political science

political science

political science, the study of government and political processes, institutions, and behavior. Government and politics have been studied and commented on since the time of the ancient Greeks. However, it is only with the general systematization of the social sciences in the last 100 years that political science has emerged as a separate definable area of study. Political science is commonly divided into a number of subfields, the most prominent being political theory, national government, comparative government, international relations, and special areas shared with other social sciences such as sociology, psychology, and economics. In practice, these subfields overlap. Political theory encompasses the following related areas: the study of the history of political thought; the examination of questions of justice and morality in the context of the relationships between individuals, society, and government; and the formulation of conceptual approaches and models in order to understand more fully political and governmental processes. The study of national government focuses on the political system of the researcher's particular country, including the legal and constitutional arrangements and institutions; the interaction of various levels of government, other social and political groups, and the individual; and proposals for improving governmental structure and policy. Comparative government covers many of the same subjects but from the perspective of parallel political behavior in several countries, regions, or time periods. International relations deals both with the more traditional areas of study, such as international law, diplomacy, political economy, international organizations, and other forms of contact between nation states, and with the development of general, scientific models of international political systems. None of the political science subfields can be clearly separated. All of them, for example, deal with questions closely associated with political theory. Valuable and sophisticated discussions of almost all the areas of political science, including the areas now generally classified under such titles as political sociology, can be found throughout intellectual history as far back as Plato and Aristotle. Through the centuries, the questions of political science have been discussed in contexts varying with the changing perspectives of the time. During the Middle Ages, for example, the major concerns revolved around the problem of where the state stood in relation to man and his God. Karl Marx, on the other hand, viewed political questions in the context of society's economic structure. Modern political science stresses the importance of using political concepts and models that are subject to empirical validation and that may be employed in solving practical political problems.

See V. O. Key, Politics, Parties, and Pressure Groups (5th ed. 1964); G. Almond and G. B. Powell, Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach (1966); J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971); B. Crick, The American Science of Politics (1982); G. Shakhnazarov, Contemporary Political Science in the U.S.A. and Western Europe (1985).

Academic discipline concerned with the empirical study of government and politics. Political scientists have investigated the nature of states, the functions performed by governments, voter behaviour, political parties, political culture, political economy, and public opinion, among other topics. Though it has roots in the political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, political science in the modern sense did not begin until the 19th century, when many of the social sciences were established. Its empirical and generally scientific orientation is traceable to the work of Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte. The first institution dedicated to its study, the Free School of Political Science, was founded in Paris in 1871.

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Political science is a branch of social sciences that deals with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior. Political science is often described as the study of politics defined as "who gets what, when and how". Political science has several subfields, including: international relations, political theory, public policy, public administration, national politics, and comparative politics.

Political science is methodologically diverse. Approaches to the discipline include classical political philosophy, interpretivism, structuralism, and behavioralism, realism, pluralism, and institutionalism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, and model building.

Overview

Political scientists study the allocation and transfer of power in decision-making, the roles and systems of governance including governments and international organizations, political behavior and public policies. They measure the success of governance and specific policies by examining many factors, including stability, justice, material wealth, and peace. Some political scientists seek to advance positive theses by analyzing politics. Others advance normative theses, by making specific policy recommendations.

Political Scientists provide the frameworks from which journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the electorate analyze issues. Political scientists may serve as advisers to specific politicians, or even run for office as politicians themselves. Political scientists can be found working in governments, in political parties or as civil servants. They may be involved with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or political movements. In a variety of capacities, people educated and trained in political science can add value and expertise to corporations. Private enterprises such as think tanks, research institutes, polling and public relations firms often employ political scientists. In the United States, political scientists known as "Americanists" look at a variety of data including elections, public opinion and public policy such as Social Security reform, foreign policy, U.S. congressional power, and the U.S. Supreme Court—to name only a few issues.

Most American colleges and universities offer B.A. programs in political science. M.A. and Ph.D programs are common at larger universities. The term political science is more popular in North America than elsewhere; other institutions, especially those outside the United States, see political science as part of a broader discipline of political studies, politics, or government. While political science implies use of the scientific method, political studies implies a broader approach, although the naming of degree courses does not necessarily reflect their content. Separate degree granting programs in international relations and public policy are not uncommon at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Master's level programs in public administration are common.

The national honour society for college and university students of government and politics in the United States is Pi Sigma Alpha.

History

Antecedents

Political science is a late arrival in terms of social sciences. However, the discipline has a clear set of antecedents such as moral philosophy, political philosophy, political economy, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state. In each historic period and in almost every geographic area, we can find someone studying politics and increasing political understanding.

In ancient India, the antecedents of politics can be traced back to the Rig-Veda, Samhitas, Brahmanas, and Buddhist Pali Canon. Chanakya (c. 350-275 BC) was a professor of political science at Takshashila University, and later the Prime Minister of Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Chanakya is regarded as one of the earliest political thinkers, and is also known as the Indian Machiavelli. He wrote the Arthashastra, which was one of the earliest treatises on political thought, economics and social order, and can be considered a precursor to Machiavelli's The Prince. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail, among other topics on political science.The ancient Tamil literary work Thirukural written 2000 years ago has extensively dealt with political science.The topics discussed by Thirukural include the art of public administration, warfare, political diplomacy, civil society, espionage, qualifications for public office, public revenue and financial administration and local administration.

The antecedents of Western politics can also trace their roots back even earlier than Plato and Aristotle, particularly in the works of Homer, Hesiod, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Euripides. Later, Plato analysed political systems, abstracted their analysis from more literary- and history- oriented studies and applied an approach we would understand as closer to philosophy. Similarly, Aristotle built upon Plato's analysis to include historical empirical evidence in his analysis.

During the height of the Roman Empire, famous historians such as Polybius, Livy and Plutarch documented the rise of the Roman Republic, and the organization and histories of other nations, while statesmen like Julius Caesar, Cicero and others provided us with examples of the politics of the republic and Rome's empire and wars. The study of politics during this age was oriented toward understanding history, understanding methods of governing, and describing the operation of governments.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, there arose a more diffuse arena for political studies. The rise of monotheism and, particularly for the Western tradition, Christianity, brought to light a new space for politics and political action. Works such as Augustine of Hippo's The City of God synthesized current philosophies and political traditions with those of Christianity, redefining the borders between what was religious and what was political. During the Middle Ages, the study of politics was widespread in the churches and courts. Most of the political questions surrounding the relationship between church and state were clarified and contested in this period.

In the Middle East and later other Islamic areas, works such as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Epic of Kings by Ferdowsi provided evidence of political analysis, while the Islamic Aristotelians such as Avicenna and later Maimonides and Averroes, continued Aristotle's tradition of analysis and empiricism, writing commentaries on Aristotle's works.

During the Italian Renaissance, Niccolò Machiavelli established the emphasis of modern political science on direct empirical observation of political institutions and actors. Later, the expansion of the scientific paradigm during the Enlightenment further pushed the study of politics beyond normative determinations.

Modern political science

Since Political Science is essentially a study of human behavior, observations in controlled environments are usually not available and impossible to reproduce or duplicate. Because of this, Political Scientists seek patterns in the reasons and outcomes for political events so that generalizations and theories can be made. Again, study is still difficult since humans make conscious choices unlike other subjects in science, such as organisms, or even inanimate objects as in physics. Despite the complexities, consensus has been reached on various political topics with the help of proper study.

The advent of political science as a university discipline was marked by the creation of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the late 19th century. In fact, the designation "political scientist" is typically reserved for those with a doctorate in the field. Integrating political studies of the past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for the growth of both normative and positive political science, with each part of the discipline sharing some historical predecessors. The American Political Science Association was founded in 1903 and the American Political Science Review was founded in 1906 in an effort to distinguish the study of politics from economics and other social phenomena.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, a behavioral revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behavior swept the discipline. At the same time that political science moved toward greater depth of analysis, it also moved toward a closer working relationship with other disciplines, especially sociology, economics, history, anthropology, psychology, public administration and statistics. Increasingly, students of political behavior have used the scientific method to create an intellectual discipline based on the postulating of hypotheses followed by empirical verification and the inference of political trends, and of generalizations that explain individual and group political actions. Over the past generations, the discipline placed an increasing emphasis on relevance, or the use of new approaches and methodologies to solve political, cultural and social problems.

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