Political Science has different names like ‘politics’ (Aristotle), ‘political science’ (William Godwin & Mary Wollstonecraft), ‘science of state’ (R. G. Gettel), and ‘science of politics’ (Sir. Fredrick Pollock). However, it lacks a precise terminology according to Jellinek, who argues that the field urgently needs one. Lowell also believes that the study of politics is lacking essential elements of a modern science, particularly a terminology that can be comprehended by educated individuals.
Garner argues that the unfortunate confusion resulting from varied terminologies in this field often leads to misunderstanding, unlike the literature of natural sciences that employs more precise and exact terminology (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 01). The term ‘politics’ in English is derived from three Greek words: ‘polis’ (City State), ‘polity’ (Government), and ‘politeia’ (Constitution). Hence, in its original Greek interpretation, politics pertains to the examination of the city-state and its administration both practically and philosophically.
The term ‘politics’ has been interpreted as a science and an art by lexicons and textbooks. However, the original Greek definition of ‘politics’ is no longer relevant since Hobbes associated it with ‘power’. As a result, Gilchrist suggests that while the term ‘politics’ can be used in its original Greek sense, it loses its scientific significance due to its modern usage. Distinguished writers like Jellinek, Willoughby, and Pollock have distinguished between the theoretical and practical aspects of politics.
U. Sharma and S. K. Sharma (02) categorize politics into two aspects: ‘theoretical politics’ and ‘applied or practical politics’. The former pertains to the fundamental characteristics of the state, disregarding its activities or methods for attaining objectives. Conversely, the latter concentrates on the active state, perceiving it as a dynamic institution.
Aristotle defined Politics as the science of the state. Max Webber described it as striving to share power or influence its distribution among states or groups within a state. Harold Lasswell viewed Politics as the study of influence and influential individuals who gain significant benefits. E.C. Banfield characterized politics as the activity of negotiating, arguing, discussing, applying force, persuading, etc., to address and resolve issues.
This definition encompasses a broader, non-political perspective. According to this viewpoint, politics is a social activity that is not necessarily connected to power. Bertrand de Jouvenel, Robert Dahl, and William Bluhm have also defined politics from a non-political standpoint. These definitions emphasize the inclusion of elements that are not political. As J. D. B. Miller explains, politics exists because society is divided and it is a natural response to the differences among its members. It is a permanent aspect of human society as there will always be social diversities. Politics involves expressing, advocating for, resolving, and altering disagreements. Therefore, in the new understanding of politics derived from various ideologies throughout history in Political Science field, it is freed from normative dimensions and redefined in empirical terms.
Consequently,it is not solely the study of the state and government but also examines power dynamics, its exercise,and the pursuit for its acquisition.
Michael Curtis argues that politics is concerned with the dispute and utilization of power, as well as making decisions between conflicting values, ideas, individuals, interests, and demands. The field of political science primarily aims to describe and analyze the acquisition, exercise, and regulation of power. It also investigates the objectives for which power is employed, the process of decision-making, factors influencing decisions, and the overall context in which they occur. Consequently, there has been a significant shift within Political Science from studying the state to examining power.
The expansion of inquiry has widened the scope of political analysis, making it more grounded in reality. This expansion has rescued Politics from its narrow focus on formality and institutionalism, which define the discipline as the science of the state. According to N. P. Guild and K. T. Palmer, this shift offers two primary benefits. The first advantage of the concept of power is that it directs attention towards a dynamic process rather than a legal abstraction such as the state. Consequently, Political Science becomes the study of how power is acquired, employed, and managed in contemporary society.
Consequently, political science encompasses both formal and informal processes involved in government (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 04). Another advantage of focusing on power as the central concept is that it highlights the importance of individuals, particularly the political man, as a fundamental unit of analysis. According to Jellinek, political science’s task is to study the fundamental relationships of public powers, including the conditions under which they manifest, their goals, and their impact, as well as to examine the inherent nature of the state. Willoughby states that the science of politics strives for an accurate description and classification of political institutions, as well as a precise understanding of the forces that create and control them. On the other hand, the art of politics aims to determine the principles necessary for efficient operation of political institutions. Janet defines politics as a subset of social science that deals with the foundations of the state and principles of government. Gareis views political science as considering the state as an institution of power (Machtwesan), encompassing its various relationships, origin, geographic location, demographics, objectives, ethical significance, economic challenges, living conditions, financial aspects, and ultimate purpose (Gareis).According to Seely, Political Science looks into the government’s phenomena, just as political economy deals with wealth, biology with life, algebra with numbers, and geometry with space and magnitude. (U. Sharma & S. K. Sharma, 04-05)
The traditional view of political science considers it as a field of knowledge that pertains to the study of state and government. On the other hand, the modern view identifies political science with ‘politics’ and places more emphasis on the latter. The main focus of political science is the concept of ‘power’ which plays a significant role in various levels of struggles involving individuals and their groups, whether it is at a local, regional, national, or international level.
Hence, Lasswell and Kaplan define politics as the ‘study of the shaping and sharing of power.’ (XIV) To conclude, Political Science is a science of state. It is a branch of social sciences dealing with the theory, organization, government, and practice of the state. To quote Garner: “In short Political Science begins and ends with the state. In a general way, its fundamental include, first, an investigation of the origin and nature of the state; second, an inquiry into the nature, history, and forms political institutions; third, a deduction therefrom, so far possible, of the laws of Political growth and development.”
Sharma Urmila and Sharma S. K. Principles And Theory In Political Science. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2007.
Gilchrist R. N. Principles of Political Science. Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co., 1975.
Miller J. D. B. The Nature of Politics. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1965.
Lasswell H. D. and Kaplan A. Power and Society. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952.