The Aims and Scope of Political Theory

Protagonists of pure political theory or early behaviouralists do not agree that there can be any particular goals, aims or objectives of political theory. Catlin regards this problem as belonging to political philosophy, and limits the scope of Political Science to the discussion and analysis of ‘means’ only. Arnold Brecht (expired on September ii, 1977) repudiated this view, and maintained that it was the great tragedy of twentieth century. A theory must have some ends in view or pursue certain goals.

Empirical political theory aims at presenting a coherent image of the operations of political reality. It may be conceptualised, as Easton and others did, as a system and subsystems. However, all aspects of politics are not systematic, and can be, more or less conflicting, as in case of contem­porary West Asia or emergence of sub-nationalism in many parts of the Indian Union.

It may take into account only processes or structures or functions, even groups or individuals. But as a general political theory, it would have to incorporate totality of politics, micro and macro. Similarly, it has to telescope political reality in such an analytical manner that it guides academicians to fathom further and political actors to realise broader social goals, including the personal ones. As a publicly known weapon, it can be reliably used by all concerned.

However, the formulation of a scientific political theory is a general and long-term goal of theory-makers. But it has certain specific, short-term and practical objectives also. These are applied, utilitarian and humane aspects of political theory.

Some of them are:

(i) Establishment of peace and harmony, so that there may not be any fear of extermination or extinction in a nuclear or conventional war. Various races, nationalities, groups etc., may live together in grace and honour;

(ii) Development of a political theory which may lead the developing countries to the path of freedom and prosperity, and save them from anarchy, stagnation, and tyranny;

(iii) Teach the self-transforming societies of the advanced world (popularly called as rich ‘North’ in contrast to poor ‘South’) to economies for greater affluence of all and to exercise self-control for the greater freedom of every individual; and

(iv) Finding out ready-made solution of problems and crises which often break out all of a sudden and cause loss, often beyond redemption.

In view of these objectives, scope or subject-matter of modern political theory can be ascertained. Its main topics are: political man, political behaviour, political groups; institutional, administrative or international politics; theory, ideology, parties etc. They are different from the contents of traditional political theory which puts emphasis on the study of values; origin, development, organisation and forms of state and government; insti­tutions like political parties and local self-government, constitution, ideologies etc.

It can be observed that some of the topics are common to both, but the perspective and objectives are different. Before 1967, the American Political Science Association had only six sub-areas, but later, it divided them into 27 which included, among others, areas like economics, sociology, military science, research methodology, statistics etc.

In his article in the International Encyclopedia of Social Science (1968), Arnold Brecht includes eight units:

(i) group,

(ii) equilibrium,

(iii) power, control and influence,

(iv) action,

(v) elite,

(vi) decision and decision-making,

(vii) anticipated action, and

(viii) function.

Recently, it has started discussing and studying values like liberty, equality, justice, cooperation etc. Impact of sociology and anthropology has lent some new concepts like socialisation, political culture, political development, political communication, political symbols and styles, efficacy, and others.

Research methodology and statistics both have been incorporated in the syllabi of some universities in India and abroad. Of late, there is a another trend also. Some university departments are going back to good old days when scholars used to sit and study politics in libraries, and through introspection. Such people tend to treat politics a mystic activity, to be comprehended by a few, and use knowledge to gain power. It leads to an elitist view of politics.

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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