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Sociology 811, Fall 2009

Professor Charles Kurzman

Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Updated October 7, 2009.

Class meetings: 205 Dey Hall, Fri., 8:30-11:00 a.m., Aug. 28 – Dec. 11, 2009.
Office Hours: 227 Hamilton Hall, by appointment (919-962-1241,


    1) To acquaint students with the field of political sociology.
    2) To prepare students for the comprehensive exam in political sociology. (The reading list for the exam is available via Blackboard.)
    3) To push students forward on their own research agendas.


1) Attendance and Participation (20 percent of final grade)

    Attendance means on-time arrival; participation means the contribution of insightful comments on the basis of the assigned readings. If you cannot make it to class, please let me know in advance. You are allowed to miss one class during the semester; after that, absences count 2 points each. You are responsible for material covered and due at classes that you miss.

2) Weekly Reading Notes (22 percent of final grade)

    Reading notes on the week’s readings are due by e-mail before the beginning of each class. These notes, approximately 600 words per book or 200 words per article/chapter, should include (a) the full bibliographic citation of the work, (b) the main points of the reading, including summaries of each chapter; (c) definitions of major concepts and methods and examples of their use in the text, (d) significant quotations and items that you find interesting; (e) your reactions/questions/critiques/linkages with other authors/etc. (these analytical notes should be set aside from the descriptive notes via brackets or some other technique). Always give page references throughout; these notes will serve as your customized index to the reading. Each week’s notes will be graded 2 points each if complete and turned in on time, 1 point if incomplete or one class late, and 0.5 points if more than one class late. Please submit these notes by e-mail – not as an attachment, but by pasting the text into the body of your message. See a sample of my reading notes.

3) Annotated undergraduate syllabus (18 percent of final grade)


An original syllabus in political sociology (or related field), with brief annotations explaining your choice of each reading and assignment, is due by e-mail on November 1.

4) Research Proposal (40 percent of final grade)


In lieu of a research paper, this course requires a research proposal, of the sort that is commonly required for theses and fellowship/grant applications. The proposal  is due by e-mail before the last class session. It should be approximately 2,000 words in length and should propose an empirical comparative-historical test of some substantive hypothesis from your home discipline. The proposal should comprise (i) Title: a short and descriptive title; (ii) Summary: a 150-word paragraph summarizing the entire proposal; (iii) Literature: a 600-word discussion of the literature on the hypothesis you propose to test; (iv) Case Selection: a 250-word justification of your case selection; (v) Method: a 1000-word discussion of methodology, concluding with your preliminary findings and a discussion of how various anticipated findings would reflect on your hypothesis; and (vi) References: a list of references cited in the paper. See sample papers in a similar format from another course.


Some of the readings are available on the course Blackboard site.

Week 1:  The Classics and the Definition of Political Sociology

Introducing our class and classmates

The Circle of Justice:
“There can be no government without an army,
No army without money,
No money without prosperity,
And no prosperity without justice and good administration.”
– Ibn Qutayba, The Eyes of History (9th century), cited in the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy,  2005, p. 14.

The Personal Is Political:
“Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere.
Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified.
Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated.
Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated.
Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed.
Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.”
– Confucius, The Great Learning (5th century B.C.), in James Legge, ed., The Chinese Classics, Vol. 1 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1893), pp. 358-359.

Reading question: What are some of the “timeless” issues in the study of “state-society” relations?

Week 2: The French Revolution and Genesis Myths of Political Sociology

    Mini-lecture: Paradigms of social science, over Thomas Kuhn’s objections 

    Institutionalism: Auguste Comte, “Plan of the Scientific Operations Necessary for Reorganizing Society” (1822), in  Gertrud Lenzer, ed., Auguste Comte and Positivism: The Essential Writings (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1997), pp. 9-16.

    Pluralism: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 2, Section 4, Chapters V and VI (1840)

    Class analysis: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848).

    Feminism: Lucretia Mott, “Philadelphia Discourse” (1849), in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 1 (New York, NY: Fowler & Wells, 1881), pp. 368-375.

    Multiculturalism: Alexander Herzen, “Ends and Beginnings, Letter 8” (1863), from My Past and Thoughts (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 670-676.

    Postmodernism: Charles Baudelaire, “The Mirror” (1869), in Paris Spleen and La Fanfarlo, trans. Raymond MacKenzie (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2008), p. 82.

    Reading question: What role does the French Revolution play in each of these paradigms?



Week 3: The Nation-State


Mini-lecture: Weaving Iran into the tree of nations 

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, new ed. (London, UK: Verso, 2006), Chaps. 1, 3, 11.

John W. Meyer, John Boli, George M. Thomas, and Francisco O. Ramirez, “World Society and the Nation-State,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 103, 1997, pp. 144-181.

Reading question: How do these approaches differ in their explanation for the proliferation of the “nation-state” as the “natural” unit for political organization?




Week 4. Beyond the Nation-State?

    Mini-lecture: The global flow of labor 

    Saskia Sassen, Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1996), Chap 1. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 186-190, 198-203, 303-309, and Multitude (New York, NY: Penguin, 2004), pp. 328-336.

    Manuel Castells, End of Millennium, 2nd ed. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 333-337, 377-382.

    Reading question: How is the nation-state managing to maintain itself as the dominant political unit, despite all these transnational trends?



Week 5. Democracy

Mini-lecture: Citizens and subjects

Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Evelyne Huber Stephens, and John D. Stephens. 1992. Capitalism, Development, and Democracy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992),  Chaps. 1-3.

Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited,”  American Sociological Review, Vol. 59, 1994, pp. 1-22.

Charles Kurzman and Erin Leahey, “Intellectuals and Democratization, 1905-1912 and 1989-1996,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 109, 2004, pp. 937-986.

Reading question: Who wants democracy badly enough to struggle for it?

Week 6: The Welfare State in Western Europe

Mini-lecture: Voting for socialism

Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens, Development and Crisis of the Welfare State: Parties and Policies in Global Markets (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001), Chaps. 2, 3.

Peter Hall and David Soskice, “An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism.” In Hall and Soskice, eds., Varieties of Capitalism. The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001), Chap. 1.

John Myles and Jill Quadagno, “Political Theories of the Welfare State,” Social Service Review, Vol. 76, 2002, pp. 34-57.

Reading questions: What accounts for persistent differences between states? What accounts for shifts within a given state?

Week 7: The Welfare State in the U.S.

    Mini-lecture: Pork-barrel parties. 

    Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), Preface and Chap. 1.G. William Domhoff, The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America (New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1990), Chaps. 1, 3.



Jeff Manza, “Political Sociological Models of the U.S. New Deal.” Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26, 2000, pp. 297-322. 

Reading question: How do these debates differ from the debates over welfare states in Western Europe?



Week 8. Post-Colonial States


Mini-lecture: Beyond North Atlantic “area studies” 

Hamza Alavi, “The State in Post-Colonial Societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh,” The New Left Review, vol. 1, 1972, pp. 59-81.

Jean-François Bayart, The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly, 2nd ed. (London, UK: Polity, 2009), Chap. 9 and Conclusion.

Reading question: Why are post-colonial states viewed as distinct from “developed” states?



Week 9. The Disciplinary State


Mini-lecture: The romanticism of free spaces
    Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York, NY: Vintage, 1979), Book 3, Chap. 3. Michel Foucault, “Governmentality.” Pp. 87-104 in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (London, UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991).  

    James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), Chaps. 1, 9-10.

    Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001), Chap. 3.

    Reading question: How do these approaches differ from Max Weber’s classic image of the modern state as a rational bureaucracy with a monopoly on the means of coercion?

Week 10. Civil Society

    Mini-lecture: Three traditions of civil society: obedient, oppositional, representative. 

    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York, NY: International Publishers, 1971), pp. 235, 245-246, 259-263. Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000), Chaps. 1, 21, 22, and postscript.

    Evan Schofer and Marion Fourcade-Gourinchas, “The Structural Contexts of Civic Engagement: Voluntary Association Membership in Comparative Perspective,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 66, 2001, pp. 806-828.

    Reading questions: What accounts for persistent differences in civil society across states? What accounts for shifts within a given state?



Week 11. Rebellion


Mini-lecture: Brushes with political confusion.

Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), Chaps. 1, 7, 8. 

Georgi Derluguian, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2005), Introduction, Chap. 1, and Conclusion.

Reading question: Why do some rebellions, and not others, turn into full-fledged revolutions?

Week 12. Syllabi

Suggested reading: Sarah Sobieraj, ed., Political Sociology: Syllabi and Instructional Materials, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: American Sociological Association, 2000).

Suggested reading: Shamus Khan and Erik Schneiderhan, Political Sociology Preliminary Exam Handbook (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2003).

Discussion of how to represent the field of political sociology.