Can Politics Be Regarded as a Science?

1793 Words Apr 26th, 2012 8 Pages
Can the study of politics be regarded as a science?

The debate as whether politics can be regarded as a science is ‘complex, voluminous and multi-faceted one’ . The origins of political analysis lie in the philosophical tradition of Plato and Aristotle whose work was fundamentally rooted in the normative. At the very early stages of politics as an academic discipline, the great thinkers of the time were not concerned with empirical evidence; instead basing their ideas on literary analysis. The emphasis on the normative that comes with the traditional study of politics suggests that politics is not a science as it cannot be objective. This was followed by the emergence of the normative model of political analysis and what Peter Lasslett
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This may suggest that the Marxist model of political analysis as a science is not correct. Despite this it is important to note how, whilst Marx’s predictions may not have proved correct, his methods and the concept of politics as a science is unquestionable.

Enthusiasm for the idea of political science grew in the 20th century with the creation of the American Political Science Review in 1906 and also the emergence of the behaviouralism movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the period coined as ‘the behavioural revolution’ by Robert Garner who claimed that ‘number crunching…in relation to electoral behaviour was the gold standard’ whilst normative analysis was rendered ‘at best, unnecessary and at worst, meaningless’ . This can be viewed as the most compelling case for politics being regarded as a science as it is the first time that objective and quantifiable data could be tested against hypotheses. The form of political analysis that was emerging in this period was heavily based on behaviouralism which worked on the principle that social theories should be constructed on the basis of observable behaviour which provides quantifiable evidence for research. This lead to increased interest and activity in the field of quantitative research methods such as voting behaviour, the records of
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