Levels of Methodology for the Study of Politics

For historical reasons and a long tradition of conservatism, the normative thinkers have dominated the study of politics, pushing it to the domain of philosophy or poetry or literature. Its nomenclature ‘Political Science’ sounds misnomer. There is very little ‘science’ in it.

Rather the suffix ‘science’ unnecessarily compels some scholars to adopt means and methods of natural sciences all the time without caring for the nature of the data, meaning or objectives of political studies. The literature of political studies is replete with many of the ideas, concepts and theories which lag far behind the contemporary world of science and technology, particularly, globalisation and the new economic order.

The dichotomy and separation between two types of methodologies (empirical and trans-empirical) have so far kept them apart, making each other’s findings somewhat baseless, false and even misleading. Both of them have been claiming to accomplish what they should not methodologically claim to do. One cannot see any spiritual and mental phenomena without reference to concrete situations of human living, and empirical realities rarely exist without relation to human mind and spirit.

To make out methodological horizons wider and the discipline more reality-oriented, it would be appropriate if the nomenclature ‘Political Science’ is abandoned in preference to ‘Politicology’ or ‘Polilogy’. The new name may literally mean the same thing but it is likely to provide a new orientation and a wider coverage. The methodology of ‘Politicology’ or ‘Polilogy’ as suggested above would be better able to deal with all type of phenomena in terms of human experience, and make knowledge public, open and ‘inter-subjectively trans­missible’.

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At the present level of methodological underdevelopment, it is quite difficult to explain a part of mental and spiritual phenomena relating to politics in empirical terms. The proposed politicological methodology would study reality as it exists. It would not negate,, nullify or distort, but would honestly try to accept their influence on human mind and behaviour. Conscientious researchers should now no more remain one-way recipients of tools, adequate or inadequate, from other disciplines.

The scholars in the past have been accepting and using them without questioning their basics, goals and utility. As such, their discipline has filled its store with a lot of deadwood, waste, rickety salvage, fossils and confusing hangovers during the last several decades. Any venture of research with this material is just groping in dark and leading others toward black holes.

They should widen their horizons and ascertain reality by resorting to intangible methodol­ogies. Transmissibility, reproducibility, verification and scientificity have to come after having substantial attainments. For this, scholars have to abandon their false egoism of calling their discipline as ‘science’ and avoid resorting to blind imitation.

Political Science as a discipline is intermeshed with all the four forms of reality. Study of politics should have means and methods to handle all these four levels of reality. Without applying methods appropriate to data, realistic knowledge cannot be generated. Methods of political studies must be compatible and vary with the nature of data. Lack of appropriate tools and techniques simply displays that the discipline falls short in adequate understanding of its own subject-matter.

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Research results or knowledge of politics cannot be better than the methods and techniques by which they have been obtained. Without suitable methodological weaponry, the quest for knowledge may prove an abortive venture. On the road of having appro­priate tools and techniques of research, various forms of political phenomena can be studied in the following manner:

At the first tangible level, like any other social science, it has also a number of empirical methods of study and research. Politics is a worldly activity. It would make use of them. At the second level of invisibles or mental tangibles, there are many sophisticated tools and devices available which enable us to know them, and make that reality understandable. These mostly are borrowed from natural and social sciences.

At the third level of mental and emotional phenomena, there are methods of psychiatry, linguistic and content analysis, experiments, black box techniques and the like. These methods may enable it to comprehend the phenomena of power, authority, legitimacy, nationhood, democracy, participation, deference, autonomy and the like. However, their study in Political Science would be more problematic and heuristic than obtained in other social sciences.

At the fourth and final level, there are abstract phenomena like spirit, faith, feelings, emotions, and other mental categories such as memory, habit, commitment, allegiance and sacrifice. It should be accepted that the means and methods of understanding the spirit and domain of faith would be studied only by experienced scholars and enlightened researchers.

Till the categories of mental and spiritual phenomena remain in air or at mental level, and do not appear in the form of influence, power, organisation or group behaviour, they would be comprehended by scholars through empathy, introspection, analogy and meditation.

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Many times, people at large happen to act upon them when these phenomena are spelled out to them even on the basis of individual or divine experience of some highly respected or charismatic personalities. Scholars have to know and commu­nicate all such mental and/or spiritual phenomena in an authentic manner. Till these come down to them in concrete form, they merely remain as potentials of politics.

When the impact of these mental or spiritual categories appears on human mind, behaviour and relationships among men and groups, their study falls within the purview of empirical and socio-psychological methodology. Till these non-tangible materials of politics do not come down to the social scientists in an earthly manner, or become somewhat suscep­tible in some form to their sensory perception, they have the choice of making use of the techniques of hunch, analysis and interpretation. The latter techniques stand in between empirical methodology and devices like empathy and introspection.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

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