Political Science

Question 1

What is Politics? Discuss the power view of politics.


Politics is the activities of the political parties and it is not surprising if his observations are often accompanied by such statement that ‘Politics is a dirty game which gentlemen should not play. Often people mistrust and dislike politicians. But the terms is widely used in contexts other then that of political parties.

A most useful answer is that politics is concerned with State and Government. It is customary to 100K upon politics as arising from and concerned with the formal political institutions such as Parliament executive, judiciary bureaucracy etc. It is considered as the science an dart of government and covers the entire field of political life and behaviour. It embraces the relative between state and individual as well as the relations among the states. In this sense, politics can be domestic, national, federal municipal, imperial or international.

The power theory takes a functional view of politics. It understands politics as the struggle for power, i.e., to share power, to influence the distribution of power and to make authoritative decisions. Politics is concerned with questions like; how to acquire power and how to maintain it ? What is the basis of power, its form and scope? What is the object of power and how is it lost? For example, Harold Lass well defined politics as a political act performed in power perspective’ or as ‘a power oriented behaviour with respect to the process of government within the framework of state.’ Another writer V.O. Key

Despite the omnipotence of power in political life, there is no widespread agreement on its meaning. The OED defines power as ‘the ability to do or act’ and ‘control, influence, ascendancy’. Webster Dictionary defines it as the ‘possession of control, authority, or influence over others’. In a broad sense, power is the production of intended effects. It is the ability to get what we want.

Max Weber defines it as ‘the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests. And rain defines it as ‘the use of resources to secure conforming conduct of others. According to Guild and Palmer, power is the ‘the ability to affect or to control the decisions, behaviour, policies, values and fortunes of other. In brief, the essence of power lies in the capacity of persons or groups to get things done effectively.


In the modern society, there are mainly three forms of power through which many are controlled by a few. Although certain writers have talked of many forms of power such as power of wealth, armaments, civil authority, influence, opinion, religion, or kingly power, naked power, revolutionary power etc., yet all these forms can be reduced to three broad categories. John Galbriath has termed them as

  • Condign power or the power of punishment.
  • Compensatory power. It wins submission of others by an offer of reward, by giving something of value to those who submit to it.
  • Conditioned power.

This power is exercised by changing beliefs and it includes persuasion, education, culture etc. This power is central to the functioning of modern economy and polity in the capitalist and the socialist countries alike. Similarly, Friedrich points out : An inspection of the political scene discloses three primary forms of power-physical, economic and psychic. In short the three forms of power are : Political. Economic and Ideological. Let us discuss these forms in detail.


Political power is basically power of political coercion and political authority. Force is the basis of state power and although it is only a background condition on normal civilian politics, yet its presence is the essence of any political relationship. Political coercion is exercised over the citizens by agents of government using force or the immediate threat of it, leaving the citizens with no real choice about their behavior.

Today direct physical coercion is the prerogative of the state. Law is a set of rules according to which the state exercises its monopoly of coercive power, declared and enforced, as the only legitimate power. It is through the use of this power that policies are made, implemented and those who disobey are punished.

Question 2

What is political theory? Discuss the nature and significance of political theory.


Meaning of Politics?

It is very difficult to answer this question because it is the most controversial topic of social life. Civilized man has always been searching for answer to this question. Everybody, from the common man to the political philosophers, has been interpreting it in his own way, but no satisfactory solution has been found so far.

These days everybody acknowledges this fact that politics is influencing every aspect of human life. Whatever the type of administration, political activities seem to be going on around us. We may, or may not participate in political activities, we can't get rid of politics. People are considered to be the rulers in democratic countries and they are given the right to choose their representatives to rule over them. Therefore, the citizens of such countries are more vigilant about politics. They, not only choose their representatives after every five years, but, go on evaluating the work of their rulers daily. Thus, all citizens take active part in politics in a democracy.

In modern time, state is considered a social welfare institution. Therefore, it is always busy in making the daily life of the citizens happy and, consequently, it fulfils every type of their need. This work is done by those persons who are elected rulers by the public. They run the administration according to the will of their voters. Thus, there is close relationship between the rulers (elected representatives) and the ruled (voters). Rulers, for remaining in their position, always try to secure the support of their voters through various means and on the other hand, the voters, with the help of their limited wisdom, try to hand over the reins of administration in the hands of those who work for public interest. Election of the rulers by the voters and the effort to solve the problems of the citizens by the rulers is the most significant problem of the modern times. The solution of this problem gives birth to politics.

It is because of this relationship of politics with common man's life that Aristotle has called man, a political being. Politics is involved in the mutual relations of men, in the relations of citizens and rulers and in the efforts of satisfying the unlimited needs of man with limited means. When Aristotle calls politics, the Master Science, he tries to prove that the knowledge of politics is extremely essential to understand the environment around the man. In the views of Aristotle, political aspect of man's existence is the most important aspect and this aspect determines the other aspects of human life. He has said that legally politics tells us as to what we should do and what not.

The relationship between politics and individual life being so important, it is extremely essential to study it systematically.


Distinction between political theory and political thought, political philosophy and political science.

As stated above, political theory is the study of the phenomena of the state both from philosophical as well as empirical points of view. In this context, certain similar terms are also used such as political thought, political philosophy, political science. Although all of them are concerned with explaining the political phenomena, yet political theory is distinct from them. The distinction of political theory from other terms is as follows.

Political theory and political thought: It is generally believed that political thought is the general thought comprising of theories and values of all those persons or a section of the community who think and write on the day-do-day activities, policies and decisions of the state, and which has a bearing on our present living. These persons can be philosophers, writers, journalists, poets, political commentators etc. Political thought has no 'fixed form and can be in the form of treatise, speeches, political commentaries etc. What is important about political thought is that it is 'time bound' since the policies and programmes of the governments change from time to time. Thus we have Greek thought or Roman thought of ancient period or the political thought of the medieval ages. Political theory, on the other hand, is the systematic speculation of a particular writer who talks specifically about the phenomena of the state. This speculation is based on certain hypothesis which may or may not be valid and may be open to criticism. Theory provides a model of explanation of political reality as is understood by the writer. As such there can be different political theories of the same period. Also, political theory is based on certain discipline-be it philosophy, history, economics of sociology. And lastly, since the task of theory is not only to explain the political reality but also to change it (or to resist change), political theory can be conservative, critical or revolutionary. According to Barker, while political thought is the immanent philosophy of a whole age, political theory is the speculation of a particular thinker. While political thought is implicit and immersed in the stream of vital action, political theory is explicit and may be detached from the political reality of a particular period.

Political theory and political philosophy: Philosophy is called 'science of wisdom'-wisdom about this world, man or God. This wisdom is all-inclusive and tries to explain everything. When this wisdom is applied to the study of political phenomena or the state, it is called political philosophy. Political philosophy belongs to the category of normative political theory. It is concerned with not only explaining what 'is' but also what 'ought to be. Political philosophy is not concerned with contemporary issues but with certain universal issues in the political life of man such as nature and purpose of the political organisation, basis of political authority, nature of rights, liberty, equality, justice etc. The distin tion between political philosophy and political theory is explained by the fact that whereas a political philosopher is a political theorist, but a political theorist may not necessarily be a political philosopher. For example, David Eas on is an eminent.

Political theorist but is not considered a political philosopher. Though theory deals with the same issues as political philosophy, it can explain them both from philosophical as well as en.pirical points of view. In other words, while political philosophy is abstract or speculative, political theory can be both normative and empirical. A political theorist is as much interested in explaining the nature and purpose of the state as in describing the realities of political behaviour, the actual relations between state and citizens, and the role of power in the society. As has been pointed out by Arnold Bretch, philosophical explanations are theories too, but they are non-scientific. Political theory is concerned both with political institutions and the ideas and aspirations that form the basis of those institutions. However, we must not forget that though we can analytically distinguish between philosophy and theory, yet if political theory is separated from political philosophy, its meaning will appear distorted and it will prove barren and irrelevant. Theory must be supplemented by philosophy.

Political theory and political science: As a discipline, political science is much more comprehensive and includes different forms of speculation in politics such as political thought, political theory, political philosophy, political ideology, institutional or structural framework, comparative politics, public administration, international law and organizations etc. With the rise of political science as a separate discipline, political theory was made one of its subfields. However, when used specifically with emphasis on 'science as distinct from 'theory', political science refers to the study of politics by the use of scientific methods in contrast to political philosophy which is free to follow intuition. 'Political theory when opposed to political philosophy is political science'. Political science is concerned with describing and explaining the realities of political behaviour, generalizations about man and political institutions on empirical evidence, and the role of power in the society. Political theory, on the other hand, is not only concerned about the behavioural study of the political phenomena from empirical point of view but also prescribing the goals which states, governments, societies and citizens ought to pursue. Political theory also aims to generalize about the right conduct in the political life and about the legitimate use of power.