Is the Study of Politics Best Considered a Science or an Art?

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Is the study of politics best considered a science or an art?

Since its conception as a formal academic discipline, Politics has existed on the fault line between two great fields of enquiry, the sciences and the arts. During the mid 20th century, with the rise of the behavioural movement, a general trend towards the “scientification” of the study of politics could be observed. The origins of this movement can be traced back to the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle and the writings of Auguste Comte in the nineteenth century (Sanders, 2010). However from the 1970s, there emerged a growing dissatisfaction with behaviouralism and a revival of interest in normative questions, as seen in the writings of theorists such as John Rawls and
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In addition to the difference of purpose between arts and sciences, which we have discussed above, a further distinction is offered by Lasswell (1958) that may be considered by some as somewhat biased: “The science of politics states conditions; the philosophy of politics justifies preferences.” He distinguishes between “the science of politics” and “the philosophy of politics” on the same grounds as the fact-value dichotomy of logical positivism. He appears to be implying that political philosophy (which, for the purpose of this essay, would fall under the jurisdiction of art) “justifies preferences” in the sense that it provides rationalizations for the personal preferences of the theorist of political philosophy (Horwitz, 1962). Science, on the other hand, uses only facts and empirical data as its tools of analysis. This overt process of analysis minimizes the scope for bias by the researcher (Pierce, 2008). Moreover it promises an impartial and reliable means of distinguishing ‘truth’ from ‘falsehood’ and gives us access to objective knowledge about the political world (Heywood, 2002). However the fact/value dichotomy is not as clearly defined as is assumed here. Values are deeply involved in the identification of facts as well as their description and examination since all political scientists enter research with at least some presumptions about their
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