What is Political?

  • The essence of political is the quest for bringing about an order that men consider good. The term politics is derived from the Greek word polis meaning both ‘city’ and ‘state’.
  • It is a place with the common world described as a community. Politics is hence related to the management of the community. It involves decision making within and about the community
  • Politics among the ancient Greeks was a new way of thinking, feeling and above all, being related to one’s fellows. As citizens they all were equal, although the citizens varied in positions in terms of their wealth, intelligence, etc.
  • It is the concept of political which makes the citizens rational. 
    • Politics is the activity specific to this new thing called a citizen. A science of politics is possible, because politics itself follows regular patterns, even though it is at the mercy of the human nature from which it arises.
    • Greek political studies dealt with constitutions and made generalisations about the relations between human nature and political associations. Perhaps, its most powerful component was the theory of recurrent cycles.
    • Monarchies tend to degenerate into tyranny, tyrannies are overthrown by aristocracies, which degenerate into oligarchies exploiting the population, which are overthrown by democracies, which in turn degenerate into the intolerable instability of mob rule, whereupon some powerful leader establishes himself as a monarch and the cycle begins all over again.
  • Over the period of time, the meaning of politics has changed. In classical Greece, it referred to fundamental decisions about the community presupposing the collective power of the entire community.
  • The Greek city States evolved comprehensive politics of collective social good encompassing public and private but in contemporary times the meaning of politics is taken to be the domain of public life and private life is kept separate from politics.
  • The study of politics involves two subdivisions:
    • Political Theory/ philosophy and
    • Political Science

Political Theory

  • The theory is an idea or set of ideas that in some way seek to impose order or meaning on a phenomenon. It also refers to systematic knowledge. Thus, Political Theory refers to systematic knowledge of the political phenomenon. 
    • Political theory involves the analytical study of ideas and concepts that are central to political thought. Its evolution is generally traced from the tradition of thoughts from Plato to Marx.
  • Political philosophy is a branch of learning primarily concerned with the moral and substantive dimension of politics. It can be used loosely to cover any abstract thought about politics, law or Society. Philosophy in general terms means the search for wisdom and understanding. It is a critical evaluation of political belief and attempts to clarify and refine the concepts employed in political discourse. 

Scope of Political Theory 

  • Political theory is concerned with three types of statements:
    • Empirical statement, which is based on observation, through sense-experience Alone;
    • Logical statement, which is based on reasoning (e.g., ‘two plus two is four’); and
    • Evaluative statement, which is based on value-judgment (e.g. ‘Men are born free and equal’).

Political science 

  • Political science is essentially empirical. It tries to describe, analyze, and explain government and other political institutions in an impartial manner.
  • According to David Easton, political science could adopt the methodology of natural sciences. 

Political science versus Political philosophy

  • Andrew Hacker says that political theory as a “theory, in ideal terms, is dispassionate and disinterested. As a science, it will describe political reality without trying to pass judgment on what is being depicted, either implicitly or explicitly. As a philosophy, it will describe rules of conduct that will secure a good life for all of society”. 
  • Political theory involves three aspects of understanding: empirical, logical, and evaluative. Political science can be distinguished from political philosophy as it relies on the first two aspects while philosophy involves a value judgment. 
  • Political science believes that with correct observation and reasoning different people would arrive at a similar conclusion while using value judgment different people will have different preferences. In the scientific approach, verification is possible using empirical and logical statements but in the philosophical approach, there is no method of deciding right or wrong. 
  • Political science deals with the fact of political life whereas philosophy is concerned with values. Political philosophy deals with the needs & objectives of human life which cannot be scientifically ascertained. 
  • Example: While studying Democracy
    • Political scientists will be interested in the process at work within the democracy while the 
    • Political philosophers will be interested in understanding the meaning of democracy. 

Political theory v/s Political Science

  • As a discipline, political science is much more comprehensive and includes different forms of speculation in politics such as political thought, political theory, political philosophy, political ideology, law and organizations etc. 
  • Andrew Hacker describes Political theory as a never-ending conversation among theorists
  • Political science is concerned with describing and explaining the realities of political behavior, generalizations about man and political institutions on empirical evidence, and the role of power in society. 
  • Political theory, on the other hand, is not only concerned about the behavioral study of the political phenomena from empirical point of view but also about prescribing the goals which states, governments, societies and citizens ought to pursue. Political theory also aims to generalize about the right conduct in political life and about the legitimate use of power. 
  • According to David Held, in absence of political theory and its systematic pursuit, there is a danger of politics being left to the ignorant. 

Significance of Political theory

  • Political Theory is a form of systematic reflection on: 
    • Description of political incident 
    • Its philosophical and scientific understanding 
    • Selection of objectives and works 
    • Moral basis for a political arrangement 
  • Clarity about these reflections enables us to understand social and political problems. Scientific analysis enables us to understand and solve these problems while political philosophy guides us towards betterment. 
  • The tradition of Political theory has encouraged an order of dignified debate between proponents of opposing thoughts. The two branches of Political Theory i.e. science and philosophy together perform the task of description, criticism, and reconstruction of ideas/concepts.
  • The understanding of Political theory has become more important in the present-day world order facing challenges such as Poverty, population corruption, injustice, Conflict. The important work of Political Theory is to deeply study and analyze these problems and provide alternative means to the political leaders.

Evolution of Political Theory

  • As Andrew Hacker says, political theory is a never-ending debate between the theorists. The spatial and temporal impact on the thought process has led to the seamless evolution of western political thought from the ancient Greek philosophers to current times.
  • The Ancient Greek Philosophers were idealists who thought of politics as a subset of philosophy. Socrates held that there is no distinction between politics and ethics. The ultimate aim of having a good life filled with knowledge led them to believe in the utility and virtue of the state. The foundation of political science was laid by Socrates and Plato. During ancient times, the Greeks developed critical thinking and the method of dialectics. 
  • Plato’s disciple Aristotle brought elements of practicality in the thinking of politics and is considered the father of Political Science. Aristotle had desired to make political science a master science making it interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary. Both Plato and Aristotle, considered the state as a source of virtue and natural institution maintaining equality and justice though they differed in the conception of state and king. The focus on the importance of state over people and community over individual led to a lack of value to the individuality and dignity of human beings which is reflected in the theory of slavery by Aristotle
  • During mediaeval Times political science was a sub-discipline of the religious authority of church the authority of state it was considered as dark era. This period saw the decline of political thought in the west as it was eclipsed by religion and the state and its authority had to accept the superiority of religion (Church). The divine rights theory of kingship provided unhindered powers to the ruling class to rule. 
  • With the birth of the Renaissance, reformation, and enlightenment movement, human life came to be accorded central importance. These movements along with the scientific revolution impacted western political thought and brought in fundamental changes. 
  • Towards the end of the mediaeval period Machiavelli developed the realist approach towards political science. In his book “The Prince”, he separated politics from ethics and religion. Thomas Hobbes, Descartes used principles of science to understand political questions. Utilitarianism made human pleasure the foundation of political decision-making and revolutionized western political thought. 
  • Thinkers like John Locke and Rousseau gave the concept of popular sovereignty to different degrees and focused on human cooperation which ultimately gave rise to modern liberal democratic political thought. Liberty, equality, and justice became the motto of the age with these values inspiring American and French revolutions
  • The race for markets and colonies led to rise in imperialism. Within the western world also the gap between rich and poor kept on widening. To arrest the growth of inequality there was the emergence of socialism which aimed at equitable redistribution of resources. Its exponents were Charles Fourier, Saint Simon and Robert Owen
  • The industrial revolution adopted a factory system of production. Profiteering by capitalists led to exploitation of workers. Karl Marx criticized the bourgeois dominance over the economic class and gave a class-based understanding of politics. His dialectic materialism countered dialectic idealism of Hegel and declared ideology as false consciousness and necessity of revolution for absolute quality and justice. 
  • Hence, the political theory, since its inception has seen changes in scale, scope, methodology, and teleology. The classical thinkers emphasized on knowledge, laid more emphasis on order, stability and harmony in the social life, and tried to provide a prescription of a perfect life. 
  • On the other hand, the modern thinkers took the political inquiry nearer to science, facts, objectivity and focused on what the reality is rather than what it is supposed to be. 
  • The attempt to build a science of politics is a distinctly modern endeavor based on interdisciplinary approach and facts-based theorization. Both the contemporary broad streams of liberalism and Marxism, hence, claim to present a scientific theory of political life of the world. 

Approaches in Political Science

  • Traditional Approaches.
  • Modern Approaches.
  • Contemporary Approaches.

Traditional approaches

Philosophical Approach
  • Socrates is known as father of philosophy. He has given the ‘theory of knowledge’. According to him, the real knowledge is the knowledge of ideas. And the mode of learning this knowledge is logic. Socrates prescribed dialectics. Why this knowledge is superior? Physical world is a world of change. Hence, there cannot be a permanent knowledge. Whereas the world of idea is a world of permanence. Hence this knowledge is of permanent nature, subject to the condition, it is a product of logical reasoning.
  • Plato: Plato is called as father of political philosophy. He has suggested that it is not enough to understand the features of existing states, it is more important to understand the ‘idea of state’. The purpose of existence of the state.
  • When we understand the idea, we can mould the existing states which are bound to be imperfect towards perfection. Thus besides the advantage of getting the foundational or permanent knowledge, philosophy can help in making our lives better. Plato emphasised that the knowledge of philosopher is not just for his betterment but for the betterment of the society. Thus philosophy has a huge utility for making our lives better.
  • Philosophical approach is the oldest approach present in political science. Political science started as a sub discipline of philosophy. Classical scholars dealt with philosophical issues or normative issues like justice, equality, rights, liberties.
  • Philosophical approach remained dominant approach till second world war. Major development happened in western Europe. Philosophical approach came under criticism by behavioralists. Behavioralists wanted to make political science ‘pure science’. Hence they rejected the study of normative issues. They advocated the study of facts. Lord Bryce held that “we need facts, facts and facts.”
  • Philosophical theories were criticised as ‘armchair theories’. They do not constitute verifiable and thus are not reliable source of knowledge. They also are inherently biased and divorced from the reality. However scholars like John Rawls, Leo Strauss, Isaiah Berlin, Dante Germino believe that the philosophical approach is most suitable for the discipline of political science.
  • Conclusion:
    • Politics is too complex, choice of approach will depend on the objective of research. Single approach is never sufficient. Different approaches need to be used in combination.
Historical Approach
  • It is also among the oldest approaches. It is considered as the simplest and the common-sense based approach for understanding politics and building theories. History is closely connected with politics. The relationship between the two disciplines is explained by the scholars as – if history is a root, politics is a shoot. History is past politics, politics is present history. It is to be noted that traditional international politics has been studied as ‘diplomatic history’. It was Machiavelli who strongly advocated the study of history to understand politics. According to him, history – rather than philosophy – is a better guide for the prince.
  • In modern times, scholars like Laski and Sabine have preferred historical approach. According to Laski, “Every thinker is a child of his times”. He also writes that “no political idea is ever intelligible, save in the context of time.” According to Sabine, “political ideas are themselves the products of the crisis phases of history.” Historical approach is the most common sense based approach. It serves the requirement of a sound approach. : 3 requirements Factual, Causal, Evaluative.
  • Though historical approach has found huge favour, yet it suffers from following challenges:
    • History is too vast, it is challenging task to find out relevant data.
    • All that is in history may not be relevant and there are many concepts in political science like philosopher king, communism, which were never present in history yet important for the student of political science.
    • History in itself is a highly politicised discipline. Edward Said’s ORIENTALISM show that the history writing has been a political project.
    • Political scholars may not use history in a scientific manner. Machiavelli himself has done the selective use of history. He used only those examples which served his political purpose.
    • There are examples of political scholars making politics out of history. Karl Popper criticized Hegel and Karl Marx for committing the guilt of historicism. Which means ideological use of history. e.g. When Marx explains history as a product of class struggle, his purpose if political.
    • John Plamanetz has criticized, making political ideas dependent on history. He suggests that political ideas should be understood on the basis of logic.
  • Conclusion:
    • Politics is too complex, choice of approach will depend on the objective of research. Single approach is never sufficient. Different approaches need to be used in combination.
Empirical Approach
  • Empirical approach is based on observation. We can observe the physical facts and human behaviour. We cannot observe ideas. Machiavelli proposed empirical approach along with historical approach. He warns prince against living in the world of ideas whereas he suggests prince to look at the things as they are.
  • If Plato recommends philosophy, Machiavelli recommends observation, Aristotle is the connecting link. Aristotle’s theory of forms emphasize on the interdependence between idea and matter, the world of being and becoming. In order to understand empirical approach, we need to compare it with philosophical approach.
Empirical ApproachNormative / Philosophical Approach
Study of factsStudy of Ideas
ObservationMethod: Logic
Descriptive (They describe what reality is)Prescriptive or Normative (They tell what should be)
Criteria is true and falseThe criteria is right and wrong
Status quoistChange oriented
  • Empirical approach can also be differentiated from scientific approach. Empirical approach is just observation. It does not become scientific on its own. Scientific approach is rigorous. It includes observation, verification, measurement, free from biasness.
  • John Locke is a supporter of empiricism over Socrates theory of knowledge. Locke rejects the view that the knowledge is imprinted on the human soul. According to Locke, experience is the source of knowledge. According to him, mind is tabula rasa (clean slate). It means human mind is clean slate. Observation and experience imprint knowledge.
  • Conclusion: Politics is too complex, choice of approach will depend on the objective of research. Single approach is never sufficient. Different approaches need to be used in combination.
Legal approach
  • Legal approach stands for an attempt to understand politics in terms of law. It focuses its attention on the legal and constitutional framework in which different organs of government have to function and their powers and procedure which makes their actions legally valid.
  • For instance, legal approach to Indian politics will proceed to analyse legal implications of various provisions of the Indian constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court of India, procedure of formation and legal position of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies, procedure of elections, powers and position of the President, Prime Minister, Governors Etc.
  • The Legal approach may prove inadequate in understanding the complex political forces, processes, behaviours which might operate outside legal formal framework, yet it is not entirely insignificant. Thus the study of constitutional law and international law etc. in spite of its limited use in understanding politics continues to play a pivotal role in the social and political life of almost every country.
  • Cicero, Jean Bodin, Austin, Grotius, Bentham, A.V. Dicey (Law of the Constitution) etc. are the chief propagators of this approach. It seeks to explain political life through legal perceptions and in the contexts of legal frameworks and institutions like the state. The method is largely descriptive and institutional and is guided by logic and reason rather than facts and events. 
  • However, it is accused of reducing all aspects of political life and system into a judicial entity overlooking the underlying socio-economic and cultural aspects. The legal approach may prove to be inadequate in understanding certain Complex political processes and behavior that might be operating outside the formal legal framework. It is also said that a legal truth can be politically untrue. 
Institutional Approach
  • The institutional approach is closely related to legal approach. Its roots lie in Aristotle’s study of multiple constitutions where he classifies the constitutions of Greek city States. 
    • Traditionally politics focused on the study of state and government. The government consists of various institutions and organs such as the legislature, executive and judiciary. The institutional approach studies the structure and function of the government and its various organs as well as political parties and institutions on the formal aspect of Government and politics. 
    • An institution is a set of officers and agents arranged in a hierarchy where each player has particular functions and powers. Vernon Van Dyke describes it as a persistent system of activities and expectations a stable pattern of group behavior. Through studying the process and functions of a particular institution, it seeks to draw valuable insights into their organization, discuss proposals for their reforms and offer general conclusions about their performance. Its methodology is descriptive and institutional. The major thinkers who adopted this approach include Polybius, Finer, James Brice, H.J. Laski, Maurice Duverger, and G.A. Almond. 
    • George H Sabine (A History of Political Theory) states that the subject matter of political science follows the themes of works of political philosophers from Plato to Marx. 
    • According to the critics, no wide-reaching theory can be constructed from this approach as it is descriptive and cannot be applied to the situations in developing countries. It is accused of overemphasizing the institutions and neglecting the individual, informal groups, and informal political activities that impact the institution. It is of not much use in the study of international politics as it is limited to the study of the UN and its allied Institutions. 
  • Broadly Covered in the topic of Comparative politics in Paper 2.

Modern Approaches:

  • The root of contemporary political science can be traced to the nineteenth century when the Rapid growth of natural Sciences tabulated the enthusiasm for the creation of new social science.
  • The important development of making Political Science as a distinct discipline occurred in the United States. The efforts of the American political science association established an autonomous discipline in political science taking it away from history, philosophy, economy and law and closer to sociology, anthropology, etc.
  • It means scientific approaches. In political science we can even use the term behavioral approaches. What is behavioral approach? Behavioural approach in political science started after 1st WW but it became prominent after 2nd WW. It was strongly promoted by American political science association. The core idea was, to make political science pure science.
  • It denotes a complete change. i.e. Change in the entire epistemology and even the ontology of discipline. When we change the method it obviously changes the scope and the nature. Thus behaviouralism is often called as ‘revolution’. Though some scholars prefer to call it movement. Charles Merriam is called as father of behaviouralism.
  • How behaviouralism emerged? We’ve to look into the historical circumstances besides intellectual proposals. After 2nd WW, academic conferences used to take place under United Nations. The scholars of different discipline used to be invited to give ideas on reconstruction and development. In these conferences, political scholars were not invited. It was believed that they have nothing relevant to offer. Political science had become almost a dead discipline.
    1. Political scholars were not dealing with the contemporary issues, they were dealing with the study of centuries old ideas. Historicist like Sabine, Dunning were busy in writing the history of western philosophy from Plato to Marx.
    2. Whereas other social science disciplines like sociology has long back incorporated scientific methods / positivism. Political science remained far from adopting scientific methods for research. Thus political theories were ‘armchair theories’ with little practical relevance.
    3. Intellectual Factors: Scholars of Chicago school of political science like Charles Merriam, Catlin were advocating for the behavioral, systematic and value free analysis. Understanding processes rather than institutions. Considering the state of discipline, attempt was made to revive, to regain the credibility for the discipline by incorporating scientific methods.
Features of Behavioural approach
  • David Easton has given eight features of behavioral approach in his address to American Political Science Association. His purpose was to make political science, ‘science’. It means to develop the laws in political science just like the laws existing in natural sciences. By observing the phenomenon. Phenomenon should have regularity. And thus developing the explanation, verification, experimentation. Scientific laws are free from biasness.
Eight features given by David Easton.
  • Regularities: Observe regularities in human behaviour. Traditionalists argument – Traditionalist believe that regularities are not possible in human behaviour. Why? There is no guarantee that the same person will behave in a similar manner under similar conditions twice.
  • Systematization: Scientific research is systematic. Hence political research should also be systematic. There should be relation between the objective of the research and collection of data. Traditionalists view – According to traditionalists, social sciences are analytical in nature, hence we cannot be very particular with respect to systematization.
  • Techniques: Behaviouralists suggest the adoption of mathematical, statistical techniques. Traditionalists view – There are very limited areas of research where we can adopt quantitative techniques. For the sake of technique, there is no point compromising with the subject matter.
  • Measurement: Just like scientific results are expressed in quantitative terms for the purpose of precision, political research should also be represented in the form of quantitative data for precision. Traditionalists believe that such approach will limit the scope of the subject as there are very few areas where measurement is possible like electoral behaviour.
  • Verification: Like scientific theories, pol science theories should also be verifiable, so that a reliable knowledge is developed. Traditionalists continue to believe that verifiability is not possible in all cases. e.g. We have to understand the idea of communism which can be understood, explained only by logical analysis.
  • Integration: Integration means inter-disciplinary approach. Political science has always been inter-disciplinary. The only difference is that traditionalists looked for data in disciplines like philosophy, history and law. On the other hand, behaviouralists suggest to borrow from sociology, psychology and natural science disciplines. They even warn against bringing the discipline near to philosophy, history and law.
  • Value Neutrality: Like scientific research is value neutral, political scholars should also not prescribe value preferences. Traditionalists like Leo Strauss is very critical of rejecting the values. According to him, “when we ignore values, it is like not making any difference in pure water and dirty water.” Pure Science: When we will adopt above parameters, political science will become pure science.
Achievements of Behaviouralists.
  • Political science was in the state of decline, behavioralists could arrest the decline. Behavioralists made significant contribution in the field of the analysis of electoral behaviour. The analysis of electoral behaviour has been helpful for political parties in formulation of their strategies and programs.
  • Behavioural research helped us in understanding the difference between theory and practice. e.g. The elitist and pluralists investigated the reality of the democracy in western countries, reality of socialism in communist countries.
  • One of the major area where behaviour research proved most useful was the study of the political systems in developing areas. There is a difference in the constitution and actual practice. There is a difference in the text and context. Hence traditional approach like legal institutional proved inadequate and politics of these countries require field studies. Thus comparative politics became the major area for behavioural research.
Criticism of behavioural approach
  • Though behaviouralism made a breakthrough in the field of political Science, it has been criticized on many fronts. Some of its weaknesses have been identified as follows:
    • Behaviouralism concerns more with Techniques than Results- Behaviour list attach too much importance to the techniques and methods and do not worry at all about the theoretical importance of the subject. While doing the research, the behaviour lists have chosen only such topics for research in which better techniques are an available and they have ignored the rest. Besides that they have not bothered about the results.
    • Behaviouralism emphasise the importance of behavioural effect at the cost of institutional effects- it should be noted particularly that American behaviour lists have altogether neglected the effects of the institutions upon the society and concentrated their efforts only at the behavioural aspect of the individuals and groups confined mainly in America.
    • Study of politics can never be value-free- the critics of behaviouralism contend that politics can never be value free as held by the behaviour lists. In politics very selection of subjects for investigation is determined by values.
    • Behaviouralism emphasis static rather than current situation- Behaviour lists has been concentrating their study mainly on the static subjects rather on the current problems. In the beginning behaviour lists justified they were filling the gap left by the institutionalism but now it cannot be justified as the burning problems such as threat of nuclear war, hunger, famine, undernourishment etc. The behaviour lists have so far ignored all these urgent problems because that does not suit their study.
    • Difficulties in studying ever changing behaviour- it is very difficult to study the ever changing behaviour of man because the emotions, ideas and thinking go on changing continuously. Therefore, absolutely no correct predictions can be made about the behaviour of man. Moreover, it is very difficult to measure the role of various factors governing the behaviour of man.
    • Behavioural research depends too much on other sciences- political science is depending upon other social sciences particularly sociology and anthropology and borrowing so much from them that it is apprehended that the very identity, integrity and autonomy of political science may be lost. Inter-disciplinary approach can be helpful in understanding many political problems but it cannot solve all the complexities about human behaviour. Despite the criticism, the contribution of behaviour revolution to political science needs to be acknowledged. Certain specific areas in political science for example study of voting behaviour, enquiry into political process etc, have been benefited greatly by the new approach. The salutary results of behavioural movement may be summed up as new awareness about the needs of scientific research greater degree of empiricism and an increasing use of new analytical technique.
Post Behaviouralism
  • Post behavioralism emerged out of dis-satisfaction from some aspects of behavioralism. In the history of the evolution of the discipline of political science, we see the two stages of decline.
  • 1st Decline: Before 2nd WW. In this case the responsibility was on traditionalists primarily historicists. This decline was addressed by behavioralists.
  • 2nd Decline: The second decline happened because of behavioralists. What were the indications of decline? 1950s and 60s are the phases of lot of activism in USA. There have been various types of protests like civil rights movements, women movements, environmental and peace movements… How to address these crises was a big challenge. When policymakers had to look towards political scholars, it was again found that they had nothing to offer. Behavioralists were busy in making political science, pure science. It resulted in compromise with
    1. Scope of the subject.
    2. Relevance of the subject.
  • They over-emphasized on the scientific techniques. In political science there are very limited areas where scientific technique can be used. David Easton, who gave the principles of behavioralism himself acknowledged that “Political scholars sitting in ivory towers, perfecting their techniques have ignored the purpose for which the technique is used.”
  • It is true that behavioralists had produced rich literature on election studies but such studies are not sufficient. Political scholars cannot ignore the normative issues like justice, rights, liberties etc. Thus scholars like Alfred Cobban blamed positivists and empiricists. Dante Germino blamed ‘ideological reductionists’ responsible for the decline of the discipline.
Features of post behavioralism
  • David Easton gave one more lecture to American political science association. This lecture is titled as ‘Credo of Relevance’. David Eastern called for ‘Creative theory’. The two parameters of the creative theory are 1) Action & 2) Relevance. It means whatever research person is choosing, it should be relevant, action oriented for the benefit of society. Thus he acknowledged the decline of the discipline because of behavioralists. Easton clarified that technique is important but the purpose for which the technique is to be used is more important.
  • Easton clarified that it is not rejection of behaviouralism rather it is taking behaviouralism forward. We can say that traditionalism is thesis, behaviouralism is antithesis while post behaviouralism is synthesis. The assumptions, methodologies, approaches remain same like that of behavioralists. The only difference it makes is
    • Technique can be compromised for the sake of relevance.
    • There is no need to be value neutral, values are needed.
  • David Easton has given seven features of post behavioralism.
    • Technique is important but the purpose for which the technique is used is more important. It is better to be vague than to be non-relevant.
    • Post behavioralism does not reject values, rather invite values.
    • Theory should have capacity to solve the crisis.
    • We should promote such values which contribute towards the flourishing of human civilization.
    • Political science is applied science, rather than pure science.
    • The responsibility of social scientists is bigger than the responsibility of natural scientists.
    • Political science is extremely useful discipline, needs to be actively promoted by universities, research foundations.

The Decline of Political Theory

  • During the mid 20th century the exponent of political science began to question the relevance of traditional political theory. David Easton in his work “Political System: An enquiry into the state of political science” (1953) asserted that the traditional political theory was devoid of observation. It could not explain the political reality. To lay the foundation of science in the study of politics it became necessary to rescue it from the study of classics and history.
  • Easton pointed out that there was no outstanding political philosopher after Marx and J. S. Mill. During the Second World War, theorists of all the other Social Sciences were actively involved in the process and decision making while political scientists remained at back footing. 
  • David Easton in his article “The Decline of Modern Political Theory” had identified the following reasons for the decline of political theory:
    • Historicism
      • Easton argued that writers like George H. Sabine, C.L. Wayper, A.J. Carlyle, R.W. Carlyle and Lindsay have taken the subject very close to the discipline of history. A deep study of their works reveals that they have been motivated less by an interest in analyzing and formulating new value theory than in retelling information about the meaning, internal consistency, and historical development of contemporary and past political values
    • Moral Relativism
      • David Easton accused David Hume and Max Weber of having relativistic attitude towards ‘Values’. They neglected what consequences they have for the ‘facts. Even with the rise of Fascism and Nazism which challenged the long tradition of political theory, the political theorists failed to subject the old values to critical analysis and imaginative reconstruction. Easton stressed on the reviving critical theory which once again shall act as a bridge between the needs of society and the knowledge of social sciences
    • Confusion between Science and Theory
      • David Easton accused that the use of both science and theory in a wrong way by the political scientists was also responsible for the decline of political theory. They confused science with theory and forgot that theory goes beyond science
    • Hyper-factualism
      • After Easton tried to build a behavioural science, the behavouralism was charged with over-factualization and under-theorization. Easton accepts this charge and further builds a post-behavioural approach to arrest the decline of theory.
  • Therefore, there was an appeal for going after behavioral political science. After one and half decades of launching Behaviouralism, David Easton changed his view and in his address to American political science Association he pitched for post behavioural revolution. 
  • The debate on the decline of Political Theory was also joined by other prominent thinkers Alfred Cobban argued that Political Theory lost its significance in capitalist as well as communist systems. Political Theory practically had to play no role in sustaining these systems capitalist system was degraded into aristocracy and military state while communist system was converted to oligarchy. 
  • Dante Germino in his work ‘beyond ideology the revival of Political Theory (1967)’ argued that there were two major causes for the decline of Political Theory first, the craze of science (positivism) second, culmination of ideological evolution into Marxism. According to Germino to understand the new role of Political Theory it was necessary to integrate it with philosophy. It is critical to study the principle of right order in human existence and enquiry into right and wrong. Political philosophy deals with problems of men confronted during his social existence. 
  • Seymour Martin Lipset in his work “Political man the social bases of politics”stated that the values of contemporary society had already been decided. The form of democracy in the United States was close approximation to the good society. Leo Strauss in his famous paper “What is political philosophy?” considered the science of politics as the symptom of the decline of Political Theory. The adaptation of the positivist approach led to the ignoring of normative issues. 

Resurgence of Political Theory

  • Nevertheless, Isaiah Berlin says that political theory is neither dead nor in the state of decline. He says that there cannot be an age without political philosophy. Berlin argued that as long as rational curiosity existed political theory would not die nor disappear. George H. Sabine also opined that “if political theory is systematic, disciplined investigation of political problems, then it is difficult to say that political theory was dead in the 1950s and 1960s.” 
  • In the latter half of 19th century political thinkers like John Rawls, C B Macpherson, Robert Nozick, Jurgen Habermass, Alasdair Macintyre, Michael Walzer and Herbert Marcuse revived the great tradition of political philosophy. 
  • Herbert Marcuse suggested that the language of social science page to support status code he pointed towards the risk involved in a demand for scientific study of politics the scientific terminology defined in terms of observation and Measurement leaves no scope for critical vision example in democracy people’s participation when estimated on the basis of number of voters does not emphasize on the capability of prevailing electronic system to maintain the spirit of democracy. 
  • By the 1970 the dichotomy between Political Science and philosophy was largely subsided. David Easton emphasizes the importance of values in his post behavioural approach following normative approach did not hesitate in utilizing the assumptions derived by empirical methods. 
  • Hannah Arendt stressed on the uniqueness and responsibility of human being in her book “human condition” She has criticized behaviouralism and highlighted unique human role of acting in concert. Her thoughts on totalitarianism, power and modern democracy revive Normative Political Theory. 
  • Political Theory meets its revival in the monumental classic of John Rawls. He enriched his theory of justice by adopting John Locke’s theory of social contract, Kant’s theory of individualism. He says that justice is the virtue of first social institution as truth is the system of thought. Rawls challenged the notion that normative theory cannot be explained by methods of natural science. He held that normative theory is not only consistent but also similar in form with natural science. Moral theory too, according to Rawls, begins with data but the data for normative theory are moral judgments. 
  • Further, in 1974, Robert Nozick wrote “Anarchy, State and Utopia” and rejuvenated political theory. This rejuvenation has been a return to the true tradition of the classics in which normative analysis uses empirical findings. Thus political theory has not been killed by empirical analysis but has helped to progress better. 
  • C B Macpherson’s theory of democracy is another example of revival of normative aspect in political theory. Macpherson’s analysis of theories of democracy and evaluation that the theories lack value or substance of democracy. The Macpherson’s democracy is not an end in itself with more focus on procedures but tries to devise and idea of democracy to enhance creative freedom of citizens. It is a substantive theory of democracy fulfilling normative demands of theory. 

Contemporary approaches

  1. Post modernism
  2. Existentialism.
    • Refer Radical feminism (Sartre and Simon de Bouvier)
  3. Feminist perspective
  4. Critical school
  5. Phenomenological
    • Refer Hannah Arendt – experience
  6. Structuralism
    • Refer Althusser, Gramsci, Marx.

Classification of different approaches in political science

  • Philosophical: Idealism, liberalism, marxism, anarchism, feminism, post modernism are all philosophical, analytical perspectives.
  • Empirical: Behavioralism, post behavioralism,
  • Historical Approach: Machiavelli, Sabine, Laski
Contextualist Approach
  • It is a approach to study texts, especially classics. The writings of political philosophers like Plato’s REPUBLIC, Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE are considered as classics. There are two ways to study classics.
    • Textual Approach.
    • Contextual Approach.
  • Textual approach goes for literal interpretation. Static belief that the text contain universal, transcendental relevance. On the other hand, contextual approach suggest that the meanings have to be interpreted in accordance to the present situations. This is the only way texts will remain relevant. According to the scholars of contextual approach, there is no interpretation which can be called as purely literal interpretation.
  • According to the scholars of Cambridge school like Skinner and Pocock, we have to understand even linguistic context. We should know how people interpreted the meanings at the time when these texts have been written. e.g. To understand exactly what John Locke meant when he uses the term trust, we have to understand how people at that time were using the term trust.
  • Derrida has given the approach of deconstruction. He suggests that there can be multiple interpretations of the texts. We have to understand the context of the writer as well as context of the reader. According to Derrida, no meaning can be regarded as ultimate. Every understanding can be a misunderstanding.
Debate on the nature of the discipline
  • We normally categorize the disciplines into 3 types on the basis of their epistemology and ontology.
    • Scientific discipline,
    • Philosophical and
    • Applied or arts.
  • According to Scholars like Leo Strauss, political science is philosophical by nature. It originated as political philosophy. Philosophical methods are most suitable for it.
  • Behavioralists, positivists, empiricists like David Eastern focus on the scientific nature of the discipline. Suggest scientific methods though later on they acknowledged the limitations of the application of scientific methods. They acknowledged that political science can only be applied science.
  • Political science as an art. It was Machiavelli who described ‘politics is an art, political theory is the statecraft or the management of power.’
  • With the emergence of post-modernism it has been realized that political theories are neither philosophy nor science. They are interpretations. Thus post modernists believe that it is a interpretative discipline.
  • Political science cannot be pure science because political scholars work with human language rather than symbols like natural scientists. Human language is highly subjective hence there cannot be a consensus even over the terminology.
  • Whether political science is art, science or philosophy, whether the theories are interpretations will remain a matter of debate. However there is no debate as far as the utility of the discipline and there is no debate with respect to the nature of political science as the most democratic of all disciplines. Debate is a heart and soul of politics and so the heart and soul of political theory or science.

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