Politics and Society

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible



This course is compulsory on the MSc in Political Sociology. This course is available on the MSc in European Studies: Ideas and Identities, MSc in European Studies: Ideas and Identities (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Social Research Methods and MSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course aims to explore some of the great debates about the relationship between politics and society. It will examine the interaction between political institutions, economic interests and cultural ideas, especially in societies that are both democratic and capitalist. The course begins by looking at the canonical writings of authors like Marx, Weber and Tocqueville. The rest of the course will then provide you with a chance to study some of the major empirical controversies that have animated political sociologists. Each week, we will discuss questions like: Why are some social movements more powerful than others? How does social change shape parties and elections? Do repressive states give rise to radicalism? What explains the growth of the far right? Why are welfare states more developed in some countries than others? Why is there no Labor Party in the United States? Under what conditions can democracy survive? What gave rise to national identities? Do authoritarian states inhibit development? Why is there a resurgence of ethnic and religious violence? And has neo-liberalism become hegemonic? In addition, the course will enable you to build up your knowledge of a number of countries and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of some of the main theories and approaches that have dominated the study of political sociology. These include functionalist, rational choice, and institutionalist theories, as well as historical and comparative approaches.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of lectures and 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

Seminars: Papers will be presented by participants and, on occasion, by guest speakers. In addition to the weekly seminar, there will be a number of additional seminars specifically concerned with research strategies in political sociology. Students should attend the lecture course SO203 Political Sociology when available.

Formative coursework

Members of the seminar will be required to present a number of papers during the course of the seminar. There will also be a termly essay in MT and LT.

Indicative reading

B. Anderson. Imagined Communities; R. Archer, Why is There No Labour Party in the United States?; M. Desai, State Formation and Radical Democracy in India; P Evans et al, Bringing the State Back In; A. Kholi, State-Directed Development; S M Lipset, 'The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited', American Sociological Review, vol 59; S Lukes, Power: A Radical View; D McAdam, Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements; M Mann, The Sources of Social Power; M Olson, The Logic of Collective Action; T Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers; C. Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence; L. Weiss, The Myth of the Powerless State.


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Exam will be held during the Summer Term exam session.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay, with submission sheets attached to each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S219A, no later than 16:30 on the first Thursday of Summer Term. An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Attendance at all seminars and submission of all set coursework is required.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 18.5
Merit 76.5
Pass 3.7
Fail 1.2

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2012/13: 35

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 76.7%



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