The major subfields are reviewed in the entries International law; International relations; Political behavior; Political theory; Politics, comparative; Public administration; Public law. For individual contributions to the development of the discipline see the biographies of Bagehot; Barnard; Beard; Bentham; Bentley; Brecht; Bryce; Coker; Condorcet; Follett; Goodnow; Heller; Key; Lindsay; Llppmann; Lowell; Maine; Marx; Merriam; Mlchels; Mlll; Mosca; Ostrogorskii; Pareto; Rlce; Richardson; Schmitt; Tocqueville; Wallas; Weber, Max; Willoughby; Wilson. Related material from other disciplines may be found in Political anthropology; Political sociology. Political science in mid- twentieth century is a discipline in search of its identity. Through the efforts to solve this identity crisis it has begun to show evidence of emerging as an autonomous and independent discipline with a systematic theoretical structure of its own.
The factor that has contributed most to this end has been the reception and integration of the methods of science into the core of the discipline. The long failure of political science to assert a fundamental coherence of subject matter led some scholars to deny that it could ever form an autonomous field of research coordinate with other social sciences, such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology. They would rather assign it to the category of an applied field, one in which the theoretical concepts formed in the other social sciences are applied in the study of political institutions.
But this assessment of the theoretical status of political science is largely a result of the failure to perceive the profound revolution that has taken place in the discipline, especially since World War II. In these decades political science has taken some firm and well- articulated steps toward its own reconstruction as a theoretical discipline. During the many centuries from classical antiquity almost to the end of the nineteenth century, the study of political life remained not a discipline in the strict sense but a congeries of inherited interests. Only in retrospect, when modern criteria are imposed upon the thought of past social philosophers, is it possible to identify their intellectual concerns as indeed part of what today we choose to call political science. As a result, by the time political science took shape as an independent academic discipline, it had assumed a thoroughly synthetic character; its subject matter appeared to consist largely of a collection of loosely related topics handed down and modified through the ages.
On the surface, all that seemed to draw these interests together was their relationship to some vaguely defined political institutions and practices. If we examine the history of political inquiry in the last 2,5. Over the course of time these topics had accumulated, so that the older political science grew as an intellectual pursuit, the greater was the volume and variety of subjects it embraced. By mid- twentieth century the discipline as a whole threatened to collapse under the strain of absorbing and imposing a logical and consistent order on a staggering load of knowledge about highly diverse subjects. By then, however, there also were clear signs that the traditional way of selecting problems for research was threatening to change fundamentally. A nagging question had begun to press in earnest upon the members of what by that time had become a highly specialized discipline. Is political science indeed only a synthetic discipline, composed of a m?
Is political science little more than a historical accident that has brought together all thinking in the general neighborhood of governmental or political institutions? Or is it possible to say that it is in any sense a theoretical discipline with a definable intellectual unity? Two widely differing sets of criteria have emerged, in the last hundred years or so, for differentiating political life from all other aspects of society and, thereby, for isolating the subject matter of political science. The one has sought to define political life in terms of the institutions through which it is expressed; the other has turned to the activities or behavior of which institutions are the particular historical forms. Under the first set, political science has been described, not very profoundly, as the study either of governmental (or political) institutions or of the state. Under the second set, which did not gain widespread acceptance until well into the twentieth century, it has been characterized as the study either of power or of decision making.
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Institutional criteria. Two institutional approaches may be distinguished.
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Governmental institutions. To this day, the most frequent and most popular way of describing the field of political science is as the study of governmental or political institutions (Bentley 1.
Truman 1. 95. 1). Yet it is the least useful, since it leaves almost entirely to intuition the sorting of political institutions from all other kinds. It does not help us to distinguish governmental or political institutions from other kinds. We are left as much in the dark about the subject matter of political science as ever, that is, at the mercy of our intuitions. This way of orienting oneself to political research virtually abdicates all responsibility for elevating the theoretical level of the discipline.
Just what is to be included within it must rest on the emergent but undefined consensus of each generation of political scientists. The state. No conceptualization of the subject matter of political science has had a longer history than that of the . Machiavelli is often cited as one of the first known users of the term, but his invention of it is disputable. However, during these centuries it slowly emerged as a substitute for earlier terms to refer to important political entities, such as kingdom, land, principality, commonwealth, republic, dominion, and empire (Ma- clver 1.
The state. In fact, its shortcomings for theoretical purposes have become so widely recognized since World War ii that its professional use has dwindled to a small fraction of its previous frequency (Easton 1. For research and analytic purposes, scholars have denuded the term of most of its implication; it has been reduced simply to a neutral and empty conceptual shell for identifying the actors in the international sphere. In its place is appearing .
Dissatisfaction with an institutional approach has given birth to a variety of interpretations that have at least one quality in common: they all identify the subject matter of political science as a kind of activity, behavior, or, in a loose sense, function. Although some definitions of this kind originated in the nineteenth century, it is only since the middle of the twentieth century that they have finally come to be accepted as an approach superior to an institutional one. The specification of the political function in a society permits political scientists to generalize their subject matter. It is no longer limited in any way by the variable historical structures and institutions through which political activities may express themselves, whether they be in the form of highly centralized . During the nineteenth century, conceptualization of political science as the study of the state had reached its zenith in the Staatslehre (state theory) school of political inquiry in the German- speaking countries. Its major characteristic was that it reduced political inquiry to an idea of the state interpreted as a body of formal constitutional norms.
Ultimately this converted political science to an arid legal formalism that turned away entirely from social reality and at times even seemed to escape contact with legal reality itself. The opponents of this school saw the state not as a body of legal norms but as a set of social groups in eternal competition for power over its instrumentalities. For example, Marx, Treitschke (1. In the United States it took somewhat longer for this change to gain acceptance, if only because it was frequently associated with unacceptable European social philosophies.
But by the 1. 93. Catlin (1. 93. 0) and Merriam (1. Lasswell 1. 93. 6; Lasswell & Kaplan 1. Key 1. 94. 2). As a means of approaching the analysis of political phenomena, power has been dramatically successful in breaching the walls of an institutional approach and in blazing a new pathway, one that has led toward a functional conceptualization of political science. An enormous amount of time and energy has gone into describing and defining power relationships, between individuals, groups, and nations and within national political systems, local communities, and organizations. It has commanded the attention of all disciplines. Yet as a central theme, power has one overwhelming drawback.
Despite all efforts, the idea of power remains buried under a heavy cloud of ambiguity. It has been suggested that the time may be long overdue for giving serious consideration to the question of whether the social sciences ought not to abandon the idea entirely as a useful concept for the direct purposes of analysis and research (March 1. But we may wish to adopt a more hopeful attitude. We may assume that the inability to achieve a clear understanding of the referents of power stems from insufficient research or from inadequate but improvable tools of analysis, rather than from the excessively global character of the term itself.
In that event we would be left with other equally insurmountable conceptual barriers to the use of power as an orienting concept. Even with a stable, unambiguous meaning, power would still be at one and the same time too narrow and too broad to describe even grossly the boundaries of political research. It is too narrow because political interaction, within any normal use of the term, involves more than the control of one person or group by another or efforts at reciprocal influence. Power, it is true, appears in all political interactions.