empirical political sociology

Hi, Scatterplotters. I’ve got an inquiry from a social movements fellow traveler who has been assigned to teach political sociology after a long hiatus. She is dismayed to find that political sociology in sociology seems to have become entirely theoretical. She says: “I have been through most of the texts advertised on Amazon and even looked through many of the syllabi at the ASA Teaching page. I’m really shocked. The texts seem to be primarily about theoretical hair splitting with  more theory, and more theory… Doesn’t anyone look at the political world around us? Scary tho it is. I have been almost tempted to use a Marxist text, but it is so very ideological that I probably can’t bring myself to use it. Please send advice. Above all, the name of a good text.”

So I can’t help with this. Can you? She wants to be able to talk about things like party polarization, welfare policy, voting patterns, public opinion, civic participation, etc. I know sociologists do empirical work on these topics, although a lot of the research is in political science rather than sociology. But pulling an undergrad course together from a review of published literature is pretty daunting? Does anybody know of a course in political sociology with a strong empirical bent that could be used as a starting point? Or a text? Either in sociology or political science? Keep in mind we are talking a course for undergraduates at a non-elite school, not your graduate seminar.

I just started to wonder whether there are enough relevant Contexts articles to be the backbone of a course. I’ll suggest that to her. In the meantime, if you have suggestions, post them here. If you have something you could email me, just drop a comment. I can get your email address off the comment as an administrator even though your email address will not appear in the comment itself.



  1. trey1
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Paul Burstein at the (other) UW teaches a course like this for undergraduates. Your colleague might consider getting in touch with him for the syllabus.


  2. Rory McVeigh
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Probably the best strategy would be to put together a collection of articles, rather than books. Book publishers really seem hostile to a lot empirical work these days (especially quantitative stuff), as they want to sell books to a broad audience. It has been a quite a while since I taught a straight political sociology course, but I have found that there are quite a few good articles that, with a bit of translation of the really complicated stuff, can work well in an undergraduate class. I am thinking of things written by people like Clem Brooks, Jeff Manza,David Brady, Paul Burstein, Roger Gould, Baladassari and Bearman (they have a nice article on political polarization that I have used). I have used some of my own stuff as well (e.g., paper on occupationsl segregation and voting, paper on same-sex marriage voting, paper on Tea Party, etc.). The recent Skocpol and Williamson book on the Tea Party would probably work well in a classroom.


  3. erinlkelly
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    The Society Pages team has a new reader (edited by Hartmann and Uggen) called The Social Side of Politics.


    This isn’t my area so I’m not sure if it matches the needs laid out in your original post, but it is worth a look.


  4. walkeret
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve taught courses that have similar goals and would be happy to talk with your colleague about this.



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