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Introduction to Political Sociology: Politics and Power

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1 Introduction to Political Sociology: Politics and Power
SO310 Political Sociology Lecture 1

2 Summary Introduction to Political Sociology
Political Sociology: different theoretical perspectives Conclusion and Seminar Reading

3 Defining Political Sociology
‘Political sociologists take a panoramic view of the world, seeking to see the connections between political institutions and other world institutions, especially economic ones… [and they] believe that while political institutions, like the state, can take on a life of their own, such institutions are necessarily grounded in some fashion in the other institutions of the world.’ (Orum 2001: 1-2)

4 What is Political Sociology?
Relationship between: politics and society; state and society; politics and power; power and authority A sub-discipline or subarea of sociology Problem of boundaries: straddles sociology, political science, cultural studies, economics, history Location at the gaps between conventional disciplines: recognizes connections; absorbs and transmits emerging developments, e.g. globalisation, pluralisation, fragmentation Recent shift away from traditional focus on how society affects the state toward wider definitions of power and politics and ‘toward an understanding of politics as a potentiality of all social experience.’ (Nash 2010, p. 4)

5 Contemporary Political Sociology
‘Contemporary political sociology is concerned with cultural politics as what we might call the “politics of politics.” From this perspective, what events mean to those who interpret and act on them is what matters. What counts as “political” in terms of content and style must first be made political; it must be made visible and relevant to visions of how social relations are and could be organized… what is made political is not simply confined to what takes place within government, political parties and the state.’ (Nash 2010, p. 2)

6 This module will: cover some key traditional and contemporary approaches to political sociology, include extensive advanced coverage of key themes in political sociology: Politics, power and political action (Term 1 A Mah) Organisations, associations, and the individual (Term 2 C Turner) cast a critical eye upon some of our most entrenched values (such as freedom, health, democracy, work, security and creativity) and explore the history of our present ways of living together

7 This module will also: relate to debates across different spatial scales (organisations, institutions, communities, cities, regions, states, transnational, virtual, global) encourage historical, comparative, and interdisciplinary critical thinking focus on ‘close reading’ of key texts to develop analytical connections between theoretical, practical, and empirical problems and issues

8 We will ask questions such as…
Why is there apathy toward voting in elections? Why do people so often support structures that exploit them? Or fight for their servitude as though it were their salvation? What explains the persistence of capitalism and the cohesion of liberal democracies? Why are some social movements more powerful than others? Do repressive states give rise to radicalism? What explains the growth of the far right? How has globalisation shaped our understandings of the state, democracy, and citizenship? What are the spaces for challenging and contesting present systems of power? 

Introduction to Political Sociology 2 Politics and Power 3 Capitalism, Class and the State 4 Citizenship 5 Democracy 6 Reading week no lecture or seminar POLITICS, POWER AND POLITICAL ACTION: PART II 7 Political Parties 8 Social Movements 9 Urban Politics and the Right to the City 10 Alternative Politics

10 Political Sociology: Theory and ‘Topics’
Political sociology is challenging and unique because of the interrelationship between theory and substantive topics/empirical examples Throughout this module, we will change you to engage with social and political theoretical perspectives to provide insights and analysis of current affairs and contemporary politics First three weeks provide a ‘foundation’ of some of the key theoretical perspectives in political sociology

11 Political Sociology Theoretical Perspectives: A Brief Overview

12 Political Sociology: A brief overview of different theoretical perspectives in political sociology (& in relation to this term as a whole): Marxist and neo-Marxist Weberian and neo-Weberian Durkheimian and neo-Durkheimian Feminist and anti-racist Foucauldian ‘Cultural politics’

13 Marxist State contributes to the reproduction of the capitalist system in three ways (Dunleavy and O’Leary 1987) Instrumental model: coercive Arbiter model: arena for competing interests but dominated by bourgeoisie Functionalist model: the state is ‘superstructural’, determined by the economic ‘base’ of society

14 Neo-Marxist Antonio Gramsci, Italian Marxist, 1930s: the role of ideology and political superstructures in shaping economy- ‘hegemony’ of class rule- (arbiter) will discuss in week 3 Louis Althusser, French Marxist, associated with structural and functionalist Marxism, influential theories on ideology Frankfurt School/Critical Theory: Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas, Benjamin, Horkheimer (oriented to changing and critiquing society as a well, broadly humanist, influential in cultural studies and post-structuralism) Nicos Poulantzas and Ralph Miliband 1970s debates on the role of the state in conflict and change in capitalism Henri Lefebvre on the production of space and the right to the city (week 9) David Harvey: on neo-liberalism, the uneven geography of capitalism, accumulation by dispossession (week 3 & 9)

15 Weberian The principle feature of the modern state is that it ‘exercises the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory’ (Weber, ‘Politics as a Vocation’, 1918, key reading this week) Theory of authority and domination; emphasis on state bureaucracy and groups of officials who gain power over others Power is ‘the chance of man or a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action’ (Weber, ‘Class, Status and Party’) Even in a democratic state, domination by the ruled by the ruler(s) is simply an unavoidable political fact Emphasis on the importance of strong charismatic leaders within democratic states who have a balance of an ‘ethics of responsibility’ (for the consequences of political actions) and an ethics of ‘conviction’ (as a passionate devotion to a ‘cause’)- but difficult to reconcile Belief in democracy as a way of mitigating the power of bureaucracy

16 Neo-Weberian approaches
Elite theorists how and why minorities rule over a majority, seen as inevitable in any society Focus on electoral politics and voting behaviour Influential elite theorists: Joseph Schumpeter, C W Mills Pluralists and neo-pluralists politics as a matter of competing interest groups, none are completely dominant (although neo-pluralists acknowledge greater power of elites) focus on citizens as actively involved in politics (vs. only elites) but limited by the boundaries of the state State itself as a set of competing and conflicting institutions Key pluralist thinkers: Dahl; in conversation with Lukes (next week)

17 Durkheimian Durkheim was concerned more with social solidarity and civil society than the state Neo-Durkheimian approaches are concerned with difficulties of achieving and maintaining social solidarity Less influential than Marx and Weber, but important for thinking about issues of civil society and symbolic meanings Durkheimian theories will not directly be addressed, but they relate indirectly to discussions of civil society and discussions of community cohesion and urban belonging in relation to urban politics

18 Foucauldian Definition of power: single most important contribution to rethinking contemporary political sociology (Nash 2010: 20) ‘Analytics of power’ not a theory of power; rather, power is identified in the instances of its exercise power is productive (vs ‘juridico-discursive model where power is powered by the state & law), through knowledge as ‘discourse’, and through producing subjectivity Power is pluralist, exercises from innumerable points Questions re: relationships between power, domination and resistance More next week…

19 Foucauldian Governmentality Biopolitics
Analytics of power of state formation and reproduction in the West Government defined as ‘the conduct of conduct’, the attempt to influence the actions of free subjects Influential concept for analysis of neo-liberalism as ‘a “way of doing things” oriented towards objectives and regulating itself by means of a sustained reflection’ (Foucault, 1997) Eg. Nikolas Rose and others argue that neo-liberalism creates an a certain kind of individual, the entrepreneurial self Biopolitics Attempt to understand nature & politics of Western modernity Technological advance in care for life has led to profound change in relation to biological life – becomes the point of politics and culture The politics of security, racism, war, and vitality (cf Blencowe 2012)

20 Feminist and anti-racist
Particularly important contributions to political sociology in relation to citizenship, the politics of difference and social exclusion, and social movements Critiques of citizenship as normalizing male, heterosexual, white, heads of households Will discuss a range of feminist and anti-racist perspectives throughout the term, particularly starting in week 4

21 Cultural Politics Contemporary political sociology concerns cultural politics: ‘the interpretation of social meanings that support, challenge, or change the definitions, perspectives, and identities of social actors, to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others, across state and society’ (Nash 2010: 37) Three further perspectives (beyond Foucault) in cultural politics: social movements since the 1970s, particularly feminist and anti-racist cultural studies: importance of symbolic meanings in social life Globalisation: rethinking the prominence of the state

22 Conclusion Political sociology has been informed by a wide range of theoretical traditions and perspectives, and there are many debates both between and within different theoretical traditions Concepts of politics and power are highly contested, and theoretical ideas matter in terms of how substantive issues are analysed There is no agreement as to the ‘best’ theory (i.e. Nash concludes with ‘cultural politics’ as the most up-to-date or salient starting point: but neo- Marxist perspectives, et al. are still highly influential and important in contemporary political sociology) Students are encouraged to critically challenge different theories, ideas and assumptions, and to develop their own ‘politics’ informed through close readings, debates, discussion, and analysis

23 Seminar Questions – Part 1
Part 1 (15 minutes) What is political sociology? What is the relationship between theory and substantive (empirically based) issues in political sociology? Compare and contrast two different theoretical perspectives/traditions within political sociology.

24 Seminar Questions – Part 2
Part 2 (25 minutes) Close reading: Weber’s Politics as a Vocation, 1918 (small groups) Key passages for ‘close reading’: p. 78 (bottom of page) -80 (end of 2nd paragraph) 3 legitimations of domination P. 115 (from 2nd paragraph, ‘One can say…’-117 (end of 2nd paragraph) P. 117 (from 3rd paragraph)-120 (end of 2nd paragraph) According to Weber, what is the relationship between politics, power and political action? What is the role of the state in Weber’s analysis? (see. P , p ) Define the following key terms: demagogue, plebiscatarian democracy, avocation vs. vocation What does Weber mean by ‘politics as a vocation’? (see p. 84 last paragraph- p. 86; also p ) What is the relationship between politics and ethics (see p ), and the difference between an ‘ethics of responsibility’ and an ‘ethics of ultimate ends’? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Weber’s argument? How does Weber’s analysis relate to contemporary political parties and leaders?

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