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Last updated: January 22, 2019

Political Science originated with the ancient Greeks during the first century. During that time, the philosopher Plato wrote plenty of dialogues about politics, talking of nature of justice, what constituted the good governor and what was truly best for humanity. In Political Science and Politics, there are various approaches being studied such as philosophical traditional approaches. The traditional approach focuses more with the study of organisation and activities of the state and principles, and ideas which underlie in political organisations and activities. These approaches were normative and idealistic.
Politics is the activity, actions, and policies that are used in order to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government. Politics refers to the practices of the elected and nonelected political system with regard to manners in which leaders are elected and appointed. These activities are to improve one’s status or increase the power within an organisation.
Political science is the systematic study of politics, or the process in which the governmental decisions are being made. It deals with the analysis of political system, the theoretical and practical applications to politics. Political science is the study of politics, as well as the economic system of different states and the manner in which relationships with other states are in good state or condition.
Politics as an Art of Government
‘Politics is not a science, but an art’ (Chancellor Bismark). The art he talked of was the art of government, which was the exercise of control within the society through the making and enforcement of collective decisions. The US political scientist David Easton defined politics as the “authoritative allocation of values”. Therefore, politics cover the various processes through which the government responds to pressures from the larger society, particularly by giving out benefits, rewards and penalties. Government is seen as one of the institutions of the governance. Politics is what governments or states do, such as activities being regarded as being the ‘outside’ politics, which are; businesses, schools, educational institutions, families and community groups.
Politics as Public Affairs
Here it focuses on “the public life” and “the private life”. The public life is considered to be the political whereas the private life is non-political. This view was located from the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle, where in his book he quotes that “man is by nature a political animal”, which means that human being can only find their happiness or live the good life through political community. Therefore, the private and public life were clarified. According to the traditional approach, public life was considered to be a political sphere and a private life being considered as a non-political sphere, where one can have his or her own privacy.
Politics as compromise and consensus
Politics is seen to be one of the most important key towards problem solving, conflict resolutions, that is, by compromise and negotiation, rather than, through force and violence. Therefore, a political solution is through discussion and peaceful way to can overcome the problems or obstacles. A peaceful resolution will help to reach the agreement of an issue and if that does not apply then conflicts will be irreconcilable. Hence, politics implies wide dispersal of power and the need for conciliation rather than violent suppression.
Politics as Power
Power in its broadest sense is the ability to do something or act in a particular way in order to achieve in what one desire. In politics, power is considered as a relationship that influence the behaviour of others in a manner not of their choosing, which means being controlled in a way. It concerns the production, distribution and the use of resources in the course of the society at large. Power is the mean of which struggles are conducted.

The Philosophical tradition
Perspective or normative is the main approach which involves the analytical study of ideas and doctrines that have been the central of political thought. The history of the political thought focus more on a collection of major thinkers, such as Plato to Marx and a canon of classic texts. The normative approach makes judgements and offers recommendations.
The Empirical tradition
The empirical approach stresses on the experience or the ground reality in the study of politics. As a result of the influence of John Locke and David Hume, this approach is just as old as the philosophical approach. The first practitioner of this approach was Aristotle who studied a large number of constitutions in order to prepare a classification of constitution. This approach is based on observation and experiment. Empirical approach is characterised by the attempt to offer a dispassionate and impartial account of political reality. The approach is descriptive in which it seeks to analyse and explain.
In politics behaviouralism has been a product of the empirical approach or tradition. It focuses more on the study of political behaviour. Since the mid nineteenth century the political analysis has been dominated by the scientific tradition which is reflecting the growth of positivism. Political analysts such as David Easton proclaimed that politics may have adopted the methodology that of natural sciences, and gave rise to an increase of studies in areas that are best suited to the use of measured quantity research methods, such as election behaviour, behaviour of legislators, and the behaviour of municipal politicians and lobbyists.
Relational-choice theory
This theoretical approach to politics is what is called ‘formal political theory’ recently, known as rational-choice theory, public-choice theory and political economy. It draws heavily on the economy theory to build up models based on series of rules, usually for personal interest behaviour. Political theory at least produces or offers a useful analytical device, which may provide the ability to see into the action of voters, lobbyists, bureaucrats and politicians, as well as into the behaviour of states within the international systems. This approach had its impact on political analysis which is called ‘institutional public-choice theory’. It also applied in the form of game theory which developed more in the field of mathematics. Rational-choice theory has been accepted universally to the political analysis.
New institutionalism
In the 1950s, the study of politics was more focused on the study of institutions. The old institutionalism focused on the rules, procedures and formal organisation of government, and employed methods to be used in the study of law and history. Political institutions are no longer equivalent with political organisations; reason being, they are considered as the set of rules, which shows or guide the behaviour of one’s actors. These rules, are set to be informal as formal, policy-making processes which some of the time are more shaped by unwritten conventions, or understandings than by formal arrangements.
Critical approaches
Critical approach to politics has grown excessively, until the point whereby Marxism had constituted the principal alternative to mainstream political science. Karl Marx was the first theorist who attempted to describe politics in scientific terms. Marx made efforts to undercover the driving force of historical development and this enabled him to make predictions about the future laws that had the same status in terms of proof of laws in the natural sciences. Modern political analysis became richer and more diverse in terms of the emergence of new critical perspectives, examples such as feminism, critical theory, green politics, and constructivism, post-structuralism and post-colonialism. Critical approaches is divided into two main points, that is, the first critical is that, they seek to contest the political status quo, which is by positioning themselves with the interest of marginalised or oppressed group and that they seek to uncover the inequalities in gender, as feminism in politics drew attention to systemic and pervasive structure of gender inequality. The second point is that, they tried to go beyond the positivism of mainstream political science, pointing out that the role of consciousness is improving social conduct and, therefore, the political world.
Concepts, models and theories
Concepts, models and theories are the tools of political analysis. However, when coming to politics, these tools need to be used in proper way. Concept as a tool is to make one to be able to think, analyse, explain, argue and criticise, merely for perceiving the external world so that it does not in itself give us knowledge about it. Concepts are therefore general; as they can relate a number of objects, indeed to any object that complies with any other characteristics of the general idea itself. Concepts help us to make sense of the world which is the building blocks of the human knowledge. Concepts give us the sense to know what is going on around us as humans. Concepts can also be difficult customers, whereby, its revolution can be regarded as an ideal type in the sense where it draws attention to a process of fundamental, political change and violence.
A model is thought of as a representation of something in a smaller scale. Models aid in the achievements of interpretation and being organised because they include a network of relationships that highlight what is meant and has significance of relevant empirical data. The most influential model that will help one in the political analysis is the model of political system which was developed by David Easton. This model sets out to explain the political process, as well as the functions of the political actors through what is called a system analysis. The political system consists of inputs and outputs. Inputs consist of what people demand what the public demands and need for their support. The demands will be their standard of living, improving employment prospects, and welfare payments to greater protection for minority and individual rights. As for their supports, include tax paying, compliances, and being willing to participate in public life. The outputs consist of what is being decided by the government, including the making of policies, the passing of laws, imposition of taxes and the allocation of public funds.
A theory is the idea that explains and justifies something. A theory offers a systematic explanation of a body of empirical data. In politics, theories are said to be more or less true, because models can be said to be more or less useful. However, theories and models are often connected in such a way that political theories may be explained in terms of series of models. In conceptual device, models and theories contain hidden values or implicit assumptions. There major theoretical tools called microtheories and macrotheories which address issues of power and the role of the state; that is, pluralism, elitism, and class analysis. According to Kuhn, natural sciences dominated the single paradigm; science that was developed through a series of revolutions in such a way that the old one was replaced by the new paradigm. Paradigm had what is called political ideologies, that is, liberalism, conservatism, socialism, fascism and feminism. These ideologies were carried out to acknowledge the basis of a particular ideological tradition.
The traditional approaches to the Political Science were widely spread till the outbreak of the Second World War. These approaches were normative and idealistic. Traditional approaches have four characteristics, that is; traditional approaches are largely normative and stresses on the values of the politics, its emphasis is on the study of different political structures, they are made very little attempt to relate theory and research and these approaches believe that since facts and values are closely connected, studies in Political Sciences can never be scientific. Traditional approaches are sub-divided into; philosophical, historical, institutional and legal approaches.
Philosophical Approach
This approach is considered to be the oldest approach to the study of Political Science. Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle were the ones who developed the new ideas and techniques of this approach. Plato’s idea was to describe the nature of an ideal society. According to this approach, values were unable to be separated from facts. Its main concern was to judge what is good and bad in any political society, it was mainly an ethical and normative study in politics. Philosophical approach seeks to understand one’s nature and function of the state, citizenship, rights and duties. The advocates of this approach believed that political philosophy was closely connected with the political ideologies. Therefore, it identified the principles and standards of right conduct in political life.
Historical Approach
According to this approach, political theories can only be understood if taken to consideration. It is based on the study of history of every political reality in order to analyse any issue or situation. Political thinkers such as, Machiavelli, Sabine, Dunning believed that politics and history are closely related and that the study of politics should have a historical perspective. Sabine believed that Political Science should have included all the subjects which were discussed in the writings of different thinkers from the time of Plato. History provides the establishment of past events of every political event and can also help in the future or the present life. Hence, without studying the past political events, institution and political environment would be wrong to figure out the present political scenario or events.
Institutional Approach
This is a very old and important approach to the study of Political Science that deals with the formal aspects of government and politics to emphasize the study of the political institutions and structures. Institutional approach is based on the study of the formal political structure such as legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties and interest groups. Its concentration is on the rules of the political system, the power of the various institutions, the legislative bodies and how the constitution worked. The advocates of this approach included the old and the modern political thinkers. The ancient thinker Aristotle was an important contributor to this approach.
Legal Approach
This approach regards the state as the fundamental organisation for the creation and enforcement of laws. Therefore, its concern was with the legal process, legal institutions, and judiciary. The advocates of this approach were Cicero, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Dicey and Sir Henry Maine.
The various traditional approaches to the study of Political Science have been criticised for being normative. These approaches were idealistic also as their concern was beyond how and why political events happen to what ought to happen.
Traditional approach is mainly descriptive. Politics does not rule out description, but is also what is called analytical. The traditional approach was mainly concerned with the institution as legislatures, parties and pressure groups.
Philosophical approach was to find to find the truth of political events, its purpose was to analyse the consequences of events in a logical and scientific manner to can clarify and remove confusion about the assumptions. Philosophical approach tried to find standards of good and what is right in political science. This approach helps us to understand the occurrence of history and the knowledge of politics.
After the study of politics with the help of traditional approaches, modern approaches were later developed by the new political thinkers. Most of the new political thinkers regarded the modern approaches as a reaction against the traditional approaches. These approaches are mainly concerned with scientific study of politics. They were set to draw conclusion from empirical data, to go beyond the study of political structures and its historical analysis, to emphasize scientific methods and attempt to draw scientific conclusions in Political Science.
There are other approaches to the study of politics, that is, economic and sociological approaches. Economic approach to the study of politics comes from Marx and Engels. This approach was to increase the improverishment and capitalism exploitation which were based on the economic factors. According to Marx, politics was controlled by the person who own sources of production and manage the process of distribution. The outside economic influenced and politics had no independent authority. Sociological approach was based on the human behaviour including the political behaviour, group behaviour and attitude of group, culture and society. Society was the most important because it builds relationships among different people in a society. The relationship is characterised by both conflict and cooperation and in turn they give rise to politics individuals from institutions which are also part of the society. These institutions may help one in moulding the character, attitude and behaviour.
Traditional approaches to the study of political science, it assist humans in building relationships, mould their behaviour and to give us knowledge of the history of politics. A traditional approach was to clarify, make amends, and help to reach other people’s needs and to compromise. In life one has a private and a public life which both need to be respected.

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