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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Neopluralism and Neofunctionalism in Political Sociology


A broadly pluralist tradition of political sociology flourishes today in its neopluralist reconstructions in political science and, to a lesser extent, sociology. Since the 1970s the pluralist tradition of political analysis, which stressed the causal primacy of a plurality of collective social actors, has passed into a neopluralist phase. This transition entailed an extension of the pluralist repertoire of actors into the once-forbidden territory of Marxian class and antiestablishment social movements, as well as an enhanced recognition of the grounding and embeddedness of politically influential actors in social structures and systemic dynamics beyond those of culture. Neopluralism expands the pluralist stress on multiple bases of social action to encompass a yet fuller range of actors (class ones in particular), an increased sensitivity to structural and systemic modes of power not reducible to social action, and a more complex articulation of agency and structure. Insofar as frameworks and theories of political analysis today reflect both this ecumenical approach to the varieties of potentially important actors (for example, union movements as well as business lobbies and interest associations) and the approach's openness to the causal powers of both agency and structure (for example, macroeconomic and political institutional constraints upon as well as ground for action) today we are all neo-pluralists.

Neofunctionalism is a notable complement to neopluralism, much as functionalism was an important complement to classical pluralism. Neofunctionalism is hardly the pervasive force that functionalism was during the first two decades following World War II. Nevertheless it remains a significant presence in sociology, especially political sociology, neopluralist political sociology most particularly.

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