Sociology | Advanced Topics
S660 | 4159 | Brooks

Topic:  Political Sociology

Contemporary political sociology is characterized by some of the most
theoretically far-reaching, politically lively, and empirically
fruitful debates and research questions in U.S. and European
sociology. In this class, we examine in detail the sub-fields in
which these questions are investigated. Our goals are two-fold: to
develop an overview of theoretical paradigms and scholarly debates
within contemporary political sociology; and to obtain a more
detailed understanding of some of the core propositions, findings,
and avenues for further research within sub-fields of political

We start with an examination of debates surrounding the origins and
organization of modern welfare states, identifying and considering
state-centered, class struggle, elite conflict, and modernization
theories. We next examine the interrelationships between
class/race/gender inequalities and government policies, considering
what these interrelationships tell us about state/society linkages,
and also what policy arrangements are most conducive to creating just
and egalitarian forms of society.

The middle sections of the course are concerned with theories of
social movements and electoral politics. Our political-sociological
perspective compels us to examine the causal mechanisms that govern
movement emergence, and also what impacts historically prominent
movements have had on U.S. laws, public policies, and political
institutions. These issues lead naturally to considering the
structure and dynamics of electoral conflicts, political parties, and
voter alignments. Our focus here is defined by a series of related
debates over the significance of new conservative parties and
organizations in the U.S. and Western Europe, the apparent volatility
of votersí alignments with established political parties, and the
life-chances of those parties in elections since the 1960ís.

The final third of the course surveys theory and research on
democracy and on the political effects of globalization. Because
these sub-fields are characterized by emerging and hotly contested
debates, they represent some of the most exciting and potentially
fruitful areas for research, and we will consider a host of
unresolved questions about the vulnerability of national governments,
the changing nature of political conflicts, and the trans-national
dimensions of social movements, policy scripts, and public opinion.