XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010


RC homepage


Research Committee on
Political Sociology RC18

Programme Coordinator
Piero Ignazi, Universitá di Bologna, Italy, piero.ignazi@unibo.it

Congress Programme


General theme 1: Class and religion in democratic party politics

Convenor: Piero Ignazi, Universitá di Bologna, Italy, piero.ignazi@unibo.it
The traditional cleavages based on class and religion have played a crucial role in determining voters’ political alignments. Apparently, these cleavages have been losing part of their influence since the advent of the post-industrial and post-modern era, which has introduced different axes of competition and different values’ priorities. The questions we want to address in the Congress’ sessions concern the assessment of the changes in the religious affiliation and in the social structure; and the impact of these changes in the political parties’ discourse, policy, position, and alliances, and in the citizens’ attitudes and voting behaviour. In short, the general theme we intend to investigate in the sessions regards the salience of class and religion in shaping contemporary party politics.

This general theme is arranged in three sessions.

Session 1
Organizer: Martin Elff, Mannheim University, Germany, elff@sowi.uni-mannheim.de
The first one deals especially with the impact of transformations in class structure and the patterns of social stratification in post-industrial societies on the organization and social profile of political parties, party discourse, on the patterns of electoral behaviour, and other forms of political action.The session is open to all papers dealing with these topics and especially welcomes papers focusing on the relation between social structure and political equality.

Session 2
Organizer: José Ramon Montero, Universitad Autonoma, Madrid, Spain, joseramon.montero@uam.es
The second one deals with the relevance of religion in present day party politics, with particular reference to re-activation of ethical-moral issues promoted either by the Churches themselves or by confessional organizations.  This session will analyze the change in the attitudes and behaviour of citizens as well as in the response by the political parties to such a modified context.

Session 3
Organizer: Piero Ignazi, University of Bologna, Italy, piero.ignazi@unibo.it
The third one would offer the combined effect of class AND religion in present day party politics. Analyses of the impact of phenomena both on the supply and on the demand side will be welcomed.

Session 4: Sacred dimensions in contentious politics
Organizer: Seraphim Seferiades, Panteion University of Social and Political Science, Greece, ssefer@panteion.gr
Sacred elements, including religion, figure centrally in contentious politics –providing key insights on how social movements interpret opportunities, build organizations, and construct identities. This session, involving 3 panels, invites papers on the nature of sacredness in collective action (‘Sacred Dimensions in Framing’); the ways religion influences resource mobilization (‘Religion, Morality, Organization’); and the mechanisms through which it affects contention (‘Morality and Contentious Repertoires’). Papers highlighting other key aspects of framing, organization, and repertoires vis-à-vis the sacred are also welcome.

General theme 2: Researching party members and activists: The state of the art

Convenor: Wolfgang Rüdig, University of Strathclyde, w.rudig@strath.ac.uk

The empirical study of members and activists of political parties has become a major research field in recent years. Using a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches, researchers are trying to find out, inter alia, who joins political parties, who becomes an activist, what members and activists think and what exactly they do and why, and what determines whether members stay in parties or leave.

The aim of these sessions is to provide an opportunity for social scientists from around the world to present their latest empirical findings and discuss the key methodological and theoretical issues arising from their studies. In this way, an overview of the current state of the art in this field of research is attempted. This is intended to be a starting point for a more sustained interchange of experiences and ideas addressing the key empirical and theoretical issues of the study of party members and activists as part of a new working group.

There are currently two sessions planned as part of this general theme.

Session 1: Methodological Challenges
The empirical study of party members and activists has been dominated by the use of mail surveys based on party membership lists but recent years have seen an increasingly diverse range of methodologies employed. These include the study of party members using general attitude surveys, surveys of election candidates at local, regional and national level which, in some countries, can be conducted without of the co-operation of parties, and the analysis of data on party members that is already in the public domain. Surveys of party conference delegates have also been popular in some countries, particularly where access to membership lists is difficult. Furthermore, a broader range of survey modes has been employed in recent studies, including internet surveys, computer assisted telephone interviewing, and face-to-face interviews. Mixed-method approaches combining, for example, a mail survey with semi-structured interviews, are also emerging as an exciting prospect for future work.

Paper proposals are invited which present the results of empirical studies employing innovative methods going beyond or supplementing the classical mail survey of party members. Particularly welcome are papers that compare different methodological approaches and reflect on their advantages and disadvantages.

Session 2: Comparative Perspectives
A major challenge in the study political behaviour is the examination of the impact of contextual factors. Researching party members and activists provides a range of possibilities to meet this challenge. First, there are comparative studies of several types of parties within the same country or sub-national unit; second, members and activists of the same party family (or several party families) can be compared across different contexts of national and regional political systems; and lastly, the characteristics and behaviour of party members and activists can be studied at different time points.

Paper proposals are invited that present the results of empirical studies comparing party members and activists between different parties and party families, across nations and across time, or across a combination these comparative perspectives.

General Theme 3: Political inequality in cross-national perspective
Convener: Joshua Kjerulf  Dubrow, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland, dubrow.2@osu.edu

Political inequality is the extent to which groups within society differ in influence over government decisions. Decades of research have clearly shown how position within the social structure impacts individual- and group-level political influence, such that political inequality interacts with a host of other inequalities, including those of gender, ethnicity, and class. Because political processes govern resource distribution, political inequality has profound consequences for the welfare of all people within society.

This general theme focuses on political inequality as a distinctive form of inequality and aims to examine methodological and substantive issues pertaining to it. While there are many clear definitions and well-established measures of other major types of inequality -- e.g. economic and educational inequalities -- that enable researchers to address basic empirical questions of, “how unequal is society?” and “what are the causes and consequences of this inequality?” there are few attempts to directly measure political inequality. As a result, crucial questions remain unaddressed.

Continuing the discussions initiated in the International Journal of Sociology special issue on “Causes and Consequences of Political Inequality in Cross-National Perspective” (2008), and inspired by the American Political Science Association’s “Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy,” this general theme seeks methodological, quantitative, and qualitative empirical papers that bridge sociology and political science to address crucial questions regarding political inequality in cross-national perspective.

There are two main sessions planned for this theme.

Session 1: Measurement and causality
Papers in this session should address one or more of the following questions: (a) How do we define and measure political inequality? (b) How politically unequal are modern democracies? and (c) What causes political inequality? From Pitirim Sorokin to Robert Dahl to Amartya Sen, among others, there is a strong theoretical base on which to support the contention that political inequality is a distinctive form of inequality as important as that of economic inequality. Yet, there is very little empirical work on how to operationalize its concepts, measure its extent, and identify its roots. Papers with a cross-national perspective should empirically examine forms of political inequality – such as underrepresentation of disadvantaged groups in government and unequal political participation, to name a couple – including how these forms endure over time and across societies, how they combine, or how they interact with other major forms of social inequality.

Session 2: Consequences of political inequality
Papers in this session should address the question: What are the consequences of political inequality on peoples, societies and social structures? If political inequality is a distinctive form of inequality in its own right, consequences of its existence and durability must be demonstrated. Papers in this session should empirically examine how political inequality matters in the lives of disadvantaged groups, for the long-term health of democratic governance, for particular political policies and legislation, or for the establishment and durability of civil society and social movements.

Joint sessions with other RC

Session 10: Social capital, political and civic participation, and electoral systems
Joint session of RC03 Community Research [host committee] and RC18 Political Sociology