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Chapter: 11th 12th std standard Political Science History goverment rule laws life Higher secondary school College Notes

New Political Science : Meaning And Nature Of The Concept

Political science is the study of State craft. It involves the study of structure and process in government. Accordingly, political scientists may study social institutions such as: 1. Corporations 2. Unions 3. Churches 4. Organisation





Political science is the study of State craft. It involves the study of structure and process in government. Accordingly, political scientists may study social institutions such as:

1.    Corporations

2.    Unions

3.    Churches

4.    Organisation


Jean Bodin (1530-1596) a French political philosopher coined the term 'political science'. Political scientists study the allocation and transfer of power in decision-making. Political science seeks both to advance positive theses, by analysing the politics, and to advance normative theses, by making specific policy recommendations. In traditional political science, knowledge is based on mental construction and thus it is value-oriented. Traditional political theories are based on assumptions and enquires and the personal experiences of the authors. However, the new political science is based on scientific enquires and supported by reliable data. The scientific outlook of political science came as a result of Behavioural Movement which started in 1950's.


The science of politics was found in the behavioural revolution of the 1950's. Only then did many members of the discipline accept and become comfortable with the scientific identity of the discipline. Behaviouralism established an agreed upon methodology which was value-free and emphasized quantification to aid in prediction of political behaviour. Though this has changed in some respects since the behavioral revolution, the positivist model of science still maintains the scientific identity of the discipline. The scientific identify to the discipline has resulted in marginalisation of normative political theory. In fact, behaviouralism called for an end to normative political theory since it did not aid the empirical science of politics


The study of politics started to become a professional pursuit, sanctioned by professional associations.


1. International Political Science Association

2. Indian Political Science Association.

3. Indian Institute of Public Administration

4. American Political Science Association.


This trend toward professionalism in the field of political research became clearer during the behavioural revolution's move to 'pure' science. With behaviouralism, the discipline settled on scientific identity, an identity that has changed little since its inception.


Political scientists believed that a scientific, disciplinary and professional identity of the discipline would seek true knowledge about politics. Scientific method would allow political scientists to arrive at objective, value-free truth about certain aspects of politics in order to aid a modernising polity in a purely technical way. There could be no normative goals in a value-free science.


The professional identity of the political scientist became the starting point for new political science. Political knowledge was to be implemented in the governmental system. Political scientists such as Charles Merriam and Harold Lasswell are social engineers whose purpose was the 'rational' supervision of political actors to order and control a logical, new political society.

The 'new' political scientists saw citizens as 'objects' of study and observation. The ultimate question for the new political scientists became how to motivate public opinion to support the liberal democratic State. They operated on the presupposition that humankind was perfectible and thus that a reliance on 'scientific' political knowledge would help to cure societal and political ills permanently. The political scientist constructed political knowledge that could be applied in a technical way to governmental functions.


In his scholarly work Merriam demanded that political science become more rigorously scientific approach. He saw the development of a scientific technique and methodology for political science as a necessity to avoid 'speculation and guesswork'.


Merriam viewed the physical sciences as attempt to benefit, preserve and perfect civilisation, and he reserved a place for political science in this process. He consciously sought to control the 'evolution of intelligence' and human behaviour, through civic education, to instill democratic values in citizens in the move towards the perfection of society and humankind.


Behavioralists like Heinz Eulau and David Easton championed behavioural research and paved the way the emergence of 'New Political Science'. The following are the characteristic features of 'New Political Science'.


1.     Political science should search for regularities in political behaviour in order to facilitate prediction and explanation.


2.     Political science should concern itself with empirical political phenomena, that is, with the behaviour of individuals and political groups;


3.     Data should be quantifiable in order to aid predictive capabilities;

4.     Research should be theory driven, in other words, research should begin with a theory that yields empirically testable hypotheses;


5.     Political scientists should research in favor of pure scientific research;


6.     Values such as democracy, equality and freedom cannot be scientifically established and should thus be avoided unless they can somehow be made empirically testable;


7.     Political science should become more interdisciplinary;


8.     Political science should place more emphasis on methodology and make better use of multivariate analysis, sample surveys, mathematical models and simulation.


From Eulau's view, macro level analysis aimed at institutions, while micro analysis focused on individuals. Eulau located the science of politics in the study of political behaviour micro and macro level distinctions. Such a science would ideally be empirical and focused on finding uniformities and regularities in political behaviour. The careful documentation of regular and uniform behaviour would help to explain and eventually predict institutional influences on behaviour, and vice-versa.


According to Eulau, political scientists should seek to quantify their data and their results. Quantification, using the most advanced research technology, empirical methods and testable hypotheses, introduces exactitude and reliability to political knowledge. Eulau argued that quantification allows political scientists to be more certain about the legitimacy of political knowledge. 'Political knowledge,' realised through behavioural methods, emphasises reason.

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