Political Sociology and Political Economy

Course Description: 

Core course for Comparative Politics and Political Theory tracks.

This is a four credit PhD course designed to help students who are interested in the intersections between political science, sociology and political economy. The political sociology section of the course focuses on six major subjects: 1. the development of the modern state and its social functions, 2. the structure of political power, with a special focus on debates between elitist and pluralist approaches, 3. the components of political culture and the configuration of political attitudes, 4. movements and political participation, including the analysis of populism 5. social factors behind political loyalties and the evolution of political cleavages, 6. religion and mass political behavior.

Closely following key topics in political sociology, the political economy section of the course highlights core theories and key concepts in political economy focusing on four major questions:
1. What role is played by public power in bringing about and developing modern capitalism?
2. Why do markets need rules, why do freer markets need more and growing complex rules? 
3. Why are these rules continuously contested, what are the key stakes in the contestation from the perspective of social and economic development? 
4. What role do democratic institutions play in the shaping of the characteristics of markets and how does the transnationalization of the markets alter the interplay between democracy and capitalism?

Learning Outcomes: 

With the help of the course the student should acquire the ability to:

1. understand basic concepts used in the fields of political economy and political sociology;
2. competently discuss key phenomena such as state, political culture, cleavages, capitalism, transnationalization, etc.;
3. analyze political processes from a sociological and an economic angle and to be able to  formulate independently generated and theoretically based research questions in these fields
4. understand major traditional, mainly theoretical approaches in political economy and political sociology, such as elitism, pluralism, corporatism, behavioralism, etc., as well as be familiar with the more contemporary, approaches.

The position papers are expected to improve the ability to identify the most relevant aspects of a scholarly argument, to establish links between different publications, to discriminate between scholarly and unscholarly arguments, and to channel the knowledge one obtained from sources inside and outside of class-work into the criticism of particular articles. The class activity will center on the readings, helping the students to synthesize information, determine focus points, and discern the main line of argumentation. The obligation to submit an essay will develop the skills to build up a coherent argument. All aspects of the class contribute to develop the skill of problem analysis in international context: the ability to understand problems in cross-national comparative perspective and to discuss them with students of different cultural background.


Course requirements

Students are expected to be present at all meetings. If one is unable to attend the class, (s)he should signal this via an e-mail to the lecturer. Activity in the classroom can be complemented with questions, suggestions and comments (maximum 200 words) uploaded to the e-learning site before or after the class discussion. The use of electronic devices (laptops, tablets, e-readers, phones, etc.) is kindly discouraged.

The course is organized into lectures and seminars. Typically the first meeting of the week is a lecture, while the second is a seminar. The mandatory literature must be read before the seminars. This format is, however, flexible, depending on the progress in the class and the character of specific topics.


(1) Two in-class presentations: 10+10%

(2) One book review: 15%

(3) Two position papers: 10+10%

(4) Class activity: 15%

(5) Questions uploaded to the e-learning site: 5%

(6) Final essay: 25%

Presentation. You need to give two short (ten-minutes long) presentations that cover a sub-topic of the theme of the week. The presentations need to be based on a short handout, circulated to other seminar participants one day prior to the class.

Position papers. You need to submit two 800 words-long position papers, excluding bibliography. The position papers should summarize the content of the readings assigned for a particular week and comment on them relying on previous readings and lectures. In the position paper you must refer to at least two academic texts on the topic that are additional to the mandatory readings. The reproductive part (intelligent, selective summary that covers the major claims and techniques of the readings) is supposed to provide about 60 percent of the paper. The rest should consist of original ideas, commenting critically on the readings’ concepts, design, methods, or findings. The first position paper must be submitted by the sixth week, uploaded to the e-learning site one day prior to the second meeting of the week.

Book review. You will have to write a book on political sociology or political economy topic. The review needs to be submitted by 15 March.

Class activity and submitted comments. Participation is measured not only by the quantity but also by the quality of contribution. In addition to the activity in the classroom, you need to upload to the e-learning site one question suggested by that week’s readings, with a brief explanation. The question should address important substantive or methodological issues that emerge from that week’s readings.

Final essay. The final 5000-words long paper should be focused on two recently published articles that present opposed, or at least different, views on a substantive, conceptual or methodological matter in the field of political economy or political sociology. The essay may elaborate on the topic of one of the presentations. The essay should highlight and evaluate the differences and aim at solving the controversy. The deadline for the submission of the essay is 8 April.