Dr Efanodor Harriet O.   (Published 2017)

Dr Harriet O.
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Lecture Note

Lecture six

Approaches to the study of politics

At the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Identify the approaches to the study of Politics.

  • Differentiate between the various approaches to the study of politics.

  • Identify the main features of the approaches to the study of politics.

  • Explain the criticism against the various approaches to the study of politics.

Approach means different ways from which the study of social and political phenomena may be examined.

  • Political scientists have adopted several approaches to the study of politics.

  • Approaches provide the political scientist with the conceptual framework in understanding political life.

  • In the study of politics we have two major approaches.

  • These are the traditional and behavioural approaches.

Traditional approach to the study of politics

  • Traditional approach involves the prescription and justification of political ideals or values, the historical description of governmental institutions and laws and observations of actions and activities. There are four approaches under the traditional approach.

  • The historical approach

  • Philosophical approach

  • Legal and institutional approach and

  • Primitive empirical approach.

The historical approach

  • Historical approach relies mainly on facts from the past to explain the present and probable political development with political institutions and process.

  • Traditional students of politics were concerned with the study of discovery and description of past political event.

  • The studies were narrative and descriptive.

Philosophical approach

  • This involved a preoccupation with ethical prescriptive and normative questions reflecting a concern with what ought or must be brought about rather than what is.

  • This approach was largely dominated by efforts of early student of politics/philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle etc.

  • The activities of the philosophers was directed at and dominated by the normative approach that is the search and analysis of the ideals, what should be or ought to be.

Legal and institutional approach

  • This approach focus on constitutional and legal framework and developments as well as issues as the rule of law, law making, interpretation, administration and enforcement of the laws and their implication.

  • The developments and application of laws and constitutions were narrated and described.

  • Institutional approach focus on formal institution of government which provide the subject matter of comparison in terms of their powers, functions, roles and mutual relations.

  • Institutional approach involves a relatively detailed description of analysis followed by an attempt to clarify which details are similar of different.

Primitive empiricism

  • Some aspect of the traditional studies was based on empirical subjects, observation, classification, comparison and explanation.

Characteristics and weakness of the traditional approach

  • Normative

  • Describes the characteristics of structures

  • Deals with formal properties

  • Ignores the behaviour of actors

  • Parochial in nature

  • Conservatives and static

  • Not scientific

Behavioural approach

The weakness of the traditional approach was compound by several developments.

  • First, there were the radical changes in the 20th century political system.

  • Second, there were the radical developments of the emerging post colonial states.

  • Third, there were the developments of new frontiers of science and behavioural.

  • Behaviouralism was developed by American political scientist as an alternative to the traditional approaches

  • Behavioural approach is regarded as the movement in political science, which was founded on the belief that political phenomena could be better studied by scientific method of observation, quantitative analysis and verification.

Characteristics/ main features of the behavioural approach

  • The objectives is to make the study of political science scientific,

  • The focus is on observable behaviour.

  • The use of quantitative method is encouraged.

  • Research was aimed at providing solutions.

  • Adopting of multi-disciplinary approach.

  • Behavioural employed statistical techniques.

Criticism of the behavioural approach

  • Political behaviour cannot be quantifiable

  • Overt political behaviour tells only part of the story.

  • There has been discrimination in borrowing of concept and techniques

  • Anti behaviouralist argue that political issues involve moral and ethical issues.

Post behaviouralism

  • The post behaviouralist complained that most of the discipline scholarship was removed from the imperative of political life.

  • The post behaviouralist emphasis substance rather than techniques, core realities rather than abstraction, social and political problem orientation and social and policy relevance.





Item Type: Lecture note(non-copyrighted)
Format: Word document,   25.7 KB
Copyright: Creative Commons LicenseCreative Commons license
Keywords: Approaches, study, politics
Department: Political Science and Public Administration
Field of Study: Political Science
Uploaded By: Izevbekhai Michael Nurudeen
Date Added: 26 Oct 2017 10:58am
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2017
Lecture URL: http://www.edouniversity.edu.ng/oer/lecturenotes/approaches_to_the_study_of_politics

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