General Exam – Day 1
The core exam has two parts.
Answer the following 2 questions:
1. Political sociologists have long explored the social sources of political institutions
(e.g., Moore’s investigation of dictatorship and democracy). In Bringing the State Back
In, Evans, Ruesschemeyer and Skocpol argued for greater attention to the autonomy of
political institutions or the state. Using several examples, consider the theoretical
assumptions, interpretations of historical evidence, and methods of analysis that structure
the debate and discuss the different ways that state autonomy has been conceptualized.
Conclude your essay by indicating what you see as the strengths and limitations of the
state autonomy perspective for the study of a political issue of your choice.
2. At the heart of political sociology are different theories of power. What are some of
the more important theoretical conceptions of power that have shaped research in
political sociology? How do these different conceptions of power—e.g., pluralist
conceptions, Lukes’ view, Foucault’s specification, or others – lead to different
understandings of the workings of political institutions and their affects on individuals
and collectivities?
3. From Foucault’s statement, “The pastoral, the new diplomatico-military technics, and
finally the police were the three elements from which the phenomenon of the
governmentalization of the state, so fundamental in the history of the West, could be
produced” (Foucault 2001: 222), we get a bleak image of modern society as a disciplined
citizenry molded by the forces of governmentality. On the other hand, from Tilly,
Tarrow, and others, we get the image of contemporary societies as a place where
challengers and state interact regularly in contentious politics. Which image better
represents political realities? Can we reconcile the two images?
4. In reply to the argument about the demise of the nation state, some commentators
claim that the basic change in the nature of the state brought about by neoliberal policies
is not its shrinking or withdrawal, but a different way of governing, more managerial and
with more pervasive relations with citizens. Evaluate this claim by drawing on several
5. In Tocqueville’s observations of America he was impressed with the civic
engagement of ordinary citizens, with the American inclination to form voluntary
associations. Habermas in his early writings sought to explain the emergence of a modern
public sphere. Using examples from recent research in political sociology, discuss
debates about the significance and role of civil society in different cultures and political
Day 2 Democratization:
Answer 3 of the following:
1. What is social capital and who has it? What is the relationship between social
capital and civic engagement? Can we use the former to explain the latter? And what
does this relationship have to do with democracy? Use the works of Bourdieu,
Putnam, and any others that you see relevant to address these interrelated questions.
2. Some authors claim that the struggle over citizenship rights and responsibilities
has become more significant than class and socio-economic conditions in producing
social movements. Are issues of citizenship treated today on the same grounds as
Marshall did or on new grounds? Drawing on the theoretical literature and using
examples, discuss the strengths and limitations of the claim that citizenship may
matter more than class.
3. Examine the ways in which globalization leads to international convergence in
institutions and cultures on the one hand, and to internal (regional) divergence within
countries on the other. Use concrete examples.
4. While some authors (for ex. Michels) seek to generate a theory of the workings of
democracy, others (for ex. Huntington) consider how nation-states transition to
democracy. Compare studies that exemplify each approach and discuss debates about
the conditions that lead to democratization.
5. A debate on State and Gender has centered on whether women’s rights and
democratization are likely to occur together. It raises questions about the effect of
different processes such as reforms from above, pressures from below, and influence
from abroad. By referring to empirical studies and theoretical arguments, assess the
extent to which women’s empowerment, understood as an expansion of rights and
opportunities, can be ascribed to democratization in a variety of contexts.