What is Political Science, Its Nature and Scope
Political Science is one of the oldest sciences. The word "politics" is derived from the Greek words "polis" meaning a city and "polities" meaning a "citizen". Some other writers, such as Sir Fredrick Pollock, using the term "politics" as a general designation, classify it into theoretical politics and practical politics. Theoretical politics, according to them, deals with the fundamental characteristics of the state with the actual working of Governments. Thus everything that relates to the origin, nature, attributes and end of the state, falls within the domain of Theoretical Politics, while that which is concerned with the actual administration of the affairs of government belongs to the sphere of Practical or Applied politics. Gilchrist says, "This division is both useful and exhaustive. It covers the whole field of political science. To the use of the word politics, however, there is a well-ground objection. Used in its original Greek sense, the word is unobjectionable, but the modern usage has given it a new content which makes it useless as a designation for our science."
Some political writers, specially the earlier writers, used the term 'politics' for "political science". Aristotle gave the name 'Politics' to his famous book which, being a study of the state is really a book on 'political science'.
The term politics now-a-days refers to the problems of government. As such now-a-days a politician means a man who is interested in the current problems of the day and not necessarily in the study of the state- its nature, origin and characteristics. He is not a student of political science but a member of political party. His activity is confined to the actual conduct of the government. He works either in the policy-making office or law-making legislature, or in the office or platform of the party he belongs. But a political scientist is a student of political science; he is concerned with the body of knowledge relating to the phenomena of the state. His place of work is not the office of the government or the party but the library. Thus between a politician and political scientist there may not necessarily be a conflict, but their function are quite separate. So, though there is a difference between the politician and political scientist, the view that 'there must always be a conflict between the politician and the political scientist' is not correct. In fact, to be a good politician, a man must be first a political scientist. A man may simultaneously prove himself a politician and political scientist.
Nature of Political Science
IN order to understand the nature and scope of political science, we must first define it. Many definitions of political science are there, of which some authoritative ones are quoted below.
According to him, "Political Science is the science which is concerned with the state, which endeavors to understand and comprehend the state in its fundamental conditions, in its essential nature, its various forms of manifestation, and its development. Paul Janet, a French writer, defined political science as "that part of social science which treats of the foundations of the state and the principles of government".
"Political Science is the science which has for its object the ascertainment of political facts and arrangement of them in systematic order as determined by the logical and casual relations which exist between them."
The recent view is that political science is not confined to an enquiry about the state; it also deals with the social and psychological factors which influence the activities of men in the state. It has to take into consideration the social science like sociology, psychology, economics, ethics and history. The UNESCO in the definition of the scope of political science included not only political theory and institutions, but also parties, public opinions and international relations. Thus it becomes obvious that political science has to study not only state but also the society as a whole in so far as it is related to the various institutions of the state.
The essence of all these definitions is that political science is the science of the state.
Scope of Political Science
The above definitions of political science at once indicate the proper scope of it. It deals with the state in its varied aspects and relationships. It deals with the state in its relation with men, the government, and other states.
Willoughby says, "there are three great topics with which political science has to deal: state, government and law". To these Professor Burgees adds two more: liberty and sovereignty. According to Garner, it investigates: (a) into the origin and nature of the state; (b) into the nature, history and forms of political institutions; (c) deduces there from the laws of political growth and development. It deals with an analytical study of what the state and its machineries are; with a historical study of what the state should be. "It is, thus a study of the state in the past, present and future, of political organization and political function; of institutions and political theories." It thus studies the state in the totality of its relations, its origin, its setting, its objects, its organizations and various forms of manifestation, its ethical significance, its end, etc. In short, it begins and ends with the state.
It deals not only with political institutions but also with political ideas. It not only studies the existing political institutions and ideas but also suggests the ideal state that ought to be. Thus political science also studies the value of political institutions, and aims at improving the state in the light of changing conditions and ethical standard. So the view that "political science deals with questions of facts, not with values" is not tenable.