Director's Statement

Working Papers

Research Awards


The Rationalization of the Political Field

Beyond the State and Society-Centered Theories of Policy Change

Sean D. Stryker

CCOP Working Paper #1999-05
January, 1999

Much of the field of political sociology is defined by a confrontation between state- and society-centered theories of policy making. State-centered theories (Evans, Rueschemeyer and Skocpol 1985; Finegold 1995; Orloff, Orloff and Skocpol 1988; Shefter 1994; Skocpol 1979; Skocpol 1992; Skowronek 1982) emphasize the effects of autonomous political actors, institutions, or opportunities on the outcomes of policy- making processes, whereas society-centered approaches (Baldwin 1990; Dahl 1961; Domhoff 1983; Domhoff 1996; Esping-Andersen 1990; Lipset 1963; Moore Jr. 1966) focus on the interests and motivations of collective actors in civil society. Research has benefited greatly from the insights generated by both schools, yet current scholarship suggests that the distinction between state and society can be misleading (Somers 1995).


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