Theories of Social Power

There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous – Hannah Arendt

What is power?

Who has it and why?

How is social order maintained? Why is it maintained even when it’s creating social problems?

In Theories of Social Power, we look at an expansive range of writing on power, from the classics of Hobbes and Hegel, to contemporaries like Scott and Zelizer. We pay particularly close attention to ideas that explain how social structures enable and constrain action, and allocate social resources unequally. We will be consistently using examples from our experiences and popular culture to talk through theories, and treating theory like a language that gets easier, and more eloquent, with practice. By the end of the course, students should be able to think through and clearly communicate complex social phenomena by drawing on theories of power.


Blog posts generated by students in the class are posted on

A course outline is available here: SOCI 302: 2016 Course Outline