It is not easy to describe the scope of Political Sociology; it has been a relatively new field of study which is still developing. Its literature is as yet quite limited. Various political sociologists define its nature and scope in several different ways.
Two major groups of scholars have discussed the scope of Political Sociology in two different ways.
(1) According to Greer and Orleans, “Political Sociology is concerned with the structure of the state, the nature and the conditions of the legitimacy; the nature of the monopoly of force, and peoples relations with their with their respective states.
In other words, the scope of Political Sociology is held to concern with state, power, consensus and legitimacy, participation and representation and the relationship between economic and political development.
(2) According to Lipset and Bendix the scope of Political Sociology in concerned with voting behaviour of communities and their nation; concentration of economic power and political decision-making, ideologies of political movements, and interest groups. In dealing with these fields, Political Sociology has a vast scope because it studies the politics of power in relation to all aspects of social relations.
Political Sociology studies power, authority and legitimacy of state in relation to social relations. It involves the activities of bureaucracy, interest groups, political participation of the people, conflict and conflict-resolution, political culture and political socialization, decision-making, political movements, social change, violence and revolution and some other areas/fields.
Maurice Duverger observes that Political Sociology centers around two facets of power and authority i.e., both oppressor and integrator.
To him its scope consists of:
(i) Political structures in which the dialectic of antagonisms and integration unfolds;
(ii) The causes of conflict and integration in society; and
(iii) The way the conflicts are resolved and integrated.
There are four main areas of research focus in contemporary Political Sociology:
1. The socio-political formation of the modern state.
2. “Who rules”? How social inequality between groups (class, race, gender, etc.) influences politics.
3. How public personalities, social movements and trends outside of the formal institutions of political power affect politics, and
4. Power relationships within and between social groups (e.g. families, workplaces, bureaucracy, media, etc.).
Political Sociology studies as to how major social trends can affect the political process, as well as tries to explore as to how various social forces work together to change political policies.
Contemporary Political Sociologists apply several theories to substantive issues.
Three major popular theoretical frameworks have been:
(ii) Elite or Managerial theory, and
(iii) Class analysis which overlaps with Marxist analysis.
(i) Pluralism sees politics primarily as a contest among competing interest groups.
(ii) Elite or Managerial Theory, which is also called a state-centered approach, explains what the state does by looking at constraints from organizational structure, semi-autonomous state managers, and interests that arise from the state as a unique power centre/ organization.
(iii) Social Class Theory emphasizes the political power of capitalist elites. The theory emerged from Marxism which was based primarily on the premise of economic exploitation of one class by another.
It has two forms: one is the Power Structure or Instrumentalist Approach, and the second is the Structuralise approach. The first focuses on “Who governs?”, and the second on “the way a capitalist economy operates and allows and encourages the state to do some things but not others’.
Political Sociology also tries to study the inter-play of power and personality. For example, in the contemporary era of globalisation, it tries to analyse the impact of globalization upon identity of a person and of a nation.
Thus the scope of Political Sociology has been continuously expanding.