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International political sociology

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Growing and nurturing the field.
  3. Mapping the field.
    1. Lipset's Democratization hypothesis.
    2. Lipset and Rokkan's Frozen Cleavage hypothesis.
    3. Skocpol brings In the state.
  4. Political sociology at the crossroads and into the future.
    1. At the crossroads.
    2. Future trends, changes, and paradoxes: The global context.
    3. Challenges ahead for political sociologists.
  5. Conclusion.

Political sociology is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry developed by sociologists and political scientists to study the dynamic relationship between society (a complex web of social institutions and social behavior) and politics. Much of the impetus for the development of the field grew out of the turbulent events and trends of the twentieth century ? mass politics, economic depression, two world wars, fascism, totalitarianism, the cold war, the nuclear age, modernization, nationalism, and the proliferation of new nation-states. Great optimism was attached to the possibility of building a better world with the aid of social science and research. Initially, the interest was in identifying the social roots of democracy, the organization and impact of the state, and the role of social scientists in building and testing theories, measuring people's political attitudes and behavior, and applying the social sciences to public policy. By the late 1950s, leading sociologists and political scientists saw the need for a comparative perspective in trying to understand the interplay between social and political forces. The formal establishment of political sociology as an international field of study occurred during 1959?1960 with a proposal for a new Research Committee on Political Sociology (CPS) at the Fourth World Congress of the International Sociological Association (ISA) meeting in 1959 and the ISA's acceptance of the proposal in 1960. For more than three decades, the CPS has been a center of cross-national research activity and communication for like-minded sociologists and political scientists.

[...] Lipset and Rokkan's Frozen Cleavage Hypothesis A second hypothesis providing direction and continuity in political sociology is the frozen cleavage hypothesis put forth by Lipset and Rokkan in their classic volume, Party Systems and Voter Alignments. In many ways, Lipset and Rokkan's volume reflects the early thinking of the contributors to the volume and the CPS membership. When the book was originally published, most members of the CPS were Western, with the bulk of the articles focusing on Continental and Northern Europe, the English-speaking countries of England, United States, and New Zealand, and several latter chapters on emerging nations? of Japan, Brazil, and in West Africa. [...]


[...] The dominant international political sociological paradigm is the ?sociology of the state? approach where the principal question addressed is which social, economic, and cultural factors have what kinds of impact on the modern states? Both the democratization and frozen cleavage hypotheses are reflections of this perspective. Yet, the social root of politics approach has been criticized for dominating much of the conceptual and research focus in both sociology and political science. Undoubtedly, the rapid growth of states since the 1960s has given impetus if not a sense of urgency to a better understanding of the state in an international system of competing nation-states. [...]


[...] Out of these social and political cleavages and antagonisms, argued Lipset and Rokkan, emerged modern political parties and mass politics, which by the second decade of the 20th century in the West had become frozen in place or stabilized. In Lipset and Rokkan's words: party systems of the 1960's reflect, with few but significant exceptions, the cleavage structures of the 1920's.? They further argued that these party ?alternatives? and organizations predate the majority of the voters who participated in national elections, suggesting that party structure and cleavages would be stable for most of the 20th century. [...]

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