Monday, July 23, 2012
CHARACTERISTICS OF POLITICAL ANALYSIS
INTRODUCTION Modern and/or political analysis is an introduction to the concepts underlying modern approaches to the study of politics. The scope of the discipline is delineated and the foundations of empirical research, including the philosophy and methodology of science especially as these apply to social science, is considered. Various alternatives and critiques is also presented and evaluated. This course is intended to introduce students to some of the ongoing debates regarding the study of politics, or politology. It is not really a philosophy of social science course, nor do we try to cover the history of political analysis. Rather, the course addresses some of the more important philosophical questions underlying the theoretical and methodological choices that all political scientists must make, and relates these to recent work and debates in the discipline. The most obvious of these questions is “Is it possible to have a scientific study of politics?” But there are also other questions regarding theories of knowledge and the nature of society that are relevant to current political analyses. This course first covers a number of these epistemological and ontological debates. The purpose of the course (political analysis) (1) The course aims to familiarize students with a number of key approaches to the study of politics. Students will be introduced to a range of approaches and encouraged to reflect on the opportunities for and limits of independent research presented by each approach. (2) The course aims to help students develop an understanding of what is involved in carrying out independent research in the fields of political science and political theory. The course will guide students through the basic problems of research design in political science/theory, focusing primarily on the problem of identifying a researchable project. • To be able to understand some of the key approaches to political analysis •To be able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of perspectives commonly employed in political analysis • To be able to assess the applicability of various approaches to a variety of research questions • To have engaged in independent research To introduce a variety of modeling strategies that you will see applied in political science literature. Politics as process has both institutional and non-institutional dimensions. The purpose of this course is to explain the non-institutional political processes and thereby to sensitize the students on informal processes of politics. To introduce the basic concepts and approaches related to modern political analysis. To equip the students with methods of political analysis. Key Points • Political analysis involves three main approaches; empirical, normative, and semantic. • Theorizing normatively about politics remains difficult and often contentious. While recognizing this, it should be noted that one can exaggerate these difficulties, and a moral relativism is not the inevitable consequence of political philosophy. • In practice, these three forms of political analysis are not mutually exclusive. We need to know what is, before we can talk sensibly about what ought to be. Similarly, empirical analysis presupposes some normative assumptions. • Empirical political analysis tends to use either inductive or deductive reasoning. The former can be illustrated by behaviouralism, the latter by rational choice theory Modern Empirical and Semantic Analysis The second type of contemporary analysis common to politics, as well as most other academic disciplines, is empirical. Empirical analysis seeks to identify observable phenomena in the real world with a view to establishing what is, rather than what ought to be. Empirical analysis, of course, is the basis of the natural sciences, and many so-called positivist political analysts seek to bring to bear what they see as the impartial and value free methods of the natural sciences to the study of political phenomena. The third type of analysis commonly used in politics is analysis of a semantic kind. As its name suggests, this form of analysis is concerned with clarifying the meaning of the concepts we use. This is an important function in political studies. So many of the concepts used in politics have no commonly accepted definition, and, indeed, have been described as ‘essentially contested concepts’. Defining what we mean by key terms such as democracy and freedom, then, is a crucial starting point. In reality, the three forms of political analysis described above are not used inde- pendently of each other. As Wolff (1996: 3) succinctly points out, ‘studying how things are helps to explain how things can be, and studying how they can be is indispensable for assessing how they ought to be’. Thus, in the first place, normative claims are, at least partly, based on empirical knowledge. In the case of Hobbes, to give one example, the normative claim that we ought to rely on an all-powerful sovereign to protect us derives from the largely empirical assumption that human nature is so brutally com-petitive that there is a great risk to our security without the protection of the so-called ‘Leviathan’. Conversely, a great deal of empirical analysis presupposes some normative assumptions. This can be seen, in particular, in our choice of investigation. Thus, students of politics choose, say, to investigate the causes of war because it is assumed that war is undesirable and therefore we should try to eliminate it. It is instructive at this point to appreciate the differences between what might be called empirical and normative political theory. From a positivist perspective, the former refers to the generation of testable hypotheses of political phenomena. An example would be a hypothesis which postulated that democracy can only flourish in societies with a market economy and private ownership. REFERENCES 1. Varma S. P., 2002, Modern Political Theory, Vikas Publication, New Delhi. 2. Almond G A and Powell G B, Comparative Politics: A Development Approach, Boston, Little Brown and Co. 3. Dahl Robert, 2003, Modern Political Analysis, Pierson Education, Delhi. 4. Gupta Sachdeo and Singh S K, Political Theory and Ideology, Ajanta Prakashan, Delhi, 1987.