During the past two decades or so collaboration between Political Science and Sociology has been increasingly emphasised and the sociological foundation of politics stressed.
As pointed out earlier, the revolution in the study of American politics is the consequence of the penetration of sociological, anthropological and psychological methods and theories. There is the social and cultural matrix of politics.
Explaining it, Pennock and Smith say, “Some politically relevant patterns of behaviour are imposed on man by the conditions of social life itself and certain psychological traits are brought out by society which in turn determine the social milieu.”
The result is a new branch of study. Political Sociology explains the sociological interpretations of political phenomena and quite a sizable literature on the subject has been made available. Lipset, whose contribution is well-recognised, explains, “No Sociologist can conceive of a study of society that does not recognise the political system as a major part of the analysis.
And many political scientists, particularly in recent years, have argued, sometimes with others in their own field, that it is impossible to study political processes except as special cases of more general sociological and psychological relationships.”
Political Sociology takes the concept of political system, first developed by David Easton, and seeks to examine it in sociological terms, on the basic assumption that political system of a country is “integrally related to its social system.” A system, therefore, implies interdependence of parts.
By interdependence is meant that when the properties of one component in a system change, all the other components and the system as a whole are affected. For example, when the rings of an automobile wear away, the motor car bums oil, the functioning of the other parts of the machine or system deteriorates, and the power of the vehicle declines.
In the political system the emergence of mass political parties, or of media of mass communications, like the press, the radio and the television, have changed the performance of structures of the system and the general capabilities (that is, the way it performs as a unit in its environment) of the system in its domestic and foreign environments.
To quote Almond and Powell, ” when one variable in a system changes in magnitude or in quality, others are subjected to strains and are transformed; the system changes its pattern of performance, or the unruly component is disciplined by regulatory mechanism.”
The sociological approach to politics has been precisely summed up by Sartori. He says, “Political sociology is only born when the sociological and political approaches are combined at the point of intersection. If the sociology of politics deals with non-political reasons, while the people act the way they do in political life, then political sociology should include also the political reasons why people act the way they do. A real political sociology is then a cross-disciplinary breakthrough, seeking enlarged models which reintroduced as variables the ‘givens’ of each component source.”
Talking in concrete terms, Political Sociology is a connecting bridge between Sociology and Political Science. It believes in a two-way relationship between Sociology and Political Science, giving; equal emphasis, to social and political variables. Take for example the party system.
Here Political Sociology does not explain the working of the party system only in terms of its response to and reflection of the socio-economic scene, but also investigates how the society is as much conditioned by the party system. India offers an apt and familial illustration to explain the point.
While Sociology of politics analyses Indian politics in terms of its caste-ridden society, Political Sociology adds to that enquiry how politics in India has affected the Indian caste system, giving rise to what is called ‘politicalisation of caste’. The distinction between the sociology of politics and Political Sociology would help us in understanding the meaning of Political Sociology on which the specialists have so far disagreed.