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Politics and Society

Why are some socio- political movements more successful than others? When do revolutions occur? What is the relationship between economic development and political liberalism? What are the limits of our freedom and who determines those limits? Why are films censored?

Politics and Society is an inter-disciplinary major that explores such questions through the intersection of political science and sociology, and analyzes various political processes and social transformations both at the macro level of national and international politics and at the micro level.

Major Requirement

Each student will take a total of 16 courses towards the major. After a few introductory courses exploring various sub-disciplines, our courses will be organized along multiple lines of inquiry.

If courses like Political Thought and Social Theory delve into conceptual and historical processes of individual disciplines, then others like Social Change and Development and Social and Political Movements explore inter-disciplinary genres within the larger rubric of Political Science and Sociology. Most classes will meet twice a week for an hour and a half each.

These classes with the Professor will be supplemented by a weekly hour-long session with the Teaching Assistant for a total of 4 hours a week of class time per course.

The major will be team-taught by faculty members from disciplines of sociology and political science and equally will draw on both disciplines.

The pedagogy adopted for this course will require active participation from the students, through regular structured oral presentations, written essays and tutorial discussions. 



Political Thought
The course will introduce fundamental concepts of political philosophy through a critical reading of some of the major texts and thinkers from both the western and Indian political tradition. The central question of the course would be to trace how various political thinkers have impacted the development of different political institutions, from the polis to government and democracy.

Global Politics
The focus of this course will be to understand how globalization affects public and social actions and how state and non-state actors, individual and collective actors, cooperate and oppose each other on the world’s stage, reshaping classic inter-state relations. This course will be completely pluridisciplinary and will be based on case studies of some of the major challenges brought by globalization – financialization and economic globalization, new interdependences, migration and conflicts, among others. It will also focus on the attempts at reorganizing the world order after the fall of the Berlin Wall and will use cartography as tool for enlightening complex processes of global change.

Principles and Practices of Democracy

This course will introduce defining principles of democracy and how they have translated into various democratic systems throughout space and time. From a study of definitions of democracy, democratic norms and institutions, the course will compare various forms of democracies across the world and equip students with the conceptual and analytical tools required to understand the functioning of contemporary political institutions.

Comparative Politics

A comparative study of political systems, this course would provide  students a foundational framework to examine political events through theoretical analysis, like explaining the relationship between democracy and economic development or the functioning of authoritarian regimes. This course will aim at developing tools for political comparison; to critically engage with concepts and events like democratic transition, democratization, de-democratization, political conflict, civil wars etc.

Introduction to Research Methods

Research is an important aspect of political science. This course would not only give students an overview of how to critically analyze existing social science research on the basis of research methods but would also train them in specifying research questions, research design, quantitative and qualitative data analysis and basic use of statistical methods.

Social and Political Movements

The focus of this course would be to analyze the birth and trajectory of social and political movements: the transformations in patterns of conflict, the processes of citizenship, mobilisation and participation, the role of civil society and cultural representations in social conflict. By exploring case studies, political theory and research, the course would introduce the students to ideas of collective action.

Social Theory

What is society? In what way is it more than the sum of its parts, individuals or persons? Does society shape individuals in order to achieve stability for the whole? Or is social conduct and thought revealing of underlying structures in our unconscious? Or is such conduct and thought instead led by lived experience, the practice and habit of everyday life? This course will take us through the foundational theory of anthropology: functionalism and its roots in evolutionism (Boas, Durkheim, Malinowski), to structural-functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown, Mauss, Fortes), to structuralism (Levi-Strauss, de Saussure), to post-structuralism in its myriad forms (Bourdieu, Ortner, Sahlins, Jacobsen). Each topic will be taught in the context of ethnographic examples and of contemporary theorists working with these foundations.

Kinship, Caste & Community

This course explores the ways in which people in different societies conceptualise and live out relatedness, in their families, wider kin and non-kin groups. Drawing on ethnography from South Asia and elsewhere, we explore the different forms of relatedness as expressed through kinship, caste and community, highlighting their link to ideas of personhood, to gender, and to relations of ownership and inheritance. We explore the way in which kinship and caste both connect and divide: while on the one hand, shared identity and solidarity is created, on the other, inequality and exploitation is instituted.

Politics, Law and the State: Perspectives from Anthropology & Sociology

This course is concerned with the nature of power, the relation between state and society and the challenges and limits to political authority. Drawing on recent and contemporary work of sociologists (Thomson, Lukes, Foucault, Chatterjee, Gai, Kaviraj, Hall, Giddens) and anthropologists (Hansen, Fuller, Benei, Gupta, Brass, Tambiah), the course will explore topics such as:- the origin of law in custom; the corporation and other legal fictions; conflict and static versus dynamic political systems; institutions and their relation with ideology; political symbols and techniques of legitimation; the critique of political order in favour of individual agency; corruption, and everyday experiences of the state in India and elsewhere.

Social Change and Development

This course introduces students to the ideas of development which have informed government policy and civil society in India and the developing world since Independence. It locates development discourse in an Indian context, exploring the assumptions and world views which underlie the support to economic growth and ‘trickle down’, dependency theory and notions of sustainability, empowerment, participation and radical alternatives to market liberalism. Using case studies of policies and programmes, the course will explore the gap between plan and actual implementation. It asks how and why the gap is repeatedly reproduced and an understanding of ‘real change’ continues to elude us.

Agrarian Studies

Agrarian studies is the interdisciplinary exploration of the modern transformation of the countryside across the world. It tries to understand the intrusive thrusts of nation-state formation, urban industrial production, and the rationalization of belief into the most distant agrarian regions. It insists that people everywhere have confronted those forces with their particular histories and distinctive, local configurations of environment, society and culture. The course approach is global, while emphasis is given to the Indian context of agrarian systems, land tenure and reform, social change in the village and peasant movements.

The course approach is global, while emphasis is given to the Indian context of agrarian systems, land tenure and reform, social change in the village and peasant movements.

Sociology of Post-Industrial Societies

How do we observe, analyze, apprehend society when it is spatially dispersed and virtual, residing in networks and new forms of affinity? To what extent does technology shape society, or is it rather than technology is driven by social needs which shape and reshape it? Demonstrating how and why contemporary social theory has converged on common questions, across the disciplines (including philosophy, sociology, anthropology, economics, geography, ecology, history), the course will explore topics such as:- the city and urbanity, globalization, science and technology, environmentalism and the case for analysis of the world as a ‘system’ in which different parts are positioned in relation to a dominant ‘core’.

Sample Curriculum Structure

Semester I Semester II Semester III Semester IV Semester V Semester VI
Intro to Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Seminar I Critical Thinking Seminar II Great Books Foundations of Economic Reasoning Kinship, Caste and Community
Social and Political Formations Trends in World History Principles of Science Mind and Behaviour Global Politics Critical Themes in Politics
Introduction to Logical Reasoning Literature and the World Indian Civilizations Social and Political Movements Comparative Politics Social Change and Development
Introduction to Political Thought Social Theory Dynamics of State Formation  Agrarian Studies  Sociology of Post- Industrial Societies Economy and Society
Ritual and Religion Introduction to Research Methods Politics, Law and the State: Perspectives from Anthropology & Sociology Principles and Practices of Democracy

The grid above captures one possible trajectory of the Politics and Society major.

Courses specific to the Politics and Society major are indicated in red.
Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka