Essay on the Study Method of Political Science

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For example, if a political scientist studies an institution like the British Parliament, he will, of course, collect all pertinent factual data about that body—about its historical growth, its functions, membership, organisation, relations with other branches of government, and so on—and he will present his information in a systematic form.

But this much does not exhaust his task. He may have to give answers to a host of additional questions connected with his inquiry. Are the functions of Parliament clear-cut and appropriate?

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Does Parliament find sufficient time to do its job efficiently and satisfactorily? Are the members as competent as their responsibilities demand? Are the members well informed and do they adequately perform their duties?

Do they place special interests before the public good? What is the position of the private members? Such questions cannot be avoided in the analysis of Parliament and they cannot be adequately answered without reference to certain ideal objectives and criteria. The attempt at answering them is an evaluation and here analytical method combines with the philosophical method.

Similarly, a political philosopher does not and cannot altogether exclude a concern for institutions, however ethereal his end and however celestial his aspiration.

“Since political achievement is for men and through men,” says Herman Finer, “political achievement is through institutions, which are nothing but men acting more or less deliberately in a fairly durable concert for the attainment of a considered complex of ends.”

The political philosopher begins with an end and then finds ways and means, that is, institutions. Plato started with his ideal of justice and established a systematic philosophy of social relationships ordered by government.

Hobbes was mortally afraid of strife, disorder and death and he believed that monarchy was the most stable and orderly kind of government which could ensure peace and order and he used the doctrine of Social Contract as a weapon of defence for absolute government and as a justification of Stuart despotism.

John Locke proceeded from the pursuit of happiness and tolerance and justified the need of government by consent. “The happiness and the security of the individual,” explains Dunning, “figure (in Locke’s Thesis) not as essential to the perpetuity of a government, but as the end for which alone government is ever called into existence.”

The study of Political Science, therefore, springs from both inductive and deductive methods. Induction and deduction are not incompatible methods; they supplement each other. Realism must be blended with idealism. If realism does not partake of idealism, we cannot march towards the goal of an ideal political organisation. The experiences and I phenomena of political life should illumine the light of ideas.

It must, however, be remembered that no methodology of Political Science can lead to true conclusions, unless we take human nature into account. After all the State exists for man and it endeavours to cater to his needs in order to make his life happy.

Man is the central subject of our study and we must go to his psychology to find out the really correct solution of his problems. Hitherto political thinkers had regarded man as a rational being and accepted this nature of man as a dogmatic truth and consequently the starting point of their investigations.

Recently, Graham Wallas, in his book Human Nature in Politics, has revolted against this traditional assumption of human nature. Man, according to Graham Wallas, is hardly rational in his behaviour.

“If, indeed, a man were followed,” he writes, “through one ordinary day, without his knowing it, by a cinematographic camera and photographer and if all his acts and saying were produced before him next day, he would be astonished to find how few of them were the result of a deliberate search for the means attaining ends.”

Whether we agree with Graham Wallas or not, the importance of psychology as a clue to political behaviour cannot be denied. Nor must the institutions of government be regarded as eternal or petrified.

“Institutions are,” as Finer says, “nothing but useful or useless habits: they were acquired for a purpose, and purpose changes. The world of political reality is not the printed world of books, or of statutes, or of administrative rules and orders. The cut and dried is not political.”

Institutions are really how they are worked and their actual working is subject to the political behaviour of man, that is, what men really do when faced with situations rather than what their alleged opinions or feelings are.


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