is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance
and power, and the analysis of political
activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions
Modern political science can generally be divided into the three subdisciplines of comparative politics
, international relations
, and political theory
Other notable subdisciplines are public policy and administration
, domestic politics and government
(often studied within comparative politics), as well as political economy
and political methodology
Furthermore, political science is related to, and draws upon, the fields of economics
, human geography
, political anthropology
, and social policy
Political science is methodologically diverse and appropriates many methods originating in psychology
, social research
and cognitive neuroscience
. Approaches include positivism
, rational choice theory
, and pluralism. Political science, as one of the social sciences, uses methods and techniques that relate to the kinds of inquiries sought: primary sources
, such as historical documents and official records, secondary sources
such as scholarly journal articles, survey
research, statistical analysis
, case studies
, experimental research, and model building.
As a social political science, contemporary political science started to take shape in the latter half of the 19th century. At that time it began to separate itself from political philosophy
, which traces its roots back to the works of Aristotle
, which were written nearly 2,500 years ago. The term "Political Science" was not always distinguished from political philosophy, and the modern discipline has a clear set of antecedents including also moral philosophy, political economy, political theology
, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state.
The advent of political science as a university discipline was marked by the creation of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the late 19th century. In fact, the designation "political scientist" is typically for those with a doctorate in the field, but can also apply to those with a master's in the subject.
Integrating political studies of the past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for the growth of both normative
political science, with each part of the discipline sharing some historical predecessors. The American Political Science Association
and the American Political Science Review
were founded in 1903 and 1906, respectively, in an effort to distinguish the study of politics
from economics and other social phenomena.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, a behavioural revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behaviour swept the discipline. A focus on studying political behaviour, rather than institutions or interpretation of legal texts, characterized early behavioural political science, including work by Robert Dahl
, Philip Converse
, and in the collaboration between sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld
and public opinion scholar Bernard Berelson
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a take off in the use of deductive, game theoretic
formal modelling techniques aimed at generating a more analytical corpus of knowledge in the discipline. This period saw a surge of research that borrowed theory and methods from economics to study political institutions, such as the United States Congress, as well as political behaviour, such as voting. William H. Riker
and his colleagues and students at the University of Rochester
were the main proponents of this shift.
Despite considerable research progress in the discipline based on all the kinds of scholarship discussed above, it has been observed that progress toward systematic theory has been modest and uneven.
In 2000, the Perestroika Movement
in political science was introduced as a reaction against what supporters of the movement called the mathematicization of political science. Those who identified with the movement argued for a plurality of methodologies and approaches in political science and for more relevance of the discipline to those outside of it.
Some evolutionary psychology
theories argue that humans have evolved a highly developed set of psychological mechanisms for dealing with politics. However, these mechanisms evolved for dealing with the small group politics that characterized the ancestral environment and not the much larger political structures in today's world. This is argued to explain many important features and systematic cognitive biases
of current politics.
Political science is a social study concerning the allocation and transfer of power
in decision making
, the roles and systems of governance including governments
and international organizations
, political behaviour and public policies
. They measure the success of governance
and specific policies by examining many factors, including stability
, material wealth
and public health
. Some political scientists seek to advance positive
(attempt to describe how things are, as opposed to how they should be) theses by analysing politics. Others advance normative
theses, by making specific policy recommendations. The study of politics and policies can be closely connected, for example in comparative analyses of which types of political institutions tend to produce certain types of policies.
Political scientists may provide the frameworks from which journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the electorate
analyse issues. According to Chaturvedy,
Political scientists may serve as advisers to specific politicians, or even run for office as politicians themselves. Political scientists can be found working in governments, in political parties or as civil servants. They may be involved with non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) or political movements. In a variety of capacities, people educated and trained in political science can add value and expertise to corporations
. Private enterprises such as think tanks
, research institutes, polling and public relations
firms often employ political scientists.
Political scientists may study political phenomena within one specific country; for example, they may study just the politics of the United States,
or just the politics of China.
The theory of political transitions,
and the methods of their analysis and anticipating
form an important part of political science. Several general indicators of crises and methods were proposed for anticipating critical transitions.
Among them, a statistical indicator of crisis, simultaneous increase of variance
in large groups, was proposed for crisis anticipation and may be successfully used in various areas.
Its applicability for early diagnosis of political crises was demonstrated by the analysis of the prolonged stress period preceding the 2014 Ukrainian economic and political crisis
. There was a simultaneous increase in the total correlation between the 19 major public fears in the Ukrainian society (by about 64%) and also in their statistical dispersion (by 29%) during the pre-crisis years.
A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not predicted. The theory of apparent inevitability of crises and revolutions was also developed.
The study of major crises, both political crises and external crises that can affect politics, is not limited to attempts to predict regime transitions or major changes in political institutions. Political scientists also study how governments handle unexpected disasters, and how voters in democracies react to their governments' preparations for and responses to crises.
Most political scientists work broadly in one or more of the following five areas:
is a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies and programs,
particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency. In both the public and private sectors, stakeholders often want to know whether the programs they are funding, implementing, voting for, receiving or objecting to are producing the intended effect. While program evaluation first focuses around this definition, important considerations often include how much the program costs per participant, how the program could be improved, whether the program is worthwhile, whether there are better alternatives, if there are unintended outcomes, and whether the program goals are appropriate and useful.
is a technique used in public administration to enable civil servants, activists, and others to examine and evaluate the available options to implement the goals of laws and elected officials.
Some political science departments also classify methodology
as well as scholarship on the domestic politics of a particular country as distinct fields. In the United States, American politics
is often treated as a separate subfield.
In contrast to this traditional classification, some academic departments organize scholarship into thematic categories, including political philosophy, political behaviour
(including public opinion
, collective action
, and identity
), and political institutions (including legislatures
and international organizations
). Political science conferences and journals often emphasize scholarship in more specific categories. The American Political Science Association, for example, has 42 organized sections that address various methods and topics of political inquiry.
Political science is methodologically diverse; political scientists approach the study of politics from a host of different ontological orientations and with a variety of different tools. Because political science is essentially a study of human behaviour
, in all aspects of politics
, observations in controlled environments are often challenging to reproduce or duplicate, though experimental
methods are increasingly common (see experimental political science
Citing this difficulty, former American Political Science Association
President Lawrence Lowell
once said "We are limited by the impossibility of experiment. Politics is an observational, not an experimental science."
Because of this, political scientists have historically observed political elites, institutions, and individual or group behaviour in order to identify patterns, draw generalizations, and build theories of politics.
Like all social sciences, political science faces the difficulty of observing human actors that can only be partially observed and who have the capacity for making conscious choices unlike other subjects such as non-human organisms in biology
or inanimate objects as in physics
. Despite the complexities, contemporary political science has progressed by adopting a variety of methods and theoretical approaches to understanding politics, and methodological
pluralism is a defining feature of contemporary political science.
Empirical political science methods include the use of field experiments,
surveys and survey experiments,
historical and institutional analysis,
and interview research.
Political scientists also use and develop theoretical tools like game theory and agent based models to study a host of political systems and situations.
Political science may overlap with topics of study that are the traditional focuses of other social sciences, for example when sociological norms
or psychological biases
are connected to political phenomena. In these cases, political science may either inherit their methods of study or it may develop a contrasting approach.
For example, Lisa Wedeen
has argued that political science's approach to the idea of culture, originating with Gabriel Almond
and Sidney Verba
and exemplified by authors like Samuel P. Huntington
, could benefit from aligning more closely with the study of culture in anthropology.
In turn, methodologies that are developed within political science may influence the way that researchers in other fields, like public health, conceive of and approach political processes and policies.
Most United States colleges and universities
offer B.A. programs in political science. M.A. or M.A.T. and Ph.D. or Ed.D. programs are common at larger universities. The term political science
is more popular in North America
than elsewhere; other institutions, especially those outside the United States, see political science as part of a broader discipline of political studies, politics,
While political science
implies use of the scientific method
, political studies
implies a broader approach, although the naming of degree courses does not necessarily reflect their content.
Separate programs (often professional degrees) in international relations and public policy
are not uncommon at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Master's level programs in public administration
are professional degrees covering public policy along with other applied subjects; they are often seen as more linked to politics than any other discipline, which may be reflected by being housed in that department.
The national honour society for college and university students of government and politics in the United States is Pi Sigma Alpha
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