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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Traditional Approaches or Methods of Political Science: Normatvisim- Philosophical, Historical, Institutional and Legal.

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Biju P R

Author, Teacher, Blogger

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Government Brennen College


Kerala, India

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Aristotle, the greatest writer on Political Science the world has had, called Political Science the master or supreme science. Several modern critics, however, refuse to Political Science even the name science. They say that the subject-matter of the science is so varied and in many cases so inexact, that proper scientific methods cannot be applied to it. Political science is not like studies in natural science, say chemistry or physics. The arguments of such critics apply equally to all the social sciences. Social, political and economic problems deal with the complex actions and motives of men, actions for which it is often admittedly difficult to fine general laws. You cannot predict what might be your neighbor thinking, your lover imagining, and your niece views so on so forth. All because they ar human being and their mind and actions do not seem connected in the eye sight of other people.
It is true that in Political Science there are many difficulties which do not occur in, say, Chemistry or Physics. In the Natural Sciences it is possible by observation and experiment to obtain uniform and exact laws. In Political Science it is difficult to find uniform and unvarying laws. The material is constantly varying. Actions and reactions take place in various and often unforeseen ways. A man is a member not only of a state, but of a host of, other social groups—a municipality, a church, a trade-union, a stock-exchange, a university, a caste or a family. To understand his actions in one phase of his life often requires a knowledge of the social groups influencing, or influenced by him. Social and political relations are constantly changing, and what may be true of them to-day may not be true a century hence.
The exactness of Physics and Chemistry is thus absent "from the social sciences, particularly political science. It is impossible to deal with problems of man in the clear-cut way by which we can deal with problems of matter. It is easy to analyse a chemical compound and to say exactly what it is. Experiments, too, in these natural sciences enable laws to be tested with accuracy and in various ways. In all matters concerning man, too, there are unconscious assumptions in the mind, which, formed before the mind consciously reacts to them, often give a bias to our judgments. It not infrequently happens in social sciences, like Political Economy and Political Science, that at the outset of our study we cannot lay down the final limits of the subject-matter.
While we may agree that the exactness of the natural sciences is impossible of attainment in the social sciences, nevertheless social problems can be treated with the same scientific methods as Chemistry or Physics.
Meaning of Approach:
From all this understanding, let us assume that there are several methods by which political science tries to udnerstand socio-economic problems. From the days of ancient Greek political thought scholars, philosophers and political scientists have analysed, investigated various types of socio-political issues and incidents from the standpoint of their own perspective and on the basis of the study they have arrived at conclusions and prescribed recommendations.
This has inevitably led to the emergence of a number of approaches to the study of political science. Now we shall first of all try to analyse various aspects of each approach but before that we shall define approach. According to Van Dyke the word “approach is defined to denote the criteria employed in selecting the questions to ask and the data to consider in political inquiry”.
In the opinion of Van Dyke, approach means criteria. A criterion is used to explain or analyse the political questions and data. Since the questions and data are very great in number and varied in nature each political scientist or philosopher analyses them in his own way by applying his own standpoint and method.
In physical or chemical science there exists an agreed method and more or less all researchers and scientists apply those agreed methods. But there is hardly any place of broad based agreement in political science as to the method and approach.
Another aspect of approach is methods employed by political science for its study cannot be distinguished from the methods used by other branches of social science. So also the approaches of political science are not different from other approaches.
However, this general observation is not hundred percent correct. Sometimes the approaches employed by political scientists differ in content from the approaches used by other social scientists. Thus variety of approaches for the study of political science is a central aspect of the subject.
Again from the past history of political science we gather the idea that at different periods different approaches have gained importance. In other words, the rise and fall in the importance of approaches is a noticeable characteristic.
Approach, we can say, is a scientific way of studying a subject. The students will have to analyse and categorize data, facts, events, problems etc. The point to note is that they cannot do it unscientifically or proceed haphazardly. To be precise, for a balanced and effective analysis and promising investigation analysts must proceed in a systematic way and for that purpose the students or analysts must apply a method or criterion and we call it approach.
Therefore, approach is a way to analyse a subject or what may suitably be called a discipline. It is believed by many that the application of an approach considerably enhances the importance and credibility of the analysis as well as discipline. So without an approach the analysis of the subject may not be in a position to receive wide support from the readers and also their credence.
Classification of Approaches:
The approaches employed by political scientists for the study of politics have been classified by Wasby in the following way: one classification may be based on fact-value problem. This leads to the division of classification into normative approach and empirical approach.
The other classification is based on the objective of study of political science. That is, in this approach the political scientists want to stress the specific purposes of studying and investigating politics. This broad group can again be subdivided into philosophical, ideological, institutional and structural approaches.
Some scholars are of opinion that Wasby-proposed classification of approaches is generally traditional in nature. Modern political scientists have made a broad classification of the approaches. On the one hand there is normative approach which to some extent liberal bias and on the other hand Marxist approach.
Normative Approach:
The Meaning and Origin of Normativeness:
It is the broad intellectual foundation in which traditional approaches to political problems are evolved over a period of time. The term normative is derived from the Latin word norma, meaning precept rule, carpenter’s square. The word norm means usual, typical or standard thing. Normative relates to norm or standard. The central idea of normative approach is—the subject is viewed and analysed normatively that is there are certain standards, rules and precepts which must find their application in political science.
Again, political science means in its operative aspects. When the state starts its operation its primary objective would be to achieve the above-noted norms, standards and precepts. The success and failure will determine the nature, credibility, acceptability of the state or government.
Hence norms are several principles which an authority cannot deny. The accountability of the authority is also based on these norms and principles. Norm or normativeness is explained in terms of “should” and “ought”. It means that the authority should do it or adopt such and such policy or decision. Or it ought to do it.
Therefore, normativeness talks about preference. The word preference is not different from should and ought. To sum up, the objectives and functions of state are judged in the background of preference, should and ought.
Origin of the Approach:
Normative approach to the study of politics owes its origin to the political philosophy of Greek philosopher Plato. The thought of a good society or an ideal state and the entire structure of such a state are built upon the concepts like ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘preference’ etc. He said that any state or society ought to be or should be ideal or good and he has elaborated the criteria of good or ideal in his The Republic.
The picture of state that prevailed in Plato’s time was very far from of what ought to be or should be. In most of the city-states in Plato’s time there was no place and recognition of morality, virtue, ideals and ethics. But he firmly believed that a state ought to have these eternal values and he also said that in order to be an ideal state all individuals must be ideal that is they must possess virtues such as morality and various ethical qualities.
His great disciple Aristotle followed the footsteps of Plato and elaborated the ideal state. In latter periods we come across a number of philosophers who emphasised the normative approach of politics and the great contractualist Rousseau is a prominent figure.
The normative approach stressed by Plato, Aristotle, and Rousseau etc has assumed the form and colour of Utopia. Utopia means something which has no practical foundations and it is not supported by reasons. Large number of philosophers began to scan the existing systems by Utopian criteria. Again with the help of this standard existing situations are to be judged.
Thomas More (1478-1535) imagined of a Utopia or an imaginary state. His famous book Utopia was published in 1516 and here he depicted the picture of an ought to be state. He disapproved the drawbacks that characterised the prevailing state of his time and that led him to think of an ought to be state.
Central Idea of Normative Approach:
The central idea of the normative approach to the study of politics is politics or analysis of state or the functions of state are to be viewed in the light of what ought to be rather that what they are. The normativeness wants to give preference to should and ought to be. It wants the realisations of certain universal values, norms or principles through, the machinery of state. “Instead of asking how social policy decisions have come to be made, it asks instead about how they ought to be made. In such studies the aim is to examine a set of political principles, detail their logical characteristics and explore their implications for social policy, at least in broad institutional terms”.
It is assumed by some that since normative principles relates to what should be or ought to be these principles can easily be ignored. But the great adherents of the approach declare unambiguously that norms, or principles are not to be ignored but they are to be implemented. “Normative theory should be a reflection on practice, not a means of ignoring it”.
Thus we can say that values, principles or eternal ideas relating to politics or function of state constituted the central idea of normative approach to the study of politics. In other words, this approach says that norms or principles are to be followed in practice and the aim of such norms is to make the political organisation acceptable to all or majority people.
Components of the Normative Approach:
In the normative approach there is an emphasis on what is good and what is not good. It says that when a policy-maker proceeds to formulate policy or adopt a decision he must see that to what extent the policy or decision will produce desired results. The concept of goodness is linked with expectation.
The members of political organisation want to fulfill their manifold desires and they expect that the authority shall act accordingly. It may be that the expectations do not always tally the real results. But that does not matter. The expectations fall in the category of “ought to be”. Good also relates to the attainment of welfare objectives of the state. The term good starts to scan the policy, decision and function of authority.
The normative approach establishes the concept of responsibility. If certain norms and principles are put forward and if they are made binding on the authority, people can judge the success or failure of the authority. In other words, norms are easy of locating the responsibility.
Normative approach stipulates that norms or principles are of immense value and importance so far as the determination of policy and decision and their implementation are concerned. ‘Is’ or ‘what’ is happening, are important no doubt but every authority must follow these norms and ideals.
Normative approach envisages of striking a balance or equilibrium between what is or what happens and ought to be or should be. Any biasness will invariably plague the proper functioning of state as well as decision making process.
An authority aiming at the attainment of general welfare objectives cannot take the risk of neglecting either ought to be or what is. The balancing process is not a stable one. It is always in an unstable condition. It moves from one stage to another.
Normative approach never thinks of anything settled. Though it is generally argued that norms, values, principles are of eternal in nature but scholars are of opinion that the word ‘eternal’ need not be taken seriously.
Values, norms etc. are always subject to change and a responsible authority must take this change into account and also will act accordingly. That is normative approach though pays heavy emphasis on norms it proceeds with the change. In every age certain norms, values and principles are given more importance and they are given priority.
Importance of Normative Approach:
It is now evident that in normative approach there is lot of importance of norms, values, ideals, ideas. It further believes that they have got relevance in the study of politics. It is a fact that all these cannot be translated into reality. But on this ground the norms, values, etc. cannot be thrown into the wind. They have importance and a large number of political scientists and statesmen still believe that the norms have immense importance.
The normative approach criticises the functions, principles and policies of the existing states as did Plato in his The Republic. Even today the same approach is followed. The criticism by the supporters of the normative approach has not always succeeded in changing the prevailing course of action of the state or the un-normative principles of the authority.
But it has been able to aware the public about the state of activities of political organisation. This approach suggests that what is going on should be changed for the better. It is still believed that the normative approach can be helpful for the day to day activities of state.
It is alleged that normative approach to the study of politics is a smack of norms, ideals, values and principles which have not full relevance to the reality of social and political situation. But this criticism is not tenable. As every individual should decide certain principles which he wants, to follow, a state should also decide or set up certain ideals, norms and principles which it should apply while deciding policies and taking decisions.
All these are declared in various forms such as constitution, laws and general policy decisions. After deciding the principles or general objectives the state proceeds to implement them. This can be illustrated by the Constitution of India. The Preamble to our Constitution contains several lofty ideals and many of them are yet to be achieved. But this non-implementation does not invalidate the ideals.
The rise of welfare state and its increasing popularity have added new feathers to this approach. The concept of welfare state declares that the function of the state does not exhaust in maintaining law and order alone, it must perform many other functions which will bring about general welfare to the society. The welfare objectives on the one hand and ideals, norms, principles on the other hand are always at par. The welfare objectives pay more importance upon the ought to be or should be.
The function of the state is not a static one. In a dynamic society it should also be dynamic. It means that the state should make continuous efforts for the improvement of its functions and this again means that there should be certain ideals, principles and norms before it. Otherwise it will have to sail in an uncharted sea. But a pragmatic theory of state does not suggest that the state should sail in an uncharted sea. The fact is that the state should decide certain ideals and then it will begin its journey.
It is apprehended that there may arise conflict between practice and ideals or between “is” and “ought to be” and this conflict may dwarf the activities of the state. There is also a possibility that the norms could not be fulfilled. But the non-fulfilment does not call for its rejection. Norms are always norms and they always act as guiding stars.
Plato’s ideal state, philosopher king, Aristotle’s polity, Marx’s classless state or society, his communism, Rousseau’s moral state etc still haunt us. We all know that all these can never be achieved but we still hope that we must try to achieve them because they are our ideals.
It is not surprising that in the writings and thought systems of every philosopher there is an important place of ideals and principles and this place is very much important. Take the case of utilitarianism. Its great pro pounders proposed that the state authority must follow the principle of pleasure and pain or in general the policy of utility while making policy or taking decisions. The utilitarianism has not been strictly followed or it is ignored, but it still holds good as a policy of liberalism.
The supporters of the normative approach say that this hints at the efficiency of the state. Once the norms and ideals are declared the authority of the state should make arrangement for their implementation any discrepancy between promises and performance will call for a valuation of the activities. If the discrepancy stands at a minimum level that will be an indication of the efficiency of the state.
Some political scientists claim that an adequate and comprehensive political theory must duly take into account of the normative approach to the study of politics. Legal approach and empirical approach have importance no doubt. But normative approach has importance.
Now let us examine various traditional or normative approaches. There are various Traditional Approaches: The traditional approaches can be sub-divided into the following-
4. Legal approaches.
Historical Method
The chief method of experimentation from ancient times, in Political Science is thus the Historical Method. The best modem English exponents of historical method were Seeley and Freeman. They used mainly inductive method- drawing conclusions first and observation second. Induction was a kind of method of observation developed by Plato. By it generalisations are made from the observation and study of historical facts. The Historical Method is supplemented by the Comparative Method, a method which is as old as Aristotle. Similar events may occur under very different political conditions, or vice versa, similar political conditions may lead to very different political events. Revolutions, for example, have happened at all times and under various conditions. By the Comparative Method we sift out what is common, and try to find common causes and consequences. A modern example is the recent Russian Revolution. Political Scientists compare it with the English Great Rebellion and the French Revolution, trying not only to explain what has happened but to lay down rules for the future guidance of the Russians.

Meaning and Nature of Historical Approach:
The historical approach to the study of politics is one of the traditional approaches. History means the records of past incidents and facts. These took place at different periods. It also means what people have thought or imagined. “History as a record consists of documentary and other primary evidences” which occurred in the past. So far as historical approach is concerned we shall concentrate our attention on historical events recorded in documentary evidences.
The characteristic feature of historical approach is that history as a written or recorded subject focuses on the past events. From history we come to know how man was in the past and what he is now. History is the store-house of events. From the biographies, autobiographies, descriptions by authors and journalists we come to know what event took place in the past.
It is to be noted here that the events must have political baring or they must be politically significant. These events provide the best materials upon which theory and principles of political science are built. History tells us how government, political parties and many other institutions worked, their successes and failures and from these we receive lessons which guide us in determining the future course of action. Let us take an example.
The American President enjoys enormous powers. But all his powers are not derived from the Constitution. In order to find out a distinction between what powers he enjoyed past and powers now he is exercising, historical analysis is essential. Naturally, history helps us a lot in this regard. Without history we cannot collect any past incidents. The sources of British constitution are historical facts or incidents.
A very small part of British constitution is written. Powers and functions of Prime Minister, Monarchy and different organs of government are derived from history. To support or refute an argument or a conclusion one can cite facts recorded in the pages of history. The principles or conclusions of politics in many cases are based on historical incidents. Briefly stated the historical approach means to study politics with the help of facts derived from history.
History is not simply the record of past events and achievements but the interpretations, comments and explanations made by the historians. They also arrange the events chronologically. All these are regarded as suitable materials for political scientists. We can say the historians have made the task of the political scientists partially easy. The comparisons and conclusions of historians very often throw ample light on principles of politics.
Two great personalities of political philosophy depended upon history in a remarkable way. They are Marx and Hegel. In fact, Marx’s theory of class struggle and increasing impoverishment of the working class are buttressed by historical data. Hegel drew inspiration in formulating a philosophical theory of civilisation and its manifestation in national state from the study of history. Dyke says that Marx has reified and personified history.
Michael Oakshott unequivocally lays emphasis on the historical approach of the study of politics. He offers us the following observation: “Politics as the activity of attending to the general arrangements of a collection of people who ……. compose a single community.” Here his main emphasis is on the tradition and practice of political community.
He also distrusts rationalism. In his judgment, inhabitants of a state are “hereditary cooperative groups.” Oakshott’s final observation demands our special attention. He says “what we are learning to understand is a political tradition, a concrete manner of behaviour. And for this reason it is proper that at the academic level the study of politics should be an historical study.”
Not only Oakshott but many other modern political’ scientist have supported the historical approach to the study of political science. 
Evaluation of Historical Approach:
The historical approach to the study of politics has faced a few challenges from several quarters. One of the main fulcrums of the challenges is history has two faces— one is documentation of facts which is quite naive and the other is interpretation of facts and phenomena. Again, the accumulation of evidences is to be judged from a proper perspective.
The implication is adequate care should be taken while evaluating evidence and facts and it is not surprising that such a caution is not always strictly followed and, as a result the historical facts do not serve the proper purpose of those who use it. This is the main objection against the historical approach to the study of politics. We can in this connection remember the opinion of a critic.
He says: “History in the light of the best modern practice is to be sharply distinguished from the antiquarianism or the collection of facts for their own sake and should be defined rather as the study of problems or causes, the interpretation of phenomena”.
Of course, how much caution the historian will take cannot be said before-hand. It depends upon the person and the facts. Caution is, however, essential. The adoption of caution is mandatory because history records fabricated data. Facts and incidents are not always correctly recorded. This is not an imaginary allegation.
Alan Ball has drawn our attention to another dark side of the historical approach. He says “past evidence does leavealarming gaps, and political history is often simply a record of great men and great events, rather than a comprehensive account of total political activity.” Very few historians interpret historical events and evidences broadly and liberally.
Narrowness in outlook prevails upon them leading to the biased interpretation of facts. This cannot provide a better and reliable basis for political science. The historian must be sincere in collecting facts and impartial in interpreting them. Such an approach only can be helpful for the study of politics.
Sir Ivor Jenning’s is a great authority on British constitution and his analysis about various aspects of British Constitution is still regarded as authentic. His treatment of history is really unique. The depth of analysis, broadness of outlook and impartiality of treatment has elevated his research and students of politics still remember him. From the records of history Jennings has formulated a comprehensive account of the British Prime Minister, Parliament and other departments of Government.
Robert Mackenzie studied the party system and Mackintosh investigated the working of cabinet system of England. Their method is historical, but they have interpreted the documents liberally. The writings of these authors are encouraging and have created precedents. Many other thinkers have depended upon historical facts for the analysis of politics. Many of them have been successful, but not all.

Philosophical Method

Greek philosopher Plato used the Philosophical Approach for studying Political Science. While giving his ideas on Philosopher King, Ideal State etc., he was more concerned with what ‘ought to be’ ( what is desirable) rather than dealing with the existing realities of those societies. He had also set various norms for the philosopher kings and also of an ideal state.
Philosophical enquiries have been at the heart of civilizations and urban life.  Ancient to the modern, philosophical enquiries fascinated humanity.  Questions such as what is life, who am I, what is nature, what is the nature of beauty have found profound interest in the curiosities of humankind.
Political studies from ancient times adopted philosophical enquiries.  Fundamental and philosophical questions had fueled the study of politics sinceGreek period. Socrates to John Rawls, philosophers had raised philosophical questions for the study of politics. Socrates for example had a habit of raising series of questions whenever he met a respondent.  His question and answer methods were Dialetics or Elenchus. 
Plato in his Republic raised a fundamental philosophical question-what is an ideal polis/state. His student,  Aristotle had too enquired the nature of ideal polis.  In NicomachenEthics,  Aristotle had enquired fundamental questions such as what is friendship,  justice, virtues,  ideal life,  common good.
Machiavelli, Hobbes,  Locke,  Rousseau,  Marx to Habermas in contemporary times,  philosophical enquiries had found deep application. 
Philosophical method in political studies enquired fundamental questions related to political life- what is ideal state,  which is best government,  who is ideal ruler,  why political obligation,  who is best citizen and so on. Answering original questions created certain moral standards in political life such as do not engage in corruption,  rulers should be motivated not by sheer power but by common good and prosperity of the state,  citizen should obey laws and pay tax. This in the end created a good socio-political basis to political living.
These inductive methods are useful so far, but they must be used in conjunction with what Bluntschli calls the Philosophical Method. The truly -Phiiosophicaiphical, Deductive or a priori method of which Rousseau, Mill and Sidgwick are exponents, starts from some abstract, original idea about human nature and draws deductions from that idea as to the nature of the state, its aims, its functions and its future. It then attempts to harmonise its theories with the actual facts of history. The danger of this method is that the user, as Plato in his Republic or More in his Utopia, often allows his imagination to run riot and he forms theories which have little or no foundation in historical facts. The result is that the method degenerates into what Bluntschli calls mere Ideology, which pays little or no attention to facts. This is particularly dangerous in practice, as may be seen from the French Revolution, the leaders of which were the unreasoning followers of those who, like Rousseau, preached the doctrine of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. A modern example is the Russian Revolution, where abstractions preached by dreamers led to a collapse of the governmental system and to anarchy and mob-rule unparalleled in history.

Philosophical approach is another traditional or classical approach of studying politics. There are many definitions of philosophy and one such definition is, philosophy “is the study or science of truths or principles underlying all knowledge and being.” It means that philosophy or philosophical approach attempts to find the truth of political incidents or events. It explores the objective of political writings or the purpose of political writer.
The purpose of philosophical approach is to analyse the consequences of incidents in a logical and scientific manner. According to Van Dyke “philosophy denotes thought about thought. Somewhat more broadly it denotes general conceptions of ends and means, purposes and methods.” The purpose of philosophical approach is to clarify the words and terms used by the political philosophers. The enquiry started by the philosophical approach removes confusion about the assumptions.
The important plus point of philosophical approach is it enters into the depth of every aspect of political phenomena and scans them without any partiality Its interpretation of political activities evokes interest in the minds of students of politics Words and phrases used by philosophers throw light on the subject. Philosophical approach, it is claimed, enhances linguistic clarity. That is why it is said that this approach aims at thought about thought.
The method applied by philosophical approach is logical analysis. It uses reason to find out the truth. The truth which this approach establishes or finds out may be of various kinds-normative, descriptive or prescriptive. But the philosophical approach is indifferent to the nature or category of truth.
It also tries to establish standards of good, right and just. It has been observed by a critic that the objective of this approach is to determine what is in the interest of the public and he identifies interest more with ends that with means.
In the vast range of political science there are a number of great or remarkable books Philosophical approach wants to explore the meaning and central theme of these books as well as the exact purpose of the authors. In the contemporary Greek city-states of Plato morality, moral values and idealism degraded to such an extent that he received a great shock and seriously thought to revive these and this urge prompted him to write The Republic.
He wanted to establish that politics and morality are not antithetic concepts. Rather, an ideal and moral body politic can be made a real one through the selfless administration by a philosopher-king. John Locke wrote his Second Treatise to justify the interests and objectives of the new middle class and he struggle of people for liberty.
Machiavelli and Hobbes wrote to support royal absolutism. We may not agree with the views of these philosophers or the arguments of these books, but it must not be forgotten that the books were written at particular and critical moment of history.
Philosophical approach helps us to understand the contemporary history and the nature of politics suggested by philosophers. To put it in other words, the philosophical approach helps us to the acquainted with the political ideologies of past centuries. In this sense, the philosophical approach is highly important.
Criticism of the Philosophical Approach:
In spite of the immense importance of the philosophical approach to the study of politics critics have raised several questions about its worthiness. One of the central ideas of political philosophy is idealism and it is prominent in Plato’s The Republic Critics say that idealism itself is quite good but when its practical application arises it appears to be a myth.
Idealism was a favourite theory of Plato, but it had not practical importance and be fully realised that idealism would never be translated into reality. It is a subject of sheer imagination. Machiavelli and Hobbes wrote with the sole purpose of supporting the status quo. We cannot forgive Hobbes for his authoritarian view and anti-individualist stand.
The philosophical thinkers of the earlier epochs were impractical thinkers. They had no intention to propagate ideas which can change society. They were indifferent to people s liking and disliking, their love for liberty, their sorrows and sufferings and they failed to provide prophylactic devices. As an academic discipline philosophical approach is all right, but as, practical guide for action it has hardly any importance.
Plato and Hegel were impractical philosophers no doubt. Their philosophy may impress us but does not guide us. There are other philosophers who do not fall in this category. For example philosophies of Marx, Engels, Lenin guide us and in the purpose was to change the society. These philosophers took a realistic view of society. They interpreted history from materialistic point of view. The idealism and philosophy of Marx, Engels and some others had a relation to material world.
The idealist philosophers of earlier periods had strongly advocated certain moral, ethical and ideal values. It is true that these values will never be realised in reality. But ideal is ideal, it guides us. The eternal value of Plato’s idealistic philosophy in politics is not divorced from morality and idealism.
The philosophical ideas of particular philosophers are to be judged in the background of contemporary social, economic and political situations. Machiavelli supported royal absolutism for the unification of Italy. Hobbes wanted to save England from disorder and anarchy which engulfed the British Society of his time.
All of them were great patriots. Ruosseau could not tolerate the alienation of man from society and the loss of liberty with the progress of civilisation, arts and literature. To him the state was a public moral person whose chief duty was to ensure liberty and morality as well as to reform the people. The philosophical approach to the study of politics throws light on these aspects of politics.
Degradation of moral values and rampant corruption are the distinguishing features of the society which is at the threshold of the 21st century. If we want to free politics from these, we must try to revive moral values and idealism about which Plato spoke long ago. We are not thinking about a philosopher-king, but we must think about an honest, able, moral and ideal ruler who may be a prime minister or president.
Plato’s main concern was justice and ideal state. Marx spoke of emancipation of the toiling mass. All these constitute the elements of idealism and we cannot treat them insignificant. In the Preamble of the Constitution of India there is a word ‘justice’.
The purpose of the welfare state is to ensure emancipation. Locke’s liberalism appears and reappears. His constitutionalism has an important place in British and Indian systems. In our analysis of the philosophical approach to the study of politics we must remember these points.

Legal Approach

This approach regards the state as the fundamental organization for the creation and enforcement of laws. Therefore, this approach is concerned with the legal process, legal bodies or institutions, justice and independence of judiciary. The advocates of this approach are Cicero, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Dicey and Sir Henry Maine.
Legal approach focuses upon how legal framework influence human behavour and activities. Ever since Platonic times, law has been a concern of political studies. Many branches of studies have deleoped in political science in terms of law such as international law, public laws, constitutional laws, civil laws.

Institutional Approach
This is a very old and important approach to the study of Political Science. This approach mainly deals with the formal aspects of government and politics emphasizes the study of the political institutions and structures. Thus, the institutional approach is concerned with the study of the formal structures like legislature, executive, judiciary, political parties, interest groups etc. The advocates of this approach include both ancient and modern political thinkers. Among the ancient thinkers Aristotle is an important contributor to this approach while the modern thinkers include James Bryce, Bentley, Walter Bagehot, Harold Laski, etc.
Institutional approach to the study of politics is very common today and according to Wasby it is important. Readers, scholars, researchers and even ordinary people are accustomed to view politics in term of the institutions. The institutional approach is also called structural approach. According to Maclver institutions are established forms of procedure.
Institution relates the structure and machinery through which human society organises, directs and executes multifarious activates required to satisfy human needs. According to this definition family, government and state and all types of organisations which have flourished within the states are institutions. Institutions are, therefore, created to meet human requirements. Political parties, pressure and interest groups, legislature all are institutions.
The traditional political thinkers were primarily concerned with the activities and role of the different types of institutions and they viewed politics in terms of the institutions. Dyke’s cogent remark is-the study of politics is the study of the state or of government and related institutions.
This is also the definition of politics. Politics thus, cannot be separated from state or government i.e. institutions. Wasby’s definition is little bit elaborate. He says, “The emphasis of the institutional or structural approach is almost exclusively on the formal aspects of government and politics. Since various institutions constitute the structure of society it is also called structural approach”.
The emphasis of institutional or structural approach is that the institutions their rules and procedures are important for the analysis of political phenomena and not the individuals constituting the institutions. The advocates of institutional approach do not even consider the impact of institutions or rules upon the individuals. They are inclined to say that the institutions in political analysis are of prime importance.
Political science, for long periods of time, was studied in the light or perspective of the function and behaviour of institutions. The British and American political scientists up to the Second World War concentrated their attention on legislature, party system and pressure group activities. They did not think it proper to throw light on the other factors of politics. In a word, politics to a group of thinkers was institution- concept and nothing else.
The institutional approach has been vehemently criticised. Chief objection against this approach is institutions are, no doubt, important for politics, but they cannot form the entire structure of politics. The institutionalists have been charged of being biased, because they have neglected the individuals who form the institutions.
Without individuals the institutions have no practical importance and it is unfortunate they have not paid proper attention to them. The supporters of this approach have interpreted politics narrowly.
Characteristics of Traditional approaches:
1. Traditional approaches are largely normative and stresses on the values of politics
2. Emphasis is on the study of different political structures.
3. Traditional approaches made very little attempt to relate theory and research
4. These approaches believe that since facts and values are closely interlinked, studies in Political Science can never be scientific.
5. Inductive method: Proceeds to observation only after first drawing an initial theory or conclusion about phenomena being observed.

Criticisms of the Traditional Approach:
The traditional approach to the study of politics has been under attack from several corners and the main points of attack are noted below:
The traditional approaches have dismally failed to recognise the role of the individuals who play very important roles in moulding and remoulding the shape and nature of politics. In fact, individuals are important actors of both national and international politics. The focus is directed to the institutions.
It is surprising that behind all the institutions there are individuals who control the structure, functions and other aspects. Singling out institutions and neglecting individuals cannot be pronounced as proper methods of studying politics. The definition politics as the study of institution’ is nothing but an exaggeration or it may be called a travesty of truth.
Traditional approach is mainly descriptive. Politics does not rule out description, but it is also analytical. Mere description of facts does not necessarily constitute the subject matter of political science. Its purpose is to go to the depth of every incident. Researchers want to know not only what is happening, but also why a particular incident occurs at a particular time.
The view-point of the traditionalists is, limited within the institutions. Political scientists of today’s world are not inclined to limit their analysis of politics within the four walls of institutions. They have investigated the role of environment into which is included international politics multinational corporations, non-governmental organi­sations or trans-national bodies.
The decision-making process of the nation state is influenced by international events and the political activity of other nation states. When the traditionalists were writing the nature of politics, the interdependence of national and international politics was not unknown to them and it is their failure not to recognise if. Viewed in this light we can say that traditional approach is biased and incomplete. It has not the ability to meet the needs which are rising in the present age.
Attention is to be paid to another shortcoming. The traditional approach as a method of analysing politics is deficient for the analysis of political institutions of the Third World countries, particularly the countries which do not follow the Western political system in to. In these countries, if we try to find out Western system or institutions that will be an utter failure.
It is, therefore, alleged that traditional analysis is unsuitable for all types of political systems—both Western and non-Western. To compensate this deficiency the political scientists of the post-Second World War period have devised a general system approach which is quite comprehensive.
Before drawing a curtain upon this part of analysis we like to quote liberally the observation of Stephen Wasby. He says, “Just as a dissatisfaction with an over-concentration on the philosophical approach to the study of politics had brought a shift towards the study of institutions and formal structures, with an accompanying move from normative to empirical outlooks, so there was increasing realisation that institutional approach did not encompass all the world of politics.
Scholars began to recognise problems in the use of the “State” concept. Other basic emphases were also questioned. Because not all rules and structures have been reduced to law, the legal approach to politics and the institutional approach had never completely coalesced. Political scientists of an institutional bent, freed from the European location of political science within faculties of law, recognised that there is much material within political science not subject to legal examinations.”
Students and researchers of politics began to extend their outlook and interest to the other areas and these required new approaches. The scholars also devoted their energy to the comparative analysis of various political systems. We shall now turn our attention to other approaches such as comparative approach, power approach and interest group approach.