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Political science is a social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, and political behavior.
Social science is a category of academic disciplines, concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. Social science as a whole has many branches. These social sciences include, but are not limited to: anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, history, musicology, human geography, jurisprudence, linguistics, political science, psychology, public health, and sociology. The term is also sometimes used to refer specifically to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. For a more detailed list of sub-disciplines within the social sciences see: Outline of social science.
Politics is a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.
Political science—occasionally called politicology—comprises numerous subfields, including comparative politics, political economy, international relations, political theory, public administration, public policy, and political methodology. Furthermore, political science is related to, and draws upon, the fields of economics, law, sociology, history, philosophy, geography, psychology/psychiatry, anthropology and neurosciences.
Comparative politics is a field in political science, characterized by an empirical approach based on the comparative method. In other words, comparative politics is the study of the domestic politics, political institutions, and conflicts of countries. It often involves comparisons among countries and through time within single countries, emphasizing key patterns of similarity and difference. Arend Lijphart argues that comparative politics does not have a substantive focus in itself, but rather a methodological one: it focuses on "the how but does not specify the what of the analysis." In other words, comparative politics is not defined by the object of its study, but rather by the method it applies to study political phenomena. Peter Mair and Richard Rose advance a slightly different definition, arguing that comparative politics is defined by a combination of a substantive focus on the study of countries' political systems and a method of identifying and explaining similarities and differences between these countries using common concepts. Rose states that, on his definition: "The focus is explicitly or implicitly upon more than one country, thus following familiar political science usage in excluding within-nation comparison. Methodologically, comparison is distinguished by its use of concepts that are applicable in more than one country."
Political economy is the study of production and trade and their relations with law, custom and government; and with the distribution of national income and wealth. As a discipline, political economy originated in moral philosophy, in the 18th century, to explore the administration of states' wealth, with "political" signifying the Greek word polity and "economy" signifying the Greek word "okonomie". The earliest works of political economy are usually attributed to the British scholars Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo, although they were preceded by the work of the French physiocrats, such as François Quesnay (1694–1774) and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781).
International relations (IR) or international affairs (IA) — commonly also referred to as international studies (IS), global studies (GS), or global affairs (GA) — is the study of interconnectedness of politics, economics and law on a global level. Depending on the academic institution, it is either a field of political science, an interdisciplinary academic field similar to global studies, or an entirely independent academic discipline in which students take a variety of internationally focused courses in social science and humanities disciplines. In all cases, the field studies relationships between political entities (polities) such as sovereign states, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs), and the wider world-systems produced by this interaction. International relations is an academic and a public policy field, and so can be positive and normative, because it analyses and formulates the foreign policy of a given state.
Comparative politics is the science of comparison and teaching of different types of constitutions, political actors, legislature and associated fields, all of them from an intrastate perspective. International relations deals with the interaction between nation-states as well as intergovernmental and transnational organizations. Political theory is more concerned with contributions of various classical and contemporary thinkers and philosophers.
Political science is methodologically diverse and appropriates many methods originating in psychology, social research and cognitive neuroscience. Approaches include positivism, interpretivism, rational choice theory, behaviouralism, structuralism, post-structuralism, realism, institutionalism, and pluralism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, experimental research, and model building.
Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties, joining this way the broader neuroscientific group of researchers. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.
Social research is a research conducted by social scientists following a systematic plan. Social research methodologies can be classified as quantitative and qualitative.
Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific field that is concerned with the study of the biological processes and aspects that underlie cognition, with a specific focus on the neural connections in the brain which are involved in mental processes. It addresses the questions of how cognitive activities are affected or controlled by neural circuits in the brain. Cognitive neuroscience is a branch of both neuroscience and psychology, overlapping with disciplines such as behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, physiological psychology and affective neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience relies upon theories in cognitive science coupled with evidence from neurobiology, and computational modeling.
Political scientists study matters concerning the allocation and transfer of power in decision making, the roles and systems of governance including governments and international organizations, political behaviour and public policies. They measure the success of governance and specific policies by examining many factors, including stability, justice, material wealth, peace and public health. Some political scientists seek to advance positive (attempt to describe how things are, as opposed to how they should be) theses by analysing politics. Others advance normative theses, by making specific policy recommendations.
In social science and politics, power is the capacity of an individual to influence the conduct (behaviour) of others. The term "authority" is often used for power that is perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust. This sort of primitive exercise of power is historically endemic to humans; however, as social beings, the same concept is seen as good and as something inherited or given for exercising humanistic objectives that will help, move, and empower others as well. In general, it is derived by the factors of interdependence between two entities and the environment. In business, the ethical instrumentality of power is achievement, and as such it is a zero-sum game. In simple terms it can be expressed as being "upward" or "downward". With downward power, a company's superior influences subordinates for attaining organizational goals. When a company exerts upward power, it is the subordinates who influence the decisions of their leader or leaders.
Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state, by a market or by a network – over a social system and whether through the laws, norms, power or language of an organized society. It relates to "the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions". In lay terms, it could be described as the political processes that exist in and between formal institutions.
Political scientists provide the frameworks from which journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the electorate analyse issues. According to Chaturvedy,
Political scientists may serve as advisers to specific politicians, or even run for office as politicians themselves. Political scientists can be found working in governments, in political parties or as civil servants. They may be involved with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or political movements. In a variety of capacities, people educated and trained in political science can add value and expertise to corporations. Private enterprises such as think tanks, research institutes, polling and public relations firms often employ political scientists.
In the United States, political scientists known as "Americanists" look at a variety of data including constitutional development, elections, public opinion, and public policy such as Social Security reform, foreign policy, US Congressional committees, and the US Supreme Court — to name only a few issues.
Because political science is essentially a study of human behaviour, in all aspects of politics, observations in controlled environments are often challenging to reproduce or duplicate, though experimental methods are increasingly common (see experimental political science).Citing this difficulty, former American Political Science Association President Lawrence Lowell once said "We are limited by the impossibility of experiment. Politics is an observational, not an experimental science." Because of this, political scientists have historically observed political elites, institutions, and individual or group behaviour in order to identify patterns, draw generalizations, and build theories of politics.
Like all social sciences, political science faces the difficulty of observing human actors that can only be partially observed and who have the capacity for making conscious choices unlike other subjects such as non-human organisms in biology or inanimate objects as in physics. Despite the complexities, contemporary political science has progressed by adopting a variety of methods and theoretical approaches to understanding politics and methodological pluralism is a defining feature of contemporary political science.
The advent of political science as a university discipline was marked by the creation of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the late 19th century. In fact, the designation "political scientist" is typically for those with a doctorate in the field, but can also apply to those with a master's in the subject.Integrating political studies of the past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for the growth of both normative and positive political science, with each part of the discipline sharing some historical predecessors. The American Political Science Association and the American Political Science Review were founded in 1903 and 1906, respectively, in an effort to distinguish the study of politics from economics and other social phenomena.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, a behavioural revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behaviour swept the discipline. A focus on studying political behaviour, rather than institutions or interpretation of legal texts, characterized early behavioural political science, including work by Robert Dahl, Philip Converse, and in the collaboration between sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld and public opinion scholar Bernard Berelson.
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a take off in the use of deductive, game theoretic formal modelling techniques aimed at generating a more analytical corpus of knowledge in the discipline. This period saw a surge of research that borrowed theory and methods from economics to study political institutions, such as the United States Congress, as well as political behaviour, such as voting. William H. Riker and his colleagues and students at the University of Rochester were the main proponents of this shift.
Despite considerable research progress in the discipline based on all the kinds of scholarship discussed above, it has been observed that progress toward systematic theory has been modest and uneven.
The theory of political transitions,and the methods of their analysis and anticipating of crises, form an important part of political science. Several general indicators of crises and methods were proposed for anticipating critical transitions. Among them, a statistical indicator of crisis, simultaneous increase of variance and correlations in large groups, was proposed for crises anticipation and successfully used in various areas. Its applicability for early diagnosis of political crises was demonstrated by the analysis of the prolonged stress period preceding the 2014 Ukrainian economic and political crisis. There was a simultaneous increase in the total correlation between the 19 major public fears in the Ukrainian society (by about 64%) and also in their statistical dispersion (by 29%) during the pre-crisis years. A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not predicted. The theory of apparent inevitability of crises and revolutions was also developed.
In the Soviet Union, political studies were carried out under the guise of some other disciplines like theory of state and law, area studies, international relations, studies of labor movement, "critique of bourgeois theories", etc. Soviet scholars were represented at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) since 1955 (since 1960 by the Soviet Association of Political and State Studies).
In 1979, the 11th World Congress of IPSA took place in Moscow. Until the late years of the Soviet Union, political science as a field was subjected to tight control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was thus subjected to distrust. Anti-communists accused political scientists of being "false" scientists and of having served the old regime.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, two of the major institutions dealing with political science, the Institute of Contemporary Social Theories and the Institute of International Affairs, were disbanded, and most of their members were left without jobs. These institutes were victims of the first wave of anticommunist opinion and ideological attacks. Today, the Russian Political Science Association unites professional political scientists from all around Russia.
In 2000, the Perestroika Movement in political science was introduced as a reaction against what supporters of the movement called the mathematicization of political science. Those who identified with the movement argued for a plurality of methodologies and approaches in political science and for more relevance of the discipline to those outside of it.
Some evolutionary psychology theories argue that humans have evolved a highly developed set of psychological mechanisms for dealing with politics. However, these mechanisms evolved for dealing with the small group politics that characterized the ancestral environment and not the much larger political structures in today's world. This is argued to explain many important features and systematic cognitive biases of current politics.
Political science, possibly like the social sciences as a whole, "as a discipline lives on the fault line between the 'two cultures' in the academy, the sciences and the humanities."Thus, in some American colleges where there is no separate School or College of Arts and Sciences per se, political science may be a separate department housed as part of a division or school of Humanities or Liberal Arts. Whereas classical political philosophy is primarily defined by a concern for Hellenic and Enlightenment thought, political scientists are also marked by a great concern for "modernity" and the contemporary nation state, along with the study of classical thought, and as such share a greater deal of terminology with sociologists (e.g. structure and agency).
Most United States colleges and universities offer B.A. programs in political science. M.A. or M.A.T. and Ph.D. or Ed.D. programs are common at larger universities. The term political science is more popular in North America than elsewhere; other institutions, especially those outside the United States, see political science as part of a broader discipline of political studies,politics, or government. While political science implies use of the scientific method, political studies implies a broader approach, although the naming of degree courses does not necessarily reflect their content.Separate degree granting programs in international relations and public policy are not uncommon at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Master's level programs in political science are common when political scientists engage in public administration.
The national honor society for college and university students of government and politics in the United States is Pi Sigma Alpha.
Most political scientists work broadly in one or more of the following five areas:
Some political science departments also classify methodology as well as scholarship on the domestic politics of a particular country as distinct fields. In the United States, American politics is often treated as a separate subfield.
In contrast to this traditional classification, some academic departments organize scholarship into thematic categories, including political philosophy, political behaviour (including public opinion, collective action, and identity), and political institutions (including legislatures and international organizations). Political science conferences and journals often emphasize scholarship in more specific categories. The American Political Science Association, for example, has 42 organized sections that address various methods and topics of political inquiry.
Program evaluation is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency. In both the public and private sectors, stakeholders often want to know whether the programs they are funding, implementing, voting for, receiving or objecting to are producing the intended effect. While program evaluation first focuses around this definition, important considerations often include how much the program costs per participant, how the program could be improved, whether the program is worthwhile, whether there are better alternatives, if there are unintended outcomes, and whether the program goals are appropriate and useful.
Policy analysis is a technique used in public administration to enable civil servants, activists, and others to examine and evaluate the available options to implement the goals of laws and elected officials.
As a social science, contemporary political science started to take shape in the latter half of the 19th century. At that time it began to separate itself from political philosophy, which traces its roots back to the works of Aristotle, and Plato which were written nearly 2,500 years ago. The term "political science" was not always distinguished from political philosophy, and the modern discipline has a clear set of antecedents including also moral philosophy, political economy, political theology, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state.
Harold Dwight Lasswell was a leading American political scientist and communications theorist. He was a PhD student at the University of Chicago, and he was a professor of law at Yale University. He served as president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), of the American Society of International Law and of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS).
The following outline is provided as an overview of an topical guide to academic disciplines:
Communication studies or communication sciences is an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication and behavior. There are three types of communication: verbal, involving listening to a person to understand the meaning of a message; written, in which a message is read; and nonverbal communication involving observing a person and inferring meaning. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets, such as television broadcasting.
Public administration is the implementation of government policy and also an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil servants for working in the public service. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" whose fundamental goal is to "advance management and policies so that government can function". Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: "the management of public programs"; the "translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day"; and "the study of government decision making, the analysis of the policies themselves, the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies."
Robert Jervis is the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, and is a member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs. He has been a member of the faculty since 1980. Jervis was the recipient of the 1990 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Jervis is co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, a series published by Cornell University Press, and the member of numerous editorial review boards for scholarly journals.
Behavioural sciences explore the cognitive processes within organisms and the behavioural interactions between organisms in the natural world. It involves the systematic analysis and investigation of human and animal behavior through the study of the past, controlled and naturalistic observation of the present, and disciplined scientific experimentation and modeling. It attempts to accomplish legitimate, objective conclusions through rigorous formulations and observation. Examples of behavioral sciences include psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, and cognitive science. Generally, behavior science deals primarily with human action and often seeks to generalize about human behavior as it relates to society.
European studies is a field of study offered by many academic colleges and universities that focuses on current developments in European integration.
The School of International Service (SIS) is American University's school of advanced international study, covering areas such as international politics, international communication, international development, international economic relations, peace and conflict resolution, global environmental politics, and U.S. foreign policy.
Donald Thomas Campbell was an American social scientist. He is noted for his work in methodology. He coined the term "evolutionary epistemology" and developed a selectionist theory of human creativity. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Campbell as the 33rd most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
The International Political Science Association (IPSA), founded under the auspices of UNESCO in 1949, is an international scholarly association. IPSA is devoted to the advancement of political science in all parts of the world. During its history it has helped build bridges between East and West, North and South, and has promoted collaboration between scholars in both established and emerging democracies. Its aim is to create a global political science community in which all can participate, most recently it has been extending its reach in Eastern Europe and Latin America. IPSA has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Council (UNESCO) and it is a member of the International Social Science Council and of the Global Development Network.
David Easton was a Canadian-born American political scientist. Easton, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, came to the United States in 1943. From 1947 to 1997, he served as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.
Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life using the principles of psychology neuroscience and network science. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to social science:
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to politics and political science:
…although one might allege the same for social science as a whole, political scientists receive funding from and play an active role in both the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities [in the United States].
…existing practices at Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.
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