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political parties and sociology

Political parties don’t get a lot of attention in sociology. The main reason is that a closely related field, political science, sees them as a integral part of the empirical phenomena they study. Still, I think political parties offer lots to think about for sociologists. Here, I’ll lay out a few questions about parties for the sociologically minded.

First, what is the role of ideology in social organization? Some political parties are highly ideological (e.g., the Greens or Libertarians) while others are pragmatic coalitions of actors where ideology often fades when there is a need to exert power or win elections. If you study the Democrats or Republicans over a long enough span, ideology seems to be a secondary element of their party.

Second, how are parties organized as networks? One of the most fascinating developments from political scientists who study parties is the recognition that parties are not just identities or labels, and they go beyond beyond formal organizations. Rather, they are networks of loosely coupled people and organizations. Sociologically, we can ask if the mechanisms that describe the growth and structure of other networks also describe parties as networks.

Third, contingency and agency within parties is important to understand. Long time readers know that I don’t throw out my theories of political behavior because of exceptional cases (e.g., Obama vs. Hillary 2008 or Trump overall). Rather, I ask about the limits of standard explanations. It is now clear that Trump 2016 was a bizarre exception to the general rule of elites within nominations (e.g., Biden and Hilary won their nominations, Trump has no opposition). Why?

Feel free to elaborate in the comments and pose your own sociological questions about parties.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 6, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. Read Leftism Reinvented by Stephanie Mudge

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    Ralph Nader

    May 7, 2020 at 4:21 am


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