Meaning And Definitions Of Political Science

There are two viewpoints about the meaning and defination of Political Science, Such as:

l. Traditional Viewpoint and

II. Modern Viewpoint


The viewpoint adopted till the beginning of the 20th century is known as the Traditional Viewpoint of Political Science. The traditional thinkers had developed Political Science as an independent subject and refused to accept it as a branch of subjects like Sociology, Philosophy and History etc. The traditional thinkers included the study of formal political institutions like the state, government and law etc into the subject matter of Political Science and the thinkers like Dr. Garner, Bluntschli, Paul Janet, Dr. Leacock, Willoughby, Lord Seeley, Gettell, Lord Acton, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau etc were the main supporters of this view- point. The views of these thinkers about Political Science can be divided into three categories such as :

  1. Political Science is concerned with the State.
  2. Political Science is concerned with the Government.
  3. Political Science is concerned with the State and the Government.


Garner, Lord Acton, Btuntschli, Gettell, Ilyas Ahmed and Garis etc are of the view that Political Science is concerned with the state and to support this, they have given the following definitions

1. According to Garner, "Political Science begins and ends with the State. "

2. According to Bluntschli, "Political Science is the science which is concemed with the state in its fundamental conditions, its essential nature, its various forms of manifestations and its development.

3. According to Gettell, 'Political Science is historical investigation of what the state has been, analytical study of what the state is and political ethical discussion ot what the state ought to be.’

4. According to Lord Acton, "Political Science is concerned with the state and with the conditions essential for its development.”

5. According to Ilyas Ahmed, "Political Science is a systematized knowledge regarding the problems of the state. "

6. According to Garis, "Political Science considers the state as an institution of power in the totality or its relations, its origin, its setting, its objects, its ethical significance, its economic problems, its life conditions, its financial Sides, its ends etc. "

According to the definitions given above, the state is central to the study of Political Science as it deals with the various aspects of the state and makes its study in totality.


According to Seeley, Leacock etc, Political Science is the study of Government only and to this effect, they have given the following definitions:

1. According to Seeley, 'Political Science investigates the phenomenon of government as Political Economy deals with wealth, Biology with life, Algebra with numbers and Geometry with space and magnitude. "

2. According to Leacock, "Political Science deals with the government only. "

3. According to McMillan Dictionary, 'Political Science deals with the organization and administration of government. "

The definitions given above limit the scope of Political Science to the study of government only which is not a correct viewpoint.


Paul Janet, Gilchrist and Demock etc are of the opinion that Political Science is concerned with both, the state and government and to support their viewpoint, they have given the following definitions .

1. According to Paul Janet, 'Political Science is that part of social sciences which treats with the foundations of the state and principles ot the government. "

2. According to Gilchrist, ' Political Science deals with the general problems of the state and the organization of the government.

3. According to Demock, ' Political Science is concerned with the state and it means the government "

4. According to Willoughby, "Generally speaking there are three great topics with which Political Science has to deal - state, Government and Law."

According to the definitions given above, the state and government both are the subject matter of the study of the Political Science.

CONCLUSION — After reading the definitions written above, we come to the conclusion that the traditional thinkers have included the study of the state and the government into subject matter of Political Science. Besides this, traditional thinkers have laid emphasis on the institutional study of the state and government but they have ignored their actual working and the factors which influence the working of these. Because of this, it is known as the institutional and formal study.


The Modern or contemporary viewpoint of political science is quite different than the traditional viewpoint. In 1908, famous British philosopher GRAHAM WALLAS and American philosopher ARTHUR BENTLY published their famous books ‘Human Nature in Politics’ and ‘Process of Government’ respectively. In These books they rejected the traditioal view point of political science by calling it “Dead Political Science”. These scholars laid emphasis on the study of actual human behaviour and both formal and informal political institutions which in some way effect the working of political institutions. They also made power central to the study of Political Science. After them, The famous scholars like Harold Lasswell,David Easton, George Catlin, Charles Merriam, D.E. Apter, Almond and Powell, Robert A. Dahl Etc made the modern view point more popular and acceptable.

Acoording to Modern view point, politics is an activity or a process which includes ’Struggles for power’,’use of influence’,’authoritative allocation of values’, ‘legitimate use of power’ etc Apart from this, Struggle for the protection of interests, Resolution of conflicts and the art of policy making etc are also included in the scope of Political Science. Famous Modern Political Scientist ROBERT A. DAHL has said, “ Whether he like it or not, virtually no one is completely beyond the reach of some kind of political system. “ Today, entire environment around individual is political and wheather he likes it or not, he cannot escape politics and the supporters of the modern view point of political science have included almost each and every activity which is political by nature into the scope of Political science as a result of which the scope of it has become as wide as the universe.


Modern Political Scientists have used the word “Politics” in place of political science and they have given the following definations to clarify the meaning of it – 

1. According to Herbert J Spiro, "Politics is the process by which a human community as small as two persons or as large as the community of mankind deals with its problems”

2. According to Edward Banefield, "Politics is an activity (negotiation, argument, discussion, application of force, persuation etc/by which an issue is agitated or settled.”

3. According to Harold Lasswell, "Politics is the study of the influence and influential Politics primarily concerned with who gets what, when and how.”

4. According to David Easton, "Politics is the study of the authoritative allocation of values. "

5. According to William Robeson, "The focus of interst of Political Scientists is clear and unambiguous. It centres on the struggle to gain or retain power, to exercise power or influence over others or to resist that exercised."

6. According to Max Weber, "Politics is struggle for power or the influencing of those in power and it embraces the struggle between states as such and between organised groups within the state”

7. According to Catlin, "Politics is the study of political aspect of organised human society. "

8, According to Lipson, "By politics, I mean process of active controversy”

9. According to Oxford Dictionary, "Politics is the science and art of government, the science of dealing with the form, organization and administration of a state or part ot one and with the regulation of its relations with other states."

10. According to Alan R. Ball "Politics is an activity concerned with conflict, compromise, decision making, power and authority. "

1 1 . According to Robert A. Dahl, Political Science deals with power, rule or authority "

CONCLUSION — The supporters of the modern viewpoint of Political Science have expanded the scope of Political Science to a great extent and they have included all those activities concerned with shaping and sharing of power, influence, authority and authoiritative allocation of values in the scope of Political Science. They have made an attempt to make Political Science an ‘empirical science' and have included all those activities of an individual which are political in nature in the scope of Political Science as a result of which Political Science has become empirical science.

While giving a very simple but comprehensive definition of politics J.C. Plano and R.E. Riggs have written, "Politics connotes activity or process ... in a political setting, politics has been called the art of possible, the art of governing and the study of who gets what, when and how. It is commonly identified with the exercise of influence, the struggle for power and the competition among individuals and groups over the allocation of rewards or values within a society. It is also said to involve a social steering process. including the setting and attaining of collective goals. the many faces of politics, the decision making, value allocation, goal setting, power seeking, interest competing, influence exerting activity may appear within any social group."