While Sociology is the study of human groups and their interactions, the political system is one of the key social institutions in human societies. Political Sociology as a subdiscipline in its own right focuses on the political process and more specifically who wields the most power in our government. Is our government one that represents the people, or are some groups able to implement their agenda at the expense of everyone else. We see this when dealing with climate change, nutrition recommendations, corporate tax breaks and subsidies, war, trade policies, and healthcare. The policies that are ultimately passed are ones that benefit corporations, contractors and the wealthy. Why? This semester we will exam lobbying groups and interest groups and how power is distributed to those with money. Using a sociological lens, we will exam theories of power from Karl Marx to C. Wright Mills. We will exam the political process using theories of pluralism, elitism, rational choice and corporatism. Using these theories as an investigative tool, we will ask questions about how lobbying groups are heard, what role do social movements have in changing our political structure, how do interest groups challenge large corporations for a voice at the table?
Secondarily in this class, in modern day society our political process has become increasingly tainted with the rise of scandals. Scandals have the ability to destroy social movements, shape political agendas, and alter political careers. With the rise of media increasingly focused on exciting and attention getting headlines at the expense of deep policy discussions, our political system is shaped and molded by the scandals that grab our attention. These scandals range from sex scandals of Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton, to political scandals of Watergate, Iran-Contra and the Mueller Investigation. Despite their focus, they shape the political discourse. We will be using theories in sociology to break down the rise of scandals and how they shape and dominate our political news cycle. The goal is by the end of the semester to have a clearer view of our political system and how media, corporations, social movements, and interest groups all play a role in shaping the very policies that impact our lives.
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES:
By the end of the semester I expect you will have a good understanding of the concepts, basic theories, arguments and literature related to Political Sociology. You should be able to answer questions soundly – What is political sociology? What basic theories shape this subdiscipline? I will expect you to be able to articulate, support, and challenge the theoretical perspectives that define the subdiscipline. We will ground our discussions in the assigned readings, lectures, films, and current events.