Modern Politics

We discussed in the preceding Article, the main ingredients of modern politics. It has been said that there had been something of an intellectual revolution in the United States of America, and out of it has emerged a trend to master the new complexities both in developed and developing countries by breaking out of parochialism. This trend to  create a new intellectual order may be summarized, as Almond and Powell do, under four headings:

  1. The search for comprehensiveness,
  2. The search for realism,
  3. The search for precision and
  4. The search for a theoretical order


But modern innovations are not accomplished facts and do not present a unified theory. There is a sharp divergence of approach and technique amongst the innovators themselves, and no one can say with certainty what shape Political Science may take ultimately. The most important work, both empirical and theoretical, is still to be done. During most recent times, a swing is witnessed towards what it has been discarded earlier and that, too, vehemently.

Yet, no student of Political Science can remain oblivious of the main directions of innovators. A wise bird uses both wings to fly, and we have emphasized the new trends and the various concepts used therein in the context of what an innovator would call the parochialism of a traditionalist.

New ways of saying and doing things have always tempted some and horrified others. In Political Science, particularly, methods of study and objectives of inquiry are subject to deep controversy. New approaches and objectives are likely to arouse, and actually, they have passions.

Nor should the innovators frown on the traditionalists. A dynamic study, as the discipline of Political Science is, must offer empirical solution also to the problems which confront the Age of the new nation, the name that historians certainly will not fail to give our century. All this renders the subject exceedingly complex and its expanded dimensions.

New Dimensions of Modern Politics:

New Dimension is a new term meaning more or less the same as the old one scope. Any discussion about scope or dimensions will inevitably involve discussing the subject matter, objectives, and methodological assumptions. All the three have undergone a sea-change in the last six decades or so. The changes undergone by them are, no doubt, important but more important and relevant, as A.B. Mathur says, “are the causes responsible for these changes.”

A commonplace argument is that these changes have been brought about by the vast sociological, economic, scientific, and technological revolution sweeping across the world, changing man’s outlook in life and the world and transforming his concept of society, power, legitimacy, freedom, and authority, rights and duties. The state as an instrument of power, as an agent of social welfare, and a bulwark against authoritarianism, too, has undergone a total change.

“The expanded dimensions of Political Science, therefore, present a vast mosaic which can be understood partly historically and partly analytically”

As said earlier, the warp and woof of the history of political thought are constituted by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Bodin, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Burke, and Marx. For centuries the study of Political Science was riveted upon the seminal ideas of these illustrious masters who were not academics but then of practical or public life. They went deep into the basic questions of purposes for which human societies exist and their relations to the purposes of human life Their was a quest for a just and happy life with men assembled in a terrestrially integrated society.

They had no vested interests in accelerating or impeding the progress of Political Science as a discipline. They were all liberal thinkers, and the last in the line of this glorious intellectual tradition was perhaps John Stuart Mill (18064873).

The end of the liberal tradition marked the phenomenal expansion of the university system and, consequently, the beginning of the new phase in the development of Political  Science. Political scholars occupying prestigious university chairs, departing from the traditional approach, emphasized the need to develop a scientific approach to natural and social affairs.

This they did by expounding the virtues of a scholarly way of analyzing politics, whereupon, by comparison, any more traditional sort of speculation about public affairs appeared to be less incisive or plainly mistaken. As years rolled by, a great quantity of scholarly work accumulated. The new expertise of academicians as a class became so highly regarded that for political scientists at least, it seemed reasonable to honor the old tradition for its historical stature than for any relevance to the contemporary society.

The most amazing consequence of it all Is that a large number of American citizens have come to learn about public life from a particular aggregation of academic specialists rather than, as in the past, from a tradition based upon the works of great men in many walks of life. Knowledge was, thus, compartmentalized in the tighter molds of rigidity.

The conditions of work in the universities, prejudices, ideologies, processes of thinking deliberately generated by powerful social and economic interests, in short, the contemporary socioeconomic milieu, more than dispassionate comprehension of public affairs, have tended to determine the outlook of specialists and experts in all social sciences including Political Science. As a result, political scientists tend to endorse certain views of the polity instead of others as a group.

Just before the Second World War, there was a comprehensive view of American Society, which seemed suitable for remaining loyal to science and, at the same time, for its exercise. But John Dewey and Karl Popper neither of them assimilating reflected a new and tough-minded version of liberalism which them a political scientist, reworked its way into the discipline of Political Studies. Karl Popper provided the new philosophy of science, in terms much more specific than those of Dewey.

The most authentic statement of his philosophy, linking it directly to democratic politics, appeared in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945). All statements of science, said Popper, are scientific to the extent that it is possible to associate them with unambiguous evidence. A belief is entitled to be called scientific if it is expressed in terms that can be cleared. Proved or disproved, as distinguished from moral and religious statements couched in terms of values that cannot be supported or contradicted.

But it isn’t easy to prove what we believe about humanity, society, or nature. Science, in short, is a matter of methods and not results. Indeed, a scientist’s work may produce very few of the latter, but his findings will be maximally reliable if he faithfully employs the proper methods. Popper, in short, suggested how social research might be conducted and justified within a liberal society.

In the wake of the Second World War and deep into the 1960s, all the noted political scientists, sociologists commentators on public affairs thought that ideologies were, or ought to be, considered properly defunct. The crux of their argument was that any belief in ideology precludes scientific, social research and leads only to political disaster.

Thus the transition from dispassionate contemplation of public affairs to a study of politics according to rules laid down by the scientific community marked the first phase in acquiring new dimensions. The old subject matter is the study of society as a moral organism, and the study’s objectives as to how far the state helped to live a moral and, therefore, happy life were abandoned. A new concept of society or state emerged stripped of all moral precepts and considerations.

But it was in the field of methodological assumptions that the study of politics underwent a revolutionary change. The knowledge of man’s nature, nature and its relation with man, intuition, historical perspective, and the external varieties of social life as discovered by great thinkers were deemed totally obsolete and “unserviceable tools” with which a society could be studied, matchless understood. Scientific tools of inquiry free from the constricting influence of moral values or values of any kind came to be accepted as the means of exploring the new dimensions of Political Science. The one school that made a big splash was a behavioral school, which tried to give the study of Political Science a new orientation, a new image, and a new meaning.

Behaviorism.

As a result of the fact-value dichotomy, the new scientific outlook helped greatly measure the science of the political movement’s growth geared to sophisticated scientific methodology. It is not saying too much, remarked Arnold Brecht, “that ours has become the methodological century in the social sciences. ” The scientific study of Political Science is popularly known as political behaviorism. However, it is important to note that most of the scholars who subscribe to this approach constitute a heterogeneous group united only by dissatisfaction with the traditional Political Science.  But we are here essentially concerned with those behaviorists who subscribe to its scientific credo and obviously the fundamental assumptions that underlie it.

For example, David Truman, David Easton, and many others of their like. Truman contends that the new approach deals with human behavior’s verified principles through similar natural sciences. Similarly, David Easton observed that despite shifts in emphasis, the behaviorists’ underlying assumption is the same as building “a science of politics modeled after the methodological assumptions on the natural sciences.”

Under the impact of a behavioral or scientific approach, vigorous attempts have been made to render Political Science of the order of Physics and Chemistry. There has been a significant increase in empirical and quantitative methods and attempts to evolve Conceptual frameworks, models, theories, meta-theories, and paradigms.

Consequently, Political Science appears to have drifted away horn the reality of the World and is lost in facts and data. Political scientists, especially the behaviorists, like Turgenev Fathers and Sons’ heroes, believe that science would solve all problems and cure all ills.

Thus, the scientific movement that had arrived to take Political Science “away” from “dogma” horn religious dogma and dogmas of national tradition or personal conviction and on to reality was lost in the dogma of science the ideology of no ideology. The new group of social scientists favoring a non-ideological science of society whom Alfred Weber called the socially unattached intellectuals and Karl Mannheim named “free-floating” “classless aggregation” failed to fulfill the aim of carrying forward the tradition of science.

Post-behaviorism.

It was soon realized that the development of the pure science of Politics was a cry for the moon. As formed the basis of their research, micro studies did not measure up to the ideal as the generality level was sure to below. Leo Strauss charged political scientists with the error of absolution the relative.

It was also pointed out, and quite relevantly, that their researches lacked objectivity. Even the selection of research problems reflected bias. And as for the interpretation of data, personal preferences importantly played their role. It is tough for a researcher to mark off his two different roles as a scientist concerned with a dispassionate analysis of facts and a  citizen clinging to his preferences while participating in political activities. He is, however, charged with what is called existential schizophrenia.

Political Science, thus, pushed out of reality, became merely an academic discipline disengaged from facts.  It was then abundantly apparent that the behavioral approach IS similar to the philosophical irrelevance. In 1969 David Easton declared the end of the behavioral revolution and the beginning of a new era in the study of Politics, an era popularly called Post-behaviorism. Its main thesis is “relevance” and”action.”

This approach renewed the interest in and appreciation of the classics of Political Philosophy. For example, in reply to the statement that political scientists should give ethics to the philosophers and concern primarily with the description and analysis of political behavior, Almond’s behavior replied that leaving ethics to philosophers was not desirable. “Practical judgment of ” good and evil in the area of public policy is the special responsibility of social scientists.  The behaviorists had realized that hitherto they had failed to comprehend that facts and values are closely intertwined with each other and that, in Political Science, one cannot separate them except in very trivial circumstances and instances. This realization led them to the Post-behavioral era.

In fact, the very concept of value-free scientific inquiry is a farce and is misleading. Certain values and norms are always present in any social research.  H.R.G Greaves argues that value-free Political Science is a myth. It has been insufficiently understood how far description in this field is independent for significance upon analysis and explanation into which values enter.

A social scientist who claims to engage himself in the kinds of value-free research practiced by the chemist or biologist only fools himself and his readers, as Leo Strauss points out. The value judgments are forbidden to enter through political science’s front door through the back door.

To sum up, the post-behaviorist movement in Political Science has reopened the issue of fact-value separation. According to this school of thought, political scientists need not abdicate the spirit of their discipline at the altar of science or any other empiricism. “Moderate empiricism, sound analytical techniques, carefully chosen terminology, self-conscious attention to logical inferences, quantification, and the use of scientific data, are useful.

But too much obsession with science would kill the spirit of the discipline” It is, accordingly, not prudent to abandon science but put it to a better way and use. Kaplan rightly believes that if a man fails to consider moral and political questions seriously, he may reduce himself and his progeny to an ugly and distasteful, if not brutal, animality Thus, values must be studied as values, not scientifically and yet scientifically”.

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