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Chapter 3


Political Science deals with the systematic study of political structures, political processes and
political behaviour. A number of approaches and methods have been suggested and used by
thinkers and scholars of political science for the scientific investigation of political phenomena and
for the arrival at systematic generalizations and theories. But, as Sartori has pointed out,
"approaches and research methods are largely decided by the kind of evidence which is available
for the units, and the kind of problems with which one deals"} In using the term "approach" we
mean a particular orientation or point of view in looking at and interpreting the world of politics. By
making use of a particular set of concepts and assumptions about the salience of certain factors,
an approach seeks lo provide a framework for analysis, explanation and prediction.
On the criterion of time dimension, approaches to the study of political science, can be broadly
classified into traditional and modern. Philosophical, historical and legal-institutional modes of
analysis are often called traditional while value-free, empirical and behavioural modes of enquiry
come under modern approaches. The dichotomy between tradition al and modern approaches
need not be stressed too far for the simple reason that political analysis is characterized by a
degree of continuity from the ~t to the contemporary, both with regard to substance and
approaches and methods of study. Besides these two broad approaches the Marxist approach to
politics displays a distinctive character in terms of methodology and categories o[analysis.
Traditional Approaches
What is often termed 'traditional approaches' to the study of political science is an amalgam of
views on and orientations to politics in philosophical, ethical and institutional terms. Since the time
of Plato and Aristotle, the great issues of politics have revolved round the organization and
functioning of the state -the political institution par excellence. Traditional approaches exhibit
certain well defined features.
Leslie Lipson holds that traditional political science .raised and debated "great issues". Broad
political issues and themes like the purpose, end and legitimate domain of the state, the grounds
of political obligation, the criteria of citizenship, the relation between freedom and authority and
the ideal political system occupied the centre of stage in the writings of the masters of political
Traditional approach is characterized by a normative overtone and an ethical evaluation.
Normative preferences or value questions are raised in interpreting political phenomena. Political
problems and issues are linked to ethics.
It is closely connected with the philosophical approach which, in the words of Stephen L. Wasby,
"takes in all aspects of man's political activities, and has as its goal a statement of underlying
principles concerning those activities": It is comprehensive in scope and imaginative in spirit. It
posits ideals like 'natural law', 'ideal polity' against which concrete political phenomena are
An important element of traditional approach has been its stress on the structural, institutional
and legalistic aspects of politics. The government of the state, various organized institutions that
make up the government, constitution, laws etc. have been the primary objects of political
studies. The legal institutional approach has produced valuable studies on the formal aspects of
the government. However it has long been cited as inadequate and unrealistic because it ignores
the realities of political process and political behaviour by concentrating on legalistic and
constitutional factors. "This is, however, to overstate the case: political behaviour takes place
within an institutional framework and neither the behaviour nor the institutions can be adequately
framework and neither the behaviour nor the institutions can be adequately explained without an
understanding of both".

Modern Approaches
Partly as a reaction to the deficiencies of the traditional approaches and partly in search of a
more 'scientific' knowledge about politics, political scientists have come out with a variety of new
approaches in the twentieth century. The Behavioural approach to political science has been the
most important one in this direction. The~ post-second world war witnessed the advent of
behavioural revolution in political science. The harbingers of this revolution were a group of
political scientists mainly Americans who shared a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the
achievements of traditional political science through historical, philosophical and the descriptive institutional approaches and devised new methods and approaches "that would help to provide
political science with empirical propositions and theories of a systematic sort, tested by closer,
more direct and more rigorously controlled observations of political events".
The behavioural approach emphasizes the application of scientific methods and techniques to the
study of politics: its structure, processes and behaviour. It seeks to focus on the behaviour of
individuals and groups rather than their formally prescribed roles and activities. Heinz Elau writes:
It specifies as the unit or object of both theoretical and empirical analysis of the behaviour of
persons and social groups rather than events, structures, institutions or ideologies. The study of
political behaviour is concerned with the acts, attitudes, preferences and expectations of man in
political contexts.5 They study the behaviour of individuals whose interactions constitute group
actions. In this sense "political institutions are behaviour systems or systems of action". In short,
the behavioural approach attempts to study political phenomena in terms of the observed and
observable behaviour of men.
Behaviouralists emphasize the study of the "functional" aspects of politics. The 'systems" theory
and the "structural-functional" approach, to which anthropologists and sociologists like Durkheim,
Malinowski, Parsons, Merton, Shils and Levy made great contributions, are now adopted by
political scientists.
Inter-disciplinary approach is an important characteristic of behaviouralism. It seeks to place
theory and research in a frame of reference common to that of social psychology, sociology,
cultural anthropology and economics. It has even borrowed models from natural sciences such as
biology, physics, engineering, mathematics etc.
Behaviouralists put special emphasis on scientific outlook and objectivity. They generate and test
verifiable scientific explanations about political phenomena. They are guided by the need to
separate facts from values. Stephen Washby writes: By scientific and objective outlook the
behaviouralists mean the rigour, the systematic study and the regularities in their research.
They try to develop rigorous research designs and to apply precise methods of analysis to
political behaviour problems. They attach supreme importance to the tools and techniques and to
that extent neglect the substance or contents of political enquiry.
The main features of behavioural approach in political science have been summarized by E. M.
Kirkpatrick thus:
(1) It "rejects political institutions as the basis unit for research and identifies the behaviour of
individuals in political situations as the basic unit of analysis, (2) identifies 'social sciences' as
'behavioural sciences' and emphasizes the unity of political science with the social sciences, so
(3) advocates the utilization and development of more precise techniques of observing,
classifying and measuring data and urges the case of statistical or quantitative formulations
wherever possible and (4) defines the construction of systematic, empirical theory as the goal of
political science".

Calling the features which behaviouralists share in common as "intellectual foundation stones",
David Easton 7 points out the following:
(1) Regularities: There are discoverable uniformities in political behaviour which can be
expressed in generalisations or theories with explanatory and predictive value.
(2) Verification: The validity of generalizations or theories must be empirically tested and verified.
(3) Techniques: Appropriate tools and techniques must be made use of in the collection and
analysis of data.
(4) Quantification: It stands for precision in the recording of data and the rigorous measurement
and quantification of the statements of findings.
(5) Values: Ethical evaluation and empirical explanation involve two different kinds of propositions
that, for the sake of clarity, should be kept analytically distinct. Objective scientific enquiry must
be value-free or value-neutral.
(6) Systematization: Research ought to be systematic. Effort is made to build systematic theories
on the basis of logically interrelated body of concepts and propositions.
(7) Pure Science: Theoretical understanding of politics and application of theory to solving urgent
practical problems of society must be closely linked.
(8) Integration: Behaviouralists stress the integration of political science with other social sciences
which will facilitate cross fertilization of ideas and result in more universal and valid
generalizations in political studies.
The major achievement of behavioural approach has been in the field of techniques and not so
much in the field of theory building splendid landmarks were made in the development and
refinement of the tools and techniques of political behaviour research such as content analysis,
statistical and mathematical methods, case study, interview and observation. Peter H. Odegard
says: "Because behaviouralist subordinates imagination to observation and metaphysical
abstraction to observed realities he has carried political science another step in the direction of
becoming what August Comte hoped it might some day be a positive science".
The behavioural approach has been subjected to searching criticism on several grounds.
There is vagueness about the meaning of the term 'political behaviour'. The behaviouralists
themselves are not agreed on what is political behaviour. Heinz Eulau writes: "Defining political
behaviour is a delicate problem partly because people in politics define and interpret what they do
differently and partly because political scientists are by I> means agreed on what they mean
when they say that they are studying political behaviour".
The study of political behaviour of human beings presents difficulties. Political phenomena by
their very nature cannot be subjected to any rigorous study. Behavioural researchers find it
difficult to attain the standards of objectivity and value-neutrality, which they set for themselves,
as they have to deal with human beings and not substances in a laboratory. The approach may
prove useful to study simple situations, but it has failed in dealing with complex and dynamic
Behaviouralism limits the world of knowledge to observable behaviour and phenomena. It admits
only those data which are empirically derived. For a comprehensive understanding of political
phenomena the researcher has to go beyond observable behaviour. Moreover, the definition of
'empiricism' is very restrictive, limiting the term to known techniques of research. The historical
and philosophical methods of enquiry which give broad perspectives to the researcher are
neglected by the behaviouralists.
Critics of behaviouralism point out that in their zeal for scientism, the behaviouralists have failed
to distinguish between the important and the trivial. Their passion to deal with concrete facts
alone often results in an exercise in trivialities. Great issues linked with values are overlooked.

Such studies, in the ultimate analysis, become barren and fruitless.

Leo Strauss and his disciples, have denounced the language of new political science, its valueneutrality and its claims to scientific knowledge. Strauss writes: "The break with the common
sense understanding of political things compels the new political science to abandon the criteria
of relevance that are inherent in political understanding. Hence, the new political science lacks
orientation regarding political things; it has no protection whatever, except by surreptitious
recourse to common sense, against losing itself in the study of irrelevancies. Even Harold
Lasswell, who has contributed so much to this new approach, has urged the behaviouralists to
address their tools and techniques to the solution of basic public policy problems.
The behaviouralists' assumption of value neutrality in research is untenable. Leslie Lipson
pointing out the danger of relying on facts alone without making any reference to moral values
writes: "The amassing of details concerning how men behave is deadweight of intellectual
slumber unless it suggests how men ought to behave... The factual data of politics must be
judged and appraised by moral criteria". Strauss, Thurshby and Gould, Christian Bay, Mulford Q.
Sibley etc. think that a value-neutral and objective study of politics is neither possible nor
desirable. First, any political theorist has a certain methodological approach and this in itself
involves value judgement that his approach is the best. Second, any theory must select certain
facts or issues about political life as important. This selection also in itself is a value judgement.
Third; under the garb of a value-free or objective political science, the behaviouralists smuggle
their own values in their theories which are in favour of a commitment to a particular version of
liberal democracy.
Behaviouralists overemphasize the inter-dependence of political phenomena and other aspects of
human behaviour and thereby contribute to the loss of autonomy of political science. AlaQ.1{. Ball
speaks of several dangers to the discipline stemming from the behavioural orientation. The
discipline becomes a satellite of sociology. The emphasis of study is shifted from government to
political parties, voting behaviour, public opinion and those aspects of political phenomena which
are amenable to measurement and quantification.
In the late 1960s dissatisfaction, even disillusionment, with the behavioural approach culminated
in an intellectual movement, called post-behavioural movement. It was a 'new revolution' as well
as a 'new challenge'. David Easton, once a leading advocate of behaviouralism spearheaded the
attack on technical excesses in behavioural research and exhorted political scientists to become
more 'relevant' in their researches and convert political science into an 'action' science. As
opposed to the traditionalists, post-behaviouralists accept as valid the behavioural approach but
want to take political science towards new directions. To Easton, post-behaviouralism is 'futureoriented', seeking to provide new directions and to add rather than to deny its past heritage. As he
writes: This new development is then a genuine revolution, not a reaction: a becoming, not a
preservation, a reform, not a counter-reformation".12 Post-behaviouralists share certain common
characteristics which constitute, in the words of Easton, the 'Credo of Relevance'. These tenets
can be summarised as follows:
1. In political studies substance must precede technique. If one is to be sacrificed for the other, it
is more important to be relevant and meaningful for contemporary urgent social problems than
to be sophisticated in the tools and techniques of investigation. As against the behaviouralists'
slogan that "it was better to be wrong than value", the post-behaviouralists raised the counterslogan that it was "better to be value than non-relevantly precise."
2. They focus attention on social change as opposed to an ideology of empirical conservatism
championed by the behaviouralists. Behaviouralists had confined themselves exclusively to
the description and analysis of facts without understanding these in the broader social context.
3. Post-behaviouralism exhorts political scientists to keep touch with the "brute realities of
politics". They should reach out to the real needs of mankind in times of crisis.

4. They emphasize the importance of values in politics. All knowledge stood on value premises.
They are critical of the value-free approach of the behaviouralists. If knowledge was to be
used in the right direction, values had to be restored to their central place.
5. Post-behaviouralists remind political scientists, as members of a learned discipline, their
responsibility to protect the human values of civilization. This is their unique obligation as
intellectuals. Value-neutral researchers become mere technicians and mechanics for tinkering
with society. Freedom of enquiry must be harnessed to the solving of urgent social problems.
6. To know is to bear the responsibility for acting and to act is to engage in reshaping society.
The intellectual as scientist bears the special obligation to put his knowledge to work. There is
a need for action science so as to improve political life according to human criteria in place of
contemplative science.
7. If the intellectual has the bounding obligation to put his knowledge to work, those
organisations composed of intellectuals -the professional associations -and the universities
themselves, cannot stand apart from the struggles of the day. Politicisation of the professions
is both inescapable as well as desirable.
Thus post-behaviouralism is a timely warning against the overplay of scientism based on
'technical excesses in research'. It aimed at underplaying the priorities and preferences of the
behaviouralists. It stresses primacy of substance over technique, social relevance over 'pure
science' and political action over academic aloofness. It draws attention of the discipline of
political science and the profession of political scientist to more urgent problem-solving -without
which the discipline itself might in the long run languish. Acceptance of the basic tenets of post
-behaviouralism has resulted in a new synthesis in political science. By its stress on the centrality
of values and relevant political research and its acceptance of scientific methods of enquiry free
from excesses, post -behaviouralism seems to have brought closer the two warring camps of
'traditionalists' and 'behaviouralists'. On account of this balanced perspective the future of political
science seems to be brighter than ever before.
Systems Analysis
One major consequence of the behavioural revolution in political science has been the application
of new approaches to the study of politics borrowed from other disciplines. One such
contemporary approach is known as the systems analysis which has captured the interest of
political scientists as a possible tool for large scale or macro-cosmic analysis of political
Systems analysis was first developed by biologists, physical theorists and engineers. In the social
sciences it was developed first in anthropology from where it was adopted in sociology,
psychology and political science. It can be traced directly to social anthropology implicit in the
works of Emile Durkheim and made explicit in the works of A. R, Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.
The theoretical developments of the concept in political science took place through two
sociologists, namely Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Morton. Parsons, Merton and Marion Levy
have become identified with what is known as the functional approach to systems theory. In the
sphere of political studies, David Easton and Gabriel Almond in the field of national politics and
Morton Kaplan in the field of international politics have applied the systems approach. David
Easton's systems analysis is known as input -output analysis while his theory has been adapted
to structural-functional, framework by Gabriel Almond.
The notion of 'system' is the key term in systems analysis. A system has been defined as a "set of
elements standing in interaction". A system is a whole consisting of elements or parts which have
some characteristic relationship with one another and which interact with one another. There are
three broad features of a system. First, a system is a set of interactions taking place within itself.
A change in one activity generates changes elsewhere and the whole system is affected.
Secondly, these inter-related activities have a boundary set upon them. Boundary is the point
where one system ends and another begins. But other systems &re included and absorbed in
environment, and the third property of a system is that it operates within an environment.

Systems analysis identifies the domain of politics as an independent system. It looks at politics as
a set of interactions which takes place within: an environment, but this system is analytically
distinct from the latter. David Easton's systems analysis is found in his works: The Political
System, an inquiry into the State of political science, followed by A framework for Political
Analysis and a Systems Analysis of Political Life. He makes an attempt to formulate a general
theory of politics. The primary purpose of general theory would be "to establish criteria for
identifying the important variables requiring investigation in all political systems". Easton is
especially concerned with how a political system continues to exist and what causes it to change.
What distinguishes the political from the non-political is the binding nature of political decisions.
Politics as Easton defines, deals with the "authoritative allocation of values for society". Political
decisions relating to distribution of values (resources, rewards) are accepted as binding on all
members of a political community.
Easton devises his systems analysis to explain the "life processes of the political system" in
other words, "how political systems generally persist". He makes use of a number of concepts like
sub-system, boundary, input, output, conversion process, and feedback. A political system refers
to patterned interactions among political elements. 'Sub-system' is a part of a bigger system. A
system functions within a particular setting, known as 'environment'. 'Boundary', is the analytical
line which separates the political system from its environment. A political system functions as a
result of 'inputs' received from the environment, and the inputs are in the form of demands made
on the system and supports in their favour. The processing of inputs by the political system is
known as conversion process. This process results in outputs in the form of rules to be enforced
and policies to be implemented by the authorities. There is also a process of reaction to these
decisions which Easton terms 'feedback'.
Easton views the political system as basically an input-output mechanism -" just a means
whereby certain kinds of inputs are converted into outputs". The inputs are in the form of
demands and supports, each having four types of activities. Demands are of the following four
types: (a) demands for allocation of goods and services such as wage and hour laws, educational
opportunities, housing and medical facilities; (b) demands for regulation of behaviour such as
control over markets, provisions for public safety, rules relating to marriage, health and sanitation;
(c) demands for participation in the political system such as right to vote, to seek election, etc.
and (d) demands for communication and information such as communication of policy intent from
the political elites or display of the power of the political system in periods of threats. Support is of
the following four types: (a) material support such as payment of taxes; (b) obedience to law,
rules and regulations; (c) participatory support such as voting, political discussion and other forms
of political activity; and (d) attention paid to government communication and giving respect to
public authority, symbols and ceremonials.
The outputs of the political system fall into four categories: (a) extractions such as taxes or
personal services, (b) regulations of behaviour, (c) allocations or distribution of goods and
services, opportunities, honours and the like, and (d) symbolic outputs such as policy statements
and affirmation of values.
Central to Eastons analysis is his concept of feedback, which is fundamentally a communication
process. It is a dynamic process through which information about the performance of the system
is communicated back to it in such a way as to affect the subsequent behaviour of the system.
Eastonian political system can be represented in the following diagrarn:

It is called 'black box model' because what happens within the political system nobody can see.
-A political system is open and adaptive. Political system has several in-built mechanisms which
enable it to cope with its environment. It is this feature of extraordinary capacity of adjustment and
consequent survival which distinguishes a political system from biological systems. Easton's
concern for system persistence raised the problem of coping with 'stress' which are of two types:
(a) demand stress and (b) support stress. The first type of stress arises when the system is
subjected to 'demand-input overload'. The concept of overload is related to the volume, the
content, or the sudden inflow of demands at some particular point of time straining the system.
Support stress refers to loss of support or at least a decline in support given to the system by its
members. The main objects of support of the political system are three: 'the political community,
the regime, and the authorities.
Every political system possesses regulatory mechanisms of its own which prevent the demands
from entering the system or regulate the pace of their entry. Such mechanisms are of four types:
a) In formal political structures like political parties and pressure groups serve as gate keepers
in screening the demands flowing from the environment and in deciding which of these
should be acted upon.
b) Cultural mechanisms prevent disagreeable demands from being accepted by the political
c) Political system can develop a number of communication channels through which demands
may get scattered widely and thus get diluted.
d) Political system possesses a large number of reduction processes by which demands may be
forced to convert themselves into specific issues without which they would not be able to feed
the conversion process of the political system.
Merits: Easton's systems analysis provides general framework for the scientific study of political
systems. It has been applied with better result in the field of comparative political analysis.

Easton goes beyond the equilibrium approach which is static. The idea of system persistence
implies a dynamic analysis.
Systems analysis is not only useful for applied research but also for normative purposes. It helps
us to provide solutions to systemic stress and crises and to save it from collapse.
The input-output analysis is logically inclusive in as much as it presents a nicely standardised set
of concepts and categories.
Shortcomings: Easton's analysis has been assailed as too abstract and far removed from
empirical reality. Eugene Mcclion holds that his idea of framing a conceptual framework with high
empirical relevance has not been materialised. It does not give correct measurement technique to
analyse politics.
His theory is labelled as statusquoist and conservative. It has as its central focus system
maintenance and not system change. The analysis admits of functional and modifying processes
of change but not far-reaching radical changes.
Easton does not explain the 'conversion functions' in his model. One cannot sa.y what occurs
within the 'Black-box'. Paul J. Krees says that his theory so respectful of facts should be so
lacking in substance and thus presenting us like an empty vision of politics. It gives a frame but
no idea about the inside working of the system. .
Despite these limitations the systems approach marks an improvement on earlier approaches to
political analysis.
Structural-Functional Approach
Structural-functional approach, which owes its elaboration in politics primarily to Gabriel Almond
can be traced back to the works of the anthropologists Radcliff-Brown and Malinowski.
It was later adopted by Talcott Parsons and Marion Levy in sociological analysis. David Easton's
systems analysis has been adapted to a structural-functional framework by Almond who has
constructed what he terms a developmental approach to politics. "Functionalism depends
ultimately on the Parsonian view that a system seeks to achieve particular goals and that all
behaviour and phenomena are related to this end. This has led to the development of structuralfunctionalism: which argues that all social behaviour and phenomena (constituted as patterns of
action or structures) fulfil (or fail to fulfil) particular functions for the system."
According to Davies and Lewis basic assumptions of this analysis are that all systems, have
structures which can be identified and that the parts or elements of these structures perform
functions within the system which have meaning only in terms of the system. They are dependent
on the system as an active entity for their existence, and are, in turn, linked in such a way as to
be also dependent on each other for their activity.
Functionalists have given lists of various lengths of functional imperatives which every system
must meet. According to Parsons the system must (i) adapt itself to an environment adaptation,
(ii) achieve collective goals goal attainment; (iii) maintain control of tensions in the system
pattern maintenance or tension management, and (iv) integrate the diverse actions of members
of society integration.
Structural-functionalism is the variant of functionalism that has been used most in political
research; Almond's primary interest lay in studying how political systems change from the
traditional to the modern and involving a scheme of classification of different types of political
systems. He defines a political system as "that system of interactions to be found in ill
independent societies which perform the function of integration and adaptation by means of the
employment or threat of employment, of more less legitimate physical compulsion".

Political systems are characterised by comprehensiveness inter dependence and existence of

boundaries. Comprehensiveness includes all the interactions inputs as well as outputs.
Interdependence implies that parts or subsets of the system have validity only in terms of the
working of the entire system. Almond defines boundary as "points where one system ends and
another system begins".
Almond has developed the political-functional requisites for the sake If the survival and
equilibration of the political system. He divides them to four input and three output functions.
1. Political Socialization and Recruitment: It is the process of inducting people into the political
culture of the system. This is broadly the function of citizenship training and recruitment into
specialized political roles.
2. Interest Articulation: It is concerned with the formulation and expression of interest claims and
demands for political action. This is generally performed by 'associational interest groups' or
formal organizations which specialise in communicating members' desires.
3. Interest Aggregation: It is combining demands into courses of proposed action. This is done
primarily by political parties.
4. Political Communication: It is the communication of various activities within the political and
from the political: to other subsystems different forms of mass media like radio, newspapers
perform this job.
1. Rule making-authoritative rule formulation.
2. Rule application -application and enforcement of laws.
3. Rule adjudication -applying rules to individual cases:
It can be seen that the input functions link the political system to the non-governmental subsystems in a society such as family, school, interest groups, parties, the press etc. The output
functions are wholly governmental.
In their book Comparative Politics: A Development Approach published in 1966 Almond and
Powell developed the structural-functional paradigm first enunciated in the Politics of the
Developing Areas. As per the new elaboration, the structural-functional analysis postulated three
levels of functions performed by all political systems: (i) system capabilities, (ii) conversion
functions and (iii) system maintenance and adaptive functions. System capabilities are the set of
total relationships of a political system with its environment; they are the 'output' and include
extraction, regulations, distribution, symbolic output, and responsive capability. Conversion
functions operate prior to system capabilities. It converts inputs into outputs, demands and
supports into capabilities. System maintenance and adaptive functions include political
socialisation and recruitment, the mechanisms by which the political system adjusts itself to
demands from the surrounding environment.
Many criticisms have been levelled against structural-functional approach. The whole thrust of
this approach is on the system maintenance and survival capability of the political system. It is
criticized for being unable to account adequately for systemic change and being ideologically
biased in a conservative and statusquoist direction.
It is an explanatory theory of democratisation in the Western liberal democratic setting. It is
unsuitable for analysing the politics of developing societies which are in dire need of change in all
areas of life. Again it is difficult to fit the so-called traditional societies into the framework of

Marion Levy says that this framework suffers from the "fallacy of functional teleology". This refers
to the tendency to trace out and explain the origins of a pattern of action in terms of its being a
functional necessity for the survival of the system.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the structural-functional approach has thrown light on areas
which have been previously overlooked or neglected and, in particular ,has offered significant
explanations of phenomena as fulfilling a particular need or function.
It has opened up a new mode of political analysis without being restrained by institutional
concerns. It has proved to be a very powerful tool for the study of comparative politics. It is a
useful framework for the analysis of problems in a cross-national and cross-cultural setting.
The study of functions, both manifest and latent, and dysfunctions of the system which the
approach facilitates provides a foundation for the study of social and political change.
Other Approaches
In addition to the major approaches to political analysis, a brief reference to a number of ancillary
approaches such as group approach, decision-making approach, communications theory, conflict
approach, game theory, public choice and political economy approach is in order, To begin with,
the 'group' approach views politics as a process activated by various group interests in society.
Arthur Bentley's "The Process of Government, published in 1908 and David Truman's 'The
Governmental Process' published in 1951 are important illustrations of this approach. The raw
materials of politics are supplied by the activities of social groups. Truman argued that the central
issues in politics are the pulls and pressures of interest groups and the process that adjusts the
conflicts among the interests of these groups. As Charles Hagan has observed," values are
authoritatively allocated in society through the process of the conflict of groups".
The decision-making approach has been advocated by writers like Richard Snyder and Charles
Lindblom. It centres round the processes of public decision-making. Political action is primarily
influenced by decisions and can be understood with reference to (a) who took the decision and
(b) how the decision was reached. This approach involves the analysis of a complex set of sociopsychological and institutional processes.
Karl Deutsch is the Chief exponent of the communications theory in his 'The Nerves of
Government' published in 1953. The political system is viewed as a "network of communication
channels" which possesses processes and mechanisms for acquiring, collecting, transmitting,
selecting and storing information. Government is a form of administration of communication
channels and is looked upon "somewhat less a problem of power and somewhat more as a
problem of steering; and steering is decisively a matter of communication". Deutsch views politics
as the "dependable coordination of human efforts for the attainment of the goals of society". The
central concern of politics is "enforceable decisions" which depend less on the threat of force and
more on information.
The 'conflict' approach looks at politics as natural reflex of the divergences between members
and groups in a society. Social diversities and competition for scarce 'values' (resources) lead to
conflicts which need settlement. Quincy Wright says, "Politics exists only when ends or means
are controversial. A conflict process is an ongoing contest between individuals and groups each
seeking certain values or rewards which are scarce and limited.
Game theory is an important dimension of conflict approach to politics. It has been defined as "a
body of thought dealing with rational decisions strategies in situations of conflict and competition,
when each participant or player seeks to maximize gains and minimize losses". Game theory
which applies mathematical model is by now a well accepted analytical tool to explain coalition
behaviour, judicial behaviour and conflict situations in both domestic and international politics.
The 'public choice' approach has grown in importance since the early sixties. It is concerned with


the nature of public goods and services and their allocative processes. It deals with the
relationships between the formal decision-making structures and the propensities for individual
and collective action. Governmental institutions and processes can be evaluated with the help of
this approach.
The allied concept of 'political economy' has a long history and diverse meaning. Originally it
stressed the relationship between government and economy in order to promote a competitive
market place. The political economy approach underscores the vital linkages that exist between
the political system and the economic system. The mutual interactions between politics and
economy results in more comprehensive and realistic appraisal of the political and administrative
The plurality of approaches to the study of politics demonstrates the complexity and broad gamut
of politics and the futility of any single approach. The different approaches are not self-contained
explanations. They highlight the indispensability of borrowing concepts, models and approaches
from other disciplines with a view to reaching more realistic explanations of political phenomena.
The Marxist Approach
The Marxist approach to political analysis stands as a class by itself. Its view of man, society and
politics stands distinct from the liberal approach. Marx viewed the individual as the social beingthe individual-in-society. It is different from the liberal view of an atomised, self-contained and
egoistic individual.
Liberals assume that society is composed of free individuals. Marxists assume that all societies in
history have been class societies. On the basis of the mode of production the class structure of
society is determined: Every society, where ownership of the means of production is monopolised
by a few, is class divided. So class societies are characterized by domination and conflict. 'Class'
is the basic unit in social analysis.
Marxism regards the mode of production and the relations of productions in society as the substructure which determines the political, ethical, cultural, religious, psychological and ideological
superstructure of society. Politics cannot be understood independently of the economic system
and the state is conceived as a dependent element of a total social process in which the principal
moving forces are those which arise from a particular mode of production.
In the Marxist view, State is viewed as an instrument of aggressive class exploitation. Politics is
conceived in terms of the "specific articulation of class struggles". Marx viewed conflict as the
central interest in the study of politics. His theory has only two mutually exclusive social types: a
society of conflict (pre-communist) and a society of harmony (communistic). The idea of class
conflict is principally related to Marx's emphasis upon the "material basis" of society. Classstruggle acts as the propeller of history. Thus Marxism supports the 'conflict model' rather than
the 'consensus model' of politics.
Politics cannot resolve the class conflict as "conflict is inherent in the class system, incapable of a
solution within that system". Revolutionary politics is the correct politics as it results in the
emancipation of the working class. In a classless society, state and politics will wither away.
Thus the Marxist approach takes into account the wider social causation of political phenomena
and results in the loss of autonomy and importance of politics. Despite several lines of criticism
directed against the Marxist approach, it remains an important and fruitful orientation to political
Methods of Political Science
A method is a way of investigation for arriving at a particular result. Physical phenomena are
amenable to a number of mechanical apparatuses. Social phenomena never recur at regular
intervals as the manifestations of general laws, but rather as the actions of individuals and


groups. Hence the necessity of sound scientific methods in the study of social and political
phenomena is greater than it is in the physical sciences. It has been well said "what the
microscope is to biology, or the telescope to astronomy, a scientific method is to the social
sciences". A number of methods have been suggested by scholars for the scientific investigation
of political phenomena. Scholars like Auguste Comte, J. S. Mill, G. C. Lewis, Alexander Bain,
Bluntschli and James Bryce have made valuable contributions in the field of methodology of
political science. In recent years special contributions have been made to this field by Max
Weber, John Dewex, Felix Kaufmann, Leo Strauss, Eric Vogelin, and Karl Popper. A detailed
discussion of the methods used in political studies is in order.
1. The Deductive Method
This method is philosophical, speculative and apriori. We proceed from general propositions to
less general or particular proposition. It starts with certain non-verifiable apriori assumptions
which are accepted as universal truths. This method involves abstract and analytical reasoning.
Political phenomena are studied by taking some major assumptions and deducing conclusions
from such assumptions. Here the conclusion makes explicit what is implied by the general
premise or assumption. Plato, Thomas Moore, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel, Rousseau, Green,
Bosanquet, Sidgwick and others advocated the use of this method.
Merits: Deductive method makes use of logical power reasoning. It examines particular cases in
the light of high standards of general theory. The conclusion derived becomes more consistent
and accurate. Deductive method is a good substitute for experimentation which is difficult and
cumbersome in dealing with social and political facts. From some broad assumptions and
generalisations based on intuition, knowledge, reasoning and skill, logical conclusions can be
derived in individual cases.
This method is less time consuming and less expensive. The scholar is not required to get lost in
the world of facts and experiments. He is concerned with the testing of the logical force of various
theories or principles in individual cases.
Demerits: Deductive method is criticised as imaginary and fictitious. The first premises or
general assumptions are taken for granted without testing their material truth. Based as it is on
abstract reasoning and hunch of the scholar it may be dogmatic. If the assumptions are wrong,
the conclusions become necessarily erroneous.
The method is unsuitable for behavioural sciences like political science. It pays less attention to
the complexities of human nature and society. It has less touch with reality. Behaviouralists reject
the method for its unsuitability and inadequacy in studying complex political phenomena.
2. The Inductive Method
In inductive method we proceed from particular facts to a general conclusion or from a less
general proposition to more general proposition. It involves the process of going from particulars
to the general. Induction is defined as "the legitimate derivation of universal laws from individual
cases". Repeated observation of a particular phenomenon or observation of similar facts enables
the scholar to arrive at inductive generalisation. Theories and universal laws develop from such
process of induction. Inductive method involves scientific observation, collection and classification
of facts or data which provide the basis for general theories. Study of facts should be free from
bias so that realistic conclusions can be arrived at.
Merits: Inductive method is scientific and empirical as it establishes general truth or conclusion
by observation of particular, concrete facts. If leads to precision and objectivity.
It takes into account all the complexities which abound in social phenomena. It takes into account
all the factors and variables causing such complexities.
This method is dynamic in as much as it enables the researcher to take into account all the


changing factors and to modify his previous conclusions. Bacon is a great modern exponent of
this method. This method has provided the matrix for the behavioural approach to political
Demerits: Inductive method involves a lot of time and money in observing and ordering facts for
the purpose of theory building. Collection of facts with all their diversity is an uphill task.
The generalisations derived by this method may not possess universal validity as they are drawn
out of limited facts. Any exception to the facts collected would adversely affect the general
conclusion reached. This method results in frequent changeability of generalisations. Another
limitation of the method flows from the unpredictability of human beings and the complexity of
social phenomena. Scholars should be cautious in making generalisations on the basis of
observation' and experimentation in political studies.
In conclusion, it can be said that both deductive (analytical) and inductive (empirical) methods are
necessary for the study of political phenomena. They supplement each other and prove as useful
tools in political studies which contain both ideal and empirical dimensions.
3. The Experimental Method
Political science admits of limited experimentation which forms an important method in the
physical sciences. There is little opportunity for conscious and controlled experimentation in a
field in which human beings constitute the subjects as human motives and values cannot be
weighed and tabulated like a chemical substance. Bryce observed that opinions, emotions and
other factors which influence politics are not capable of computations.
While scientific experimentation, as the term is employed in the physical sciences, is not
applicable to political studies, practical experiments are being constantly made consciously or
unconsciously. Governments, of necessity, are constantly trying experiments on the community.
Garner aptly observes: "Indeed, the whole life of the state is a succession of activities which, in a
sense, are experimental in character. The enactment of every new law, the establishment of
every new institution, the inauguration of every new policy, is experimental in the sense that it is
regarded merely as provisional or tentative until the results have proved its fitness to become
permanent. Merriam admits the possibility of experimentation in politics. He writes; "certainly the
state has more material available for such observation than any other institution. The army, the
schools, the public personnel, and an array of public institutions are directly under its
managements, and may be utilised for purpose of experiment if so desired".
In the post -colonial period western democratic institutions have been sought to be planted on the
soil of a number of Afro-Asian countries on an experimental basis. Gradual transfer of power to
India by the British was made on experimental basis. Government of India introduced Panchayati
Raj to all the states after the experiment proved beneficial in a few states. Administrative reforms
are being introduced on an experimental basis. As Comte rightly observed: "Political
experimentation really takes place whenever the regular course of state life undergoes conscious
or unconscious change".
4. The Method of Observation
According to Goode and Hat, "Science begins with observation and must ultimately return to
observation for its final validation". Observation may take many forms and it is at once the most
primitive and most modern research technique. P. V. Young writes: "Observation may be defined
as systematic viewing, coupled with consideration of the seen phenomena". The method of
observation is an inductive one. Lowell and Bryce laid great emphasis on this method, that is, the
study of governments and political institutions by observing at close range their actual working.
Lowell declared that "Politics is an observational and not an experimental science". He went on to
add that "the main laboratory for the actual working of political institutions is not a library but the
outside world of political life". Bryce's American Commonwealth and Modern Democracies (two
volumes) are the rich products of painstaking research bearing testimony to his range and depth


of observation. To the political investigator Bryce offered sound advice and a note of caution. He
must beware of superficial resemblances and deadly analogies; he must avoid generalizations
not based on fact; he must be critical of his sources of information, and he must disengage
personal and accidental causes from general causes.
The method has a distinct virtue as it enables in arriving at certain generalizations on the basis of
direct observation and reflection. Asirvatham aptly remarks: "It is practical and concrete and has a
refreshing sense of reality about it. It is in living touch with facts and is free from the charge of
being abstract and doctrinaire". But the method has certain limits. The fluidity of political
phenomena precludes sustained observation of the recurrence of the same phenomena and puts
definite limits on the formulation of general principles. Again observation of political phenomena is
never adequate unless it is supplemented by historical knowledge of their origin and
5. The Historical Method
It may be regarded as a form of experimental method. .The study of history is an invaluable aid to
the political scientist. It is a corrective to hasty, ill-considered and lop-sided conclusions in politics.
Political institutions have a history of their own and without a proper knowledge 'of their genesis
and growth, no comprehensive study of politics is possible. History not only explains the past; it
contains the key for interpreting the future.
The historical method is inductive in character. It is based on observation and the study of
historical facts. Aristotle, Montesquieu, Burke, Seeley, Maine, Freeman and Laski are some of the
leading exponents of this method. Gilchrist aptly observes: the source of experiment of political
science is history: they rest on observation and experience". The historical method, says Sir
Frederick Pollock, "seeks an explanation of what institutions are and are tending to be, more in
the knowledge of what they have been and how they came to be what they are, than in the
analysis of them as they stand".
The chief value of the method lies in the fact that it enables the scholar to arrive at certain
generalizations on the basis of hard 'facts garnered from history. These generalizations are
subjected to continuous verification. Besides, the' method offers us a broad historical perspective
against which present political realities could be examined and guidelines for the future could be
laid down.
Notwithstanding its value, the limits of the historical method have to be recognized. It does not
deal in values and ideals which guide the functioning of political institutions. Hence it has to be
supplemented by the "philosophical method which involves ultimate ends "and values. Again
every age and generation is confronted with peculiar problems and history as the record of past
events cannot offer ready-made solutions to tackle such problem-situations.
In using the historical method, certain precautions have to be followed. The scholar should guard
against superficial resemblances, parallels and analogies. He should not let the present and the
future be determined solely by the past. This will result in hidebound conservatism. He should be
objective in outlook and avoid the temptation of using history to support his preconceived notions.
He should remember that the oftquoted saying that history repeats itself is only half-truth.
Historical conditions and facts never exactly reproduce themselves.
6. The Comparative Method
It supplements the historical method. It helps the scholar to relate events, to establish causes and
effects, and to arrive at general principles. It gathers together the multiplicity of phenomena,
arranges them" in order, takes into account points of resemblances and differences and selects
the elements common to them. It was first used by Aristotle and was later developed by
Montesquieu, De Tocqueville and Bryce. According to J.S. Mill a perfect comparative method
involves a comparison of two political systems identical in every respect except one in order to
discover the effect of the differing factor.


This method is to be used with care. The canvass of analysis is to be broad enough to include the
multiplicity of factors and forces which govern political phenomena. Conclusions should not be
drawn hastily. Comparisons must not be pushed too far and analogies must not be far-fetched.
Herbert Spencer was guilty of pushing the analogy between the biological organism and society
too far. Broad and vague generalizations should be avoided. It is profitable to compare such
institutions which are contemporaneous in point of time and which have common historical basis,
political and social institutions. Gamer writes: the danger of the comparative method lies in the
liability to error to which it is susceptible in practice, since, in the effort to discover general
principles, the diversity of conditions and circumstances, such as differences of temperament and
genius of the people, economic and social conditions, moral and legal standards, political training
and experience, are apt to be ignored or minimized".
7. The Philosophical Method
This method is deductive and speculative in nature. It starts with certain self-evident, nonverifiable universal positions and then confirms or denies the facts. On philosophical and ethical
grounds, it first determines the nature and purpose of the state and then formulates the concept
of ideal state for the realization of this purpose. Inferences thus drawn are then sought to be
harmonised with the actual facts of history and of political life. The philosophical method proceeds
from the general to the particular; while the inductive, experimental, observational and historical
methods proceed from the particular to the general. This method has been advocated by political
idealists like Plato, Thomas More, Rousseau, Hegel, Bradley, Bosanquet and Sidgwick.
The philosophical method emphasizes the "ideal dimension" of political science. The political
process is governed as much by pragmatic considerations as by an enthusiasm for ideals. The
philosophical method, as Sait remarks," is a good antidote to pedestrianism. Philosophic
argument develops the intelligence; it imparts resourcefulness and elasticity of mind".
The weakness of this method lies in its tendency to make inferences from non-verifiable, abstract
axioms. As a result, political analysis becomes purely visionary, divorced from realities.
8. The Sociological Method
It looks upon the state primarily as a social organism, whose component parts are individuals and
seeks to infer its qualities and attributes from the qualities and attributes of individuals composing
it. The theory of evolution is applied to the study of state and other political institutions. It stresses
the role of sociological variables in influencing political behaviour.
9. The Biological Method
.' It attributes to the state the qualities of a living organism. The organs and function of the state
are studied by employing terminology and procedure similar to those in biological science.
Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Gumplowicz and Durkheim made notable contributions to the
sociological and biological points of Mew. Both these methods are not so much modes of
investigation as points of view from which the state may be studied. The biological method
pushes the analogy between the body politic (state) and the living organism too far.
10. The Psychological Method
It attempts to explain social and political phenomena and interpret such institutions through
psychological laws -the laws governing human behaviour. Social psychology helps to explain
political behaviour. Masters of political thought made use of this method to explain and interpret
the political institutions and processes. Modern writers like Graham Wallas, A. L. Lowell and
Harold Lasswell tried to base political theory on an analysis of human psychology. This method is
made use of in explaining political processes like election and voting behaviour, public opinion,
political parties and the role of personality in politics.


11. The Juridical Method

It regards political science as a discipline of legal norms. State is considered not as a social and
political phenomenon, but as a purely legal entity. It is the point of view of analytical jurists which
regards the state primarily as a corporation or judicial person an organization for the creation
and enforcement of law. This method presents a narrow and one-sided view of the state and
ignores the social and economic factors that profoundly influence the growth and functioning of
political institutions.
12. The Statistical Method
In modern times statistics has come to occupy an important place in the study of social sciences.
It involves collection, tabulation, classification and interpretation of data by certain sophisticated
techniques. This method has proved useful in political studies pertaining to elections, public
opinion, planning etc. The data collected and tabulated are placed at the disposal of the
government for the formulation of public policy. It is an auxiliary method which has to go along
with other methods of investigation for the scientific study of politics.
Thus a plurality of methods and techniques of research have been devised from time to time for
the systematic study of politics. On account of the broad scope and complexity of political
phenomena, different methods appear useful. to different fields. A balanced scholar would seek to
combine the empirical and philosophical methods of enquiry. He would seek to bring about a
happy blend of realism and idealism. Lipson aptly observes: "Summed up in a sentence, the
method of political science is an evaluative analysis, uniting description with theory".