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   Course Title    Political Sociology
Lecturer    Mihai Hodrea
Institution    Riga Stradins University
Country    Latvia


The course on Political Sociology is designed to bring at a general level an overview of what political power represents and how it impacts on society as a unit of the political system. The course is structured within 5 weeks in a very compressed structure. In order to cover effectively all the materials presented, each lecture (45 minutes) will be followed by a workshop (45 minutes), in which the issues approached during the lecture will be further debated through group discussions. Although I expect everybody to participate in all lectures and especially workshops, I would stress that any intervention during discussions is more than valuable both to your self-improvement and final grade. This will depend equally on your ability to deal with and to understand the readings required.

For this reason I expect short reaction papers (approx.500 words) for every compulsory reading, excepting our first lecture. The reaction papers are exactly what they mean: a personal reaction toward an author’s opinion, not just a reproduction of his ideas. Additionally, four short essays (max. 1500 words) on a topic discussed in each seminar will be required. I mentioned there already a few possible themes for discussion. Try to follow the exposed theoretical arguments through actual illustrations, and personal approaches. The final essay is related to any of the topics covered by the lectures and seminars. It could include a small research project, consisting of individual or group work on a particular case. The subject and methodology of the research paper is to be discussed with the lecturer.

Each essay will be individually evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Structure of the text: exposition of a problem, discussion, conclusions;

2. individually collected bibliography of the problem;

3. language of the analysis;

4. logic of reasoning. Finally, your presence and participation during our meetings will account for the final grade in the following way: 15% - attending, 15% - presence, 20% - all written papers, 20% - final paper and 30% - exam. Each student that either fails to adapt to these criteria or does so unsatisfactorily will not pass the course.

Political Sociology. Key concepts. lecture 1

Compulsory readings:

  1. Keith Faulks. Political Sociology. A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 11-31. (LNL)*
  2. Kate Nash. Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, pp. 4-46.
  3. The Sociology of Politics, vol. 1, Introduction.

Theories of Democracy. Seminar 1

Compulsory readings:

  1. Robert Dahl. Democracy and Its Critics. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1989, pp. 232-264.
  2. Kate Nash. Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, pp. 221-267.
  3. Jurgen Habermas. The Public Sphere, in Kate Nash. Readings in Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, p. 288.
  4. Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1996, pp. 55-65.
  5. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1994, pp. 20-38.

Discussion points:
  • Is democracy a ‘social-friendly’ feature of politics? How does it relate to the society as a whole?
  • Given the extent to which social communities evolve, is democracy an ultimate model of public/political administration?
  • Capitalism and democracy do (not) work together. Argue.

Social Movements: social origins, forms and outcomes. lecture 2

Compulsory readings:

  1. The Sociology of Politics, vol. 2, pp. 135, 141, 157. (EII)
  2. Keith Faulks. Political Sociology. A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 87-105. (LNL)
  3. Mario Diani. The Concept of Social Movement, in Kate Nash. Readings in Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, pp. 155-175.
  4. Michael S. Kimmel. Revolution. A Sociological Interpretation, Polity Press, 1990, pp. 4-14, 53-70.
  5. Kate Nash. Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, pp. 102-114, 145-150, 151-155.

Discussion points:

  • In the conditions of a democratic system, how would a social movement be perceived? Does it still represent an effective means of obtaining political goals?
  • In terms of cultural shift, are the goals of social movements different from one generation to the other?
  • Discuss recent social movements with considerable political impact in your country.

Political Parties. lecture 3

Compulsory readings:

  1. Maurice Duverger. Political Parties. Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State, Wiley & Sons, New York, 1963, pp. 62-79 (The Concept of Membership), 90-109 (Degrees of Participation), 135-146 (The Selection of Leaders), 168-177 (The Authority of Leaders) (LNL).
  2. Herbert Kitschelt. The Formation of Party Systems in Eastern Central Europe, in The Sociology of Politics, vol 2, pp. 291-319.
  3. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1992, pp. 234-255; text revised in the next edition, 1994.
  4. Max Weber’s Class, Status and Party, in George Ritzer. Sociological Theory, MacGraw-Hill International Editions, 2000, p. 122.
Discussion points:
  • Do interest groups have too much leverage on politics in Latvia?
  • Should interest groups be allowed to finance political parties and election candidates?
  • Given that ruling communist parties controlled all significant levels of power, wht did they collapse?

Civil Society. lecture 4

Compulsory readings:

  1. Keith Faulks. Political Sociology. A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 165- 186. (LNL)
  2. Piotr Sztompka. Mistrusting Civility, in Jeffrey C. Alexander. Real Civil Societies, Sage Publications, 1998, pp. 191-210 (LNL)
  3. Göran Ahrne. Civil Society and Uncivil Organizations, in Jeffrey C. Alexander (1998), pp. 84-95. (LNL)
  4. Jeffrey C. Alexander. Civil Society. Constructing an Empirical Concept from Normative Controversies and Historical Transformations, in Jeffrey C. Alexander (1998), pp. 1-19 (LNL)

Discussion points:

  • The relation state-civil society has been idealized by Hegelians and Weberians. It was nevertheless criticized by Marxists. Why?
  • Do you think that the membership in one of civil societies’ institutions would act as a basic influence of the political decision process?
  • Describe the role and the impact of non-governmental organizations in Latvia.

Civic and Political Culture. lecture 5

Compulsory readings:

  1. Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba. The Civic Culture Revisited, Princeton, 1980.
  2. Ronald Inglehart. Modernism and Postmodernism. Princeton, 1997, pp. 108-159. (LNL)
  3. Keith Faulks. Political Sociology. A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 107-125, pp. 143-163.
  4. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1992, pp. 135-153; text revised in the next edition, 1994.
  5. Robert Putnam. Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, 1993, pp. 7-12,

Discussion points:

  • How much difference does your own opinion make in shaping public policy in Latvia?
  • Does social involvement (economic or political) influence the way public policies are shaped?
  • How much difference do elections make to public policy in Latvia?

Social Structure, Inequalities and Political Behaviour. seminar 2

Compulsory readings:

  1. Malcom Waters. Inequality after Class, in Kate Nash. Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, p. 43 (EII).
  2. Mark Kirby. Stratification and Differentiation, MacMillan, 1999, pp. 24-45, 47-77, 80-97 (LNL).
  3. Terry Nichols Clark, Martin Seymour Lipset. Are Social Classes Dying? (1991), in The Sociology of Politics, vol. 3, pp. 469-479.
  4. John Dearlove, Peter Saunders. Explaining Voting Behaviour (1991), Sociology of Politics, vol. 3, pp. 496-546.

Discussion points:
What approach is more appropriate for Latvia? Group discussion "The New Middle Class" is devoted to the analysis of the prospects for development of middle classes in post-communist societies.
  • Define the term "middle class".
  • Can it come into existence in contemporary post-communist society?
  • Prospects for a new middle class in Latvia.
  • An undefined class structure determines a deviant voting behaviour and a weak stand toward power. Do you agree? Why (not)?

Power and Society. seminar 3

Compulsory readings:

  1. Keith Faulks. Political Sociology. A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 1999, pp. 14-20. (LNL)
  2. Max Weber’s Structures of Authority, in George Ritzer. Sociological Theory, MacGraw-Hill International Editions, 2000, p. 123.
  3. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1994, pp. 9-11.
  4. Michel Foucault. The Subject and The Power, in Kate Nash. Readings in Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publications, 2000, p. 8.

    Discussion points:

    • Can Robinson Crusoe engage in politics on his desert island? Why (not)?
    • Is politics possible without government?
    • "Political power grows from the barrel of a gun" (Mao Zedong). Does it?
    • Does the distribution of power in
      -local government
      -your university
      follow an elitist or a pluralist model? How would you go about researching that question ?
  5. Do the following have authority over you, or merely power?
  • your lecturer
  • your police force
  • your national parliament?

Leadership and Power Elite. lecture 6

Compulsory readings:

  1. Sociology of Politics, vol. 2, pp. 468-482.
  2. Herbert Kitschelt. The Formation of Party Systems in Eastern Central Europe, in The Sociology of Politics, vol 2, pp. 291-319.
  3. W. L. Guttsman. Social Stratification and the Political Elite, in John Scott (1990), pp. 77-90.
  4. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1992, pp. 342-364; text revised in the next edition, 1994.
  5. Max Weber. Politics as a Vocation, in Sociology of Politics, 1998, pp. 77-90.
  6. Moris Janowitz. Social Stratification and the Comparative Analysis of Elites, in John Scott. Sociology of Elites, Elgar Reference Collection, 1990, vol. 1, pp. 43-47.
  7. Friedrich Hayek. The Way to Serfdom. Routledge, London, 1944, 8th ed. 2000, pp. 100-113.
  8. Tom Bottomore. Elites and Society, Routledge, 1963, 2nd Ed. 1993, pp. 15-34.

Formation of New Elites in Post Communist Europe. seminar 4

Compulsory readings:

  1. David Lowel and Cameron Ross. The Russian Political Elites, 1991-1995. Recruitment and Renewal, in John Higley, Jan Pakulski, Włodzimierz Wesołowski. Post-Communist Elites and Democracy in Eastern Europe, MacMillan Press Ltd., 1998, pp. 34-66 (LNL)
  2. David Lane. Elite Cohesion and Division. Transition in Gorbatchev’s Russia, in John Higley, Jan Pakulski, Włodzimierz Wesołowski. Post-Communist Elites and Democracy in Eastern Europe, MacMillan Press Ltd., 1998, pp.67-96 (LNL)
  3. Tom Bottomore. Elites and Society, Routledge, 1963, 2nd Ed. 1993, pp.72-86.

Discussion points:

  • How does an elite emerge in a post-communist society?
  • Is there a similar pattern in the occurrence of elites in former communist countries?
  • Does Latvia present the features of a certain pattern of such occurrence?

This course is designed so that we may think for ourselves!

Optional Readings:

Theories of Democracy

  1. Giovanni Sartori. A Revised Theory of Democracy. Passim.
  2. Robert Dahl. Polyarchy. Participation and Opposition. Passim.
  3. Samuel Hungtington. The Third Wave. Passim.
  4. Arendt Lijphart. Democracy in Plural Societies (1977), Democracies (1984). Passim. (EII)
  5. Norberto Bobbio. Liberalism and Democracy. Passim. (LNL)
  6. Karl Deutsch. Politics and Government. How People Decide Their Fate. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1974. Passim. (EII).
  7. David Held. Models of Democracy, Polity Press, 1996 (EII)

Social Movements: social origins, forms and outcomes:

  1. Maurice Roche. Rethinking Citizenship and Social Movements, in Kate Nash. Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell Publishers, 2000, p.209. (EII)
  2. Rod Hague, Martin Harrop, Shaun Breslin. Political Science. A Comparative Introduction, St. Martin Press, New York, 1992, pp. 66-97; text revised in the next edition, 1994.
  3. Theda Skockpol. Modern Revolutions in the Modern World (1994).

Civic and Political Culture

  1. Richard E. Dawson, Keneth Prewit, Political Socialization. An Analytic Study, 1969. Passim.

Social Structure, Inequalities and Political Behavior:

  1. Martin Seymour Lipset. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, The John Hopkins University Press, 1988. Passim. (LNL)
  2. Talcot Parsons. The Social System, Routledge, 1991 (first edition 1951). Passim.

Power and Society:

  1. Karl Deutsch. Politics and Government. How People Decide Their Fate, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1974. Passim. (EII)
  2. Graham K. Wilson. Business and Politics. A comparative introduction, 1985. Passim.
  3. Talcott Parsons. Social System, Routledge, London, 1991.
  4. Feliks Gross. The Civic and Tribal State. The State Ethnicity and Multiethnic State, Greenwood Press, 1998.

Leadership and Power Elite:

  1. Marc J. Hetherington. Resurgent Mass Partisanship: The Role of the Elite, American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No. 3, Sept. 2001, p. 619.

 



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