemporary debates about the key concepts of that tradition.

  • To assess the extent to which the approaches developed by critical theorists can deliver convincing diagnoses of contemporary society.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module the student should have:

1. the ability to demonstrate good understanding of the central philosophical problems involved in constructing a critical theory of society;
2. the ability to explain the distinctive contributions that the Frankfurt school figures make to a critical theory of society;
3. the ability to reflect upon the role that the concept of recognition may have in articulating a critical theory of society;
4. the ability to articulate their own position regarding the value of the theories put forward by the thinkers studied.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 9 weeks and 1 reading week with no seminars. Discussion will be encouraged throughout.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   4000 Word Essay    100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Steven Gormley, email:



External examiner

Dr Alexander Golob
King's College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
18 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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