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Political Science

government, deals, history, phenomena, govern, relation and investigation

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POLITICAL SCIENCE, the science which treats of the nature and organization of states with particular reference to their forms of government (q.v.). The late Sir John Seeley, one of the most profound students of political science, declared that °the state in the largest acceptation of the word, distinct from the fam ily, though not unconnected with it, distinct also from the nation, though sometimes roughly co inciding with it, is the subject of political science; or, since the distinctive character of the state whereever it appears, is that it makes use of a contrivance called government, we may say that it deals with government as political economy deals with wealth, as biology deals with life, as algebra deals with numbers and as geometry deals with space and magnitude." It is the province of political science to discover proper tests for the classification of govern ments as well as correct principles for the organization or administration of government. Whether political power shall be vested in the few or the many, what shall be the qualifica tion of those who choose and those who hold government offices and mandates, whether a written constitution is preferable to an unwrit ten one, whether legislative, executive and iu dicial functions should be exercised by the same or different organs, whether the bicameral form of legislature has advantages over the single chambered body, the relation between govern ment and liberty, the °roper sphere of govern ment activity, the conception and organization of sovereignty, the principles governing the or ganization and powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary are some of the problems of general political science. In its nature political science may be descriptive or historical. Descriptive political science deals with existing constitutions and treats of princi ples which are applied in practice. Historical political science treats of constitutions which have obtained in the past and of the growth and development of political ideas. Political science is sometimes said to differ from politics in that the latter has to do rather with the prac tical administration of government and from political philosophy in that the latter is concerned with a theoretical examination of the concepts which underlie political science. According to

this distinction, political science has to do only with those political ideas which are scientific. It is closely allied to history and political econ omy. Its relation to history is ingeniously de scribed by the eminent authority referred to above. He says that history is the residuum left when one group of facts after another has been taken possession of by some science. As this process of appropriation goes on, the resid uum will eventually become the property of a single science —political science, a science which has for a long time been insensibly growing up by the side of history and in close connection with it. Political science draws many if not most of its materials from history, and the prin ciples which underlie it are for the most part based on historical facts. Its relation to eco nomics arises from the great part which eco nomic influences play in determining the func tions and scope of government. Thus the prin ciples underlying the proper relation of govern ment to industry as for example whether cer tain industries should be encouraged by boun ties, subsidies or tariffs, are affected largely by economic considerations.

Foilmerly there was a disposition to deny that the study ot the phenomena of the state could properly be described as a °science.* Political phenomena, it was said, are character ized by so much uncertainty and lack of order that it is impossible to apply to them scienti fic methods of investigation. This assumption, however, was based on a conception of science which was too narrow and strict. If we con ceive the function of science to be the classifi cation and study of facts through investigation and analysis and the deduction of conclusions therefrom, we are justified in holding that the phenomena of government constitute an appro priate subject of scientific investigation. It will be admitted, of course, that owing to the ab sence of fixed and immutable laws such as govern the relations of physical phenomena, the facts relating to political and social phenomena are less capable of evaluation and analysis than those with which the physicist and biologist are concerned; nevertheless it is impossible to say that they cannot be studied according to the rules of scientific investigation.

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