Political science as a science?

Political science, known as a science, falls back to the old importance of the word science, which was an assemblage of learning and practice inside a discipline. As of late (amid of the most recent century), the word science’s importance progressed toward becoming related with the logical technique.

The Negative View:

Thus far, it has been assumed that the study of the state’s phenomena may under proper conditions be touted as a Science. To this assumption, however, objections have been raised. Thus, it has been asserted that, on account of the magnitude and complexity of the subject matter relating to the state a body of material, says an acute thinker, so rich and varied that, from the beginning, political science has been embarrassed by the weight of its wealth, it is impossible to apply to it rigorous scientific methods of investigation.

We are told that political phenomena are characterized by uncertainty, variableness, and a hick of order and continuity. Much of this objection is, however, without weight. If, says Sir Frederick Pollock, those who deny a political science existence mean that there is nobody of rules from which a prime minister may infallibly learn how to command a majority, they would be right as to the fact. Still, they Would betray a rather inadequate notion of What Science is. “There is,” he rightly concludes, political science in the same sense that there is a science of morals.

The Affirmative View:

For our purpose, science may be described as a fairly unified mass of knowledge relating to a particular subject, acquired by systematic observation, experience, or study, the facts of which have been coordinated, systematized, and classified. The scientific method of examining facts is not peculiar to one class of phenomena or one class of investigators. It applies to social and physical phenomena, and we may safely reject the claim that the scientific frame of mind belongs exclusively to the physicist or the naturalist.

It is, of course, true that political science is not and never will be an exact science in the sense that mechanics, chemistry, and physics are since its laws and conclusions cannot be expressed in the same precise terms, nor can results be predicted with anything like the same accuracy. But there are also inexact natural sciences, like meteorology, whose data at any moment are too completely unknown to admit of accurate prediction.

In his address as president of the American Political Science Association (1909), the late Lord Bryce maintained that politics is a science in somewhat the same sense as meteorology is. He said science in the sense that there are constancy and uniformity in human nature’s tendencies that enable us to regard the acts of men at one time as due to the same causes that have governed their acts at previous times. Acts can be grouped and connected and can be arranged and studied as the results of the same generally operative tendencies.

He added that politics is not a deductive science but an experimental science, which though it cannot try experiments, can study them and note results. It is also a progressive science since every year’s experience adds to our materials and our comprehension of the laws that govern human society.

Authorities are now generally agreed that the state’s phenomena present a certain connection or sequence, which is the result of fixed laws. Though less constant, to be sure, than those of the physical world, these phenomena form proper subjects of scientific investigation. The laws and principles deducible therefrom are susceptible to applying the solution to the state’s concrete problems.

All that is required to give a scientific character to the study of political phenomena is that the inquiry shall be conducted following a definite plan or system, with due regard to the relations of cause and effect, so far as they are ascertainable and in conformity with certain well-recognized rules of scientific investigation.

The consensus of scientific opinion is in favor of this view. Aristotle described “ politics ” as the master science in the highest sense, and in practice, he applied scientific methods to his study of Greek polities. So did Bodin, Hobbes, and Montesquieu later, and Cornewall Lewis, Sidgwick, Bryce, Bluntschli, Jellinek, and many others in our own day. Perhaps, German scholars have done more than any others by the profound research and discriminating analytical methods to give to politics the character of a science.

Holtzendorff defended the claim of politics to be ranked as a science. With the enormous growth of knowledge, he said, “it is impossible to deny that the total of all the experiences phenomena and knowledge respecting the state may be brought together under the collective title of political science.”

Therefore, we must conclude that the weight of authority justifies the claim of politics to the rank of true science. It renders practical service by deducing sound principles as a basis for wise political action and exposing the teachings of a false political philosophy.” As a science, it falls short, of course, of the degree of perfection attained by the physical science, for the reason that the facts with which it deals at more complex and the causes which influence social and practical phenomena are more difficult to control and are perpetual undergoing change.” As yet, it is still probably the most incomplete and undeveloped of all the social sciences.

Is Political Science A Science Explain

Political Science is the scientific designation of the subject of our study. This name has been accepted by the political scientists drawn from various countries assembled in a meeting under UNESCO’s auspices. It covers the whole range of knowledge regarding the political governance of man. According to Paul Janet: “Political Science is that part of social science which treats the foundations of the State and the principles of government.”The foundations of the State and government principles have their roots in the past, and their branches swing towards the future. It is a systematic study that goes deep into yesterday’s political problems for the benefit of today and utilities the wisdom gained therefrom for the aspirations of better tomorrow.

Is Political Science Science Explain:

With the interaction of the new forces necessitating new approaches to the study of Political Science, it has been suggested that Political Science should no longer be defined in terms of objects such as the State. It should be defined only in terms of activity. Accordingly, Catlin defines Political Science as the study of the act of human and social control or the study of the control relationship of wills. Others would hardly make it distinguishable from the subject matter of Sociology.

German writers regard it as the study concerning the problem of power and social control. Whatever be the merits of arch definitions, they have not so far taken any tangible shape, and the well-accepted ideas about Political Science continue to hold good. Contemporary political scientists discard institutions’ rationalistic account and clothe the old tools used in man’s governance with new terms. Concepts derived horn sociological and anthropological theories wholesome.

So far, we have treated the subject of our study as a science. Aristotle regarded Politics as the master of supreme science. Distinguished scholars, like Bodin, Hobbes, Sidgwick, and Bryce, had held the same view. But some earlier writers denied this claim of Political Science. They maintained that there could be no such thing as a scientific study of the phenomena of the State and government.

They agreed with Burke that there was no science of politics any more than there was a science of aesthetics, for the lines of politics are not like the lines of mathematics. They are broad and deep as well as long. They admit of exceptions they demand modifications. No lines can be laid down for civil or political wisdom. They are a matter incapable of exact definition.

Even Maitland said, “When I see a good set of examination questions headed by the word Political Science. I regret not the questions but the title.” Sir Frederick Pollock, “on the other hand, asserted that there is a science of politics in the same sense, and to the same, or about the same extent, as there is a science of morals.”

But whether Political Science is real science or not depends upon what We regard as the test of science. Does a science involve merely systematic reasoning, or must the reasoning be exact and the conclusions clearly defined and subject to no exceptions as in natural or physical sciences? Moreover, does political science claim to be a science involves the power to predict the political future?

Political Science is neither an exact science, nor can it claim to predict the future with certainty. The results in physical sciences, like Physics and Chemistry, are definite and terrain true under given conditions for all men and indifferent climes. If there is any variation, it can be tested and explained. But it is impossible to place men in a laboratory as if they were guinea pigs, nor is it possible to impose precise laboratory conditions on the political sphere in real life.

Political Science deals with men, and it is a living subject matter which can be explained in terms of living human activity. It cannot be expressed in fixed or static formulae. Man rs dynamic, and so must his institutions be They must adjust themselves with the changing demands of man and his manifold needs.

No institution is today what it was yesterday and what it will be tomorrow, any more than I am myself the same on two consecutive days. It is the human element or the subject’s liveliness that makes Political Science inexact and indefinite.

Then Thee subject matter of Political Science is involved the problem of values, though contemporary political scientists have attempted to make the subject value tires. All political issues can best be explained in terms of mad and ethical standards, or to put it more precisely, they should be based on justice.

From Plato’s and Aristotle’s times, men‘s ideas of what is do not agree, and the riddle of social justice remains unresolved. The endeavor in search of justice will continue in the future too and, yet, without any definite agreement thereon. Consequently, Political Science can’t attain the same degree of exactness and universal application of its laws as in the physical or even biological sciences.

There are two words in medicine, a Professor of Medicine said to his pupils that you never use. They are ‘Always ‘ and ‘ Never, ‘and the same applies to Political Science.

Nevil Johnson suggests five distinct aspects in which Political Science appears to differ from the physical and the natural sciences. Firstly, in physical and natural sciences, the evidence is objective, usually measured and expressed quantitatively, whereas, in Political Science, we assess the significance of the evidence, and personal judgments are involved. Secondly, experiments can be repeated in the physical and natural sciences, but the problems are unique in politics.

Then, there are too many uncertainties in the materials and evidence for prediction; we aim rather at “informed and critical estimates.“ Fourthly in politics, also, our revised conclusions do not always rest upon fresh evidence but sometimes upon reinterpretations, new points of view, and insight; old works are not necessarily worthless. Finally, when we ask political questions, we at the same time begin to shape the answers we shall give such answers spring from imagination and insight.

In general, our methods of inquiry have much in common with those in the natural sciences. How we work out causal explanations and test them owes much to their example. Still, we cannot produce a blueprint for action or make statements with the same degree of accuracy as the natural sciences.

If by ‘science’ is meant a systematized body of knowledge, the facts have been accurately and impartially collected, arranged, and classified. However, using various scientific methods of observation, comparison, and analysis, with cautious statements of findings, then Political Science can claim to be a science. Indeed, we cannot experiment with a man, and political phenomena lack continuity of development.

It is also true that students of Political Science differ materially on their methods, principles, and conclusions. And when political problems in the last analysis depend Upon our conceptions of right and wrong, there has always been and presumably always will be fundamental disagreement over its first principles.

But we can become, as Herman Finer remarks, “the prophets of the probable if not the scars of the certain.” Prediction and absolute certainty are not the goals of Social Sciences. Even Physical Sciences cannot claim to achieve to that extent. The sweeping changes which have taken place in Physics and Chemistry during the past century show how tentative formulations are even in natural sciences.

It might, on the other hand, be argued that some of the political theories expounded by Aristotle, or John Stuart Mill, or the authors of The Federalist Papers have stood the test of time better than contemporary doctrines of chemistry, for example.

Let it, however, be conceded that hypotheses concerning political behavior can never be hilly verified because of the complex, shifting, and ever-changing nature of the political universe. Yet, the political scientist endeavors to read the present in light of the past to become wiser for the future. He tries to systematize his facts, analyses clearly cause and effect, and tries to unfold principles and detect general tendencies.

The mass of historical facts and the contemporary data of the actual working of political institutions and the behavior of these institutions’ operators are sufficient to enable him to observe, collect, and classify general facts. “If the situations are not identical, they are not completely different, and there are recognizable similarities.” Thus, the phenomena of the State exhibit a certain order, regularity, and connection in their sequences.

They are the result of the operation of certain fixed laws universal in the application. Science aims to discover universal laws, and the laws of science are based on experience, and they are verifiable inexperience. J .A. Thomson has cogently said that “science aims to describe the impersonal facts of experience in verifiable terms as exactly as possible, as completely as possible.” Science tries to understand clearly and completely what commonsense understands only dimly and partially.

In fact, all serious study must be ‘scientific’ because all conclusions must be based on ascertainable facts, and research carried out With the minimum prejudice and emotion and with the maximum of rational inquiry. The scientist must have a passion for facts, and his mind must not be colored by personal bias; that is, he conducts his inquiry in a spirit of scientific detachment.

If this is the aim of science, it is sufficient to justify political science’s claim to be ranked as a science, though it is the most inexact of all the sciences belonging to the family of social sciences. James Bryce compared it to an inexact natural science, like Meteorology, as Alfred Marshall compared Economics with the science of tides.

The aim of Political Science, however, is not only to formulate scientific laws of the political governance of man but also to establish a way of life which, according to Aristotle, is the way that leads to the good life. A good life is an art of living together in a spirit of togetherness, rational conduct of human life, first, as the citizens of the State to which men belong and, then, as members of the common humanity.

Peoples of all the States have yet to learn the art of good life in all its aspects, and once this art is mastered, there will really be a happier and just life. And art is not the antithesis of science. It can be based on science.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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