About Political Science and Government
Definition of Political Science
The study of politics at all levels of which the most basic is the study of conflict. Analysis of personal conflict may be a help to political scientists. Psychologists study aggressive instincts, or individual capacities to compromise, and these assist in understanding group conflict.
Collective conflict and its resolution is bound to be the main field of interest. Broadly speaking, study takes place at three levels: locally, nationally and internationally. Conflict between states is the core of the discipline international relations, sometimes taught as part of the syllabus of university departments of political science and sometimes taught in its own department. Conflict between local groups at the community level is also studied by political scientists. Groups may clash over the building of a new bypass or the closing of a footpath. In some countries local ethnic groups may resort to armed conflict.
A very large proportion of political science, however, is concerned with conflict and its resolution between nationally organized associations, of which there are two forms - pressure groups and political parties. Sometimes a case study might examine one of these in detail: frequently, however, comparative treatment yields greater comprehension of the political scene. This area of the subject is called comparative politics or political institutions. It involves some knowledge of constitutional law, a good deal of the historical background to institutions and an understanding of a country's political culture which includes its value-system as it relates to politics.
Another wide field of political science is concerned with the implementation of political decisions. Modern states have large administrative apparatuses which need supervision and co-ordination. These themes come under the rubric of public administration, one of the early foundations on which academic study of politics was built. Recently it has taken some stimulus from management studies and organizational theory. In addition it has extended into the study of policy-making because of the increasing influence of technocracy.
A further sector of the discipline is devoted to studying reasons for the maintenance and breakdown of political systems. Rebellions and revolutions are important watersheds in world history. The dramatic disintegration of the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1990 is a recent reminder of how an apparently stable regime may quickly collapse. Examination of revolutions leads to investigating cleavages within states, their depth and intensity and how to deal with them. This in turn has led to the exploration of environments of political systems, particularly where the polity overlaps with the economy and society. The two areas are known, respectively, as political economy."
Source: The Blackwell Dictionary of Political Science available through CREDO Reference.
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