Enduring Issues in Political ScienceFall 2003 Jóhanna Kristín Birnir Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Overview • Why Study Politics? • ‘Politicos’ versus Political Scientists • Theory, Concepts and Ideas in Political Research • Political Science? • Brief history of political science.
Why study politics? • “Primitive” societies man was one with nature. • Development of strict hierarchies • Men are “political animals” • Aristotle (Politics) • Bible full of political intrigue.
Contemporary Politics - Some Preliminary Definitions • “Who gets what, when & how” • Harold Lasswell, 1936 • “Politics is the exercise of power” • Robert Dahl (and other ‘realists’) • “Politics involves the authoritative allocation of values for a society” • David Easton, The Political System, 1953
Recurring themes • Power • Who holds it (authority) • How do you get it (politics)
Politics • The processes whereby a society makes binding decisions • who pays how much tax? • Flat tax versus progressive/regressive schemes • Who controls social security investments? • How to regulate commercial activity? • How much can a polluter pollute? • What content is permissible in radio/television/movies? • How to regulate civil activity? • Should/can same sex partners marry? • Should terminally ill be able to choose to die?
Why Study Politics? • Important issues • liberty / justice • stability / order / anarchy / terrorism • regulating important sets of activities • Size of Public Sector - • federal government employs 2.9 million • state & local gov'ts employ 14 million (growing) • -federal budget is $1.5 TRILLION annually
Politics and its objects • Ideas and interests • Democracy, Justice, feminism etc. • State/Government • Institutions • Legislatures, Federalism, Political parties etc. • Citizens/Communities • Processes • Elections, Socialization, Policy making etc.
The Challenge of Democracy • Democracy is more than a set of institutions • It depends on citizen involvement • It is therefore an achievement • Most of us are not born democrats • Or at least, if we are born democrats, our experience in our defining years is hardly conducive to the development of participatory behavior • Authority patters in family, church, schools, etc. all tend to authoritarianism • Political science as a discipline born with a ‘civic education’ mission • As a result of diminished political participation (here and abroad) this has been reinvigorated today
Why Study Politics? • "The heaviest penalty for declining to engage in politics is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself." • (Plato)
The Course • Lectures- regular attendance expected • Readings - Text & online readings • Three exams
What we will study - for example: • Regime types • What is a democracy? • Why might we want/not want to establish a democracy? • What are the issues and alternatives in democratic construction?
Select topics • Foundation for selection of topics • Western political thought • Development of liberal democracy
What we will study 2 • Development. • What are the differences between a more and a less developed economy? • How does an economy develop? • Can we help economic development along? • Is there a relationship between politics and economic development? • What kind of politics spur economic development?
What we will study 3. • The current status of social groups. • What is the relative status of social groups such as women/minorities/religious groups/linguistic groups in terms of: • Political representation? • Economic development? • How do we change/should we change the relative status of social groups such as women/minorities/religious groups/linguistic groups in terms of: • Political representation? • Economic development?
How will we study the topics of interest or What Makes a Political Scientist a Scientist ? • Lots of people have an ‘interest’ in politics • Watch the news; may even know quite a bit about political life • Know every twist & turn in the Condit affair, e.g. • Some may be involved politically • Campaign for local office • Work for a campaign • Join local associations, etc. • We could not conclude that these people are political scientists, though • Contrast ‘politicos’ w/ ‘political scientists’
‘Politicos’ • interested in politics of the day • often fascinated by political trivia/anecdotes/stories • often immersed in the personalities and struggles of the day • willing to generalize, but normally in a casual way • ‘political junkies’, maybe activists/partisans
Political Scientists - 1 • may be outwardly similar to ‘politicos’ in many respects, BUT • interested in observing general patterns in political life • interested in developing generalized explanation for many events • interested in testing general explanations
Political Scientists - 2 • interested in systematic knowledge or inquiry • develop a specialized set of skills, methods, and vocabulary (concepts) to assist in the systematic accumulation of knowledge about politics
Theory • generalized explanation • “…a scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation of a group of facts or phenomena; a hypothesis that has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment…” (OED)
Concepts • need a common, clearly understood, vocabulary to communicate/ accumulate knowledge • “a general idea about something, usually represented by a single word or short phrase…” (Anthony Heywood) • may be general or reasonably specific
Science • “A branch of study which is concerned either with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified and more or less colligated by being brought under general laws, and which includes trustworthy methods for the discovery of new truth within its own domain.” (OED)
A Science of Politics? • Reasonable people can differ on this! • Every student of political science ought to be able to articulate a position on this question! • Clearly, political research involves MORE than scientific research • since a science is necessarily based on observation, and since some political research also incorporates ethical/philosophical inquiry
Some things to consider • What kinds of questions are left out in a ‘science’ of politics? • what, if any, are the advantages of approaching at least the empiricaltype of political research from the point of view of a science? • what are the costs of NOT doing so?
Types of Political Research - 1 • Ethical/Philosophical • establish goals for collective life - the ‘good life’ • questions of value - what ‘ought’ to be done • logical consistency/moral coherence of arguments • critiques of existing practices and situations based on how things should be done • debate about the ends of political action • often called “political philosophy” or sometimes called ‘political theory’
Types of Political Research -2 • Empirical • what actually happens or exists in political life? • focus on what “is” as opposed to what “ought to be” • search for patterns based on observation • accumulation of knowledge about political life in all its manifestations
Types of Political Research -3 • Prudential • combines ethical and empirical research to inquire into what is best or most efficient given certain ethical or normative ends • evaluation of policy and political action in terms of their efficiency in achieving desired outcomes • involves an application of judgment
Empirical v. Normative Studies • Empirical: What is observed? • Normative: What “ought” to be? • Political Science involves BOTH the empirical (recognizing we can measure and find what is true) and normative (recognizing that we can make recommendations as to what ought to be).
Major Sub-Disciplines • Political Theory/ Political Philosophy • American Politics • Public Policy • Public Law • International Politics • Methods • Comparative • Area studies • Functions
PSC 100 -Enduring Issues in Political Science Fall 2003 Jóhanna Kristín Birnir Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Last time • Why Study Politics? • ‘Politicos’ versus Political Scientists • Political Science?
Today and next week. • A brief history of the research traditions in political science. • The Greeks • Middle ages • Renaissance • Enlightenment • Legalism • Behavioralism • Post-Behavioralism • Eclectisism (Including behavioralism and perestroika) • The scientific study of politics
Politics as Philosophy: Brief History of the Discipline • Foundation of Politics as a study is in political philosophy. • Rooted in normative emphasis. • Based on idea that man behaves INTENTIONALLY. We have free will and choose to take certain actions. • Study of politics was structured around opposing views of human behavior: man is ultimately good; man is ultimately self-serving.
Normative Foundations of Discipline • Focus on human behavior in interacting with others • First emphasis on what “ought” to be • Political Philosophy focused on ideas like • Rights • Equality • Justice • Freedom
The Ancient Greeks • Philosophy: Philos = loving, Sophia = wisdom. • 2,500 years ago, Greek civilization emerged • city states (‘the polis’) the center of political life • the polis was center of the universe • ‘idiot’ - word to describe someone with no interest in politics
Plato (427-347 BC) • Founder of a lyceum (school) for politics and law (first of its kind) • philosopher whose pedagogy was based on a dialogue b/w student & teacher • his political philosophy presented essentially in The Republic • Deductive theory • advocated a system of ‘enlightened dictatorship’ by ‘philosopher-kings’
Plato (continued) • Philosopher-Kings were selected from childhood • subjected to an incredibly intensive education in ethics, theoretical and practical politics, etc. • groomed to lead from a very early age • “who shall guard the guardians?” a key question
Deductive theorizing • Deduction follows structure of logically valid arguments: • If premises are true then the conclusion is necessarily true if the argument is valid. • (1: All books on philosophy are boring, 2: this is a book on philosophy 3: This book is boring. 1 and 2 are the premises 3 is the conclusion). • If the premises are not true or the conclusion does not follow then the argument is invalid. 1:some books on philosophy are boring 2: this is a book on philosophy 3: this book is boring. 3 does not necessarily follow from 1 and 2 )
Inductive or Empirical Research • Focus on rigorousobservation • Systematic (reliable) observation and study • Control (ability to isolate variables) • Based on the scientific approach • Capable of being repeated (reliability) and challenge) • May be both quantitative (involving numbers) or qualitative (involving non-numeric description, explanation).
Aristotle (384-322 BC) • Plato’s best know student • normally considered the ‘father’ of political science • in fact, he argued that politics was ‘the master science’ • first to undertake a systematic empirical (inductive) survey of political life (The Politics) • a survey of patterns across approx. 350 city states
The Ancient Greeks • Questions of Ethical/Philosophical and Prudential nature (Normative) • What is the good life for humans • Who should rule • city states (‘the polis’) the center of political life • Different approaches • Deductive (Plato) • Inductive or Empirical (Aristotle)
Middle Ages (5th-15th century A.D). • a subordination of political thought to theology • objective of political theory was to identify the will of God and the most appropriate way to organize secular life according to the Divine Plan • Human government & law subordinate to divine will and order • Natural law • So long as the objective was to subordinate political life to theology, genuine political thought was not possible
Political Thought During the Middle Ages • From roughly the 5th Century AD to the middle/end of the 15th Century • a subordination of political thought to theology • objective of political theory was to identify the will of God and the most appropriate way to organize secular life according to the Divine Plan
Middle ages church • According to the church the kingdom of god is not political and therefore there is no reason for man to engage in a struggle for power. Heaven is a spiritual state where one is indifferent to power. • Authority is unquestionably in hands of the church as the agents of god on earth. (draws on Augustine and the City of God). • Politics removed from the hands of the common man.
The Middle Ages (continued) • Reconciling the ‘heavenly’ and the ‘secular’ cities of God • boils down to a relationship b/w church & state • Political authority, normally monopolized by a monarch, was legitimated by means of a claim for a monarch having a special relationship to God • ‘the Divine Right of Kings’ • Origin of rule to the benefit of the subjects (Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologica - 1267)
Transitions to Modernity • So long as the objective was to subordinate political life to theology, genuine political thought was not possible • ‘renaissance’ - a ‘rebirth’ of thought, culture • based on ‘humanism’ • belief that humanity, not God (or a Deity) is and should be the central focus of concern in philosophy, the arts, politics, etc.
Historical currents underpinning the Renaissance and Enlightenment • During the late Middle Ages, peasants moved in increasing numbers to the towns. • As trade and communication improved during the Renaissance, town-dweller increasingly questioned the absolute authority of the church in favor of emphasis on their individual merit and hard work, unlike the inherited wealth of traditional aristocrats.
Renaissance: “Re-Birth” • Intellectual focus back to human action • Machiavelli (1513): control of state can be used to individual ends. Power can be controlled. • Politics seen as means to end; power as an end in itself.