Nature of Political Science

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Political Science is known by several names as ‘politics’ (Aristotle), ‘political science’ (William Godwin & Mary Wollstonecraft), ‘science of state’ (R.G.Gettel), and ‘science of politics’ (Sir.Fredrick Pollock). However, it lacks a precise nomenclature. Jellinek remarks that there is no science which is so much in need of a good terminology as is political science. Lowell holds that the study of politics ‘lacks the first essentials of modern science, a nomenclature incomprehensible to educate men’. Refering to the amount of confusion created by different nomenclatures of this subject, Garner says This is regrettable, because it often leads to confusion and misunderstanding, such as one does not encounter in the literature of natural sciences, where the terminology employed is more precise and exact. (U.Sharma & S.K.Sharma, 01)

The English word ‘politics’ originates from three Greek words like ‘polis’ (City State), ‘polity’ (Government) and ‘politeia’ (Constitution). Thus, in the original Greek sense, politics is a study of the city-state and its administration in practical as well as philosophical terms. The term ‘politics’ has been taken by the lexicons and the writers of text books both as a science and an art. The original Greek meaning of ‘politics’ became outdated ever since Hobbes identified it with ‘power’. Hence, Gilchrist maintain that the term ‘politics’, when used in its original Greek sense, is unobjectionable, but since modern usage has given it a new meaning, it is useless as a scientific term (02).

Eminent writers like Jellinek, Willoughby and Pollock have made distinction between the ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’ dimensions of politics. It shows that while some topics relating to the origin, nature, purposes and ends of the state from part of ‘theoretical politics’, others relating to the actual administration of the affairs of government belong to the part of ‘applied or practical politics’. Thus, while the term ‘theoretical politics’ refers to the fundamental characteristics of the state without reference to its activities or the means by which its ends are attained, the term ‘applied or practical politics’ refers to the state in action or state considered as a dynamic institution (U.Sharma & S.K.Sharma, 02).

The father of political science – Aristotle defined Politics as the science of state. According to Max Webber, Politics is the ‘striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state’. In the words of Harold Lasswell, ‘The study of Politics is the study of influence and the influential.’ Lasswell further defined influential as those who get the most of what there is to get. E.C.Banfield defined politics as, ‘The activity (negotiation, argument, discussion, application of force, persuasion, etc.) by which an issue is agitated or settled. This definition includes wider non-political element. Politics according to it is a social activity, not invariably related with power. Bertrand de Jouvenel, Robert Dahl & William Bluhm too defined politics in accordance with E.C.Banfield in a non-political perspective (U.Sharma & S.K.Sharma, 02-03).

The above mentioned definitions show that politics includes non-political. In the words of J.D.B.Miller, “Politics is what it is because society is what it is : because men, in their social situation, find themselves divided…politics is a natural reflex of the divergences between the members of a society.”(17) “It is a permanent feature of human society because social diversities are never going to stop. It is a matter of the expression advocacy, settlement and modification of disagreements.(284)”

Thus after the various ideologies presented by various learned experts throughout the ages on Political Science, in its new meaning politics has been made free from the shackles of normative dimensions. It has been restated in empirical terms. Thus, it is not merely a...
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