Bureaucracy and Violence SOCIO4129

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

We tend to think of violence as an immediate physical force inflicted by one person on another, like a punch in the face. But what about indirect forms of harm that that may be equally painful, even lethal? Can an official government policy of missing target times for reviewing asylum claims be an act of violence? This course is about the violence in or produced through bureaucratic processes and institutions. In it, we will explore the meanings of bureaucracy in light of the changing nature of the state, governance and economy in our times and the distinctive forms of violence it can engender. In most weeks we will consider specific settings to explore this including in criminal justice, disability and health, and education/universities. While there are important variations (including structural violence, administrative violence, institutional violence), different forms have in common 'invisible forms of domination' supporting 'social arrangements [that] put people and populations in harm's way' (Montesanti and Thurston, 2015). Heavy paperwork burdens, systematic patterns of indifference, city zoning changes, and timesheet procedures are just some examples of incremental, mundane and impersonal processes that, as we will see, can produce profound human suffering.



Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course, students need to have met the requirements for entry into the Sociology Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. Students also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.

Excluded Courses






One set exercise (20%): students to give peer feedback on another student's formative assessment (case study plan), and to be assessed on the quality of the peer feedback provided.

Each student would be provided/given access anonymously to one other student's case plan and provide feedback using a prepared template provided by instructors

Peer feedback will be:

■ marked by the lecturer (counting as a summative assessment);

■ moderated and supplemented with further feedback from the lecturer before being returned to the author of the case study plan (counting as peer feedback on the formative assessment)


One briefing paper of 3,000 words. This will focus on a policy issue, of the student's choice and agreed with the instructor, is presented and analysed as a problem of violence. The briefing paper will be based on the formative assessment (case study plan).


1. Peer feedback on others' plans 20% (moderated, marked and supplemented with further feedback by instructors) [Note: each student would be provided/given access anonymously to one other student's case plan and provide feedback using a prepared template provided by instructors. We are considering presentations in class as an alternative to this so that students would be able to offer feedback on the presented plan, but this is to be determined.]

2. 2 A briefing report including one paragraph abstract and a one-page summary, plus main text of 3,000 words 80%.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

To introduce students to a range of theories about bureaucracy and organisations as these are explored in sociological and criminological disciplines

To broaden student understanding of violence, exploring institutional settings and dimensions of this

To expose students to a range of empirical settings in which to apply this knowledge

To support and enable students' critical analysis of violence in bureaucratic settings

To develop confidence and skills in working with both academic and policy materials in evaluating questions of bureaucratic violence

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

Efficiently compile and arrange high quality evidence and arguments about bureaucratic violence on a selected topic

Differentiate and discuss theories and concepts of bureaucratic violence

Delineate and evaluate the specific harms of bureaucratic forms of violence

Competently employ sociological and criminological perspectives and methods in the analysis of violence and bureaucracy

Effectively communicate knowledge acquired during the course with both academic and non-academic audiences in mind

Constructively engage with peers' work and successfully provide feedback that enhances their ability to produce convincing work.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.