New Directions in Social Science

2006 – 7

Scope of the module: This module attempts to delineate and assess the impact on the social sciences of recent movements such as postmodernism and post-structuralism and of the writers associated with those movements, particularly Lyotard and Derrida. The characteristic features of postmodernism/poststructuralism, and which constitute the topics of the module, include:

These themes will be treated with respect to specific social science topics, and their implications for the future development of the discipline, and for research, will be explored.

Expectations: You are expected to attend all lectures (Friday 11.00, location tba) and one seminar per fortnight (time and location tba); to do the reading set for each seminar; to read as widely as you can around the subject; to explore the connections (where appropriate) between the topics you are studying and what might loosely be called ‘life’.

Outcomes: By the end of this module you will have -

  A typical New Directions Seminar

Aims and outcomes: a note

There is a school of thought that believes all teaching should be characterized by a clear statement of aims on the one hand and of outcomes on the other (and naturally the outcomes should reflect the aims). Some would say that this conception of education is simply commonsense. However this module takes a critical view (aims to take a critical view, if you like) of this conception (the outcome is that you will learn that such a conception of teaching and education can be challenged). Indeed, the critique of performativity (one dimension of such a conception) is at the heart of the module (if modules can have hearts: we shall wonder about the easy use of metaphors). It is not therefore possible to indicate clear aims (the very notion of clarity is suspect, we shall discover) and outcomes without self-contradiction or bad faith. However there is much to be said for some preliminary indication of the scope of each session of this module, and of where we might be at the end of it. These are therefore supplied, as Foreword and Afterword respectively. Those who crave aims and outcomes can substitute those titles, and rest content.

If you have problems with the course - from practical problems of getting hold of books to intellectual problems with the material studied - please come to discuss matters with Richard Smith. Do not suffer in silence.

                              Jacques Derrida about to deconstruct

To contact: ‘phone internal extension 41016 (Combined Office) or e-mail ( or drop in (room 276, Elvet Riverside II)

Recommended to buy (* = essential purchase):

Anderson, Walter Truett, The Truth about the Truth, Tarcher/Putnam, 1995 *  31 used & new available from 1.50 from Amazon, as of Sept 22
Bauman, Zygmunt, Postmodern Ethics, Blackwell, 1998
Eco, Umberto, The Name of the Rose (various editions)
Lyotard, J.-F., The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans.
    G.Bennington and B.Massumi, Manchester Univ. Press., 1984 *
Plato, Phaedrus (Penguin translation) *
Rorty, Richard, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989 Used & new from 8.50 at Amazon, as of Sept 22
Taylor, Charles, The Ethics of Authenticity, Harvard Univ. Press, 1991

The first five chapters of Lyotard are online. Ditto Plato's Phaedrus, but it seems a shame not to have your own copy.

We shall start with the Phaedrus. Read it over the summer if you can. Don’t worry about any technicalities – read it as if it were a novel.

Other useful texts:

Angier, Natalie, Woman: an intimate geography, Virago, 2000

Ashley, D., History without a Subject: the postmodern condition, Westview Press, 1997
Bell, D., The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, Basic Books, 1976
Blake, N., Smeyers, P., Smith, R. and Standish, P., Thinking Again: Education after Postmodernism, Bergin & Garvey, 1998

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble - Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, 1999.
Derrida, J., Writing and Difference, Routledge, 2001
Derrida, J., Of Grammatology, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976
Delanty, G., Modernity and Postmodernity: knowledge, power and the self, Sage, 2000
Doherty, J. et al. (eds), Postmodernism and the Social Sciences, St. Martin's Press, 1992
Drolet, M. (Ed.) The Postmodernism Reader, Routledge, 2003
Giroux, H., Postmodernism, Feminism and Cultural Politics, SUNY Press, 1991
Harvey, D., The Condition of Postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural change, Blackwell, 1989
Hollinger, R.,  Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: a thematic approach, Sage, 1994
Lash, S.,  Sociology of Postmodernism, Routledge, 1990
Lemert, C., Postmodernism is Not What You Think, Blackwell, 1997
Lyon, D., Postmodernity, Open University Press, 1999

Salih, Sara (ed.), The Judith Butler Reader, Blackwell, 2004
Seidman,  S., Contested Knowledge: social theory in the postmodern era, Blackwell, 1998
Smart, B, Postmodernity, Routledge, 1993

                                The module convenor after a hard lecture