POLI 111: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

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1 POLI 111: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE SESSION 4 NATURE AND SCOPE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Lecturer: Dr. Evans Aggrey-Darkoh, Department of Political Science Contact Information:

2 Session Overview In this session you will be introduced to the subject matter of political science and how our daily lives depend on the political system Increasingly, our lives and welfare depend on developments beyond our national border The session offers the varying definitions of political science, discuss its scope and give the various perspectives of the subject It also examines the relationship between political science and other academic disciplines

3 Session Overview (cont d) It further explains the approaches that are normally used in studying political science and highlight the importance of studying political science The session finally discusses the thorny issue of whether political science is a science

4 Reading List Read Chapter 1 Magstadt T.M. & Schotten P. M. (1996). Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions, and Issues. New York: St. Martin s Press. pg Read Chapter 1 of Roskin M.G. et. al. (1991). Political Science: An Introduction 4th Ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall International Inc., 1991). pg Heywood, A. (2007). Politics, 3 rd Ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pg 13-21

5 Session Outline The topics covered in this session are as follows: Definition of Political Science The Scope of Political Science Relationship between Political Science and other disciplines Approaches to the study of Political Science The importance of studying Political Science Political Science as a science

6 Topic One Definition of Political Science

7 Iain Mclean s Definition of Political Science Iain Maclean defines Political Science as The study of the state, government and politics This definition is very simple as it recognizes that political science must concern itself with the state which is a distinct set of institutions whose specific concern is with the organization of domination, in the name of common interest, within a delimited territory, a population, government and is sovereign The concentration of this definition on the state is important because the state is the most central concept in the study of politics

8 Iain Mclean s Definition of Political Science (cont d) The concentration on the government also presupposes the study of political institutions like legislature, the executive, judiciary the media, political parties, the public bureaucracy among others The definition highlights the importance of politics, that is, the taken of collective decisions that affect the generality of the people and the resolution of conflicts

9 Kenneth Godwin and John Wahlke s Definition of Political Science Kenneth Godwin and John Wahlke (1997) define political science as The understanding of how societies make choices and an examination of the impact of those choices This definition is important as it demonstrates that societies make a number of choices These choices include the type of political system to live in, the type of leader to lead the society, the major policies to address the problems of the people, the relationship that should exist between the state and the citizens, etc.

10 Kenneth Godwin and John Wahlke s Definition of Political Science It is not enough just to study the choices societies make but a critical examination of the impact of those choices is absolutely necessary If a particular leader is selected to lead a country, If a particular leader is selected to lead a country, political scientists will want to know how this choice translates into the formulation and implementation of specific policies

11 Andrew Heywood s Definition of Political Science To Heywood, Political Science is An academic discipline which undertakes systematically to describe, analyze, and explain the workings and operations of government and the relationship between political and non-political institutions and processes

12 Andrew Heywood s Definition of Political Science (cont d) This definition is important for a number of reasons: First, it recognizes political science as an academic discipline Second, it indicates that the discipline uses systematic method and not any haphazard means in arriving at its conclusions Third, it highlights that the subject matter of political science is interested in how government works and the relationship that exist between government, political and non-political institutions When understood this way the discipline of political science underscores the relevance of politics to all human endeavors

13 Robert Jackson and Doreen Jackson s definition of Political Science Jackson and Jackson define Political Science as The study of how organized disputes are articulated and then resolved by the public decisions of governments They posit that political scientists describe and They posit that political scientists describe and analyze the institutions and behavior involved in the governance of states To them, there are also ethical and normative aspects to political science, which involves the search for the proper relationship between institutional structures and desired ends such as justice, equality, and liberty

14 TOPIC TWO The Scope of Political Science

15 The Activities of Political Scientists Political science has many facets and strands. In its broadest facets, it involves political behavior, procedures and policies, including governments, states, international organizations or entities and sub-units of political systems Political scientists study Politics They are also interested in the origins and the evolutions of governments, the growth and decline of governments, and conflicts among governments

16 The Activities of Political Scientists (cont d) Political scientists are also interested in how governments make decisions, the policies that result from the decisions and the consequences of the policies on the entire citizens. Political scientists are interested in issues relating to elections, selections transparency and accountability They are also interested in the promotion of public interest

17 The Activities of Political Scientists (cont d) Political scientists seek answers to a number of questions What attitudes and values produce political conflict and dissent? What political organizations are active in the struggle to achieve political consensus? What is the nature of the socio-economic relationships between states? How adequate are resources to meet needs? How equitably are resources distributed? and how are material interests pursued, protected, or changed by the course of public policy? What are the constitutional structures and the decision making procedures of each nation, and how well suited are they to that nation s needs? What internal structures and procedures exist for the debate and resolution of problems with other nations? What assistance is available from international agencies and the international community at large?

18 The Sub-Fields of Political Science Political science covers the following seven subfields: Government and politics concentrates on the study of the government and politics of a state Comparative government and politics is concerned with contrasting and evaluating governments of political systems International politics deals with the relationship between states Public administration is concerned with the study of public administration by means of institutional description, policy analysis and evaluation and intergovernmental relation analysis

19 The Sub-Fields of Political Science (cont d) Political theory is the oldest form of political enquiry. It dates back to Plato and Aristotle. Political theory is the centre of the discipline, because it encompasses the full realm of thought concerning the origin, form, and behavior of the political community Political methodology is the study of the methods to be used in political enquiry This deals with the tools for empirical investigations and analysis The methods used in the study of politics include archival research, interview- based research, textual and contextual analysis of the arguments of past thinkers, etc.

20 The Sub-Fields of Political Science (cont d) Political economy deals with the parallel existence and mutual interaction of the state and market in the modern world creates political economy Political economy looks at the relationship or the nexus between politics and economics It is concerned with the public management of the affairs of the state Under political economy, the general assumption is that there is a symbiotic relationship between economics and politics

21 TOPIC THREE Relationship of Political Science to other Disciplines

22 The Origin of Political Science As a specialized field of study, political science is of relative recent origin It is a relatively new subject in universities Political science was not a separate discipline until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when departmental chairs were established in universities The first department of political science was established in 1880, in the United States at the Columbia University Even when it was officially recognized as a distinct field, political science continued to be taught for many years in history and economics departments as Political Economy Political science therefore developed as a truly interdisciplinary field of study

23 The Relevance of Creating Several Social Science Subjects Political Science branched off from a number of social science disciplines including law, history, and economics among others The social sciences grouped together are devoted to the study of man in society The division of social science into several disciplines is to facilitate and explain various needs and interests of man in society

24 The Relevance of Creating Several Social Science Subjects (cont d) The advantages of creating several social science subjects include: The possibility for a higher degree of expertise in a number of subjects Increased efficiency through division of labour Increased efficiency through division of labour The disadvantages are: The excessive isolation of related activities, which may render more difficult the essential borrowing by one science from others Arbitrary divisions between the social sciences The lack of unifying vehicle to furnish overview or perspective

25 Political Science and History History is the systematic record of what men and government have done in the past and in what perspective present institutions and development stand in relation to the past Political science is history in suspended animation, history arrested, analyzed and sifted for its political content, for its imperial lessons While political scientists see history as a raw material for analysis, historians see political science as a wayward child Both political science and history are complementary Political institutions can be better understood through the consideration of their historical setting. Political scientists therefore owe a lot to history in order to establish the authenticity of and the relevance of the data.

26 Political Science and Economics Economics is the study of how society chooses to allocate scarce resources which have alternative uses, to meet the unlimited needs of society now and the future Economics is the study of those individuals and social activities involved in the production, distribution and consumption of wealth At one time, Political Science and Economics were bound together like Siamese twins and known as Political Economy Economic factors determine Politics; while political forms shape and determine the economic system

27 Political Science and Economics The interdependence between the two subjects is very evident in the political importance of a stable monetary system, taxation, the protection of property, and the enforcement of contractual obligations In recent years one of the most hotly contested issues is the extent to which government must get involved in the economic system of the country

28 Political Science and Sociology Sociology is a specialized study of social behavior and human interaction It provides information on social customs and cultures which bear significantly on political development and political institutions It was the study of electorates and their motives which led to the conceptualization of political culture The use of sociological methods also helps political scientists to understand political socialization Comparative studies of families, clans, tribes, classes, and races, and their interrelationships provide the political scientists with a better understanding of the nature of various communities and their problems

29 Political Science and Psychology Psychology is regarded by behaviorists as the basis of Political Science Both individual and social psychology are seen as providing very important contributions to the understanding of politics Fundamental human instinct for self-preservation, the desire for development and the pursuit of freedom are not only used to explain political phenomena but also can be developed into theories and laws of politics Through psychological studies answers can be found as to why individuals vote the way they do, why certain political developments occur, and why certain leaders attain and maintain power

30 Topic Four Approaches to the Study of Political Science

31 What is an Approach? An approach is the means by which something is reached An approach to a discipline is the particular orientation that one adopts when addressing the subject An approach provides a guide for selecting facts and organizing them in a meaningful way Politics today embraces a variety of theoretical approaches from a variety of sources which has made the field very fertile and versatile

32 The Philosophical Approach This approach dates back to the ancient Greeks and it was usually referred to as political philosophy It was mainly concerned with ethical issues, prescriptive issues, and normative questions The question that engaged their attention included; What ought to be What should be What must be This approach is mainly concerned with the examination of what the major thinkers said, how they developed or justified their views, and the intellectual context within which they worked

33 The Empirical Tradition Empirical knowledge in derived from sense data and experience Empirical or descriptive tradition can also be traced to the earliest days of political thought. It manifested itself in the following: Aristotle s attempt to classify constitutions Machiavelli s realistic account of statecraft in his book The Prince, which discussed how political power is acquired, maintained, and expanded Montesquieu s sociological theory of government and law which resulted in the development of the concept of separation of powers

34 The Scientific Tradition Karl Marx was the first theorist to attempt to describe politics in scientist terms He made predictions about the future based upon laws that had the same status in terms of proof as laws in the natural sciences The scientific study of politics became very fashionable in the nineteenth century, with the introduction of the study of Political Science in 1870s in Columbia, Oxford and Paris The enthusiasm with the science of politics peaked in the 1950s and 1960s with the analysis of political phenomenon that relied extensively on behavioralism

35 Topic Five The Importance of Studying Political Science

36 Why Study Political Science? Political Science is studied for the following reasons: Self-interest Self-improvement Self-knowledge Career Development Development of analytical skills Promotion of good governance

37 Topic Six Political Science as a Science

38 What is Science? The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge Science is a field of study that aims at developing reliable explanation of phenomena through repeatable experiments, observation and deductions Scientific knowledge is also seen as anybody of systematic knowledge based upon observation and experience Fundamentally science involves a method, some assumptions and certain goals It is a means of study which involves precision, rigor, and systematic way of proceeding

39 Assumptions of Scientific Knowledge The key assumptions of scientific knowledge are as follows: Patterns of behavior Empiricism Inter-subjectivity Objectivity or value-free analysis Systematization Universal laws or generalization High-level theory

40 Arguments Against the Science of Politics The problems which hamper the total and complete use of the scientific method by political scientists include: The problem of data There are difficulties the stem from the existence of human values There is also the myth of neutrality

41 Arguments in Favor of the Science of Politics Political science is essentially empirical, claiming to describe, analyze, and explain government and other political institutions in a rigorous and impartial manner In political science, we can accumulate quantifiable data The study reasoned (logical coherence) Balanced-bias is minimize by acknowledging that there are other ways of looking at political topics The work is supported by evidence

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