Monday, March 3, 2014

Political science

“Man is by nature a political animal.”


“Political is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

“Political science deals with the nature, the accumulation, the distribution, 
the exercise, and the control of power on all levels of social interaction, 
with special emphasis upon the power of the state.”

Hans J. Morgenthau (1904-1979), American political scientist

Political science is:
“The study of “who gets what, when, and how”.”

H. D. Laswell

“The study of the processes, principles, and structure
of government and of political institutions; politics.”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, © 2000.

“the study of conflict and cooperation within societies. At its most basic level, 
this entails asking how and why life and property should be protected and how 
cultural and economic aspirations are expressed and accommodated. The study of 
national and international political systems involve investigation of how individuals, 
social movements, groups and parties relate to each other and to government; 
how governmental systems operate; and how and why certain policies work.”

University of Calgary. Faculty of Arts. Department of Political Science.

“Political scientists analyse the causes and consequences of war, disputes over territory 
and resources, problems of environmental degradation, problems of sexual and 
racial inequality, poverty, terrorism and refugees, and the nature and 
consequences of globalization. More generally, political science researchers 
investigate such concepts as justice, liberty, representation and democracy, and 
explore ideologies that try to make sense of the political world, such as conservatism, liberalism, socialism, fascism, feminism, and environmentalism.”

University of Calgary. Faculty of Arts. Department of Political Science.

“The study of relationships between citizens and governments (as well as 
relationships between governments) and the impact of issues such as 
race, gender, nationalism, and capital on those relationships.”
Political science
  • The past affects the future
  • To understand our current government, we must look at the past
  • Political writings build on each other, proving or disproving hypotheses and theories
  • study of national governments (oldest)
  • comparative politics
  • international politics
  • political theory
    • normative (what should be, theoretical)
    • empirical (what is, practical)
  • public law
  • public administration
  • public policy analysis
    • analyse what the government is doing
Major topics
  • The origin, nature, and purpose of the State (political theory)
  • Various forms of government (e.g., presidential and parliamentary systems)
  • The concentration or dispersal of powers found in governments (checks and balances)
  • Relationships between the individual and the State (rights and liberties)
  • Elections
  • Political parties and interest groups
  • Ideologies that affect governmental policy (democracy, socialism, communism and fascism)
  • Public policy
  • International relations
Political science in Canada
  • As an academic discipline, dates back to late 19th century
    • As do most disciplines
  • Strongly connected to constitutional law and economics
  • Canadian Political Science Association founded in 1913
  • Strong American influence in English Canadian universities in 1960s
    • Vietnam War occurred, universities established, professors trained or came from America
  • Growth in Quebec coincided with the Quiet Revolution
    • Language laws, church
Reference requires
  • Basic knowledge of current events and Canadian history
    • affects everyday life
  • Familiarity with structure of Canadian government at all levels (federal, provincial, municipal) and key international organizations, e.g. U.N.
  • Familiarity with types and organizations of government publications
Literature needs
  • Data files are much in demand, especially those with detailed election information, but also those that capture government activity
  • Political and issue advocacy organizations produce a considerable variety of publications in print and now in digital form on the web
  • Detailed information about the political process (who did what when), especially in the legislative and executive branches (and the judicial branch for those in constitutional law) remains popular
  • Substantial use of public opinion data (polling)
Teachers and students
  • Popular syntheses
  • “Who did what when and why” factbooks (help with classroom assignments)
  • Current awareness material to answer questions about current events
  • Popular, pro and con discussion of visible issues
    • Health care, daycare, same-sex marriage, environmental issues
    • No lack of material, problem is balance
  • Biographies of politicians, statesmen/women
  • Government addresses and services
  • a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.
Some see political science as citizen training or indoctrination. Political science then becomes civics which is designed to teach students to be good citizens and participate appropriately in the political process

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