1. The Presentation covers the following
1.1. What is Political Science
1.2. Meaning of Political Science
1.3. Definition of Political Science
1.4. Nature of Political Science
1.5. Scope of Political Science
2. What is Political Science
Political Science comprises of two words ‘Political’ and
The term ‘politics’ is derived from the Greek word ‘polis’
which means the ‘city-state’ (a generalised form of political
organization existing in ancient Greece).
Science is the systematic study of the structure and
behaviour of the physical and natural world through
observation, evidence and experiment.
So political science is the branch of knowledge that deals
with systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the
state and political institutions through scientific analysis.
3. Meaning of Political Science
Politics from “Polis” – city; sovereign state
Science from “scire” _ to know; study
Political Science has two meanings . Traditional and Modern meaning. In
Traditional meaning, Political Science is the study of state and government
and so far as modern meaning is concerned, Political Science is more than
a science because it deals with the present day problems of the citizens.
Political Science may thus defined in the simplest form as the study of man in
the process of governing himself. Political science is thus an organized body of
knowledge the facts of which have been scientifically and systematically
observed, collected and classified . It is science because it is concerned with the
fundamental principles of state and government and as such it is more of a
science. Thus we can say that it is a branch of social science dealing with the
theory, organization, government and practice of the state. The study of such
subject has already considerably increased and is rapidly increasing as well.
Political science is a social science regarding the practice and theory of politics,
the analysis of political systems and study of political behaviour.
The great Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first
to use the term ‘politics’ and is therefore regarded as
the ‘father of Political Science’. In his famous book,
"Politics", Aristotle has asserted: "Man is by nature
a political animal and he, who by nature and not by
mere accident is without state, is either above
humanity or below it”.
5. Definition of Political Science
Traditional definition: These early definitions of political
science dealt generally with state and government.
Paul Janet, “Political Science is that part of social science
which treats the foundations of the State and the principles
of government.” (Kapur, A.C. Principles of Political
Science, S. Chand & Company Ltd., New Delhi, 2006,
Dr. Garner, “Political Science begins and ends with the
state” (Agarwal,R.C.: Political Theory- Principles of
Political Science, S. Chand & Company Ltd., New Delhi,
Sir John Seeley, “Political Science investigates the
phenomena of Government as Political Economy deals with
Wealth, Biology with life, Algebra with numbers and
Geometry with space and magnitude” (Agarwal, R.C.:
Political Theory Principles of Political Science, S. Chand &
Company Ltd., New Delhi, 2007, p.3).
Stephen Leacock, “Political Science deals with the
Government” (Agarwal,R.C.: Political Theory- Principles of
Political Science, S. Chand & Company Ltd., New Delhi,
7. Modern Definition
Modern definition: In the beginning of the 20th century there
developed a new way of looking at political science. This new
approach is known as behavioural approach. The main thrust of
the new view is the treatment of politics as an activity and a
Harold Laswell: “Politics is the study of influence and the
influential” or “the study of the shaping and sharing of power”
David Easton: “Politics is the authoritative allocation of values.”
Catlin: “Political Science is the study of the act of human and
Andrew Heywood: “Politics can be defined as an activity
through which people make, preserve and amend the general
rules under which they live.” (Source: Agarwal,R.C.: Political
Theory- Principles of Political Science, S. Chand & Company
Ltd., New Delhi, 2007)
8. Nature of Political Science
Political science is one if the oldest subject of study in social sciences. From
the time of the Greek political thinkers till today , this subject has been
seriously studied both by the students of Political science, administrators,
economists and the politicians. Not only this that in the past it was
seriously studied but even today its importance of study has in no way
reduced. Infact, the study of subject has already considerably increased
and is rapidly increasing as well. Since past times, a controversy has
been going on about nature and scope of the study of the subject . There
are Political thinkers who believe that the scope of the study of political
science is very wide, while other opine that it is quite narrow. Some of
the thinkers make us believe that Political Science as a science, whereas
others have firm view that it is not at all science but only an art and still
others opines that it is partly science and partly art.
Generally There are two types of views
Traditional View: Traditional view is called historical view about the
nature of Political Science. It has been expanded and propagated by
Sabine. According to him in the study of Political Science all that was
discussed by Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, Green,
Mill and Marx can be discussed, covered and studied. Emphasis on the
study of the state who should rule.
Modern View: Catlin’s views are regarded as modern view. Many
thinkers do not agree with Sabine’s Historical or traditional view point
about Political Science which according to them is too narrow.
According to them by nature its scope should be widened and made
more broad based. According to them the term political science should be
taken in Aristotelian sense. He further says that Aristotle was justified in
studying political science all that is covered and has concerned with the
life of the citizens. His study included the organization and growth of the
family, welfare ad organization of the slaves and slavery, citizenship etc.
In other words, all that happen in the society should be covered in
10. Changing dynamics of the meaning and
nature of Political Science
After the World War II, the meaning and nature of
political science have undergone a sea change.
Now political science is closely related to all aspects of
social relations, rather than an activity centered on the
institutions of government.
So the aims and objectives of political science have changed
due to factors such as the rise of the power theory and
11. New understanding of Political Science
Political Science has ceased to be merely the science of
Political Science is concerned with all facets of power
relations and human behaviour having political
implications in the society.
Politics is portrayed as a process of conflict resolution, in
which rival views or competing interests are reconciled
for the benefit of all. The new meaning of Political
Science includes the dynamics of power and struggle at
various levels — local, regional, national and
So the aims and objectives of Political Science have
changed due to factors such as the rise of the power theory
12. Scope of Political Science
The Scope stands for the areas which are required to be studied in the discipline.
In earlier times the scope of political science was restricted in the sense that the
subject matter of the discipline revolved around certain basis concepts like state
or government. However the subject matter has widened over a period of time.
the widening scope of the discipline of political science can also be analysed by
looking at the definitions from ancient to modern times regarding political
Thinkers like Bluntschli and Garner feel that political science is concerned with the
study of state with regard to its origin, nature and development. Seeley and
Leacock on the other hand focus only on the study of the government when they
talk about the scope of political science. Then came the thinkers like Willoughby
who began to think in terms of the study of state, government and law as the
subject matter of political science.
LASKI, Gettle and Gilchrist believes in the midway saying that political science
deals with both of them that is state and government. Thinkers like Max Weber,
Dahl and Easton believe that the scope of political science encompasses the
study of all the formal as well as the informal institutions which directly or
indirectly influence the working of the political system.
13. Scope Of Political Science
STUDY OF MAN: Every social science deals with the study of man. Man is both a social and a political animal.
He cannot lead a happy and a peaceful life in the absence of organised life and for that he is entitled to some
claims or rights . And in return he is also bound by certain duties towards the system . Therefore we need to
study not only the basic human nature but also man in relation to his fellow beings along with man in relation
to the state.
STUDY OF THE STATE: Political science as a discipline focuses upon the study of the state from three
What state was?
What state is?
What state ought to be?
What state was?
When we try to look at the state it is very essential to know the different perspectives regarding the origin of the
state , how state came into the being, why it came into the being, the growth and development of the state .
How did the states develop in the ancient medieval or the modern periods. What was the nature of the
relationships existing between man and the state in the past ad so on and so forth.
What state is?
Political science also studies the present states. It makes the empirical investigations of the existing political
phenomenon and political institutions. amongst different institutions the study of the form of the state
systems, their nature and functioning thus occupies a prime position within the subject matter of political
What state ought to be?
After having understood the nature of the states in the past and the states in the present , it is also important to
compare and evaluate them on the basis Of yardsticks available thereby bringing to home what states ought to
be in future keeping in the min the changing contexts of the social and political lives.
STUDY OF THE GOVERNMENT: Government is the agency that expresses the will of the
state. Again it is the government through which the affairs are regulated and common
interests are promoted. Whereas the state represents the abstract form, the government
represents the concrete form. In other words the authority of the state is exercised by the
government; functions of the state are performed by the government, the laws of the state are
made, declared and enforced by the government. In other words government is the machinery
through which the entire business of the state is run. Therefore it is essential to study the
government in detail - the nature of the government, the types of the government like
monarchy, republic, democracy, parliamentary or presidential and many others, the different
organs of the government that is the legislature, executive and judiciary, the different forms
of the government and also the different levels of the government like the local government ,
state government , national or international.
STUDY OF POWER , INFLUENCE AND AUTHORITY: The study of the state or the
government does not make much sense unless they are legitimate and backed by authority
and power. the modern American writers like Robert Dahl and David Easton believe that
political science deals not only with the state and the government alone but the entire
political system, Lasswell and Kaplan stress upon the study of the power and influence as
these are the concepts which play a role in the interest articulation and aggregation.
STUDY OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF DEVELOPMENT: political science
attempts to explain the meaning and the essential nature of the state and deals with the laws
of its progress and development within itself and in relation to international organizations and
STUDY OF LAW: Law finds its basis in the politics which operates among men, as man is
egoistic and selfish b nature. This egoism and selfishness leads to the conflicts of the interests
due to which a state of nature evolves marked by insecurities and confusions. It is under such
circumstances that man being rational in nature thought of framing certain codes of conduct
which could regulate the behaviour if man to avoid the conflicts . Thus the study of the
different laws regulating the life of man constitute an important component of the subject
matter of the political science.
POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES: Ideology refers to a set of ideas which are accepted to be true by a
particular group without further examination. These ideas are invoked in order to justify or
denounce a particular way of social, economic or political organisation. in this sense ideology
is matter of faith having no scientific basis. thus ideologies also constitute an important area
of political science. This is owing to the reason that differences among the members of a
society are inevitable thus leading to different groups of people with different ideas, or
perceptions regarding the basic questions in life. The diverse perceptions have given rise to
the different ideological schools called political ideologies. These political ideologies reflect
the different schools of thought existing like, liberalism, socialism, Marxism communism,
Gandhism and so on and so forth. So it becomes essential to understand the ideologies
individually and to provide a comparison between them.
STUDY OF MODERN CONCEPTS: All the above concepts along with many other important
concepts like rights, liberty, equality, political obligation, justice and others fall within the
purview of a broad branch of study in political science. The branch is known as the
POLITICAL THOUGHT: When the subject matter of political science is taken under
consideration the area of political thought cannot be ignored. political thought is inclusive of
the thought processes of the diverse political thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Machiavelli
, Bentham, J.S.Mill, Hobbes , Locke Rousseau and many others. Unless we have an
understanding of the entire account of the political philosophies of all the important thinkers,
we can never be complete in our understanding of the political science as a discipline.
POLITICAL DYNAMICS: The term refers to the forces and processes at work in government
and politics. They influence and explain political action. They include the study of political
parties, pressure groups, interest groups, lobbies, public opinion, propaganda and political
semantics (meaning of words) which influence and manipulate political behaviour and
attitudes of individuals and groups. More recently, there has been a trend to extend the scope
of Political Science into new areas of empirical investigation into political behaviour. Drawing
upon the resources of other social sciences, Political Science has developed not only new
techniques of analysis but new concepts like political culture, political socialisation and
political communication to explain political phenomena. Public Administration is a major
branch of Political Science and is emerging as an independent discipline in recent times. It
deals with the organization, control and coordination of administrative machinery, personnel
administration, financial administration, public relations, management, administrative law and
adjudication etc. It also covers the study of local self-governing institutions like corporations,
municipalities and Panchayati Raj institutions.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: International Law is a body of
general principles and specific rules which regulate the relationship among states and
international institutions. The study of international relations is a growing area of Political
Science. It covers such important subjects as diplomacy, international politics, foreign
policies and international organizations. In view of world peace, cooperation and even 'world
government,' the need for strong international laws and sound international relations can
hardly be exaggerated. Besides the study of the international laws and relations political
science also covers the study of international institutions and organisations which play a key
role in regulating the behaviour of the nation states. The institutions like United Nations ,
international labour organisations, health organisations, world bank etc all play an important
role especially in the wake of globalisation therefore cannot be ignored.
RELATION BETWEEN STATE AND THE INDIVIDUAL: The perennial and central
problem, with which Political Science is concerned, is to establish proper relationship
between the state and individuals. The state guarantees certain rights and freedoms to
individuals and regulates their conduct and action through the legal system. The proper
adjustment between the authority and power of the state and liberty of the individuals is a
knotty problem. Political Science deals with the proper sphere of state action, the limits of
political control and the area of individual freedom.
Thus, the scope of Political Science has been expanding in recent times. The social life of man has
a direct or indirect influence on his political life. Political Science enters any sphere of life
which has political implications. Broadly speaking therefore the discipline of political
science has to deal with three basic concerns- Normative, Empirical and Prescriptive.
NORMATIVE CONCERN: First there is a long tradition in political science of value oriented discussions.
These are basically concerned with the things as they ought to be according to the concerned preferences
of particular philosophers. Since the days of Plato and Aristotle, political philosophers have raised such
questions like "what should be the size of the state?" " What should be the goal of the state?" What should
be the rights and duties of the citizens?" etc. on the basis of preferred norms and values, generalisations
have been sought to be made about the political structure, processes and behaviour. The generalisations are
essentially value based rather than empirically oriented. It will however wrong to say that all the
traditionalists following this approach completely ignored the political realities. Aristotle for instance came
out with the comparative analysis of the various forms of constitutions of the states. But by and large the
traditional thinkers focused mainly on the normative questions.
EMPIRICAL CONCERN-: In this category falls the concerns such as factual description of the politically
relevant objects and institutions and establishment of significant relationships between the facts. The
important empirical questions which are raised are like" What are the actual functions of the Political
System?" "How is political power distributed?", " How the decisions are made in actual practice?" etc. The
prime focus here is on the actual nature, structure and the working of the political systems. It is because of
the urge for factually based propositions and generalisations , the discussions of this kind can be called
empirical in nature.
PRESCRIPTIVE CONCERNS: Combining the above two approaches, normative and empirical there is still
another form of discourse which is primarily interested in bringing about the reforms. This approach is
prescriptive in its orientation .It aims at bridging the gaps between ' what ought to be' and 'what actually
is' . It lays down the proposals for political reforms and prescriptions for improving political system. Thus
the approach inclusive of the examinations and evaluations of the existing systems on the basis of the
norms and established standards can be called "prescriptive“. Therefore to conclude all the three concerns
taken together form the subject matter of the political science. Modern Political Science in the era of post-
behaviouralism deals with both empirical facts and value preferences. It is a combination of both science
and philosophy. Hence it is a dynamic social science and its scope is ever expanding.
In the contemporary time, the meaning of Political Science has become more
and more inclusive.
Earlier political science had been defined by many scholars from the point of view
of the State and Government.
But now the term political system brings the study of political science closer to other
systems such as the economic system, the cultural system, the legal system and other
social systems all of which operate within the larger social environment.
Regarding the nature of Political Science there is a difference of opinion among
scholars whether political science is a science or an art.
Political scientists have put forward some arguments in favor of the notion that
political science is a science, such as –
political theory has developed based on facts and verifiable data, like, voting
behaviour and theories of election;
in political science there is much scope for experiments, for example the government
itself is a continuous process of experiment;
broad conclusions can be drawn in political science;
empirical studies are based on careful observation and classification.
Political scientists today employ survey methods, graphs, charts and other scientific
tools to arrive at their research conclusions.
At the same time another section of political scientists opine that political science
is an art and they put forward some argument in favour of this notion, such as–
lack of precise and standard definitions of terms and concepts;
complexity of political phenomena due to variation in the nature and habits of
diversity of ‘environments’ in which political developments take place;
problems of experimentation to arrive at valid conclusions.
With the passage of time, the scope of political science also keeps on changing.
In recent times, political science has ceased to be merely the science of state-craft.
Now political science covers a comprehensive field and it has become dynamic in
Political science deals with each and every aspect of the state and government in
relation to their past and present and also focuses upon the probable developments
in the future.
Nowadays, factors like the developments in the arena of human rights and human
development and new social movements and upsurges in civil society have also
widened the scope of political science.