INTRODUCTION: Even though the studyof Politics can benefit from experimental thinking, there can never be a strictcomparison to elements such as natural sciences, which, have agreed laws andmake objectivity their cornerstone, thus this essay is going to try and provethat the study of Politics cannot be purely scientific. In order to make anddevelop such an argument, this essay will look at the following key areas: thedefinition of scientific method and its application to politics, in contrastwith people’s emotional nature; Comte’s positivisms and the problems associatedwith the study of human behaviour; the scientific theories and the concept ofneutrality and the impossibility for it to be impartial. BODY: Politics scholars havestarted adopting the scientific method for the study of the field.
Thiscorresponds to the development and test of theories in order to reach plausiblehypotheses. Subsequently, it’s possible to see how political scholars put theirefforts into trying to imitate the impartiality and rigor, which characterizesthe natural sciences.This approach to the subject, apart from attempting to minimize the influenceof bias or prejudice in the experiment when testing such theory, gives theopportunity to create a hypothesis that could subsequently be applied to betterunderstand different scenarios.
Taking intoconsideration the following example made by Kellstedt and Whitten(2013, p.27)it is possible to better understand the value of such approach:a course offered in 1995 on the politics of the European Union (EU) would havetaught students a list of facts and aparticular set of rules that would have been different from the 2008 version ofthe EU.The problem is therefore that the political world is constantly changing and a”just the facts” way of learning politics would be boring and confusing.
By contrast, a theoretical approach to politics helps us to better understandwhy changes have come about and their likely impact on current and futurescenarios.Despite the fact that the process concerning how we move from casual theoriesto scientific models can be beneficial, admittedly, many questions in politicalscience do not lend themselves to experimentation as for “our choice ofresearch topics will inevitably reflect our own practical and ethical priorities, and the way in which that research isframed and conducted is bound to reflect assumptions which – whether heldconsciously, semi-consciously or unconsciously – remain of a moral andpolitical nature.”(Wearing, 2010)An obvious example ishow the field of terrorism studies focuses almost exclusively on the terrorismof non-state actors, as opposed to the greater problem of state terrorismarguing that the very existence of a state is based on its monopoly of power.If it were different, states would not have the right, nor be in a position, tomaintain that order that is the base of every democratic society.Like when in the 1990s, the UK helped maintain a sanctions regime on Iraq that,as documented by Unicef, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands ofcivilians, around half of them children under the age of five. Yet of thescores of articles produced in British international relations journals duringthat time, only three discussed the sanctions regime and its appalling effects.(Wearing, 2010)Still, this essaydoesn’t try to accuse every view of being subjective, and each opinion of equalvalue. In fact, according to Comte, human societies are natural systems whoseorder and progress can be studied deliberately and rationalistically throughscientific methodology.
Indeed positivism or ‘theory of knowledge based onsensory perception alone’ set the ground basis for new understanding. Suchrational perception meant all laws defining human history could be understoodscientifically, thus opening the door to social sciences to be accepted and bebased on the methodology of the natural sciencesYet, as stated byGerring and Yesnowitz(2006, p.122) by studying humans as animals we studyreflexes or unintentional behaviour. When, instead, studying humans as socialbeings we reflect upon human actions. This introduces a high level ofindeterminacy into the research consequently opening the research to a highlevel of indeterminacy because this very own examination may affect thoseactions that we are indeed studying.It must beacknowledged, however, the benefit brought by experimental research conductedin real-world settings such as interviews and surveys as a way of gainingrelatively accurate and unbiased background information. Positivists, as amatter of fact, tend to favour questionnaires because they are an impartial andobjective method, where the political scientist’s interaction and therefore itsinfluence to the respondents is minimum.
Despite their unbiasnature there is a number of problems concerning this kind of research, mostcommon of all is the low response rate. For example, Shere Hite’s sample sizein her “Women and Love” (1987) report was 100,000 questionnaires but theresponse rate of that survey was 4.5 %. According to Chairman Donald Rubin ofthe Harvard statistics department (Newsweek, November 23, 1987), one shouldlook for a response rate of 70 to 80 percent in order to draw valid conclusionsin this type of study. (Wang 1993, pp.172-80)And even face to faceinterviews, irregardless of being carried out using techniques and strategiesthat have worked well in a wide variety of field settings and interview, facean inevitable transactional nature of the process: interviewer and respondentboth influence the quality of the interview itself thus leading to almostcertain errors in the study.(Hammond et al., 1990, p.
451-54). CONCLUSION:There certainly areways to minimize the errors or at least assess them but it is difficult to sayexactly how morality should be brought into greater contact with empiricalinquiry. Empirical study in the social sciences is meaningless if it has no socialinput. Likewise, a normative argument without empirical support may berhetorically persuasive, but it will not have demonstrated anything about theworld out there. Good Politics must integrate both elements; it must beempirically grounded, and it must be relevant to human concerns (Gerring andYesnowitz, 2006, p.133). Therefore, although scientific approach to politics,when appropriate, can certainly yield benefits, this essay argued that thestudy of politics depends on the morality and circumstances of the time, and isconsequently impossible to be completely objective and unbiased.