UNIT –II: Approaches to the Study of Politics: Traditional
Approaches – Contemporary Approaches – Behavioral
3. Concept of Political Theory
Political theory is a set of specified relationships encompassing
political matters that focus and organize inquiry to describe,
explain, and predict political events and behaviours.
Political theory is considered as the basis and branch of
political science which attempts to arrive at generalizations,
inferences, or conclusions to be drawn from the data gathered
by other specialists, not only in political science, but
throughout the whole range of human knowledge and
4. From ancient Greece to the present, the history of political
theory has dealt with fundamental and perennial ideas of
Political theory reflects upon political phenomenon, processes
and institutions and on actual political behaviour by subjecting
it to philosophical or ethical criterion.
The most dominant political theories realise all three goals such
as describe, explain, and predict. The theories are the results of
thoughts and research of many scholars and exponents of
political science. Thinkers on the subject formulate definitions
of various political concepts and establish theories
5. David Held described that "Political theory is a
network of concepts and generalizations about
political life involving ideas, assumptions and
statements about the nature, purpose and key features
of government, state and society, and about the
political capabilities of human beings.
Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the
study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights,
law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if
they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what
rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take,
As mentioned earlier, the fundamental question facing
human beings has been ‘how to live together’. Politics is an
activity engaged with the management of the collective
affairs of society.
7. The significance of theory lies in evolving various doctrines
and approaches regarding the nature and purpose of the state,
the bases of political authority, vision of an ideal state, best
form of government, relations between the state and the
individual and basic issues such as rights, liberty, equality,
property, justice etc.
8. Contemporary states face a number of problems such as
poverty, over-population, corruption, racial and ethnic tensions,
environment pollution etc., conflicts among individuals, groups
as well as nations. The task of political theory is to study and
analyse more profoundly than others, the immediate and
potential problems of political life of the society and to supply
the practical politician with an alternative course of action, the
consequences of which have been fully thought of.
9. Decline of Political Theory
David Easton writes, “Political theory today is interested
primarily in the history of ideas”. This was the exact character
of political theory. Also it was inextricably associated with
notions of value and general principles. Easton could not
accept this position of political theory. He thought that value,
principles and history cannot be the sole determiners of
According to David Easton the ever-increasing role of
historicism is a major cause of the decline of political theory. In
his words: “Political theory has been devoted to a form of
historical researches that has robbed it of its earlier,
10. Domination of Moral Theory
For several centuries political science in general and political
theory in particular was dominated by the moral premises of
Western civilisation. The exponents of these moral premises
have constantly and vigorously preached that they are right and
no objection or criticism can be levelled against them.
This notion also crippled all sorts of research work. Students of
political theory took no interest to verify the various aspects of
political theory with the help of new facts and data. It was very
much difficult for them to challenge the prevailing notion about
11. Ideological Reductionism:
The decline of political theory can be traced to “ideological
reductionism”. Before entering into the depth of the matter
ideology and reductionism ought to be clarified. “An ideology
is a more or less coherent set of ideas that provides a basis for
organised political action”. Simply stated, ideology is a set of
coherent ideas. Generally, ideology is related to politics.
Reductionism is the practice of analysing and describing a
complex phenomenon in terms of its simple or fundamental
constituents especially when it is said to provide a sufficient
12. Contemporary Conditions:
Contemporary conditions of various parts of the globe have
contributed to the decline of political theory. Some of these
conditions are stated below:
Bureaucracy and ideology completely dominated the political
as well as ideological affairs of the state,
The academic world hardly got any opportunity to think and
Political scientists, researchers and other academicians were
not in a position to pursue their academic works without any
13. Absence of Man of Vision:
Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx etc.
traversed the lanes of political science, political theory,
philosophy, and political philosophy with a clear vision in their
mind and far-flung outlook. We may not agree with what they
propounded but they said something worthwhile.
But when the tradition and vision created by them came to an end
the political scientists lacked the vision and zeal which their
predecessors possessed and this lack of vision was to some extent
responsible for the declining condition of political theory.
Plato, Aristotle, Marx etc. followed this general principle. Plato
conceived of an ideal state, Aristotle thought of a polity which
will be free from the causes of schisms. Marx imagined of a
communist society. All these visions provided raw materials for
building up a structure of political theory.
14. Resurgence of Political Theory
Political Theory is not Dead:
The political theory during the last several decades has
declined. But the declining condition does not indicate that
political theory is dead.
The subject was restricted within the activities of these
organisations and institutions. Political theory revolved around
these traditional conceptions. This traditional outlook
considerably dwarfed the content and scope of political theory:
Particularly in the field of policy- making political theory had
no spectacular role to play. But the real scope of political
theory is much broader than the one envisaged by traditional
15. Commencement of Resurgence:
The post Second World War period—specifically the 1950s—
witnessed new directions in the development of political theory
and it is observed that the War served as a dividing line
between the old and the new concepts of political theory. A
large number of scholars from Europe migrated to America and
many of them began serious research work on political theory
and their interest did not lie in the study of political theory in
They arrived at the conclusion that the traditional method of
analysing political phenomena and theory was not adequate for
new reforms or rejuvenation of political theory. New methods
are to be devised. This tendency finally laid the foundation of a
new way of studying political theory.
Behaviouralism constitutes a very important aspect of the
resurgence of political theory that took place at the beginning
of the fifties of the last century. A brief definition of
behaviouralism runs as follows. It is a belief that social theories
can be constructed on the basis of observable facts and
behaviour, quantifiable data and facts.
it does not deal with all sorts of behaviour of the individuals
but only with that behaviour which displays political character.
17. Approaches of political theory:
The study of political science and in the process of search for
political truth certain procedure must be followed. These
procedures are defined as approaches, methods, techniques and
strategies. Approaches to study political science are grouped as
traditional and modern approaches
Traditional approaches are value based. These approaches put
emphasis on values more that facts. Advocates of this approaches
believe that the study of political science cannot and should not be
purely scientific. They stated that in social science such as facts
values are closely related with each other. In politics, emphasis
should not be on the facts but on the moral quality of political
18. Characteristics of Traditional approaches:
Traditional approaches are largely normative and stresses on
the values of politics.
Emphasis is on the study of different political structures.
Traditional approaches made very little attempt to relate theory
These approaches believe that since facts and values are closely
interlinked, studies in Political Science can never be scientific.
19. Types of traditional approaches:
This approach is considered as the oldest approach in the arena
of Political Science. The development of this approach can be
traced back to the times of the Greek philosophers like Plato
Leo Strauss was one of the main supporter of the philosophical
approach. He considered that “the philosophy is the quest for
wisdom and political philosophy is the attempt truly to know
about the nature of political things and the right or good
The aim of this approach is to evolve the standard of right and
wrong, for the purpose of critical evaluation of existing
institutions, laws and polices
20. This approach is based on the theoretical principle that the
values cannot be separated from the study of politics.
Therefore, its main concern is to judge what is good or bad in
any political society. It is mainly an ethical and normative
study of politics and, thus, idealistic. It addresses the problems
of the nature and functions of the state, citizenship, rights and
21. Historical Approach: Theorists who developed this
political approach focused on the historical factors like the age,
place and the situation in which it is evolved are taken into
This approach is related to history and it emphasizes on the
study of history of every political reality to analyse any
Political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Sabine and Dunning
considered that politics and history are closely related and the
study of politics always should have a historical standpoint.
22. This approach strongly maintains the belief that the thinking or
the dogma of every political thinker is formed by the
surrounding environment. Furthermore, history provide details
of the past as well as it also links it with the present events.
History gives the chronological order of every political event
and thereby helps in future estimation of events also.
Therefore, without studying the past political events,
institutions and political environment it would be erroneous to
analyse the present political events.
23. Institutional Approach: This is traditional and
significant approach in studying Political Science. This
approach primarily deals with the formal features of
government and politics accentuates the study of the political
institutions and structures.
Therefore, the institutional approach is concerned with the
study of the formal structures like legislature, executive,
judiciary, political parties, and interest groups.
The supporters of this approach includes both ancient and
modern political philosophers. Among the ancient thinkers,
Aristotle had significant role in shaping this approach while the
modern thinkers include James Bryce, Bentley, Walter
Bagehot, Harold Laski contributed to develop this approach.
24. Legal Approach: This approach concerns that the state is the
fundamental organization for the formation and enforcement of
Therefore, this approach is concerned with the legal process,
legal bodies or institutions, justice and independence of
The supporters of this approach are Cicero, Jean Bodin,
Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Dicey and Sir
These approaches were principled also as their concern went
beyond how and why political events happen to what ought to
In the later period, the modern approaches have made an
attempt to make the study of Political Science more scientific
and, therefore, emphasize pragmatism.
25. Behaviouralism is an approach in political science that
emerged in the 1930s in the United States.
It represented a sharp break from previous approaches in
emphasizing an objective, quantified approach to explain
and predict political behaviour.
It is associated with the rise of the behavioural sciences,
modeled after the natural sciences. Behaviouralism claims
it can explain political behaviour from an unbiased,
neutral point of view.
Behaviouralists seek to examine the behaviour, actions,
and acts of individuals – rather than the characteristics of
institutions such as legislatures, executives, and judiciaries
– and groups in different social settings and explain this
behavior as it relates to the political system.
26. Meaning of the term
David Easton was the first to differentiate
behaviouralism from behaviourism in the 1950s
(behaviourism is the term mostly associated with
psychology). In the early 1940s, behaviourism itself
was referred to as a behavioural science and later
referred to as behaviourism. However, Easton sought
to differentiate between the two disciplines:
27. Post Behavioural revolution
Post-behaviouralism is the next step or reform movement
of behavioural revolution. Like behaviouralism, it was
again propounded by David Easton in his presidential
address to the American Political Science Association in
It has two slogans ‘action’ and ‘relevance’. It calls on the
behavioural political scientists to study urgent and
emergent problems, attend to crises and challenges of the
contemporary society, and commit themselves to find out
During behavioural heydays, they were neglecting, in the
name of developing a ‘pure science of polities’, their
responsibility towards society.
28. Easton has discussed three main sources for the
incoming of post-behavioural revolution:
(a) Dissatisfaction with the efforts to make Political Science
a natural science;
(b) Utmost desire to find out solutions to the crises and
problems of society; and
(c) A movement by a group of political scientists and an
Post-behaviouralism accepted the main tenets of
behaviouralism but wanted to take Political Science
towards new directions – making it more responsible and
more utilitarian. unlike behaviouralism, it is not related to
any particular ideology or group. It included leftists,
rightists, conservatives, classicists, methodologists, etc.
However, it is a bit exaggeration to call it a ‘revolution’.
29. System Analysis
System analysis is part of the behaviouralist movement
in political science and as a reaction to traditional
David Easton was the first to think to analyzing
politics from the point of view of system analysis in his
work Political System (1953) .
In simple terms, Easton's behavioral approach to
politics, proposed that a political system could be seen
as a delimited (i.e. all political systems have precise
boundaries) and fluid (changing) system of steps in
30. Step 1. changes in the social or physical environment
surrounding a political system produce "demands" and
"supports" for action or the status quo directed as "inputs"
towards the political system, through political behavior.
Step 2, these demands and supporting groups stimulate
competition in a political system, leading to decisions or
"outputs" directed at some aspect of the surrounding social or
Step 3, after a decision or output is made (e.g., a specific
policy), it interacts with its environment, and if it produces
change in the environment, there are "outcomes."
31. Step 4, when a new policy interacts with its environment,
outcomes may generate new demands or supports and groups
in support or against the policy ("feedback") or a new policy on
some related matter.
Step 5, feedback, leads back to Step 1, forming a never-ending
If the system functions as described, then we have a "stable
political system". If the system breaks down, then we have a
"dysfunctional political system".
32. Structural Functional Analysis
Structural functionalism, in sociology and
other social sciences, a school of thought according to
which each of the institutions, relationships, roles, and
norms that together constitute a society serves a purpose,
and each is indispensable for the continued existence of
the others and of society as a whole.
Each structural element has a definite function or purpose.
In structural functionalism, social change is regarded as
an adaptive response to some tension within the social
system. When some part of an integrated social system
changes, a tension between this and other parts of the
system is created, which will be resolved by the adaptive
change of the other parts.
33. The origin of contemporary references to social
structure can be traced to the French social scientist Émile
Durkheim, who argued that parts of society are
interdependent and that this interdependency imposes
structure on the behaviour of institutions and their
To Durkheim, the interrelations between the parts of
society contributed to social unity—an integrated system
with life characteristics of its own, exterior to individuals
yet driving their behaviour.
34. Communication Theory
Communication theory is a field of information
theory that studies the technical process of information.
Communication theory was proposed by S. F. Scudder in
the year 1980. It states that all living beings existing on
the planet communicate although the way of
communication is different.
Thus the universal law of communication theory says that
all living beings whether they are plants, animals, human
beings communicate through sound, speech, visible
changes, body movements, gestures or in the best possible
way to make the others aware of their thoughts, feelings,
problems, happiness or any other information.
35. Elements of communication
Source: "information source", which "produces a message or
sequence of messages to be communicated to the receiving
Sender: the "transmitter", which "operates on the message in some
way to produce a signal suitable for transmission over the
channel." In Aristotle, this element is the "speaker" (orator).
Channel: the channel is "merely the medium used to transmit the
signal from transmitter to receiver."
Receiver: the receiver "performs the inverse operation of that done
by the transmitter, reconstructing the message from the signal."
Destination: For Shannon, the destination is "the person (or thing)
for whom the message is intended"
Message: The message is an information, communication,
or statement that is sent in a verbal, written, recorded, or visual form
to the recipient.