Is Political Science, a Science or an Art?
There is a great debate on the scientific nature of Political Science. Some scholars consider it a science of the State and the Government. While others are of the opinion that it is one of the most backward of all the arts. Writers like Auguste Comte and Maitland are of the opinion that social sciences lack scientific character as there is no consensus of opinion among experts on its nature, methods and approaches. It lacks continuity and development and the elements that constitute a basis of precision. There are no universal principles and the scientific methods of observation and experimentation may not be applicable to Political Science. The elements of reliability, verifiability, precision and accuracy found in natural sciences are absent in Political Science. There is no uniformity in the principles of Political Science and it does not strictly observe the relation of cause and effect as the other sciences do. Similarly we do not find that exactness and absoluteness in Political Science as it is found in Physics and Chemistry. Hence several scholars identify it with Arts.
On the other hand, some writers argue that Political Science is the science of state and government. Aristotle was the first one to call it as a supreme science. Writers such as Bodin, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Bluntschli subscribe to this view. Dr. Garner defines science as knowledge relating to a particular subject acquired by a systematic study, observation or experience. If science is thus defined, conclusions in Political Science are also drawn after systematic study, observation or experience. Though Political Science cannot claim of universal laws as in the case of natural sciences, there are conclusions that can be proven. For instance, it cannot be denied that democracy is the most suited form of government in pluralistic societies and that it is best possible one to promote social welfare. This conclusion was derived after a systematic study of the other forms of governments in different parts of the world during the ancient, medieval and modern period. There is no consensus among scholars on the nature, methods and principles of the discipline as it engages in the study of human beings and the institutions manned by them. These institutions adapt themselves to changing needs of human life and hence scholars are also of different views and opinions. Nevertheless, all Political Scientists unanimously agree that Imperialism, Colonialism, inequality, illiteracy and poverty affect the society at large.
Though Political Science does not strictly adhere to the theory of cause and effect, certain political phenomena have their own cause and effect. For instance, poverty and unemployment are causes that can result in the consequence of revolution. Hence, some writers conclude that Political Science is undoubtedly a ‘Science’.
Though Political Science cannot be equated with the natural sciences but nevertheless, it is a social science dealing with individuals and their relations with the State and government. One can say that, whether Political Science could be seen as an Art or Science would largely depend on the chosen subject matter for the study and the approaches used to carry out the study.
Several activities – political, economic, social, religious, etc continuously and simultaneously take place in societies. These activities involve individuals, groups, institutions as well as other internal and external actors. All these activities and all those involved in such activities are governed and controlled by the actions of the state through its laws. There is an obligation on the part of the subjects / citizens to abide by the laws. No one can say I am above the law. Violation of law is punishable. The government has the authority to punish those violators as it has the responsibility to maintain peace and order in a society besides ensuring the security of all its subjects / citizens. Hence whether you like it or not you are bound by the laws. Note the following:
The inborn child has been given certain rights
There are restrictions regarding the age of entry in schools, for which you need birth certificate from municipal administration.
You finish your studies…but you need the certificates …to get a job…
Once in job you start earning… but you have to pay tax…
At some point you get married… but be careful….. you and your spouse should have crossed the minimum age limit required by law to get married..
Then you buy a house… bound by laws relating to housing loans… subsequently you need to pay property tax to the local administration..
At some point you retire... and the benefits you might get are defined by law….
One day you leave this world… Your wards need death certificate… legal heir certificate…. etc…
Further, the safety and security of your life, property, possessions are ensured by the laws.. The police, military, Judiciary take care of this…
Every activity in life is subject to laws …
Education, business, societal activities, electoral participation, your rights, liberty, all day-today activities are subject to certain rules and regulations conditioned by law…
Remember, all such laws are defined, framed, enforced by the state, government and other political / administrative agencies. No one can stay out of this… Hence studying political science becomes all the more important.