Sept 13, 2013
Chapter 2: The Many Ways of Studying Politics
• The study of politics is a science and an art- normative and empirical
• Politics as Philosophy:
o Has roots in moral/ethical philosophy > looks at ends of human life and reaching
goals, acts concerning personal vs. group pleasure.
o Asks why of answers to above Q’s > the answers shape our society
o Aristotle states humans are political animals:
We are part of a community OR
We make intentional decisions, not instinctive ones > governed by politics
(rules and regulations), seeking the “good life”
o Rules=what to do/not do, debate over them is normative discourse. Likewise when
gov’ts make laws, they discuss the “ends” > certain beliefs lead to different types of
o Normative topics/issues (right vs. wrong) embedded within gov’t : liberty, justice,
equality, common good etc.
Terms mean diff. things to diff. people, rules of good reasoning & need for
getting along help clear the gray areas.
• Politics as Social Science
o An empirical method in explaining politics, change from normative due to:
Dissatisfaction of how the philosophical approach explained political world
Combined with other natural sciences (phsyc, soc) to explain politics
o Controversy: natural science conducts controlled experiments of which they have
practical and ethical limits (dealing with human subjects)
o Can’t have nationwide experiments therefore Poli Sci is observational and analytic of
government processes > observes the data created by the real world (polls/stats
o Very difficult to generalize Poli Sci explanations, very circumstantial > what works in
one area at a particular time may not work elsewhere in different circumstances.
o When exploring connection btwn 2 things, there are independent and dependant
variables – can guess which is which through common sense. BUT
They may both be dependant variables being influenced by a third
independent variable OR 2
Sept 13, 2013
The independent and dependant variables are really switched and not what
we first thought they were.
Human life is overdetermined- generalizations of “if this, therefore that” are
Therefore, multivariate analysis developed that looks at multiple variables
o Electoral systems, review of legislation, role of civil servants, implementing public
policy > No Debate, either right or wrong.
o Behaviouralism focused on individuals and their behaviour towards
institutions/political processes > tried to create law like generalizations b