Political Science and Political Sociology
For most of the twentieth century. political science primarily focused on power and its distribution in different types of political systems. Today. some political scientists focus on the machinery of the federal government (such as its legislative. executive. and judicial branches) and the operative political processes (including political parties. public opinion. elections. and political participation). Other political scientists compare and contrast. political systems in different countries. Still others analyze the interrelationships among national governments, multinational corporations, and international organizations such as the United Nations. contrast. political sociology is the area of sociology that examines ·the nature and consequences of power within or between societies, as well as the social and political conflicts that lead to changes in the allocation of power. In other words, political sociology primarily focuses on the social circumstances of politics and explores how the political arena and its actors are intertwined with social institutions such as the economy. religion, education. and the media. According to the political analyst Michael Parenti (1998: 7-8). many people underrate the significance of politics in daily life:
Politics is something more than what politicians do when they run for office. Politics is concerned with the struggles that shape social relations within societies and affairs between nations. The taxes and prices we pay and the jobs available to us, the chances that we will live in peace or perish in war. the costs of education and the availability of scholarships, the safety of the airliner or highway we travel on, the quality of the food we eat and the air we breathe, the availability of affordable housing and medical care, the legal protections against racial and sexual discrimination-all the things that directly affect the quality of our lives arc influenced in some measure by politics. _.. To say you are not interested in politics. then. is like saying you are not interested in your own well-being. Using a power-conflict framework for his analysis. Parenti (1998) suggests that the media often distort either intentionally or unintentionally-the information they provide to citizens. According to Parenti. the media have the power to influence public opinion in a way that favors management over labor. corporations over their critics. affluent whites over subordinate group members in central cities, political officials over protesters, and free-market capitalism over public sector development. Parenti's assertion raises an interesting issue about the distribution of power in the United States and other industrialized nations: Do the media distort information to suit their own interests?