INTRODUCTION TO APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

 

UNIT STRUCTURE

1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
3. Traditional Approaches to the Study of Political Science
4. Modern Approaches to the Study of Political Science

1. Behaviouralism
2. Post-behaviouralism


5. Other Modern Approaches

1. Systems Approach
2. Structural-Functional Approach
3. Communication Theory Approach
4. Decision Making Approach
6. Let Us sum Up
6. Further Readings
7. Answers To Check Your Progress
8. Possible Questions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
discuss the traditional approaches to the study of Political Science
explain the modern approaches to the study of Political Science
distinguish between traditional and modern approaches
list out the differences between Behaviouralism and Post- behaviouralism.

INTRODUCTION


In the previous unit we have read about the growth and evolution of Political Science. This unit will introduce us to the major approaches to the study of Political Science. However, before studying different approaches to Political Science, it must be remembered that Political Science is a branch of the larger area of social sciences and is different from natural sciences. The methods and approaches to the study of Political Science or other social sciences are, therefore, different from the methods that are used in natural sciences like physics, chemistry or biology. The various approaches to the study of Political Science can be broadly classified as - traditional and modern. The traditional approaches include philosophical, historical and institutional approaches while the modern approaches include behavioural approach, post-behavioural approach, systems approach, structural-functional approach, communication approach, etc.
 

TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE


The traditional approaches to Political Science was widely prevalent till the outbreak of the Second World War. These approaches were mainly related to the traditional view of politics which emphasized the study of the state and government. Therefore, traditional approaches are primarily concerned with the study of the organization and activities of the state and principles and the ideas which underlie political organizations and activities. These approaches were normative and idealistic. The political thinkers advocating these approaches, therefore, raised questions like ‘what should be an ideal state?’ According to them the study of Political Science should be confined to the formal structures of the government, laws, rules and regulations. Thus, the advocates of the traditional approaches emphasize various norms - what ‘ought to be’ or ‘should be’ rather than ‘what is’.

Characteristics of Traditional approaches:

1.Traditional approaches are largely normative and stresses on the values of politics
2. Emphasis is on the study of different political structures.
3.Traditional approaches made very little attempt to relate theory and research
4.These approaches believe that since facts and values are closely interlinked, studies in Political Science can never be scientific.

Various forms of Traditional Approaches:
The traditional approaches can be sub-divided into the following-

1.Philosophical
2.Historical
3.Institutional
4. Legal approaches.

Now, let us discuss the various traditional approaches:

Philosophical Approach: This approach is regarded as the oldest approach to the study of Political Science. The emergence of this approach can be traced back to the times of the Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. Leo Strauss was one of the main advocates of the philosophical approach. He believes that “the philosophy is the quest for wisdom and political philosophy is the attempt truly to know about the nature of political things and the right or good political order.” This approach firmly believes that the values cannot be separated from the study of politics. Therefore, its main concern is to judge what is good or bad in any political society. It is mainly an ethical and normative study of politics and, thus, idealistic. It deals with the problems of the nature and functions of the state, citizenship, rights and duties etc. The advocates of this approach firmly believe that political philosophy is closely linked with the political ideologies. Therefore, they are of the opinion that a political scientist must have the knowledge of good life and good society. Political philosophy helps in setting up of a good political order.

LET US KNOW

Greek philosopher Plato used the Philosophical Approach for studying Political Science. While giving his ideas on Philosopher King, Ideal State etc., he was more concerned with what ‘ought to be’ ( what is desirable) rather than dealing with the existing realities of those societies. He had also set various norms for the philosopher kings and also of an ideal state.


Historical Approach: According to the advocates of this approach, political theory can be only understood when the historical factors like the age, place and the situation in which it is evolved are taken into consideration. As the name of this approach is related to history, it emphasizes on the study of history of every political reality to analyze any situation. Political thinkers like Machiavelli, Sabine and Dunning believe that politics and history are intricately related and the study of politics always should have a historical perspective. Sabine is of the view that Political Science should include all those subjects which have been discussed in the writings of different political thinkers from the time of Plato. This approach strongly upholds the belief that the thinking or the ideology of every political thinker is shaped by the surrounding environment. Moreover, history not only speaks about the past but also links it with the present events. History provides the chronological order of every political event and thereby helps in future estimation of events also. Hence, without studying the past political events, institutions and political environment it would be wrong to analyze the present political scenario/ events.

Institutional Approach: This is a very old and important approach to the study of Political Science. This approach mainly deals with the formal aspects of government and politics emphasizes the study of the political institutions and structures. Thus, the institutional approach is concerned with the study of the formal structures like legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties, interest groups etc. The advocates of this approach includes both ancient and modern political thinkers. Among the ancient thinkers Aristotle is an important contributor to this approach while the modern thinkers include James Bryce, Bentley, Walter Bagehot, Harold Laski, etc.

Legal Approach: This approach regards the state as the fundamental organization for the creation and enforcement of laws. Therefore, this approach is concerned with the legal process, legal bodies or institutions, justice and independence of judiciary. The advocates of this approach are Cicero, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Dicey and Sir Henry Maine.

The various traditional approaches to the study of Political Science have been criticized for being normative. These approaches were idealistic also as their concern went beyond how and why political events happen to what ought to happen. In the later period, the modern approaches have made an attempt to make the study of Political Science more scientific and, therefore, emphasize empiricism.


ACTIVITY



Make a Comparison between Historical and Institutional Approaches to the study of Political Science.



CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. Which is the oldest approach to the study of Political Science?
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2. Name one of the advocates of Institutional Approach.
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3. Describe the Institutional Approach to the study of Political Science.(within 50 words).


MODERN APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE:


After studying politics with the help of traditional approaches, the political thinkers of the later stage felt the necessity to study politics from a new perspective. Thus, to minimize the deficiencies of the traditional approaches, various new approaches have been advocated by the new political thinkers. These new approaches are regarded as the “modern aproaches” to the study of Political Science. Many thinkers regard these approaches as a reaction against the traditional approaches. These approaches are mainly concerned with scientific study of politics. The first breakthrough in this regard comes with the emergence of the behavioural revolution in Political Science.

Characteristics of Modern Approaches

These approaches try to draw conclusion from empirical data.
These approaches go beyond the study of political structures and its historical analysis
Modern Approaches believe in inter-disciplinary study
They emphasize scientific methods of study and attempt to draw scientific conclusions in Political Science

ACTIVITY


Point out three differences between Traditional and Modern Approaches.



Two major modern approaches are Behaviouralism and Post-behaviouralism. These are discussed below:


Behaviouralism:


T

LET US KNOW

An important consideration of Behaviouralism has been the study of political behavior, as an area of study within Political Science. Its focus is on the individual as voter, leader, revolutionary, party member, etc., and the influences of the of the group or the political system on the individual’s political behavior.

Salient Features of Behaviouralism:

David Easton has pointed out certain salient features of behaviouralism which are regarded as its intellectual foundations. These are:

Regularities: This approach believes that there are certain uniformities in political behaviour which can be expressed in generalizations or theories in order to explain and predict political phenomena. In a particular situation the

political behaviour of individuals may be more or less similar. Such regularities of behaviour may help the researcher to analyze a political situation as well as to predict the future political phenomena. Study of such regularities makes Political Science more scientific with some predictive value.

Verification: The behaviouralists do not want to accept everything as granted. Therefore, they emphasize testing and verifying everything. According to them, what cannot be verified is not scientific.

Techniques: The behaviouralists put emphasis on the use of those research tools and methods which generate valid, reliable and comparative data. A researcher must make use of sophisticated tools like sample surveys, mathematical models, simulation etc.

Quantification: After collecting data, the researcher should measure and quantify those data.

Values: The behaviouralists have put heavy emphasis on separation of facts from values. They believe that to do objective research one has to be value free. It means that the researcher should not have any pre-conceived notion or a biased view.

Systematization: According to the behaviouralists research in Political Science must be systematic. Theory and research should go together.

Pure Science: Another characteristic of behaviouralism has been its aim to make Political Science a “pure science”. It believes that the study of Political Science should be verified by evidence.

Integration: According to the behaviouralists, Political Science should not be separated from various other social sciences like history, sociology and economics etc. This approach believes that political events are shaped by various other factors in the society and therefore, it would be wrong to separate Political Science from other disciplines.

Thus, with the emergence of behaviouralism a new thinking and new method of study were evolved in the field of Political Science. Therefore, we can list the merits of behavioural approach as follows:

It attempts to make Political Science scientific and brings it closer to the day to day life of the individuals.

Behaviouralism has first talked about bringing human behaviour into the arena of Political Science and thereby makes the study more relevant to the society.
· This approach helps in predicting future political events.

The behavioural approach has been appreciated by different political thinkers for its merits as mentioned above. However, the Behavioural approach has been faced with various criticisms for its ‘mad craze’ for scienticism also. The main criticisms levelled against this approach are mentioned below:

  • This has been criticized for its dependence on techniques and methods ignoring the subject matter.
  • The advocates of this approach were wrong when they said that human beings behave in similar ways in similar circumstances.
  • Besides, it is a difficult task to study human behaviour and to get a definite result.
  • Most of the political phenomena are unquantifiable. Therefore it is always difficult to use scientific method in the study of Political Science.
  • Moreover, the researcher being a human being is not always value neutral as believed by the behaviouralists.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. Mention the names of three behaviouralists.
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2. Who is regarded as the father of Behavioural Revolution?
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3. List out four features of behaviouralism.

 

Post- behaviouralism


The growth of behavioural movement in Political Science is one of the important landmarks in the history of Political Science. The rise of behaviouralism clearly introduced a scientific vigour in the study of political phenomena. However, after sometime, it began to be realized that unlike natural sciences, generalizations could not be made in the field of social sciences, as the study of man in the societal context was a far more complex pursuit than the study of objects in the natural sciences. Therefore, a new thinking emerged among the behaviouralists for modifying behaviouralism.

David Easton who was a staunch supporter of behaviouralism later became a strong critic of behaviouralism. In his presidential address to the Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association held in 1969, David Easton declared that he felt dissatisfied with the political research and teaching made under the impact of behaviouralism. He further said that because of too much use of mathematics, Political Science looked more of mathematics than of social science and that it had lost touch with the current and contemporary world. Behaviouralism also dissatisfied people as it failed to offer solutions to many social and political problems. Such dissatisfaction has led to the emergence of post- behaviouralism. This new approach believed that mere use of sophisticated techniques and research tools would not solve the social and political problems of the world. Therefore post behaviouralists opposed the idea of behaviouralists to make Political Science a value-free science like other natural sciences. Therefore, post-behaviouralists made an effort to make Political Science relevant to the society. However, it must be remembered that post-behaviouralism cannot be separated from behviouralism as it has emerged out of behaviouralism. Through using different techniques and methods post-behaviouralists try to overcome the drawbacks of behaviouralism and make the study of Political Science more relevant to the society.

LET US KNOW

David Easton first pointed out the intellectual foundations of behaviouralism. Later he charted out certain salient features of post behaviouralism which are termed as ‘Credo of Relevance’

Post-behaviouralism believed that the use of scientific tools is beneficial if it can solve the various problems of the society. Behaviouralists gave too much emphasis on methods and techniques and believed that it was better to be wrong than vague. Post-behaviouralists on the other hand, believe that it is better to be vague than non-relevantly precise. The post-behaviouralists criticized behaviouralism on the ground that the latter had lost touch with the realities of the society because of over emphasis on techniques. Thus, post-behaviouralists may be regarded as the reform movement within behaviouralism. This new approach emphasizes identifying and solving the major issues of political and social life. According to post-behavioralism, the political scientists should find out different alternatives and means to solve the social problems. Thus, the main thrust of post-behaviouralism has been to make Political Science relevant to the society. However, it must be remembered that it is only a continuation of behaviouralism. It does not altogether reject the ideas of behaviouralism. It acknowledges the achievement of behavioralism and appreciates its effort to do objective research in Political Science. It only tries to bring research in Political Science closer to reality to make the subject more relevant to the society.Accordingly, the post-behaviouralists opposed the efforts of the behaviouralists to make Political Science a value-free science.It was argued by the post-behaviouralisrs that Political Science in oreder to be relevant to the society must consider basic issues of society such as justice, liberty, equality, democracy, etc., The post-behaviouralists have described behaviouralism as a ‘mad craze for scienticism’. Thus, the post-behavioralism is a reformation of behavioralism as it shifts its focus strictly from empirical research to resolving problems confronting the society.

ACTIVITY


Find out the major dissimilarities between behaviouralism and post-behaviouralism.




OTHER MODERN APPROACHES


Some of the other modern approaches are discussed as follows:

 

Systems Approach


This approach belongs to the category of modern approach. This approach makes an attempt to explain the relationship of political life with other aspects of social life. The idea of a system was originally borrowed from biology by Talcott Parsons who first popularized the concept of social system. Later on David Easton further developed the concept of a political system. According to this approach, a political system operates within the social environment. Accordingly, it is not possible to analyze political events in isolation from other aspects of the society. In other words, influences from the society, be it economic, religious or otherwise, do shape the political process.

The systems approach as developed by David Eason can be analyzed with the help of a diagram as follows:

The political system operates within an environment. The environment generates demands from different sections of the society such as demand for reservation in the matter of employment for certain groups, demand for better working conditions or minimum wages, demand for better transportation facilities, demand for better health facilities, etc.. Different demands have different levels of support. Both ‘demands’ and ‘supports’ constitute what Easton calls ‘inputs.’ The political system receives theses inputs from the environment. After taking various factors into consideration, the government decides to take action on some of theses demands while others are not acted upon. Through the conversion process, the inputs are converted into ‘outputs’ by the decision makers in the form of policies, decisions, rules, regulations and laws. The ‘outputs’ flow back into the environment through a ‘feedback’ mechanism, giving rise to fresh ‘demands.’ Accordingly, it is a cyclical process.


Structural-Functional Approach



This approach treats the society as a single inter–related system where each part of the system has a definite and distinct role to play. The structural-functional approach may be regarded as an offshoot of the system analysis. These approaches emphasize the structures and functions. Gabriel Almond is a supporter of this approach. He defines political systems as a special system of interaction that exists in all societies performing certain functions. According to him, the main characteristics of a political system are comprehensiveness, inter-dependence and existence of boundaries. Like Easton, Almond also believes that all political systems perform input and output functions. The Input functions of political systems are political socialization and recruitment, interest-articulation, interest-aggression and political communication. Again, Almond makes three-fold classifications of governmental output functions relating to policy making and implementation. These output functions are- rule making, rule application and rule adjudication. Thus, Almond believes that a stable and efficient political system converts inputs into outputs.


ACTIVITY


Find out three points of similarities between Systems Approach and Structural Functional Approach


Communication Theory Approach


This approach tries to investigate how one segment of a system affects another by sending messages or information. It was Robert Weiner who first spoke about this approach. Later on Karl Deutsch developed it and applied it in Political Science. Deutsch believes that the political system is a network of communication channels and it is self regulative. He further believes that the government is responsible for administering different communication channels. This approach treats the government as the decision making system. According to Deutsch, the four factors of analysis in communication theory are – lead, lag, gain and load.
 

Decision Making Approach



This approach tries to find out the characteristics of decision makers as well as the type of influence the individuals have on the decision makers. Scholars like Richard Synder and Charles Lindblom have developed this approach. A political decision which is taken by a few actors influences a larger society and such a decision is generally shaped by a specific situation. Therefore, it takes into account psychological and social aspects of decision makers also.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. Name one behaviouralist who later became an advocate of post-
behaviouralism.
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2. Describe post-behaviouralism.(within 50 words)
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3. David Easton developed the concept of political system (True/False)
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4. Who developed the Communication Theory approach?


LET US SUM UP


In this unit we have discussed the traditional and modern approaches to the study of Political Science. Therefore, after going through this unit we have learnt the characteristics of traditional as well as modern approaches as well as the various types of traditional and modern approaches. This unit has also helped us in learning the modern approaches like behaviouralism, post-behaviouralism, structural functional approach, system approach, communication approach and decision making approach etc. It has also enabled us to distinguish between traditional and modern approaches. Both traditional and modern approaches have their merits and demerits, but they have contributed a significantly to the study of Political Science.

FURTHER READING


1. Political Theory (Principles of Political Science)– R.C.Agarwal
2. Political Theory – V. D. Mahajan
3. Political Theory- Eddy Asirvatham, K.K.Misra.
4. Principles of Political Science-A.C.Kapur




ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS



CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 1

Q no. 1. Philosophical Approach

Q no. 2 .Harold Laski

Q no. 3. The Institutional Approach mainly deals with the formal aspects of government and politics emphasizes the study of the political institutions and structures. Thus, the institutional approach is concerned with the study of the formal structures like legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties, interest groups etc.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 2

Q no. 1. Charles E Merriam, Harold Lasswell, David Easton
Q no. 2. Charles E Merriam
Q no. 3. Regularities, Verification, Techniques and Quantification.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 3

Q no. 1. David Easton

Q no. 2. Post-behaviourialism may be regarded as the reform movement within Behaviouralism. This new approach seeks to solve major issues of political and social life. It takes into account issues such as justice, liberty, equality, democracy, etc. It shifts its focus strictly from empirical research to resolving problems confronting the society.

Q no. 3. True

Q no. 4. Karl Deutsch

 

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS




Q.1. Discuss the Philosophical Approach to the study of Political Science.
Q.2. Mention the characteristics of the Modern Approaches to the study of Political Science? Mention four different Modern Approaches.
Q.3. What is Behaviouralism? Write the main characteristics of Behaviouralism.
Q.4. Discuss the emergence of Post-behavioural revolution in Political Science.
Q.5. Write a note on the Systems Approach.