Give an introduction to the study of Political Science/Politics.
Politics and political science are often used as synonyms terms. But their meaning differ both in terms of scope as well as emphasis. The actual process of cooperation, conflict and competition that we have discussed earlier is what is meant by the term politics. Political science refers to a systematic way of studying the process of politics. The two terms point towards its two aspects. While political covers the subject matter or its study, science refers to a systematic way of studying it. The first part refers to the scope of such a study and the second refers to the method of study. These two aspects scope and method cannot be separated.
While studying the process of politics, political science identifies the factors that determine cooperation and conflict among individuals and groups. The nature of such conflicts differ from individual to individual and from group to group. Political scientists study this variations and analyze the reasons that results into variations. The pattern of such variations forms the basis of general conclusions of political science. These conclusions are however not final. Some other social groups, situations, regions, may be studied and the earlier conclusions may be put to test. The earlier conclusions are thus refined in this process. Passing through the various stages of such investigation, conclusions are understood and explained better in terms of the factors that cause the variation mentioned earlier. At this stage theories take shape, that explain the cause and effect relationships. The variations that one find in ‘politics’ in different situations and at different times are the bases of various theories in political science. Political science is an organized body of knowledge dealing with concepts and theories concerning the process of politics.
The term Politics is derived from the Greek word polis which means city-state. The study of politics dates back yo the 5th century BC Greece with immense contribution ny political philosophers Plato (428/427BC – 348/347 BC) and Aristotle (384BC – 322BC). Before the 30th century, the study of politics was integrated with other disciplines such as history and philosophy.
The Greek philosophers Aristotle, the father of Political science, considered the study of politics as a systematic inquiry to understand the truth about political so as to explain the relationship between the state and the individual. He described and classified political systems. Aristotle and plato made immense contributions to the origin and development of the discipline. Plato analyzed different political systems and Aristotle, closely following the traits of his teacher Plato, gave the analysis a historical perspective. They tried to understand the working of different forms of government.
Politics was a matter of discussion in the churches during the medieval period as political power remained with the church under the Holy Roman Empire. The works of philosophers such as St. Augustine amalgamated the principles of political philosophy with those of religion. It must ne noted here that for the Greek and medieval philosophers, politics was a knowledge centering on the city state, which by and large had spiritual bond. It was more of a community than a state.
It was during the Italian Renaissance that Niccolo Machiavelli laid the foundations of modern political science through his emphasis on empirical observation and investigation of political structures and political behavior from a secular perspective.
In ancient India, the antecedents of politics can be traced back to the Rig-Veda, Samhitas, Brahmanas, the Mahabharata and Buddhist Pali Canon. Chanakya (c. 350-275 BC) was a political thinker in Takshashila. He wrote the Arthashastra, a treatise on political thought, economics and social order, which can be considered a precursor to Machiavelli’s The Prince. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail, among other topics. Manusmriti, dated to about two centuries after the time of Chanakya is another important political treatise of ancient India.
Political Science is that part of social science which deals with the foundations of the state and the principles of the government.
According to J W Garner, “Politics begins and ends with the state.”
Robson and Losswell regard it as the study of power and influence. Some scholars define it as the study of political aspects of organized human society. But the latter instantly enlarges the scope of political science as it tends to include everything. Thus political science has been variously defined though for most part of the history the emphasis was placed on state, its institutions, laws and processes. Political behavior of individuals and groups also became a part of it after the behavioral revolution. The latest addition to this has been the concept of governance.
Garris – political science deals with the origin, development, purpose and all political problems of the state.
Seeley – 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.
Harold Laswell – Political science is an empirical enquiry in the study of shaping and sharing of power.
Gettel – It is the historical study of the past, analytical study of the present and ethical study of the future.
David Easton – Political science is the process by which scarce resources – human, economic, spiritual are allocated within a social limit, be it a city, a nation or an organization for the purpose of providing for human needs and desires.
Harold J Laski stated in the same vein that the study of Politics concerns itself with the life of men and women in relation to organized state. Thus as a social science, Political Science deals with those aspects of individuals in society which relate to their activities and organizations devoted to seeking of power, resolution of conflicts and all these, within an overall framework of the rule and law as laid down by the state.
Karl Marx – Politics was all about class conflict and political power
Andrew Heywood: “Politics can be defined as an activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live.”
Catlin: “Political Science is the study of the act of human and social control”.
Political science is a study of institutions and processes of governance like the state and the government. Its is also a study of processes involving conflict, cooperation and integration and the interplay of power relationships in society at large. In modern times the second aspect of political science is accepted to represent a more comprehensive definition. A wider understanding of subject does not accept that politics can be restricted only to certain institutions. In a fact, a sector of all social activities involve conflict and struggle for power. Thus we hear terms like ‘politics of religion’, ‘ politics of clubs’ , politics in sports and politics in families especially in joint families. When Aristotle called politics a master science it was not only in terms of the wider coverage of political governance, but also in terms of its omnipresent character. Whatever the focus of a study of society, one of its essential aspects is to study its political. Political science benefits by utilizing insights from different social sciences. Branches of study like history, economics, sociology and ethics are closely related with political science.