Meaning ‘Political Science’
The term Political Science is intimately related to the word “Politics”, which itself is derived from the Greek word — “Polis” — that means a city-state, the general form of political organisation in ancient Greece. The origin of political thought in the west, therefore, goes back to Greece.
The Sophists (the wandering teachers of wisdom) particularly Protagoras and Gorgias in Athens were the first to deal with this mode of thought and then expound a political theory. Later on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle continued to conduct the scientific study of the various problems concerning the state and the government.
Aristotle, the world- famous Greek philosopher, however, excelled his teacher — Plato and his teacher’s teacher — Socrates. Now he (Aristotle) is regarded as the father of the science of Politics in the west. While Manu is considered to be the first political thinker of India and his famous book “Manusmriti” is regarded as the first book of law in India.
Later on, it was Chanakya who formed and formulated Indian political thinking and gave it a concrete form in the shape of a book named “Kautilya Arthashastra”, a well-known book of Indian Polity.
Definitions of Political Science:
(a) According to Paul Janet, “Political Science is the part of social science which treats of the foundations of the State and the principles of Government.”
(b) Bluntschli believes that “Political Science is a science, which is concerned with the State, endeavors to understand and comprehend the State in its essential nature, various forms, manifestations and developments.”
(c) Garris, famous German author is of the opinion that “Political Science deals with the origin, development, purpose, and all political problems of the State.”
(d) Gettell says, “It is, thus, a study in the past, present and future, of political organisations and political theories.”
(e) According to Lord Acon, “Political Science is concerned with the State and with conditions essential for its development.”
(f) Dr. Garner believes that “Political Science begins and ends with the State.”
(g) According to Leacock, “Political Science deals with Government.”
(h) Seeley says, “Political Science investigates the phenomena of Government as Political Economy deals with Wealth, Biology with life. Algebra with numbers and Geometry with space and magnitude.”
(i) As new approaches to the study of Political Science has been made with the interaction of new forces. Catlin defines Political Science as the study of “the act of human and social control” or “the study of control relationship of wills.” There are on the other hand German writers who study it from sociological point of view and they regard it as “the problem of power and social control.”
If we closely study and analyze all the definitions given above, we come to the conclusion that the main subject of the study of Political Science is the State and Government.
Modern Political Concepts or Analysis:
During the last two decades there has been an intellectual revolution in the American Political Thought as Almond, Powell and G. Bingham observe altogether new political concepts and political theories have been invented.
These new political theories have exercised tremendous influence not only in the U.S.A. but also in India. Almond, Powell and other modern American writers have studied Political Science by sociological, anthropological and psychological methods and criticized the traditional theory of Political Science on grounds of parochialism and formalism.
These writers maintain that the political theorists in the past concentrated mainly on the state, government, institutions and their legal norms, rules and regulations or on political ideas and ideologies. They did not concern themselves with the performance of institutions, their interaction and political behaviour of man.
Therefore modern American political writers concentrate their attention upon four basic principles:
(1) The search for more comprehensive scope;
(2) The search for realism;
(3) The search for precision;
(4) The search for intellectual order.
As the State is limited by its legal and institutional meanings, therefore the modern American writers have discarded the traditional concept of State and substituted it by “political system”. They use the word functions instead of “powers” because the latter is a legal term. Similarly they have preferred the use of the word “role” instead of ‘offices’ which is a legal term again. Instead of ‘institutions’ the word ‘structure’ is used and the word ‘public opinion’ has been substituted by them with ‘political culture’ and ‘political socialisation’.
The advocates of Modern Political Theory justify these innovations by saying, “We are not simply adding terms to a new vocabulary, but rather are in the process of developing or adapting a new one……..; this is not only a matter of a conceptual vocabulary; it is an intimation of a major step forward in the nature of political science as science.”
Definition by Laswell and Robert Dhal:
Harold Laswell, a leading Political Scientist of the U.S.A. defines “Political Science, as an empirical discipline, (as) the study of the shaping and sharing of power” and a political act (as) one performed in power perspectives.”
This definition of Political Science is a new one. It emphasises the dynamic nature of t he discipline and calls attention to the fact that the forces controlling the form and behaviour of the State and similar to those that operate in other institutions.
Churches, corporations, trade unions, colleges, and other associations of various kinds have to provide for their internal government, and all these governments operate in response to forces that it seems natural to call political. Clearly, then everything that Aristotle and Weber would call political, Laswell would too.
But Laswell would consider as political something that Weber and Aristotle would not: a business firm or a trade union, for example, might have “political” aspects. Contemporary students of politics do in fact study the political aspects of business firms, labour unions, and other “private” associations like the American Medical Association.”
Contemporary political analysis tends to accept, then, a broad definition of what is political rather than the narrower one of Aristotle. Therefore, Robert A. Dahl defines political system as follows: “A political system is any persistent pattern of human relationships that involve, to a significant extent, however, rule or authority.”
Robert A. Dahl further observes, “this definition of Political Science is very broad. Indeed it means that many associations we do not ordinarily regard as “political” possess political systems: private clubs, business firms, labour unions, religious organisations, civic groups, primitive tribes, clans, perhaps even families. Three considerations may help clarify the unfamiliar notion that almost every human association has a political aspect.
D.G. Hitchner has also pointed out and rightly too that “the world around is clearly a political world. All mankind has been drawn into some political association through which men engage in operation and conflict”. Consequently, no aspect of human life is free from state intervention. This is equally true of liberal democracies as well as socialist countries. “Whenever you are or want to be”, says Marshal Berman, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”
1. In common parlance we speak of the “government” of a club, a firm and so on. In fact we may even describe such a government as dictatorial, democratic, representative or authoritarian; and we often hear about “politics” and “politicking” going on in these associations.
2. A political system is only one aspect of an association. When we say that a person is a doctor, or a teacher, or a farmer, we do not assume that he is only a doctor, only a teacher, only a farmer. Probably no human association is exclusively political in all aspects. People experience many other relationships than power and authority, experience such as love, respect, purpose, dedication, shared beliefs, and so on.
3. This definition says nothing at all about human motives. It certainly does not imply that in every political system people seek to rule over others, want, authority, struggle for power, or the like. Indeed relationships of authority could exist even among people with no particular desire to exercise authority or in situations where people with the most authority had the least desire for it.
In American private clubs, for example, members who are the most avid for office are sometimes the least likely to be elected precisely because the majority of members prefer an officer whose desire for power is so moderate that he can be relied on to seek the views of others rather than impose his own on everyone else.
Some Critical Distinctions (Politics and Economics):
Robert A. Dahl remarks, “Despite its breadth our definition of the Political System helps us to make some critical distinctions that are often blurred in ordinary discussions. For example, we have to distinguish between Politics and Economics.
Political analysis deals with power, rule or authority. Economics concerns itself with scarce resources or the production and distribution of goods and services. Politics is one aspect of a great variety of human institutions, economics is another aspect.
Hence an economist and a political scientist/might both study the same concrete institutions; but where the economist would concern himself with problems involving scarcity of resources, the political scientist would deal with problems involving relationships of power, rule or authority. However, as with most attempts to distinguish subjects of intellectual inquiry, the distinction between politics and economics is not perfectly sharp”.
Nature of Political Science:
Since here we are mainly concerned with the western political thought, we start our study with the speculations of Aristotle on Political Science. In his famous book, “Politics”, Aristotle has asserted: “Man is by nature a political animal and he, who by nature and not by mere accident is without state, is either above humanity or below it.”
In other words he says,” He who is unable to live in society or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or god. There is no doubt about it that man is a social and political animal because he cannot do without society or state. By nature he desires to live in society and follows the rules and regulations of the State.
If a person is left alone to live in a dense and dreadful forest, he will certainly feel extremely fed up with it and after some time he will earnestly desire to be in the company of his fellow beings. Man desires to live in society not only by nature but by compulsion also because without the help of society he is quite unable to meet his needs.
By leading a lone life he cannot make available to himself the countless commodities needed in everyday life. He can meet the needs of food, clothing and shelter with the help of others. Only a well-organized society can provide him with the facilities of daily life because human life is not sale aim secure m a society that is not well-organised and is at discord.
Civilization and culture cannot make progress where human life is unsafe and insecure. The safety of man and the security of human life are possible only in a well-governed state. Hence, man stands in urgent need of a well-governed State. Without it anarchy will prevail in society and human progress will be hampered. Therefore, a well-governed State is a must for the progress of man. This is the reason why the subject of our study is the State and the Government, which are the part and parcel of Political Science.
There are many people in the world today who believe that man is not necessarily a political animal and he is also selfish but man prefers to live in the state because it is more advantageous for him to live there than outside it where lawlessness prevails. The advantages of living in the State are obvious to every person.
Therefore, famous American writer Robert A. Dahl observes, “Nonetheless, though human beings must and do live in political systems and share the benefits of political life; they do not necessarily participate in political life; they are not necessarily interested in politics, nor do they always care what happens in politics; know much about political events or share in making decisions’.”
Robert A. Dahl further observes, “An individual is unlikely to get involved in politics if he places a low valuation on the rewards to be gained from political involvement relative to the rewards expected from other kinds of human activity. For many people political activity is a good deal gratifying than other outlets family, friends, recreation and the like.
For many, political involvement yields far less affection, income, security, respect, excitement, and other values than working at one’s job, watching television, reading, fishing, playing with the children, attending a football game or assembling a new hi-fi set. For many, the rewards of other activities are more immediate and concrete.” A man may take more or less participation but it is certain that the destiny of man is linked with the State and government.
It has been stated earlier that Political Science is a scientific study of the State and the Government. We should keep in mind that there exist a number of political, social, economic, religious and cultural institutions in a society. State is also one of them. But it is a political institution of supreme importance.
It maintains law and order in society, protects human life and enables human beings to make an all- round progress. No doubt the chief function of the State is to maintain peace in society but it is not all. Now-a-days it has become a welfare State and, therefore, it aims at promoting the welfare of the people.
For example, these days the State provides its citizens with the facilities of higher education and better medical treatment. It gets the roads and bridges built for them. It chalks out the plans and programmes of agriculture and industry and controls the prices.
There will hardly be any field of life where the State or the Government does not operate. Therefore, it is very necessary to study such an important institution. Before studying it in detail it will be better for us to cast a glance at the different definitions of Political Science, given by famous political thinkers.