Political science

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Political science, occasionally called politology, is a discipline of social science which deals with systems of governance, and the analysis of political activities, political thoughts, associated constitutions and political behaviour. [1]

Contents

Political science 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, human geography, journalism, political anthropology and social policy.

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the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources, such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, experimental research, and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.

History

Origins

As a social political 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.

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. [2] 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.

Behavioural revolution and new institutionalism

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. [3]

Recent developments

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. [4]

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. [5]

Overview

Political science is a social study 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. The study of politics and policies can be closely connected, for example in comparative analyses of which types of political institutions tend to produce certain types of policies. [6]

Political scientists may 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. [7]

Country-specific studies

Political scientists may study political phenomena within one specific country; for example, they may study just the politics of the United States, [8] or just the politics of China. [9]

In the case of 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. Political scientists will often focus on the politics of their own country, so for example a political scientist from Indonesia may become an expert in the politics of Indonesia. [10]

Anticipating crises

The theory of political transitions, [11] and the methods of their analysis and anticipating [12] of crises, [13] form an important part of political science. Several general indicators of crises and methods were proposed for anticipating critical transitions. [14] Among them, a statistical indicator of crisis, simultaneous increase of variance and correlations in large groups, was proposed for crisis anticipation and may be successfully used in various areas. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17]

The study of major crises, both political crises and external crises that can affect politics, is not limited to attempts to predict regime transitions or major changes in political institutions. Political scientists also study how governments handle unexpected disasters, and how voters in democracies react to their governments' preparations for and responses to crises. [18]

Cognate fields

Most political scientists work broadly in one or more of the following five areas:

Program evaluation is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies and programs, [19] 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. [20]

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.

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. [21]

Research methods

Political science is methodologically diverse; political scientists approach the study of politics from a host of different ontological orientations and with a variety of different tools. 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). [22] 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." [12] 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.

Empirical political science methods include the use of field experiments, [23] surveys and survey experiments, [24] case studies, [25] process tracing, [26] [27] historical and institutional analysis, [28] ethnography, [29] participant observation, [30] and interview research. [31]

Political scientists also use and develop theoretical tools like game theory and agent based models to study a host of political systems and situations. [32]

Political theorists approach theories of political phenomenon with a similar diversity of positions and tools, including Feminist political theory, historical analysis associated with the Cambridge school, Straussian approaches, and others.

Political science may overlap with topics of study that are the traditional focuses of other social sciences, for example when sociological norms or psychological biases are connected to political phenomena. In these cases, political science may either inherit their methods of study or it may develop a contrasting approach. [33] For example, Lisa Wedeen has argued that political science's approach to the idea of culture, originating with Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba and exemplified by authors like Samuel P. Huntington, could benefit from aligning more closely with the study of culture in anthropology. [33] In turn, methodologies that are developed within political science may influence the way that researchers in other fields, like public health, conceive of and approach political processes and policies. [34]

Education

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." [35] 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. [36] 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. [37] 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. [38]

The national honour society for college and university students of government and politics in the United States is Pi Sigma Alpha.

See also

Related Research Articles

Interdisciplinarity Combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity

Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity. It draws knowledge from several other fields like sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics etc. It is about creating something by thinking across boundaries. It is related to an interdiscipline or an interdisciplinary field, which is an organizational unit that crosses traditional boundaries between academic disciplines or schools of thought, as new needs and professions emerge. Large engineering teams are usually interdisciplinary, as a power station or mobile phone or other project requires the melding of several specialties. However, the term "interdisciplinary" is sometimes confined to academic settings.

Science Systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Social science The academic disciplines concerned with society and the relationships between individuals in society

Social science is the branch of science devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. In addition to sociology, it now encompasses a wide array of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, human geography, linguistics, management science, media studies, political science, psychology, and social history.

Discourse

The term discourse identifies and describes written and spoken communications. In semantics and discourse analysis, a discourse is a conceptual generalization of conversation. In a field of enquiry and social practice, the discourse is the vocabulary for investigation of the subject, e.g. legal discourse, medical discourse, religious discourse, et cetera. In the works of the philosopher Michel Foucault, a discourse is “an entity of sequences, of signs, in that they are enouncements (énoncés).”

Political economy Study of production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government

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 οἰκονομία. 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).

Harold Lasswell

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).

Case study

In the social and life sciences, a case study is a research method involving an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of a particular case. For example, a case study in medicine may examine a specific patient a doctor treated, and a case study in business might study a particular firm's strategy. Generally, a case can be nearly any unit of analysis, including individuals, organizations, events, or actions.

Social research Research conducted by social scientists following a systematic plan

Social research is a research conducted by social scientists following a systematic plan. Social research methodologies can be classified as quantitative and qualitative.

Content analysis

Content analysis is the study of documents and communication artifacts, which might be texts of various formats, pictures, audio or video. Social scientists use content analysis to examine patterns in communication in a replicable and systematic manner. One of the key advantages of using content analysis to analyse social phenomena is its non-invasive nature, in contrast to simulating social experiences or collecting survey answers.

Communication studies or communication sciences is an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication and behavior, patterns of communication in interpersonal relationships, social interactions and communication in different cultures. Communication is commonly defined as giving, receiving or exchanging ideas, information, signals or messages through appropriate media, enabling individuals or groups to persuade, to seek information, to give information or to express emotions effectively. Communication studies is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge that encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation at a level of individual agency and interaction to social and cultural communication systems at a macro level.

Behaviouralism is an approach in political science that emerged in the 1930s in the United States. It represented a sharp break from previous approaches in emphasizing an objective, quantified approach to explain and predict political behaviour. It is associated with the rise of the behavioural sciences, modeled after the natural sciences. Behaviouralism claims it can explain political behaviour from an unbiased, neutral point of view.

Methodology A coherent and logical theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study

Methodology is "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers [or other users] make".

Comparative politics is a field in political science characterized either by the use of the comparative method or other empirical methods to explore politics within countries. Substantively, this can include questions relating to political institutions, political behavior, conflict, and the causes and consequences of economic development. When applied to specific fields of study, comparative politics may be referred to by other names, such as comparative government.

The philosophy of social science is the study of the logic, methods, and foundations of social sciences such as psychology, economics, and political science. Philosophers of social science are concerned with the differences and similarities between the social and the natural sciences, causal relationships between social phenomena, the possible existence of social laws, and the ontological significance of structure and agency.

Kenneth Binmore

Kenneth George "Ken" Binmore, is a British mathematician, economist, and game theorist. He is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at University College London (UCL) and a Visiting Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol.

Human science, or the human sciences plural, studies the philosophical, biological, social, and cultural aspects of human life. Human Science aims to expand our understanding of the human world through a broad interdisciplinary approach. It encompasses a wide range of fields - including history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, biochemistry, neurosciences, folkloristics, and anthropology. It is the study and interpretation of the experiences, activities, constructs, and artifacts associated with human beings. The study of the human sciences attempts to expand and enlighten the human being's knowledge of their existence, its interrelationship with other species and systems, and the development of artifacts to perpetuate the human expression and thought. It is the study of human phenomena. The study of the human experience is historical and current in nature. It requires the evaluation and interpretation of the historic human experience and the analysis of current human activity to gain an understanding of human phenomena and to project the outlines of human evolution. Human science is the objective, informed critique of human existence and how it relates to reality.

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of human behavior. Sociology refers to social behavior, society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order and social change. Sociology can also be defined as the general science of society. 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 can range from micro-level analyses of society to macro-level analyses.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to social science:

Critical realism (philosophy of the social sciences)

Critical realism is a philosophical approach to understanding science developed by Roy Bhaskar (1944–2014). It combines a general philosophy of science with a philosophy of social science. It specifically opposes forms of empiricism and positivism by viewing science as concerned with identifying causal mechanisms. Also, in the context of social science it argues that scientific investigation can lead directly to critique of social arrangements and institutions, in a similar manner to the work of Karl Marx. In the last decades of the twentieth century it also stood against various forms of 'postmodernism'. It is one of a range of types of philosophical realism, as well as forms of realism advocated within social science such as analytic realism and subtle realism.

Brooke A. Ackerly is an American political scientist and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University with affiliations to the Human and Organizational Development Department, Law School, Philosophy Department, and Women's and Gender Studies Program, noted for her research on grounded normative theory, feminist theory, feminist international relations, and scholar activism.

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  37. Politics is the term used to refer to this field by Brandeis University; Cornell College; University of California, Santa Cruz; Hendrix College; Lake Forest College; Monash University; Mount Holyoke College; New York University; Occidental College; Princeton University; Ursinus College; Washington and Lee University; and Zeppelin University. Government is the term used for this field by Bowdoin College; Colby College; Cornell University; Dartmouth College; Georgetown University; Harvard University; Smith College; Wesleyan University; the College of William and Mary; the University of Sydney; the University of Texas at Austin; the University of Ulster; the University of Essex; Victoria University of Wellington, which has both a "School of Government" and a separate "Political Science and International Relations Programme"; and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Politics and government is the term used by the University of Puget Sound. Government and politics is used by the University of Maryland, College Park.
  38. Vernardakis, George (1998). Graduate education in government. University Press of America. p. 77. ISBN   978-0-7618-1171-8. …existing practices at Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.

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