polical sociologythe branch of sociology concerned with the study of politics or the political subsystems of society. Although a branch of sociology, political sociology also exists as a distinct approach within POLITICAL SCIENCE (see BEHAVIOURALISM, POLITICAL SYSTEM). In comparison with orthodox political science, both political sociology and the political sociological approach within political science insist that the investigation of political institutions must be treated as fully implicated in society not as a system that can be understood in isolation. The following main areas of study within political sociology can be identified:
- the general nature and functions of the STATE and the POLITICAL SYSTEM (or subsystem);
- the nature of POLITICAL PARTIES, PRESSURE GROUPS and political organizations and political movements of all kinds;
- empirical study of patterns of individual POLITICAL PARTICIPATION and POLITICAL BEHAVIOUR, including nonparticipation, e.g. empirical research on VOTING BEHAVIOUR;
- comparative research on the types of political system and the relative effectiveness and stability or instability of these;
- particular and general analysis of the relations between states, including WARFARE, and the location of states within the WORLD SYSTEM:
- running through all the above areas, perhaps something that political sociology has been most identified with, is the study of political ÉLITES and MASSES and the extent to which modern societies can be said to be dominated by a RULING CLASS (see MOSCA, PARETO, MARX). See also POWER, POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY.
The study of political phenomena has a long ancestry. Aristotle's Politics is often regarded as in many ways a work of political sociology. The same is true of the works of MACHIAVELLI, HOBBES and MONTESQUIEU, and many other political writers whose works anticipate aspects of the approach of modern political sociology.
In North American political science and sociology in the 1950s and 60s, a systems approach to political analysis was advanced by a number of theorists, notably Gabriel Almond, Robert Easton and Karl Deutsch (see also POLITICAL CULTURE). It was advanced as the new scientific way forward in political analysis and expected to replace traditional forms of political analysis.
Although most of the more grandiose claims of the systems approach would now be rejected (see also SYSTEM, CYBERNETICS, SYSTEMS THEORY), the approach can be credited with achieving a degree of reorientation in traditional political science, bringing political science and political sociology closer together.469