Political science as a science?

Political science, known as a science, falls back to the old importance of the word science, which was an assemblage of learning and practice inside a discipline. As of late (amid of the most recent century), the word science’s importance progressed toward becoming related with the logical technique.

The Negative View:

Thus far, it has been assumed that the study of the state’s phenomena may under proper conditions be touted as a Science. To this assumption, however, objections have been raised. Thus, it has been asserted that, on account of the magnitude and complexity of the subject matter relating to the state a body of material, says an acute thinker, so rich and varied that, from the beginning, political science has been embarrassed by the weight of its wealth, it is impossible to apply to it rigorous scientific methods of investigation.

We are told that political phenomena are characterized by uncertainty, variableness, and a hick of order and continuity. Much of this objection is, however, without weight. If, says Sir Frederick Pollock, those who deny a political science existence mean that there is nobody of rules from which a prime minister may infallibly learn how to command a majority, they would be right as to the fact. Still, they Would betray a rather inadequate notion of What Science is. “There is,” he rightly concludes, political science in the same sense that there is a science of morals.

The Affirmative View:

For our purpose, science may be described as a fairly unified mass of knowledge relating to a particular subject, acquired by systematic observation, experience, or study, the facts of which have been coordinated, systematized, and classified. The scientific method of examining facts is not peculiar to one class of phenomena or one class of investigators. It applies to social and physical phenomena, and we may safely reject the claim that the scientific frame of mind belongs exclusively to the physicist or the naturalist.

It is, of course, true that political science is not and never will be an exact science in the sense that mechanics, chemistry, and physics are since its laws and conclusions cannot be expressed in the same precise terms, nor can results be predicted with anything like the same accuracy. But there are also inexact natural sciences, like meteorology, whose data at any moment are too completely unknown to admit of accurate prediction.

In his address as president of the American Political Science Association (1909), the late Lord Bryce maintained that politics is a science in somewhat the same sense as meteorology is. He said science in the sense that there are constancy and uniformity in human nature’s tendencies that enable us to regard the acts of men at one time as due to the same causes that have governed their acts at previous times. Acts can be grouped and connected and can be arranged and studied as the results of the same generally operative tendencies.

He added that politics is not a deductive science but an experimental science, which though it cannot try experiments, can study them and note results. It is also a progressive science since every year’s experience adds to our materials and our comprehension of the laws that govern human society.

Authorities are now generally agreed that the state’s phenomena present a certain connection or sequence, which is the result of fixed laws. Though less constant, to be sure, than those of the physical world, these phenomena form proper subjects of scientific investigation. The laws and principles deducible therefrom are susceptible to applying the solution to the state’s concrete problems.

All that is required to give a scientific character to the study of political phenomena is that the inquiry shall be conducted following a definite plan or system, with due regard to the relations of cause and effect, so far as they are ascertainable and in conformity with certain well-recognized rules of scientific investigation.

The consensus of scientific opinion is in favor of this view. Aristotle described “ politics ” as the master science in the highest sense, and in practice, he applied scientific methods to his study of Greek polities. So did Bodin, Hobbes, and Montesquieu later, and Cornewall Lewis, Sidgwick, Bryce, Bluntschli, Jellinek, and many others in our own day. Perhaps, German scholars have done more than any others by the profound research and discriminating analytical methods to give to politics the character of a science.

Holtzendorff defended the claim of politics to be ranked as a science. With the enormous growth of knowledge, he said, “it is impossible to deny that the total of all the experiences phenomena and knowledge respecting the state may be brought together under the collective title of political science.”

Therefore, we must conclude that the weight of authority justifies the claim of politics to the rank of true science. It renders practical service by deducing sound principles as a basis for wise political action and exposing the teachings of a false political philosophy.” As a science, it falls short, of course, of the degree of perfection attained by the physical science, for the reason that the facts with which it deals at more complex and the causes which influence social and practical phenomena are more difficult to control and are perpetual undergoing change.” As yet, it is still probably the most incomplete and undeveloped of all the social sciences.

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