Political science

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Political science is the field of the social sciences concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior.

Fields and subfields of political science include political theory and philosophy, political concepts, political systems and ideology, game theory, psephology (voting systems and electoral behaviour), political economy, geopolitics and political geography, policy studies and public policy analysis, comparative politics, national systems, cross-national political analysis, supranational and intergovernmental politics, globalisation studies, political development, international relations, foreign policy analysis, peace studies, conflict analysis, international law and politics, public administration and local government studies, political psychology, bureaucratic, administrative and judicial behaviour, legislative processes and public law. Political Science also studies power in international relations and the theory of great powers and superpowers.

Political science is methodologically diverse. Approaches to the discipline include classical political philosophy, interpretivism, structuralism, and behavioralism, rationalism, realism, pluralism, and institutionalism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources such as scholarly journal articles, survey research, statistical analysis, case studies, and model building.

Herbert Baxter Adams is credited with coining the phrase "political science" while teaching history at Johns Hopkins University.

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[edit] History

[edit] Antecedents

While the study of politics in the Western tradition is first found in ancient Greece, political science is a late arrival in terms of social sciences. However, the discipline has a clear set of antecedents such as moral philosophy, political philosophy, political economy, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state. In each historic period and in almost every geographic area, we can find someone studying politics and increasing political understanding.

In ancient India, the antecedents of politics can be traced back to the Rig-Veda, Samhitas, Brahmanas, and Buddhist Pali Canon. Chanakya (c. 350-275 BC) was a professor of political science at Takshashila University, and later the Prime Minister of Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya. Chanakya is regarded as one of the earliest political thinkers, and is also known as the Indian Machiavelli. He wrote the Arthashastra, which was one of the earliest treatises on political thought, economics and social order, and can be considered a precursor to Machiavelli's The Prince. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail, among other topics on political science.

The antecedents of Western politics can also trace their roots back even earlier than Plato and Aristotle, particularly in the works of Homer, Hesiod, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Euripides. Later, Plato analyzed political systems, abstracted their analysis from more literary- and history- oriented studies and applied an approach we would understand as closer to philosophy. Similarly, Aristotle built upon Plato's analysis to include historical empirical evidence in his analysis.

During the rule of Rome, famous historians such as Polybius, Livy and Plutarch documented the rise of the Roman Republic, and the organization and histories of other nations, while statesmen like Julius Caesar, Cicero and others provided us with examples of the politics of the republic and Rome's empire and wars. The study of politics during this age was oriented toward understanding history, understanding methods of governing, and describing the operation of governments.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, there arose a more diffuse arena for political studies. The rise of monotheism and, particularly for the Western tradition, Christianity, brought to light a new space for politics and political action. During the Middle Ages, the study of politics was widespread in the churches and courts. Works such as Augustine of Hippo's The City of God synthesized current philosophies and political traditions with those of Christianity, redefining the borders between what was religious and what was political. Most of the political questions surrounding the relationship between church and state were clarified and contested in this period.

In the Middle East and later other Islamic areas, works such as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Epic of Kings by Ferdowsi provided evidence of political analysis, while the Islamic Aristotelians such as Avicenna and later Maimonides and Averroes, continued Aristotle's tradition of analysis and empiricism, writing commentaries on Aristotle's works.

During the Italian Renaissance, Niccolò Machiavelli established the emphasis of modern political science on direct empirical observation of political institutions and actors. Later, the expansion of the scientific paradigm during the Enlightenment further pushed the study of politics beyond normative determinations.

[edit] Studies

The advent of political science as a university discipline is evidenced by the naming of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the 1860s. Integrating political studies of the past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for the growth of both normative and positive political science, with each part of the discipline sharing some historical predecessors. The American Political Science Association was founded in 1903 in an effort to distinguish the study of politics from economics and other social phenomena.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, a behavioral revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behavior swept the discipline. At the same time that political science moved toward greater depth of analysis and more sophistication, it also moved toward a closer working relationship with other disciplines, especially sociology, economics, history, anthropology, psychology, and statistics.[citation needed] Increasingly, students of political behavior have used the scientific method to create an intellectual discipline based on the postulating of hypotheses followed by empirical verification and the inference of political trends, and of generalizations that explain individual and group political actions. Over the past generation, the discipline placed an increasing emphasis on relevance, or the use of new approaches and methodologies to solve political and social problems. Sociologists are interested in political science.

[edit] Contemporary

Political scientists study the allocation and transfer of power in decision-making, the roles and systems of governance including governments and international organizations, political behavior and public policies. They measure the success of governance and specific policies by examining many factors, including stability, justice, material wealth, and peace. Some political scientists seek to advance positive theses by analyzing politics. Others advance normative theses, by making specific policy recommendations.

The study of politics is complicated by the frequent involvement of political scientists in the political process, since their teachings often provide the frameworks within which other commentators, such as journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the electorate analyze issues and select options. Political scientists may serve as advisors to specific politicians, or even run for office as politicians themselves. Political scientists can be found working in governments, in political parties or as civil servants. They may be involved with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or political movements. In a variety of capacities, people educated and trained in political science can add value and expertise to corporations. Private enterprises such as think tanks, research institutes, polling and public relations firms often employ political scientists. In the United States, political scientists known as "Americanists" look at a variety of data including elections, public opinion and public policy such as Social Security reform, foreign policy, U.S. congressional power, and the Supreme Court—to name only a few issues.


[edit] Alternative terms

Alternative terms for the academic study of politics are political studies, or even politics. While political science implies use of the scientific method, political studies implies a broader approach. The term government is used by Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, University of Sydney, University of Ulster and the London School of Economics and Political Science to describe the field, but the choice of a label for a department often has little to do with how the subject is studied.

[edit] External links


[edit] See also

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Political science

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