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Political science is a branch of social science concerned with theory, description, analysis and prediction of political behavior, political systems and politics broadly-construed. Political psychology is a specialist area within political science.
Overview[edit | edit source]
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.
The study of politics is complicated by the occasional involvement of political scientists in the political process, since their teachings occasionally provide the frameworks within which other commentators, such as journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the electorate analyze issues and select options. 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. Some universities offer B.S or M.S. degrees. The term political science has an American flavour; 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.
History[edit | edit source]
- Main article: History of political science
Antecedents[edit | edit source]
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 back 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 rule of Rome, 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.
Studies[edit | edit source]
The advent of political science as a university discipline is evidenced by the naming of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the 1860s. 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 behavioural revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behaviour 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.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Increasingly, students of political behaviour 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 generation, the discipline placed an increasing emphasis on relevance, or the use of new approaches and methodologies to solve political and social problems.
Political science has, broadly, five subfields: international relations, political theory, public policy and public administration, national politics, and comparative politics. 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.
References[edit | edit source]
- Schools offering the B.S. or M.S. in political science include: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Idaho, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and others.
- See the example of New York University in particular. The term politics is used at:
- University of California, Santa Cruz, Ursinus College, Brandeis University, Cornell College, Occidental College, New York University, Monash University, Mount Holyoke College, Princeton University, Hendrix College, and Washington and Lee University
- Smith College, Colby College, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, the University of Texas at Austin, the College of William and Mary, the University of Sydney, the University of Ulster, the University of Essex, Victoria University of Wellington (which has both a School of Government and a separate Political Science and International Relations Programme) and the London School of Economics and Political Science to describe the field.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- American Political Science Review - The Evolution of Political Science. APSR Centennial Volume - Special Issue - November 2006
- Klingemann, Hans-Dieter (ed.): The State of Political Science in Western Europe. Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publishers 2007, ISBN 978-3-86649-045-3
- Schram, Sanford F. and Brian Caterino (eds.) Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method. New York and London: New York University Press, 2006.
See also[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- American Political Science Association
- International Political Science Association
- Political Studies Association of the UK
- PROL: Political Science Research Online (prepublished research)
- Truman State University Political Science Research Design Handbook
- A New Nation Votes: American Elections Returns 1787-1825
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