Nature of Political Science

Political Science is known by several names as ‘politics’ (Aristotle), ‘political science’ (William Godwin & Mary Wollstonecraft), ‘science of state’ (R. G. Gettel), and ‘science of politics’ (Sir. Fredrick Pollock). However, it lacks a precise nomenclature. Jellinek remarks that there is no science which is so much in need of a good terminology as is political science. Lowell holds that the study of politics ‘lacks the first essentials of modern science, a nomenclature incomprehensible to educate men’.

Refering to the amount of confusion created by different nomenclatures of this subject, Garner says This is regrettable, because it often leads to confusion and misunderstanding, such as one does not encounter in the literature of natural sciences, where the terminology employed is more precise and exact. (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 01) The English word ‘politics’ originates from three Greek words like ‘polis’ (City State), ‘polity’ (Government) and ‘politeia’ (Constitution). Thus, in the original Greek sense, politics is a study of the city-state and its administration in practical as well as philosophical terms.

The term ‘politics’ has been taken by the lexicons and the writers of text books both as a science and an art. The original Greek meaning of ‘politics’ became outdated ever since Hobbes identified it with ‘power’. Hence, Gilchrist maintain that the term ‘politics’, when used in its original Greek sense, is unobjectionable, but since modern usage has given it a new meaning, it is useless as a scientific term (02). Eminent writers like Jellinek, Willoughby and Pollock have made distinction between the ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ dimensions of politics.

It shows that while some topics relating to the origin, nature, purposes and ends of the state from part of ‘theoretical politics’, others relating to the actual administration of the affairs of government belong to the part of ‘applied or practical politics’. Thus, while the term ‘theoretical politics’ refers to the fundamental characteristics of the state without reference to its activities or the means by which its ends are attained, the term ‘applied or practical politics’ refers to the state in action or state considered as a dynamic institution (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 02).

The father of political science – Aristotle defined Politics as the science of state. According to Max Webber, Politics is the ‘striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state’. In the words of Harold Lasswell, ‘The study of Politics is the study of influence and the influential. ’ Lasswell further defined influential as those who get the most of what there is to get. E. C. Banfield defined politics as, ‘The activity (negotiation, argument, discussion, application of force, persuasion, etc. ) by which an issue is agitated or settled.

This definition includes wider non-political element. Politics according to it is a social activity, not invariably related with power. Bertrand de Jouvenel, Robert Dahl & William Bluhm too defined politics in accordance with E. C. Banfield in a non-political perspective (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 02-03). The above mentioned definitions show that politics includes non-political. In the words of J. D. B. Miller, “Politics is what it is because society is what it is : because men, in their social situation, find themselves divided…politics is a natural reflex of the divergences between the members of a society. (17) “It is a permanent feature of human society because social diversities are never going to stop. It is a matter of the expression advocacy, settlement and modification of disagreements. (284)” Thus after the various ideologies presented by various learned experts throughout the ages on Political Science, in its new meaning politics has been made free from the shackles of normative dimensions. It has been restated in empirical terms. Thus, it is not merely a study of state and government; it is a study of power, its exercise, and struggle for its sake.

As Michael Curtis said, “Politics is organized dispute about power and its use, involving choice among competing values, ideas, persons, interests & demands. The study of politics is concerned with the description and analysis of the manner in which power is obtained, exercised and controlled, the purpose for which it is used, the manner in which decisions are made, the factors which influence the making of those decisions, and the context in which those decisions take place. ” Thus today, there has been a striking shift from the study of state to the study of power in the meaning of Political Science.

This shift has broadened the area of inquiry and served to make political analysis more realistic. It has saved Politics from narrow formalism and institutionalism which is involved in the definition of the discipline as the science of the state. According to N. P. Guild and K. T. Palmer, this shift has two main advantages. “One advantage that power has over earlier concepts is that it focuses attention on a process not on a legal abstraction as state. Political Science becomes the study of the way power is accumulated, used and controlled in modern society.

Consequently, it includes not only the legal and formal but also extra-legal and informal processes involved in government (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 04). Another advantage of using power as the central concept is that political science pays greater heed to man, especially the political man, as a basic unit of analysis. Jellinek says “The task of political science is top study in their fundamental relations the public powers, to examine the conditions under which they manifest themselves, their end and their effect, and to investigate the state in its inner nature. According to Willoughby, “The science of politics seeks an accurate description and classification of political institutions and the precise determination of the forces which create and control them, while the art of politics has for its aim the determination of the principles which it is necessary to observe if political institutions are to be efficiently operated. ” Paul Janet says “Politics is the part of social science which treats of the foundations of state and the principles of government. Gareis mentions as “Political Science considers the state as an institution of power (Machtwesan), in the totality of its relations, its origin, its setting (land & people), its object, its ethical signification, its economic problems, its life conditions, its financial side, its end, etc. ” Seely defines as “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. (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 04-05)

The above mentioned facts refer to the traditional view of the meaning and nature of political science in which it is a body of knowledge relating to the study of state and government. In the new or modern view, Political Science is identified with ‘politics’ and, more than that, the latter is preferred to the former. Its main focus is on the ‘power’ that plays a crucial part in the struggle in which the individuals and their groups may be found involved according to their capability and degree of interest at all levels – local, regional, national and international.

Hence, Lasswell and Kaplan define politics as the ‘study of the shaping and sharing of power. ’(XIV) To conclude, Political Science is a science of state. It is a branch of social sciences dealing with the theory, organization, government and practice of the state. To quote Garner : “In short Political Science begins and ends with the state. In a general way, its fundamental include, first, an investigation of the origin and nature of the state; second, an inquiry into the nature, history and forms political institutions; third, a deduction therefrom, so far possible, of the laws of Political growth and development”.

Works Cited Sharma Urmila and Sharma S. K. Principles And Theory In Political Science. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007. Gilchrist R. N. Principles of Political Science. Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co. , 1975. Miller J. D. B. The Nature of Politics. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. , 1965. Lasswell H. D. and Kaplan A. Power and Society. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952.