Sociology of Politics and Law

The discipline of sociology has generated few outright political classics. One of the sociology classics, Max Weber’s Economy and Society, contributed a great deal to the understanding of political behavior. Yet it is not a political work in the sense that Aristotle’s Politics or Hobbes’ Leviathan is. Economy and Society sometimes hints at but it never enumerates the ”best practical” regime. Aristotle and Hobbes had no doubt that such a regime existed – even if they disagreed about what it was. Weber’s comparison of traditional, charismatic and procedural authority bears a passing resemblance to the comparison of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy perennially made by the great political thinkers, but the resemblance is limited.

The sociology of law extends criminology’s concern with coercion to incorporate studies of the role of law in regulating and facilitating social order.

Early sociologists thought changes in the nature of law signaled the transition to capitalism. Maine (1861) described this as a movement from a society based on status to one based on contract. In traditional societies, law expressed a sovereign or collective will, imposing order through repressive sanctions and sustaining relationships based on inherited or ascribed positions. Modern law facilitated free, autonomous and episodic relationships.


Anarchism signifies the condition of being without rule. Anarchism, then, has often been equated with chaos. This interpretation was lent weight by the period of anarchist ”propaganda by deed” towards the end of the nineteenth century. For most anarchists, though, their political allegiances involve opposition to the intrusiveness, destructiveness, and artificiality of state authority, the […]


The concept of authoritarianism has been used mainly to refer to a type of authority whose power is exercised within diffuse legal, institutional, or de facto boundaries that easily leads to arbitrary acts against groups and individuals. Those who are in power are not accountable to constituencies and public policy does not derive from social […]


Authority is often defined as legitimate power, and contrasted to pure power. In the case of legitimate authority, compliance is voluntary and based on a belief in the right of the authority to demand compliance. Max Weber provided a famous classification of forms of legitimate authority in terms of the defining type of legitimating belief. […]


Citizenship refers to membership in a political community organized as a territorial or national state. The nature and content of citizenship varies with the form of state. Citizenship in the classic Greek polis, for instance, provided membership to a political elite, whereas modern liberal democratic citizenship provides opportunity to vote in a political election cycle. […]

Civil Society

Civil society is often understood as a defense against excessive state power and atomized individualism, which otherwise threatens to create conditions for authoritarianism. The term can be traced to Roman civil law (jus civile) but its contemporary use to describe contractual relations, the rise of public opinion, representative government, civic freedoms, plurality, and ”civility” first […]


”Communism” is both a principle of social organization advocated since at least the time of ancient Greece, and a modern political movement – associated with the works of Karl Marx (1818-83) and his disciples – that held state power in a number of countries during the twentieth century. The core proposition of communism is that […]


Conservatism has been one of the principal ideologies of the modern era. It first developed in reaction to the French Revolution and became a key part of the Counter-Enlightenment which challenged many of the ideas of liberalism, in particular its abstract individualism, its universalism and its demands for equality. Conservatives stressed the importance of history […]


It is only within the past two centuries – and mostly within the past century – that genuinely democratic governments have flourished. What is democracy? Rueschemeyer et al. (1992) identify four main characteristics of the most fully developed democracies: Parliamentary or congressional bodies with a power base independent of presidents or prime ministers. The regular, […]


With etymological roots in the Latin imperium, empire refers to a large-scale, multi-ethnic political unit that rules over smaller political units, peoples and territory that have been aggregated through conquest. Hence, empire always involves relations of domination and subordination, which may be formal or informal. Understood in this way, empires and imperialism appear contemporaneously with […]


Fascism as a historical entity began in 1922 when Mussolini came to power in Italy. As a political ideology, fascism defines many of the movements that were present in post-World War I Europe from the British Union of Fascists to the Romanian Iron Guard. Fascism could have remained simply a characteristic of a group of […]

Global Politics

Global politics refers to political relations and activities that stretch across state borders, and whose consequences are worldwide in scope. As such, global politics includes but is not limited to inter-state relations. The latter has traditionally been the focus of the dominant realist tradition of International Relations (IR). This has routinely assumed the primacy of […]

Identity Politics

Human society abounds with exercises of interpersonal power and identity politics. Power is the ability to get what you want with or without the consent or cooperation of others. Effects of deployed power are observable at the structural and institutional levels of society, and in face-to-face interactions. A discussion of identity politics (sometimes also called […]

Imagined Communities

”Imagined community” is a term coined by Benedict Anderson (1983) in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, an influential book on the emergence and persistence of nations. The concept addresses the relationship between states, capitalism, and cultural belonging. Anderson defines the nation as imagined ”because the members of even the smallest […]


Imperialism designates the historical phenomenon in which certain political entities have sought to exert control over and extract resources from others, whether through formal conquest, informal coercion or a host of intermediate solutions. It also denotes the concepts or theories of imperialism. Initially coined to designate the existence and expansion of empires, the notion of […]

Sociology of Law

The sociology of law extends criminology’s concern with coercion to incorporate studies of the role of law in regulating and facilitating social order. Early sociologists thought changes in the nature of law signaled the transition to capitalism. Maine (1861) described this as a movement from a society based on status to one based on contract. […]


Liberalism is the leading ideology of the modern era. During the nineteenth century it came to signify adherence to the principles of individualism, liberty, limited government, progress and equality. It has been espoused by thinkers as diverse as Mill, Constant, Bentham, Tocqueville, Hobhouse, and Hayek. At its core is a particular conception of human nature, […]


Marginalization is a metaphor that refers to processes by which individuals or groups are kept at, or pushed beyond, the edges of society. The term outsiders may be used to refer to those individuals or groups who are marginalized. The term marginalization is attributed to Park (1928) who coined the expression ”marginal man” to characterize […]


The term nation-state was originally intended to describe a political unit (a state) whose borders coincided or roughly coincided with the territorial distribution of a nation, the latter in its pristine sense of a human grouping who share a conviction of being ancestrally related. The word nation derives from the Latin verb nasci (meaning to […]


Nationalism is a complex social phenomenon with the nation as its object. Rooted in the Latin natio, denoting community of birth, the term nationalismus seems to have been coined by Johann Gottfried Herder as a part of his Romantic celebration of cultural diversity. Nevertheless, modern nationalism has its ideological roots in both the Enlightenment and […]


Neoliberalism as a distinctive strand of liberal ideology first appeared in the 1940s, but its period of major influence is usually dated from the 1970s. Neoliberalism is not a uniform doctrine and has many internal tensions, not least between a laissez-faire strand which believes that the best policy is to allow markets to operate with […]