As a social political science, contemporary political science started to take shape in the latter half of the 19th century and began to separate itself from political
philosophy and history. Into the late 19th century, it was still uncommon that political science was considered a distinct field from history. The term "political science" was nothing
always distinguished from political philosophy, and the modern discipline has a clear set of antecedents including also moral philosophy, political economy,
political theology, history, and other fields concerned with normative determinations of what ought to be and with deducing the characteristics and functions of the ideal state.
The advent of political science as a university discipline was marked by the creation of university departments and chairs with the title of political science arising in the late 19th century. The designation "political scientist" is commonly used to denote someone with a doctorate or master's degree in the field. Integrating political studies of the past into a unified discipline is ongoing, and the history of political science has provided a rich field for the growth of both
positive political science, with each part of the discipline sharing some historical predecessors. The
American Political Science Association and the American Political Science Review were founded in 1903 and 1906, respectively, in an effort to distinguish the study of
politics from economics and other social phenomena. APSA membership rose from 204 in 1904 to 1,462 in 1915. APSA members played a key role in setting up political science departments that were distinct from history, philosophy, law, sociology, and economics.
The journal Political Science Quarterly was established in 1886 by the Academy of Political Science. In the inaugural issue of Political Science Quarterly,
Munroe Smith defined political science as "the science of the state. Taken in this sense, it includes the organization and functions of the state, and the relation of states one to another."
As part of a UNESCO initiative to promote political science in the late 1940s, the International Political Science Association was founded in 1949, as well as national associations in France in 1949, Britain in 1950, and West Germany in 1951.
Behavioural revolution and new institutionalism
In the 1950s and the 1960s, a behavioral revolution stressing the systematic and rigorously scientific study of individual and group behavior swept the discipline. A focus on studying political behavior, rather than institutions or interpretation of legal texts, characterized early behavioral political science, including work by
Philip Converse, and in the collaboration between sociologist
Paul Lazarsfeld and public opinion scholar
The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed a takeoff in the use of deductive,
game-theoretic formal modelling techniques aimed at generating a more analytical corpus of knowledge in the discipline. This period saw a surge of research that borrowed theory and methods from economics to study political institutions, such as the United States Congress, as well as political behavior, such as voting.
William H. Riker and his colleagues and students at the
University of Rochester were the main proponents of this shift.
Despite considerable research progress in the discipline based on all the kinds of scholarship discussed above, it has been observed that progress toward systematic theory has been modest and uneven.
In 2000, the
Perestroika Movement in political science was introduced as a reaction against what supporters of the movement called the mathematicization of political science. Those who identified with the movement argued for a plurality of methodologies and approaches in political science and for more relevance of the discipline to those outside of it.
evolutionary psychology theories argue that humans have evolved a highly developed set of psychological mechanisms for dealing with politics. However, these mechanisms evolved for dealing with the small group politics that characterized the ancestral environment and not the much larger political structures in today's world. This is argued to explain many important features and systematic
cognitive biases of current politics.
Political science is a social study concerning the allocation and transfer of
decision making, the roles and systems of governance including
international organizations, political behaviour, and
public policies. It measures the success of
governance and specific policies by examining many factors, including
public health. Some political scientists seek to advance
positive theses (which attempt to describe how things are, as opposed to how they should be) by analysing politics; others advance
normative theses, such as by making specific policy recommendations. The study of politics and policies can be closely connected—for example, in comparative analyses of which types of political institutions tend to produce certain types of policies. Political science provides analysis and predictions about political and governmental issues. Political scientists examine the processes, systems and political dynamics of countries and regions of the world, often to raise public awareness or to influence specific governments.
Political scientists may provide the frameworks from which journalists, special interest groups, politicians, and the
electorate analyze issues. According to Chaturvedy,
Political scientists may serve as advisers to specific politicians, or even run for office as politicians themselves. Political scientists can be found working in governments, in political parties, or as civil servants. They may be involved with
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or political movements. In a variety of capacities, people educated and trained in political science can add value and expertise to
corporations. Private enterprises such as
think tanks, research institutes, polling and
public relations firms often employ political scientists.
Political scientists may study political phenomena within one specific country; for example, they may study just the politics of the United States or just the politics of China.
Political scientists look at a variety of data, including constitutions,
public opinion, and
foreign policy, legislatures, and judiciaries. Political scientists will often focus on the politics of their own country; for example, a political scientist from
Indonesia may become an expert in the politics of Indonesia.
The theory of political transitions, and the methods of analyzing and anticipating crises, form an important part of political science. Several general indicators of crises and methods were proposed for anticipating critical transitions. Among them, one statistical indicator of crisis, a simultaneous increase of
correlations in large groups, was proposed for crisis anticipation and may be successfully used in various areas. Its applicability for early diagnosis of political crises was demonstrated by the analysis of the prolonged stress period preceding the 2014 Ukrainian economic and political crisis. There was a simultaneous increase in the total correlation between the 19 major public fears in the Ukrainian society (by about 64%) and in their statistical dispersion (by 29%) during the pre-crisis years. A feature shared by certain major revolutions is that they were not predicted. The theory of apparent inevitability of crises and revolutions was also developed.
The study of major crises, both political crises and external crises that can affect politics, is not limited to attempts to predict regime transitions or major changes in political institutions. Political scientists also study how governments handle unexpected disasters, and how voters in democracies react to their governments' preparations for and responses to crises.
Many political scientists conduct research in one of four areas, described below:
Political philosophy: Concerned with the foundations of political community and institutions, while focusing on human nature and the moral purposes of political association.
Political methodology: Studies the philosophical bases of social science, political science, empirical research design and analysis.
Comparative politics: Compares contemporary political systems and discovers general laws and theories.
International relations: Concerned with developing an understanding of why states and non-state international actors interact.
Program evaluation: a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies, and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency. In both the public and private sectors, stakeholders often want to know whether the programs they are funding, implementing, voting for, receiving, or objecting to are producing the intended effect. While program evaluation first focuses on this definition, important considerations often include how much the program costs per participant, how the program could be improved, whether the program is worthwhile, whether there are better alternatives, whether there are unintended outcomes, and whether the program goals are appropriate and useful.
Policy analysis: a technique used in public administration to enable civil servants, activists, and others to examine and evaluate the available options to implement the goals of laws and elected officials.
Some political science departments also classify
methodology as well as scholarship on the domestic politics of a particular country as distinct fields. In the United States,
American politics is often treated as a separate subfield. In contrast to this traditional classification, some academic departments organize scholarship into thematic categories, including political philosophy,
political behaviour (including
collective action, and
identity), and political institutions (including
international organizations). Political science conferences and journals often emphasize scholarship in more specific categories. The American Political Science Association, for example, has 42 organized sections that address various methods and topics of political inquiry.
Political science is methodologically diverse; political scientists approach the study of politics from a host of different ontological orientations and with a variety of different tools. Because political science is essentially a study of
human behaviour, in all aspects of
politics, observations in controlled environments are often challenging to reproduce or duplicate, though
experimental methods are increasingly common (see
experimental political science). Citing this difficulty, former
American Political Science Association President
Lawrence Lowell once said "We are limited by the impossibility of experiment. Politics is an observational, not an experimental science." Because of this, political scientists have historically observed political elites, institutions, and individual or group behaviour in order to identify patterns, draw generalizations, and build theories of politics.
Like all social sciences, political science faces the difficulty of observing human actors that can only be partially observed and who have the capacity for making conscious choices, unlike other subjects such as non-human organisms in
biology or inanimate objects as in
physics. Despite the complexities, contemporary political science has progressed by adopting a variety of methods and theoretical approaches to understanding politics, and
methodological pluralism is a defining feature of contemporary political science.
Empirical political science methods include the use of field experiments, surveys and survey experiments, case studies, process tracing, historical and institutional analysis, ethnography, participant observation, and interview research.
Political scientists also use and develop theoretical tools like game theory and agent-based models to study a host of political systems and situations.
Political science may overlap with topics of study that are the traditional focuses of other social sciences—for example, when sociological
norms or psychological
biases are connected to political phenomena. In these cases, political science may either inherit their methods of study or develop a contrasting approach. For example,
Lisa Wedeen has argued that political science's approach to the idea of culture, originating with
Gabriel Almond and
Sidney Verba and exemplified by authors like
Samuel P. Huntington, could benefit from aligning more closely with the study of culture in anthropology. In turn, methodologies that are developed within political science may influence how researchers in other fields, like public health, conceive of and approach political processes and policies.
Political science, possibly like the social sciences as a whole, can be described "as a discipline which lives on the fault line between the 'two cultures' in the academy, the
sciences and the
humanities." Thus, in most American colleges, especially
liberal arts colleges it would be located within the
school or college of arts and sciences, if no separate college of arts and sciences exist or if the college or university prefers that it be in a separate constituent college or academic department, political science may be a separate department housed as part of a division or school of humanities or
liberal arts while at some universities, especially
research universities and in particular those that have a strong cooperation between research, undergraduate, and graduate faculty with a stronger more applied emphasis in public administration, political science would be taught by the university's
public policy school. Whereas classical
political philosophy is primarily defined by a concern for
Enlightenment thought, political scientists are also marked by a great concern for "
modernity" and the contemporary
nation state, along with the study of classical thought, and as such share more terminology with
structure and agency).
United Statescolleges and universities offer BA programs in political science. MA or MAT and PhD or EdD programs are common at larger universities. The term political science is more popular in
North America than elsewhere; other institutions, especially those outside the United States, see political science as part of a broader discipline of political studies,politics, or government. While political science implies the use of the
scientific method, political studies implies a broader approach, although the naming of degree courses does not necessarily reflect their content. Separate programs (often professional degrees) in
public policy, and
public administration, are not uncommon at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, although most but not all undergraduate level education in these sub-fields are generally found in
academic concentration within a political science
academic major. Master's-level programs in
public administration are professional degrees covering public policy along with other applied subjects; they are often seen as more linked to politics than any other discipline, which may be reflected by being housed in that department.
The national honor society for college and university students of government and politics in the United States is
Pi Sigma Alpha.
There are different genres of writings in political sciences; including but not limited to:
Argument essays and research papers
Political theory writing
Responses to articles, texts, events thoughts and reflective papers
The most common piece of writing in political sciences are research papers, which investigate an original research question.
^Nahomi Ichino; Noah L. Nathan (May 2013). "Crossing the Line: Local Ethnic Geography and Voting in Ghana". American Political Science Review. 107 (2): 344–361.
^"The Progress and Pitfalls of Using Survey Experiments in Political Science". Oxford Research Encyclopedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. February 2020.
^Zaks, Sherry (July 2017). "Relationships Among Rivals (RAR): A Framework for Analyzing Contending Hypotheses in Process Tracing". Political Analysis. 25 (3): 344–362.
^Brodkin, Evelyn Z. (January 2017). "The Ethnographic Turn in Political Science: Reflections on the State of the Art". PS: Political Science & Politics. 50 (1): 131–134.
^Cramer, Katherine J. (2016). The Politics of Resentment. University of Chicago Press.
^Layna Mosley, ed. (2013). Interview Research in Political Science. Cornell University Press.
^Fiorina, Morris P. (February 1975). "Formal Models in Political Science". American Journal of Political Science. 19 (1): 133–159.
^Vernardakis, George (1998).
Graduate education in government. University Press of America. p. 77.
Archived from the original on 4 September 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015. …existing practices at Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.
Alter, Karen J., et al. "Gender and status in American political science: Who determines whether a scholar is noteworthy?." Perspectives on Politics 18.4 (2020): 1048–1067.
Atchison, Amy L, ed. Political Science Is for Everybody : An Introduction to Political Science. University of Toronto Press, 2021.
Badie, Bertrand, et al. International Encyclopedia of Political Science. SAGE, 2011.
Berlin, Mark Stephen, and Anum Pasha Syed. "The Middle East and North Africa in Political Science Scholarship: Analyzing Publication Patterns in Leading Journals, 1990–2019". International Studies Review 24.3 (2022): viac027.
Blatt, Jessica. Race and the Making of American Political Science University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
Breuning, Marijke, Joseph Bredehoft, and Eugene Walton. "Promise and performance: an evaluation of journals in International Relations." International Studies Perspectives 6.4 (2005): 447–461.
Frickel, Scott. "Political scientists". Sociological Forum 33#1 (2018).
Garand, James C., and Micheal W. Giles. "Journals in the discipline: a report on a new survey of American political scientists". PS: Political Science & Politics 36.2 (2003): 293-308.
Gerardo L. Munck and Richard Snyder, eds. Passion, Craft, and Method in Comparative Politics. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)
Goodin, R.E.; Klingemann, Hans-Dieter. A New Handbook of Political Science. (Oxford University Press, 1996).
Goodin, Robert E, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Political Science. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Hochschild, Jennifer L. "Race and Class in Political Science" Michigan Journal of Race and Law, 2005 11(1): 99–114.
Hunger, Sophia, and Fred Paxton. "What's in a buzzword? A systematic review of the state of populism research in political science". Political Science Research and Methods (2021): 1–17.
Katznelson, Ira, et al. Political Science: The State of the Discipline. W.W. Norton, 2002.
Kellstedt, Paul M, and Guy D Whitten. The Fundamentals of Political Science Research Third ed., Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Klingemann, Hans-Dieter, ed. The State of Political Science in Western Europe (Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publisher 2007).
Kostova, Dobrinka, et al. "Determinants and Diversity of Internationalisation in Political Science: The Role of National Policy Incentives". European Political Science (2022): 1–14.
Lowndes, Vivien, et al., editors. Theory and Methods in Political Science. Fourth ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Morlino, Leonardo, et al. Political Science: A Global Perspective. Sage, 2017.
Nisonger, Thomas E. "Journals of the Century in Political Science and International Relations". in Journals of the Century (Routledge, 2019) pp. 271–288.
Peez, Anton. "Contributions and blind spots of constructivist norms research in international relations, 1980–2018: A systematic evidence and gap analysis". International Studies Review 24.1 (2022): viab055.
Raadschelders, Jos CN, and Kwang‐Hoon Lee. "Trends in the study of public administration: Empirical and qualitative observations from Public Administration Review, 2000–2009." Public Administration Review 71.1 (2011): 19–33.
Roskin, M. et al. Political Science: An Introduction (14th ed. Pearson, 2020).
Taylor, C. L., & Russett, B. M. Eds.. Karl W. Deutsch: Pioneer in the Theory of International Relations (Springer, 2020).
Tronconi, Filippo, and Isabelle Engeli. "The networked researcher, the editorial manager, and the traveller: the profiles of international political scientists and the determinants of internationalisation". European Political Science (2022): 1–14.
Van Evera, Stephen. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Cornell University Press, 1997.
Weber, Erik, et al. "Thinking about laws in political science (and beyond)". Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 52.1 (2022): 199–222.
Zippelius, Reinhold (2003). Geschichte der Staatsideen (History of political Ideas), 10th ed. Munich: