As a social science, Political science faces a question: Is it a science? The answer to this question is given differently by various scholars.
Some hold that politics is not a science. It is an art because it has neither exactness nor the ability of prediction- making.
Others hold that Political Science is a science because it uses scientific method of study.
Traditional View: Political Science is not a Science:
Scholars like Comte, Buckle Maitland and some other traditional writers advocate that Politics is not a science and that it cannot be accepted as a science.
Arguments in support of this view:
1. Lack of Agreed Principles of Political Science:
There are no agreed principles in Political Science or Politics. Political Scientists hold different views even regarding its meaning, definition and scope. Had Politics been a science, it would have got within its scope a set of definite and agreed principles. As such Politics cannot be accepted as a science.
2. Lack of Exactness:
Political theory lacks exactness. It does not provide exact knowledge about State, Government and other political institutions and processes. Science stands for exactness in the knowledge of the field. Since Politics does not provide any exact knowledge, it cannot be accepted as a science.
3. Prediction-making is not possible in Politics:
The main quality of science is its ability to make predictions. A scientist can make valid and exact predictions in Physics, Chemistry, Astro-Physics, Astronomy and others. However, in Politics no exact or definite prediction is possible. The law-makers cannot predict the success of laws. Election results cannot be really predicted. Because of this weakness Politics is not a science.
4. Non-operation of the Law of Cause and Effect:
In the sphere of science, the law of cause and effect always operates. The same causes lead to same effects. Whenever Potassium Chlorate is heated, it gives out Oxygen. The properties of Oxygen stand predicted beyond doubt. However, same causes do not lead to same effects in Politics.
In some states poverty acts as a cause of revolution while in others it leads to stagnation in social life. As such the law of cause and effect, which is a basic feature of Science, is non-operative in Politics. Hence Politics is not a science.
5. Experiments are not possible in Politics:
In a science the scientists can prove the validity of each principle and law by conducting experiments in their laboratories. Experiments under controlled conditions can be conducted in science. However, experimentation is not possible in Politics. The validity of principles of Politics cannot be demonstrated through experiments. No scientific and tested conclusions can be made in Politics. Hence, Politics is not a science.
On the basis of these arguments some persons hold the view that Politics is not a science:
Modern View: Political Science is a Science:
The modern view holds that Politics is a science. Modern political scientists reject the traditional definition of science and hold that Science does not stand for exactness, predictability and experimentation. It really means systematic acquisition of knowledge by to use of systematic method of study. Any discipline which uses scientific method of study, qualifies to be treated as a science.
B (1) Main Arguments in support of the modern view:
1. Use of Scientific Method in Politics/ Political Science:
Politics is a science because it uses scientific method of study. It depends upon observation, classification and interpretation/analysis of data for political theory-building. It involves systematic acquisition of knowledge and not any acquisition of knowledge.
2. Validity of Conclusions in Politics:
The use of systematic method of study has now made it possible for the political scientists to arrive at valid, verified and tested conclusions. The verification of conclusions is now becoming increasingly possible. In each natural science the conclusions are per cent valid because of definiteness and exactness of the nature of material and physical world around us. Since subject-matter of Politics is human behaviour, which is very dynamic, a high degree of exactness is not really possible.
3. Increasing Ability towards Prediction-making:
The development of new concepts, tools, methods and approaches and the increasing ability to arrive at tested conclusions have increased the chances of prediction-making in Politics. Of course, the students of politics cannot make sure and per cent valid predictions but they can make reasonably valid predictions. They can predict the outcome of a poll to a very large extent. Exit polls have increased our ability to do so. We can safely predict that unchecked inequalities and poverty can lead to a revolution in most states.
4. Possibility of Experimentation:
It is true that experiments under controlled laboratory conditions cannot be made in Politics. However, social experimentation is possible in Politics. The whole of India is a laboratory in which the success of a democratic system is being continuously tested. The use of computers has increased the ability of political scientists to collect and analyse data and help the society to adopt certain policies and projects on an experimental basis.
5. Even Scientific Knowledge Lacks Exactness:
It is indeed untrue to say that scientific knowledge is absolutely exact. History of evolution of science clearly shows that some principles of science which were considered fully valid in the 19th century were proved to be wrong in the 20th century. Theory of electricity is now based upon certain principles which are different from the principles held earlier.
6. Exact Predictions cannot be made in the sphere of some Natural Sciences like Meteorology:
Meteorology is a natural science, which seeks to explain and make predictions about weather and climate. Its weather forecasts are at times found to be inexact and even inaccurate. If Meteorology is a science, despite limitations in respect of prediction-making, Politics can also be admitted as a science because it can make probabilistic or conditional predictions which can be accurate to a large extent.
7. Politics too has Several Agreed Principles:
It is not fully correct to say that Politics has no uniform agreed principles. It has now a set of agreed principles whose validity stands accepted by all. The value of liberal democracy as the system of governance stands fully established. The principles of liberalism, open struggle for power, democratic decentralisation, rule of law and several others stand fully recognised and respected. There is again unanimity behind the nature and content of Human Rights which are to be secured by all for all. Today Politics has several agreed and accepted principles.
8. Law of Cause and Effect also operates in Politics:
It incorrect to say that, the law of cause and effect is non-operative in Politics. No doubt it does not operate as exactly in Politics as it operates in a natural science, nevertheless, to some extent it is also operates in of Politics. Behind similar political events there are often similar causes. The causes of revolutions in various societies are quite similar.
It can be safely said that widespread inequalities and exploitation of the masses by a class or some classes always provide a rich ground for a revolution against the established order. By analysing the causes behind several revolutions which have already taken place, we can get the knowledge about causes of revolutions, which can be used for ascertaining the chances of a revolution in a society which is characterised by similar factors.
On the basis of all these arguments, modern political scientists strongly uphold the view that Politics is a science. Politics admits scientific method of study, and hence it is a science. However, while admitting Politics as a science, it must be stated that it is a social science and not a natural science. It is as much a science as Sociology and Economics are sciences. Politics is the science of human political behaviour, interactions, relations and functions.