Evolution of Political Science

A new discipline, political science emerged in the 1950s. It takes its roots from history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and economics. Though a branch of social science, the political study had clear distinctions from the disciplines mentioned above. Over the time, scholars defined scientific methods able to conceptualize politics as a science. Positivism, inductivism, and behavioralism were to explain political science at its very beginning.

The positivist approach to the science is a universal generalization of existing facts. The same approach is used in natural sciences where scholars can obtain knowledge by observation or experiment. Positivists believe that in social sciences knowledge could also emerge from inductive inference, just like in the natural sciences. They also used inductive reasoning to create theories based on the positivist practices. Behavioralism focused on phenomena where individual human behavior was observable. The three approaches have been criticized and complemented with falsificationism and deductivism.

It turned out that inductivism did not guarantee true conclusions from true observations. It only gave assumptions. Philosopher Karl Popper suggested that falsifiable theories that have not been falsified are truly scientific. Deductive reasoning comes alongside falsificationism. It allows making conclusions based on multiple assumptions that are usually true. The use of deduction gave rise to the rational choice method. Rational choice theorists referred to theoretical assumptions before they subjected the theory to empirical testing.

Though entirely different, these insights into political science were combined. Theories generated by either of these methods are considered scientific. While behaviorists and rational choice theorists may disagree on logical reasoning as they arrive at certain conclusions, interpretivists highlight the importance of contextual factors. Such a conflict lies in the basis of political science.

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