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Theories of Political Science

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Political Science inquiry today is influenced by the theories that have been developed and presented over several centuries.

According to Oxford Dictionary of Politics, Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, nation, government, and politics and policies of government. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems, political behavior, and political culture. Political scientists "see themselves engaged in revealing the relationships underlying political events and conditions, and from these revelations they attempt to construct general principles about the way the world of politics works. Political science intersects with other fields; including economics, law, sociology, history, anthropology, public administration, public policy, national politics, international relations, comparative politics, psychology, political organization, and political theory. Although it was codified in the 19th century, when all the social sciences were established, political science has ancient roots; indeed, it originated almost 2,500 years ago with the works of Plato and Aristotle.

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Theories of Political Science

  1. 1. Mohammad Faheem M. Aliuden, CE, MPA
  2. 2. Classic Theories of Political Science
  3. 3. The Early Philosophers Describing the ideal political system  Plato  Republic (4th C. BC) - Normative examination of governing  Citizens incapable of governing themselves, a philospher/king should rule to create a just society.  Aristotle  Politics (4th C. BC) - Both normative (what should be) and descriptive (what is)  Based on observations of Greek city-states to see "what works and what doesn't"  Democracy is best, and best ruled by citizens of the middle class.  Machiavelli  The Prince (1513) - obtaining and using political power  A realist: explanations not based on religious doctrines or what we wish society to be.
  4. 4. The Contractualists Explaining the creation of political systems: social contracts  Hobbes  Leviathan (1651) - Civil society is formed out of fear.  Life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."  People submit to a strong monarch for protection from chaos.  Locke  Two Treatises of Government (1689) - Civil society is formed for the protection of property.  Life in the state of nature is peaceful, but property rights were uncertain.  Government requires consent of the governed.  Rousseau  Social Contract (1762) - Civil society formed to ensure freedom.  People lived as "noble savages" but were corrupted by society.  The "general will" guides a just society.
  5. 5. Institutional Theories The Study of Constitutions  "Traditional" Political Science  Late 19th, early 20th Century  Formal, legalistic study of institutions  Not really "scientific," no systematic attempts to explain political phenomena.  Too simplistic - Institutions do not always function the way they appear on paper.
  6. 6. Modern Political Science Theories
  7. 7.  Behavioralism (1950s - 1960s)  Influence of Comtean Positivism - emphasis on scientific observation  Highly critical of Traditional approach as unscientific  Campbell et al. - The American Voter (1960)  Post-Behavioralism (1960s -1970s)  Highly critical of Behavioral approach as too static, irrelevant  Interested in the prospects of political change, making things "better"  Research findings have real world implications, researchers have a social responsibility  Systems Theory  David Easton - A Systems Analysis of Political Life (1965)  An attempt to model the political system  Inputs - demands and supports  Conversion Process (government decision makers), "the black box"  Outputs - decisions and actions  Components of the system are connected, interdependent  Helpful, but too simplistic
  8. 8.  Modernization Theory  Samuel P. Huntington - Political Order in Changing Societies (1968)  Explanation of Political Development  Connection of economic development and democracy  Rational Choice Theory  Anthony Downs - An Economic Theory of Democracy (1957)  Mancur Olsen - The Logic of Collective Action (1965)  Assumption: Humans are rational "utility-maximizers"  Game theory: Prisoners' dilemma  Little role for culture, values, attitudes, etc  Neo-Institutionalism  Blending of Traditional approach and Rational Choice  Studying institutions (traditional) from the perspective of how the decision-making rules are set up and used by "utility- maximizing" actors (rational choice)
  9. 9. References: Archana Srinivasan, Famous Greek Personalities http://desart.us/courses/1010/index.htm http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-politics/ http://www.wikipedia.org/ https://www.academia.edu/3138759/ Social_Contract_Theory_by_Hobbes_Locke_and_Rousseau

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