Contemporary Political Sociology and Concepts

Politics is the systematic arrangement of activities that are geared toward making decisions in societies, groups, or other types of political authority relations between people, including the distribution of privileges or status to different individuals. The major branch of academic social science that studies government and politics is known as public policy. It involves the study of public policies and institutions as well as their political aspects. The political aspect of any social institution is basically dealt by an undergraduate course in political science.

Public policy schools are designed to inculcate into students a comprehensive understanding of the concepts involved in political sociology. They also inculcate into their minds the value of respect for truth, as it plays an important role in societal functioning. A political science curriculum also lays stress on the importance of an open mind as it opens one’s eyes to a host of options and possibilities rather than being limited to a particular view. Politics is a living reality and consequently learning objectives of this discipline have to be dynamic. Politics is not static like science and therefore any learnt discipline should be modified as per circumstances.

Politics is basically contested; there is a constant flux in its midst. There is constant change in the make-up of society. This makes politics vulnerable to multiple interpretations, each bringing with it a set of political concepts and practices. Consequently politics is largely a living field, with politics as its crux.

Underlying this dynamic and ever-changing politics is the need for accurate prediction as it is grounded on factual reality. Political science has a wide range of approaches but at its core is the need for a solid understanding of how power and politics interrelate, especially with the changing power structures of governments at national, regional and local levels. There are four broad theories of politics: classical liberalism, constitutionalism, liberalism democratic control, and socialism. These all essentially address different issues but their analysis and depiction, while relative to a common theoretical base, nevertheless have significant differences.

The classical liberal conception of politics is rooted in a conception of freedom that is linked to individual rights and an expansive view of human dignity. It is based on the assumption that the state serves the public good and exists to protect its citizens from arbitrary rule by powerful interests. Liberal politics assumes that politics is essentially contested and that it can be resolved through liberal institutions and the rule of law. According to the liberal worldview, politics is an interpersonal interaction between people within a framework of norms determined by the individuals’ ability to co-exist peacefully and to meet their needs as defined by their individual property rights. Liberal politicians believe that it is the role of government to protect its citizens from harsh and unjustified action by other institutions and that they have the right and the responsibility to form political institutions that will promote social justice and welfare.

On the other hand, classical liberalism upholds a conception of politics that is deeply influenced by the work of the philosopher Aristotle. According to Aristotle politics is essentially contested because politics is not a domain of individual pursuit but rather a way of understanding the relationship among human beings and how to relate to one another. A liberal thinker understands that politics is a way of understanding how to make choices among different potential outcomes based on knowledge and values. Liberal thinkers also believe that the political order can be maintained by building a community of individuals who value liberal values and are interested in the political events and trends that affect them as citizens.

In contemporary political sociology there is a tendency to associate politics with the perspectives of classical liberal thinkers such as liberalism, Hobbes, and Locke. Liberal theorists argue that politics has a critical function in maintaining social peace, economic progress, and human rights. It is a field that has been constantly shaped and developed over time by humans, and politics is essential to the understanding of how we became as a species and by understanding the motives that drive human action. Liberal social scientists believe that politics is linked to psychology; that there are psychological similarities between how humans see the world around them and how they interact within it. Additionally, the political science curriculum of most universities stresses the importance of analyzing human societies as a whole and the role of politics in protecting these societies from authoritarian rule and unfulfilled potential.

One of the primary topics taught in contemporary social policy is freedom, liberty, and equality. These three core concepts are important to all political theories and they are used to explain how individuals and groups gain freedom from societal constraints and how they use this freedom to maintain their equality and freedom. There are many other related concepts, including freedom to act, rights, and responsibility, and these are discussed in depth in the introductory course offered at George Mason University. The coursework explored in the coursework was constructed around the central ideas of classical liberal theory, which is why many students take the course in order to understand these key terms and their effect on modern society.