POL S 542 A: Seminar: State and Society

Meeting Time: 
T 1:30pm - 4:20pm
SAV 167
Joint Sections: 
JSIS B 542 A
Susan Whiting
Susan H. Whiting

Syllabus Description:


Course Description

   State-society analysis privileges the interaction of state institutions and social forces in explaining political outcomes, ranging from revolution to provision of public goods. This mode of analysis stands in contrast to strictly state-centered or society-centered explanations of political phenomena. The course addresses state building, state capacity, class-based mobilization, contentious politics, social movements, civil society, identity politics, and nationalism. Multi-method research is a hallmark of this literature.

   The course serves graduate students preparing for qualifying exams and engaged in thesis writing (M.A. and Ph.D.).

   Each week, an influential book will be the center of discussion, supplemented by short selections from relevant classical social theory and related work. Seminar sessions will explore four core questions, among others:

1) what are the roots of the work in classical social theory,

2) how does each work build on, contribute to, and critique prior scholarship,

3) how does the author relate theory and method, integrating quantitative and qualitative data, and

4) what is the scholarly identity and intellectual agenda of the author.

The goal is to both appreciate and critique assigned works.


Course Requirements

   The focus of the seminar is reading, discussion, and writing. Students may choose between two options for course requirements.

   Option A: Students will write three two-page essays on the readings and one 25-page research paper or research design for the dissertation. The topic for the longer paper should be finalized in consultation with the professor.

   Option B: Students will write six two-page essays on the readings and one 15-page bibliographic essay or World Politics-style review essay on an aspect of state-society relations.

   Students may be asked to make presentations based on their essays on the readings.


Course Materials

Slater, Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia

Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-society Relations and State Capabilities in the 3rd World

Levien, Dispossession without Development: Land Grabs in Neoliberal India

Pasotti, Resisting Redevelopment: Protest in Aspiring Global Cities

Ketchley, Egypt in a Time of Revolution: Contentious Politics and the Arab Spring

Fu, Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China

Singh, How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India

Beissinger, Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State


   Books have been ordered and are available for purchase at the University Bookstore and at other vendors. There is no course reserve as of now, since libraries are closed. Journal articles and book chapters are available full-text online through the UW Library E-Journals and E-books collection. Excerpts and manuscripts are available on Canvas. 


Office Hours

   Office hours for Spring Quarter are by appointment via Zoom.

Catalog Description: 
Examines the mutually conditioning relationship between states and the societies they seek to govern. Studies states as large, complex organizations and their interactions with society on different levels. Shows that interactions on any level affect the nature of the state on other levels as well. Offered: jointly with JSIS B 542.
Last updated: 
January 31, 2020 - 4:10am