Political Sociology

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Robert Archer STC.S114a and Dr Kristin Surak STC.S105


This course is available on the BSc in Language, Culture and Society, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped). Places are allocated on a first come first served basis.

Course content

Political Sociology concerns the way in which political and social factors interact to produce the societies in which we live. This course aims to discuss some central empirical and theoretical questions in the field. The course begins by examining classic comparative debates about the relationship between the development of states and nations on the one hand, and the rise of capitalism and democracy on the other. We will then examine the impact that social cleavages have on parties, elections and other political institutions in a number of different countries. We will examine the strength and political impact of both labour movements and other important social movements. And we will examine why similar countries can develop very different social and economic policies. In addition we will examine some of the founding writings of Marx and Weber and critically assess the use of political concepts. Throughout the course we will consider some of the main theoretical approaches that are used in the study of political sociology.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and classes totalling a minimum of 40 hours across MT and LT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6 and LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

A class presentation and a termly paper in both MT and LT.

Indicative reading

R Dalton, Citizen Politics, 5th edn; G Esping-Andersen, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism; E. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism; A Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory;  R Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society; J Manza & C Brooks, Social Cleavages and Political Change; F. Piven and R. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements; D. Rueschemeyer et al, Capitalist Development and Democracy; T Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions; S Tarrow, Power in Movement.


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (30%, 2500 words) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Thursday of Summer Term. 

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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
First 25
2:1 70.8
2:2 2.1
Third 0
Fail 2.1

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2020/21: 22

Average class size 2020/21: 11

Capped 2020/21: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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