Is Political Science a Science?

The question whether Political Science is a science or not has been going on for a long time. Writers are divided on this issue. Some writers considers Political Science to be a science while it is alleged by some critics that Political Science has been an unwarranted intruder in the domain of science. Traditional scholars like Aristotle, Bodin, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Sidgwick and others have maintained that the present political situation of mankind requires the development of Political Science. But on the other hand, eminent thinkers like Buckle, Comte, Maitland and some others have denied the claim of politics to be ranked as a science. But before examining both sides of arguments, it would be appropriate for us to know what is science.

Science is a branch of knowledge requiring systematic study and method. Through appropriate investigation and experimentation, the results that are reached are precise and fixed. Besides science must be value free.

It is difficult to call Political Science a science in the light of the above definition. Strictly speaking Political Science cannot be called a science because of the following reasons:

i. Its material is varied and complex

Man and society constitutes the material of Political Science. Men are not alike, and their behaviour are not the same all the times.

ii. Lack of Precision

Political phenomenon do not follow natural laws. Principles of Political Science are not precise and exact like the Laws of Gravitation or Archimedes Principle.

iii. Non applicability of methods of investigation and experimentation

Universally accepted scientific methods of investigation and experimentation cannot be applied in the study of political phenomenon. Man and his society, the material of Political Science, cannot be made the object of artificial experimentation.

iv. Lack of predictability

SInce political phenomenon do not follow ‘natural laws’, a political scientist cannot predict future political developments.

v. Disagreement about methods and principles

The natural scientists have an agreed method. There is no universally accepted methods or a set of methods for the study of political phenomena.

vi. Lack of objectivity

The study of physical sciences is characterised by objectivity. But the subject matter of Political Science includes an ideal dimension.

Because of such reasons many scholars  refuse to grant the status of science to the discipline. Maitland sounded satirical when he said, “When I see a good set of examination questions headed by the words Political Science I regret not the questions but the title”. 

But historically speaking, Political Science has shown the tendency of becoming a science. So, before discarding the discipline’s  claim for a science label, we should examine the views of those scholars who regards Political Science as a science.

Aristotle who called Political Science “master of science” used the methods of observation and investigation in his studies of different governments. This classification of governments is regarded  by Political Scientists as unique. In Montesquieu we find a person who detaches Political Science from all philosophical, moral and ethical shackles. Later on, Karl Marx adopted a dialectical and scientific approach in his materialistic interpretation of socio political change.

In more recent times, the modern-day Behavioural Political Scientists stressed the need for scientific methods of investigation, observation, experimentation and verification in the study of Political Science.

So, Political Science is a science to some extent because it has theories formulated through observations, it carries experiments through surveys. But it’s not a full science in the sense  Physics and Chemistry is. Like Physics or Chemistry observation and experimentation in Political Science cannot be tested in a laboratory. So, we cannot call Political Science a real science. Following Bryce, we can call Political Science a progressive science. It is a discipline still unfolding itself and getting closer day by day to becoming a full science.

 

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