Political Sociology and Political Economy

Course Description: 

This is a four credit PhD course designed to help students who are interested in the intersections between political science, sociology and political economy, and who are open to both qualitative and quantitative methods. 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 major configurations 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, and, finally, 6. religion and mass political behavior.

Closely following these 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 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.


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 around debates about the readings. Typically, the seminars will start with a short general introduction to the topic followed by the discussion based on the readings of the week, usually one reading per seminar. The content of the seminars is 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) Position papers: 20%

(4) Class activity: 15%

(5) Final essay: 30%


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