Table of Contents 

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Alfred de Grazia:



MANY PEOPLE have only a vague idea of what is meant by the term "political science." Often they confuse it with political economy, which is economics; or they conceive it to be the discussion of current events, although there is no more reason for a political scientist to know offhand the present situation in the Near East than for a professor of physical mechanics to be able to describe the pilings of any bridge in North Carolina. They often believe that political science is civic ethics, that is, a system of moral exhortations that tell students what is good and bad about the political conduct of various persons and groups.

Political science is fundamentally none of these things. It is scientific method applied to political events. Like any other science, it is an attempt to reduce, by ever-broader statements, the facts with which it deals to a number of clear, precise, descriptive principles. Of course, in a science called political, these facts and principles are political. A principle of political science might be: "Third parties have a difficult time getting on the ballot in most states"; or "The system of filling committee chairmanships by seniority in the Congress operates on the whole to the advantage of the conservative Southern faction of the Democratic Party when that party is in the majority."

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However confused some people may be about political science, they seem to have clear-cut and dogmatic ideas about politics. To many voters, politics is a racket, a game, or a disgrace; but to those they elect to office, who are "in politics," it may be a noble profession. Such epithets, however, can only express emotional reactions, not the realities of politics. Practical politics actually resolves itself into the adjustments of human relations. It calls for a practical skill that distinguishes one man from another - an art. Long training, even if only self-training or experience, elevates one man above another, and when training and aptitude increase a skill, we have conditions that are typical of an art, whether it be bad or good, plain or fancy art. A few men seem to be born to the political art.

Science presents the principles; the corresponding art applies them. So, in theory, should the political scientist provide the principles for the political artist - the politician, the administrator, the active citizen. It would be false, however, to conceal the fact that the co-ordination between the scientist and the politician, in practice, is slight.

This situation is by no means peculiar to political science. Knowing the principles of anatomical mechanics hardly helps one walk better, and he who trys consciously to operate by them may well fall on his face. On the other hand, without a science of anatomy and engineering, artificial limbs could not be employed successfully. Even in those areas where science and art are indispensable to one another, co-ordination cannot be perfect. The engineer learns mechanics in school and even takes courses in the art of bridge building, that is, "applied" courses; but he does not learn how to build the bridge of real life. The bridge is unique; it is his individual solution of a special bridging problem-a problem of scientific principle, aesthetic principle, climate, public opinion, and perhaps even politics.


Certainly, to the neutral observer and to the artist of politics the political world seems so confused and complex that most of the descriptions of it over the last two thousand years appear to be monstrous oversimplifications, completely useless as guides for political practice. Everything seems to be done according to homely sayings that people have acquired during their individual life experiences or by reason of some complex "feeling" for the particular situation that cannot be broken down into a statement of scientific principle or taught to others. When one asks a politician whether there are principles of political science that underlie his activities, he snorts in derision or else emits several heavy dogmas that he would never in his right mind pursue implacably: "Never offend anybody;" "Always vote for appropriations and against taxes;" "Be loyal;" or "God is on the side with the most votes" When one turns to the diaries, lives, memoirs, and accounts in political literature, one must, if one is reasonable, perceive that the precious advice of Boss Plunkitt of Tammany Hall might inspire, but would badly serve, the budding politician in rural Nebraska, that the finesse of the diplomat, Talleyrand, reconciles poorly with the bumptious tactics of Huey Long, one-time boss of Louisiana.

It is true that powerful men have a weakness for citing other great men as their mentors: Napoleon cited Alexander; Mussolini, Caesar; Lenin, Marx; Mao Tse-Tung of Communist China, George Washington; and many American leaders, Jefferson. But the alleged "educators" are often discovered after the fact, when the new leader needs justification. The "model" often is fitted into the ego of the new man -a cloak he wears, a role he plays, a symbol of what he would like to be. The new men are not getting science from the old, but are getting propaganda. For the settled areas of science, and this is true of parts of political science, the founders, such as Newton, may, as men, give inspiration, but as contributors their work is mingled with and lost in the general body of scientific principles in their fields.


In short, it would be false and vainglorious to declare that political science can provide its disciples with scientific tools that will give them a great advantage over uninitiates in practical politics. Political science cannot make a politician out of a scientist any more than physiology can make an athlete out of a physiotherapist. Nor can it make up to any great extent for the wealth of experience and the insights that the "practical" politician, administrator, or citizen brings to bear on individual political problems. Except in rare cases, such as that of Woodrow Wilson, a political scientist does not possess an aptitude for politics, and it is noteworthy that, although some of Wilson's practical success was traceable to his excellent scientific preparation, his major political failures were an outgrowth of a temperament that was more congenial to scientific discovery than to politics.


Furthermore, political science is not always accurate in describing the political process. It is all too easy for one fresh from the textbooks to scoff at the "irrationalities" of politicians, who seem to be like the fabled bird that flies forward with its head turned backwards. The political novice tends to be cynical, like the playwright, Alexandre Dumas the Younger, who, when urged by an admirer to write about politics, replied: "Comedies about comedies don't go."

Often the supposed "irrationalities" turn out to be elements of the problem at hand that a more perfect political science would have taken account of in its body of principles. For example, when a group of students views the sessions of any of the world's important assemblies, it most frequently sees a scattering of members acting in a leisurely manner. The students often conclude on the basis of a "principle" they have been taught in class ("Laws are made in assemblies after debate on the merits of the bill") that the members are not living up to their responsibilities. The member will tell them privately, however, that if he attended all the meetings of this term of the assembly, he would not be around for the next. He has learned quickly that his job has many "angles," and the purely formal function of attending sessions and launching debates must take its proper place.

We have said that politics is the art, political science the science, and that the art has not had great help from the scientific principles. Still, one should not underestimate political science. There are many useful things that can be said about the ways in which men of different viewpoints and different standards of right and wrong behave in the political process. The chapters that follow will describe some of the materials of political science and their relationships. Their aim is to make general statements about politics that will be meaningful either to those who contemplate the political process or to those who are active in it.

In addition to these principles of political science, there is a science of political inquiry that this book aims to describe. As Karl Pearson has written: "The man who classifies facts of any kind whatsoever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequences, is applying the scientific method and is a man of science. The facts may belong to the past history of mankind, to the social statistics of our great cities, to the atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive organs of a worm, or to the life of a scarcely visible bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which make science, but the method in which they are dealt with." [1]

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Political science, as one of the social sciences that deal with human relations, is a member of a rather quarrelsome family. Psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and human geography are the other members. Each of these, like political science itself, is not very sure of its place in the family or its future as a science. None has a private room, and each has a habit of wearing the others' party dresses.

For example, a psychologist will sometimes interpret international relations of the most complex sort on some theory of "reward and punishment" or "the aggressive instinct." An anthropologist will show that we can have peace, because he has found some primitive tribes that seem not to have war. An economist can be heard saying now and then that if we were to restore a world-wide free movement of goods and persons, the causes of war would vanish. And sociologists here and there raise their voices to state that war is essentially a struggle between "we" and "they," the "ingroup" and the "outgroup," who are jealous of their respective gods and customs, or that war is a struggle for social prestige. Not a few geographers seem all too certain that the control of strategic routes and raw materials is at the root of warfare. Not to be outdone, some historians have been prone to see war as the logical outcome of dynastic disputes, personal ambitions, or some combination of unique factors that are not capable of being fitted into a pattern for purposes of explanation.

The political scientist who studies war draws on his knowledge of one or more of the sister sciences. The best studies of war to this day, in fact, have been skillful combinations of the insights and evidence afforded by all of the social sciences. Each science reveals some facet that the other cannot. One may ask: Must a political scientist who studies war be skilled in all of the social sciences? The answer is, at the present time, yes. Since political science has chosen to study war as a whole, in its total meaning as human behavior, it cannot escape the obligation to bring to the subject all the contributions of the social sciences and to risk the danger of amateurishness in any one of them.

The same broad demands are made of political science in other problem areas. The political scientist is called on to be expert on matters concerning the state, for example. Again, he must be, as he has often been in the past, a jurist in speaking of the constitution and the laws, a sociologist in speaking of political institutions, a psychologist in describing public opinion and propaganda on public issues, a historian in describing governmental changes, and an economist in talking of fiscal policy, budgetary matters, and social legislation. If he is to study municipal government, he would do well to read that classic on city government, Aristotle's Politics, and see there how a great scientist treated the psychological, economic, sociological, and other elements in the operation of the city-state.


Given this necessity for making use of materials of all the social sciences, the field of political science is usually defined by subject-area, in history and today. The prevailing broad divisions in America are shown in Figure 1. Governmental institutions and the major areas of life that government influences are the foci of attention; a re-examination of the table of contents of this book will show that most chapters refer to subject-areas. The reason why most political scientists are specialists in a certain area of government or politics is that continuous, intensive study of one area of human involvement may often produce better results than a one-sided application to a wide range of situations of a "law" or principle" obtained elsewhere from a raw and crude science. For example, today it is probable that a political scientist who is a specialist on legislatures can answer more of the questions we ask about the principles of legislation than can a political scientist who is an expert on the psychology of group behavior, although, as we shall point out later, both men can give different and yet useful answers, and the two in co-operation can be even of greater use.

At this stage of political science, specialization by subject can work well. Given talent, a man concentrating on one certain area of behavior, such as political parties or public law, can come to understand it well. He can achieve a sympathetic relationship with the characters and events he studies. He can see the parts in relation to the whole without losing sight of the whole. If he is outstanding, he can bring to bear on his own area of specialization the new techniques and discoveries of the other social sciences.

Figure 1:


(as practiced generally in American Universities)

*Political theory is germane to all aspects of the diagram. All subjects cited relate to all other subjects in many ways.

Considerable doubt exists as to whether any complex situation in politics, such as war, elections, legislation, administration of public affairs, or municipal government, can be understood by one man. Yet the political scientist is the most probable candidate for the task. To take one instance, can anyone find out why an election goes Republican or Democratic in a particular county? Among the variables or factors that we can imagine to be at work are the following: sex, age, religion, nationality, income, the kind of neighborhood, the county history, the organization of the party, party leadership, the amount and kind of propaganda, the influence of past elections, party platforms, party history, individual histories, the personality of candidates, the beliefs of voters, the actual and presumed issues, press coverage and viewpoints, the number of eligible voters, the extent to which voters who were eligible actually turned out to vote, the number of names on the ballot, the type of election system used, the weather on election day, and many more. Obviously, the political scientist studying this election has to be highly trained in many disciplines if he is to estimate the possible operation of all of these factors. No other social scientist can tell him the absolute or relative importance of sex, age, religion, economic issues, organization, and so on. He must determine them for this election and other elections by himself or with the aid of a few close colleagues.

He can, in fact, by virtue of his intimate knowledge of these influences as they function in this whole situation that he studies, give members of the other social sciences instruction regarding their own fields. The sociologist who studies race differences, for example, can learn something from studies of voting behavior. The political scientist's preoccupation with one problem of behavior may even produce more useful principles than would be produced if other social scientists were separately to apply the principles and methods of their disciplines to his field of interest. If so, we cannot expect to learn from the economist how money influenced the vote, or from the psychologists how age influenced it, or from sociologists how social class affiliations influenced it. The political scientist must be aware of what the economists, psychologists, and sociologists have said about these influences; but perhaps only he can assign to these factors their proper influence, for only he has considered them as they operate together in the election process.


There has been a great deal of criticism of the customary orientation of political science to subject-areas. Other social scientists sometimes greet with protests writings by political scientists on war, the state, the political party, or leadership. They claim, for example, that only an economist can talk of the economic causes of war, the sociologist of the cultural causes of war, or the psychologist of the tensions that cause war. However, such criticism, to be justified, must show that the political scientist used, for example, bad psychological techniques, uninformed estimates of psychological findings, and over-generalizations from psychological materials. The individual political scientist must defend his work in these respects.

But his harassment does not end here. For quite the opposite reason, political scientists who have taken a broad view of their subject have sometimes been reproached from within the profession of political science itself. He who discussed how the law was made ran some risk when he talked of the informal elements that enter into legislation. At one time he would have encountered real opposition to including in his description "extraneous" matters such as the influence of lobbies on lawmakers, the rule of legislative bodies by key committees, or the domination of legislatures by party bosses. Sociologists like Ostrogorski, Michels, and Bentley, and social psychologists like Sighele, Le Bon, and Wallas helped political scientists like Wilson, Bryce, Merriam, and Beard to force a treatment of these realistic questions so that many other political scientists could deal with them without incurring the distrust of their colleagues.

A certain amount of cautious sniffing and headshaking still occurs whenever a political scientist takes broadly the subjectarea pretensions of political science and tries to describe the whole of the problem on which he is concentrating. As soon as a student moves about in the bibliography of political science in America and western Europe he will detect a strong legalistic air, persisting from the recent past, when political science was public law rather narrowly conceived. As such, public law concerned itself principally with the formal procedures a political system required in such situations as filing and running for office, being a party official, becoming an elector, introducing a bill, drafting a bill, judging its constitutionality, and following it through the continuous court redefinitions of its precise applications to particular cases. On the whole,, however, today's political scientists are the better received te more materials and viewpoints they bring to bear on their subject.

Although a great many political scientists are experts on given subjects, a few have urged upon their colleagues a scope of study other than subject-area specialization. Two alternative points of view deserve mention. Each differs from the substantive area definition. Each attempts to make political science assume a more logical position in relation to other social sciences and a more advantageous position for undertaking the solution of political problems. One is the "policy science" approach. The other is the "factor specialization" approach.


Exponents of the "policy science" approach (well known among them are Harold D. Lasswell and James K. Pollock) would share the problems of political science with other social sciences. Since it is difficult for one man to bring all the rapidly multiplying techniques and findings of the social sciences to bear on the solution of a particular political problem, they consider a form of interdisciplinary co-operation necessary. Wherever the community must have informed "policy," the social sciences are to co-operate. Thus, the political scientist would not venture to give sole judgment on a law governing the press, but would be one of a committee of economists, psychologists, sociologists, and ethical scientists who would contribute the findings of their respective disciplines to a complete description of the state of the press and the consequences of the proposed legislation. Under the guidance, preferably of practicing experts on the "possible," that is, representatives of the public or statesmen, these findings would form the basis for social action. The specific contribution of the political scientist would be in the design of the co-operative study and in the knowledge he possesses of how policies are made. Examples of the use of this co-operative technique have been such enterprises as the Committee on Freedom of the Press, the National Resources Planning Board, the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, and (to indicate how highly controversial this approach may be) the various four-year, fiveyear and other plans of collectivist economies abroad.


The approach we term factor specialization would make of political science an analytic science. If we let economics analyze the "price-value" factor in human relations and motivations, sociology the "honor-value" or "prestige" factor, geography the "physical" factor, and psychology the "psycho-physical" origins of the various factors, political science would study the "power" factor. Just as economics often studies the conditions of the maximization of profit, political science would study the conditions of the maximization of power. Power we would define roughly as the control over the disposition of valued things-public offices, material goods, honors, and so on. The man who submerged all other values to the single-minded pursuit of the power to make decisions and to tell other people in a society how to act would be the pure "political man."

Factor specialization would differ from the usual approach to the field of political science in that it would be more limited and would depend greatly on the other social sciences to provide the missing elements needed for a complete analysis of any problem. For example, a political scientist would lean upon the economist, the sociologist, and others in treating of the administration of roads, schools, and other activities of government.

However, many political activities are not "power" activities; some, but never all, have to do with power. Exclusive preoccupation with one factor like "power," in the absence of ability to measure that element exactly, may thus produce a lopsided description of the event studied.

Neither of the two approaches just described can be ignored. If they operate at present on a precarious footing, they may be expected to become stronger as time goes on and the science of politics develops. Meanwhile both views help discourage more conventional political scientists from producing shapeless descriptions of transitory situations. The "policy" scientists point out the important problems, the need for cooperation in the social sciences, and the principles common to the processes by which political decisions are made. The "factor" scientists, by emphasizing the study of the central components of the political process, advance the development of dynamic principles of political behavior.


The three views jointly contribute to a proper construction of the field of political science, which at the present time can be said to discuss three classes of phenomena: politics, the politically relevant, and the politically conditioned. "Politics" or "political" includes the events that happen around the decision-making centers of government. Who makes the most important decisions locally, nationally, and internationally? What are the decisions and what is their effect? What are the procedures, formal and informal, by which they are made?

The "politically relevant" encompasses those general and specific social events that are not directly political, but that have effects of political importance: the political beliefs of certain religious movements like Mohammedanism, the political effects of business cycles, the relative amounts of compulsory and free elements in the training of children in a society, the productivity of labor and machinery in a political jurisdiction, the effects of monopoly upon control of the nation, the rate of social and technological change, or the curricula of universities and the political influences operating on students.

The "politically conditioned" denotes those events that in large part follow from political decisions or are associated with political behavior. Typical are the effects of legislation. However, in so far as the effects of a particular law are the concern of the special field to which it pertains, political scientists lose interest. They are too busy observing those laws that affect behavior that is either political or closely relevant to politics. Thus, they customarily observe closely the effects of laws regulating lobbies, labor unions, and political parties, leaving the effects of child labor legislation, grain and money market regulation, or crop control legislation to sociologists and economists.

There are other kinds of politically conditioned events: the effects of state activities on religion-for instance the antireligious behavior of the Communist parties in eastern Europe after World War II; the effects of government ownership upon work motivation and capitalistic initiative; the use of political power to obtain personal revenge or make a fortune; or the way in which economic, educational, and social institutions bend to follow the direction of political events. These influences of politics are implied in verbal expressions. For example a stock broker says: "The President must become optimistic about business if economic conditions are not to get worse"; an educator says: "How can we teach students to be good when the politics are so corrupt"; a Negro leader states: "Race relations will never be what they were before the war because so many Negroes fought and died for freedom."

The sphere of what is political, politically relevant, and politically determined is not fixed. It shifts with the times and the interests of men in what may be obtained through the apparatus of the state. In early Virginia, the vestry was a unit of religion and government together. It later lost political character and finally even political relevance. Certain mountain ranges like the Alps or the Pyrenees gain or lose political relevance as the nations around them move in different political directions. The education of the young is sometimes, as in ancient Sparta or Nazi Germany, directly managed .by political leaders for their own ends; sometimes, as in the United States, it is politically relevant and politically conditioned.

Various scientific theories and discoveries have added new dimensions to the relevant and the conditioned. Marx's theory that the state was dominated by the class that owned the instruments of economic production, when adopted by some political scientists, made the study of the control of factories "political" and tended to make the study of the machinery of the state "relevant," but not central.

Freud's examination of the "unconscious" factor in human conduct, coupled with his theory that strong feelings of guilt may produce aggressive behavior, led to some important contributions to the study of nonrational behavior in politics. Thus today, when a political scientist studies certain destructive political characters in action, he may look as deeply as possible into their personal history. He may find evidence, for instance, that they were held to impossible standards of conduct as children and blamed for many unaccountable situations, until in desperation they sought relief from their anxieties by casting their feelings of guilt elsewhere and finding political opponents to blame and punish.

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Political science cannot be said to any have coherent and indisputable body of methods and techniques, partly because of the great depth and scope of its interests, partly because of the little success thus far achieved in measurement as the natural sciences know it. The political scientist ordinarily approaches some portion of the materials of politics that interests him, observes what is going on from as close a vantage point as possible, reads and listens to what others say about it, and forms a theory as to the key influences at work and how they interact with each other. Guided then by his theory or hypothesis, he goes deeper into the evidence, confirming, changing, or disproving his theory, depending upon what he finds.

Political scientists differ temperamentally and intellectually, and the results of their work very often express these differences. Four general approaches can be observed. One political scientist may present careful descriptions; he may provide a detailed and exact mirror of the events he is observing. Another may have a talent for analysis; he may isolate the influences at work in a situation and their essential relation to the events he is studying. A third scholar may prefer to work by comparison; if he is blessed with an acute ability to discriminate the characteristics of two similar events or institutions, he may be able to show as no one else can what distinguishes one event from another, and account for the different behavior of the human beings in each. A fourth student may proceed by the genetic or historical method; his chief interest is then in trends over a period of time. Given an event to explain, such as the defeat of a candidate in a single election, he will immediately proceed to examine the sequence of events of which this is the latest. There are probably profound psychological reasons why different scientists emphasize one method over another in the discovery of truths. But little is known about how individual differences among scientists are transformed into different ways of studying the same events.

A glance at some studies in the field of American politics will illustrate these striking differences in approach. For instance, J. T. Salter's Boss Rule is a vivid description of the routine of the local politician. H. F. Gosnell's Machine Politics: Chicago Model shows how variables like income, religion, nationality, past party affiliation, and newspaper reading habits can be isolated and employed statistically to explain election results. The erudite work of Herman Finer on The Theory and Practice of Modern Government contrasts the cabinet systems and other institutions of the Western countries and relates their different effects to their different organization. In Harold Zink's City Bosses in the United States and H. D. Lasswell's Psychopathology and Politics two very different techniques of personal history are used to reveal how the lives of politicians influence the course of American politics. And W. E. Binkley's American Political Parties: Their Natural History, a broader history, shows how much of the present behavior of the parties in America rises out of past events and political crises.

No method is used alone. Each of the works above, and every other work, is colored by more than one way of explaining political reality. In Plato's Republic analysis and comparison (especially by detailed analogies) go hand in hand. Aristotle's Politics is much more descriptive, although he develops in a modern form some of the current concepts used in analyzing governments (such as the influence of the wealthier classes on politics). The other great works of political theory have also employed combinations of the four methods in order to ensure the validity and increase the persuasiveness of their findings.


The methods just described are general; they represent basic and universal patterns of thought; they underlie what we may call the techniques of political science. By techniques are meant those many neat and precise ways by which the investigation of facts may be carried on in pursuance of the general methodology of the research worker. Although political science needs far more techniques than it presently possesses, their number is still too great to allow mention of more than a few.

The ability to work quickly and skillfully with documentary materials is of course of first importance. Yearbooks, encyclopedias, periodical files, law books, statutes, legislative records, and personal documents like diaries and letters are commonly used. They contain an abundance of evidence on many points of great interest in all subject-areas of political science. Research workers studying the movements of public opinion preceding World War II found in the newspapers, periodicals, and documents that had preceded World War I certain trends that provided useful comparisons and theories to test. The voting records of a succession of Congresses as contained in the Congressional Record and journals afforded some researchers, for example, the chance to trace the extent to which the party leaders maintained or failed to maintain adherence of party members to the party line. Congressional hearings, which are often recorded, are mines of information on numerous subjects.

Direct observation includes all those accounts that men make of events immediately perceived. The events may be recorded in systematic or haphazard fashion, using occasional notes or one's memory. Or they may be recorded by one of the new techniques. Wire recordings of interviews and movies of events have been used to gather materials for subsequent political study. The "participant observer," one who belongs to a group or movement in order to study it, is a favorite role of political scientists. For often they cannot otherwise get close enough to the center of events.

The "questionnaire" is used widely in studies of the political attitudes of a selected group and (to a lesser extent) of the political behavior of larger numbers of persons. Carefully drafted in advance, the same question may be presented to many individuals, and their answers may be tabulated and analyzed according to rigid standards. Where the activities, attitudes and responses of a large number of people are to be found, a "sample" is made. If we have some foreknowledge of the characteristics of an entire group (for instance, the distribution of its members according to age, sex, residence or income), a small fraction of the total number is selected in proper proportions to stand for the whole. Where foreknowledge is slight or likely to mislead, a "random" sample may still be obtained. A random sample is taken by giving to all things or persons in the universe of data studied an equal chance of being selected. Sampling has come to be quite an intricate technique, mastered only by specialists who must be called on by the ordinary political scientist for assistance when he believes the technique might be useful.

The most extensive development of sampling and questionnaire techniques has grown out of the polling of public opinion. Often the polls are designed to prepare data for all four general methods of political science (see Figure 2). For example, a poll based on a sample of the population will give an accurate description of how people feel about a particular issue of current interest. The same poll may present data by states so that one area may be compared with another. It may break down its findings by income levels, or age groups, or sex and thus allow the behavior of the component parts of the population to be analyzed in relation to one another. Finally, the same poll, taken at several points in time, will afford opportunity to discern historical trends and perhaps to foresee the future.

Political science makes increasing use of statistics also, especially in the analysis of government finance and in the compilation of voting figures. Public opinion and propaganda studies are next in frequency of employment of statistical techniques, but one may expect to encounter rather simple statistics even in studies of Supreme Court opinions or legislation. As yet, however, no total subject of political science has been quantitatively presented in statistical or other exact language.


Ideally, once the results of research by these and other techniques have been formulated in a large number of general statements about politics, these statements should all be phrased in a few exact words or symbols and fitted into an ever-diminishing number of even more general statements. Our knowledge of politics should be systematized, just as are the facts one knows about Lassie, about Collies, about dogs, about mammals, and about all animals.

However, although some political scientists are systematic, political science itself is not. The writers remain individualistic. To each systematizer his own system. They are like the blind men hired by the Chinese Emperor to describe an elephant; one felt a huge foot and described the animal as a tree, another felt the trunk and described the animal as a snake, and so on, with results scarcely helpful to the Emperor. Similarly, books on the state by brilliant scholars fail to talk about the same things in the same language and with the same purposes in mind. What is true of the concept "state" is true of many other concepts describing important political problems, such as "liberty," "authority," "representation," "power," "law," "public opinion," and "social welfare." We hardly need add "democracy," "fascism," and "communism." Political sects, far more than scholars, make a cult of language and tend to confuse further the language of science. In order to understand many of the best writers on these concepts, one must know all about them, their troubles, the age in which they lived, and the meanings they give to these words in relation to all the other words they use; even so, one often cannot be satisfied. A more limited approach, suited especially to the concise, objective summing up of what a large body of symbols tells about their authors, is called "content analysis."

Thus, to find a systematic political science, one must know the various systems thoroughly - there are not many, for all men are not Aristotles or Platos - and select that which provides the shortest course and the most usable body of principles; but this task is long and arduous and brings a student to middle age. One may build a "solipsistic" system of one's own, that is, a system that communicates rules and principles with meaning only to oneself, like a painting that is understood only by its creator. However, since no great science has sprung from the experience of a single man, but rather from the experiments and controlled observations of generations, the chances of such a personal science being of considerable immediate use to the man or his disciples will be small. Scientific findings must be communicable. The language of science must be as precise, clear, and standardized as possible.



An example of sample survey materials allowing one to draw descriptive, comparative, analytic, and historical inferences with relative ease.

 Scale of information possessed by repondents on foreign affairsPercentage of total population
Has U. S. gone too far
in concerning itself
LOW (Oct. 1948) HIGHOct.Apr.Dec.
with problems in other
parts of the world?
012 3 4,5,6 1948 1947 1946
Agree 40%31%31%22%22%32%33%32%
Undecided 2111762121616
Disagree 3554606976534950
Not ascertained44230322
Number of cases 1961571218545

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Let us now suppose that two men, one a political scientist, the other a person active in practical politics, were to pool their intellectual and practical experience in working out a single prescription for creative thinking and action in politics. They wish to describe how a person, both enlightened and energetic, can effectively think about and deal with a real political problem. Their combined efforts would give the scientific and moral man who is pursuing a goal this prescription:

1. He must not allow his values or desires to obscure the facts.
2. He must compare his values with the values of other individuals and groups.
3. He must examine the institutions of society that affect his desires and the desires of others.
4. He must take into account the unexpected and accidental behavior of others.
5. He must devise a strategy for achieving his goals.
6. He must decide on the extent to which he must revise his goals.


Let us try to explain a little more clearly each of these six steps to competent political thinking.

Preventing one's desires from obscuring the facts is more difficult than it seems. Suppose, for example, that the city government is spending a great deal more money than it is taking in through taxation; this deficit is a fact. If the city cannot sell bonds and no one wants to decrease the spending, then it is also a fact that increased taxation is the only remedy. A citizen may not like to pay more taxes, but he can see that what he likes or does not like cannot change the necessity for them. So far so good.

But suppose the question of the tax is turned into a question of tax policy; he is called on to vote for either a sales tax on retail purchases or a progressive income-tax. The sales tax, which is paid on food, hits hardest the lower-income groups, who spend a large part of their income on food. The progressive income-tax hits hardest the upper-income groups, who pay a higher tax rate the higher their income goes. The man in question belongs to a higher-income bracket; his wishes, let us say, thus impel him to prefer the sales tax. He hears a slogan to the effect that the income-tax destroys the initiative of the "more productive elements" of society. Without bothering to weigh the evidence or look further into the matter, he uses this slogan to justify his support of the sales tax. Lacking the ability to examine his motives, he uses his own desires to produce a "mythical" state of reality. He does not investigate the real state of affairs. He is satisfied to take spurious evidence, asking of it only that it be on "his side." He rejects all facts that conflict with his desires. It is difficult for most of us to do otherwise.


The second principle of political thinking is to compare one's own values with those of others. "One man's meat is another man's poison." The values of other people are facts like any others, although it may be difficult to discover and adjust to them. For instance, suppose a man votes Republican, his wife Democratic; each knows the other's position and avoids political argument in the home-an easy and simple adjustment to the conflict. But both believe society is divided into classes: the "upper class," to which they believe they belong, and the "lower class." Within their respective parties, they thus prefer to vote for men of high income, high education, and "good family." Since their favorite candidates are often defeated, they ascribe these defeats to a supposed political "machine" that conspires against "good" candidates. Both fail to realize that large numbers of people make no distinction between an upper and a lower class and prefer other candidates for other reasons. This inability to see that the rest of society has different values leads the couple to venture false, or at least unproven, explanations for the defeat of their men.

Another, rather complex, example was provided by Prime Minister Chamberlain of England in 1938. He valued the continuation of peace more than anything else. He believed that any concession should be made to preserve peace and that it was possible to make peace worthwhile to Hitler as well. This view turned out to be mistaken. Hitler did not desire peace so strongly; he accepted all the concessions that Chamberlain offered and demanded more. If Chamberlain had not believed that even Hitler shared his basic aversion to war, he might have foreseen more clearly the results of his policy of appeasement.

One may properly ask, of course, how much other people's values are worth in relation to one's own. By what standard shall we judge the values of others? This question is extremely controversial, and no answer can be given here, if anywhere. The standard itself is a value. He who regards other people's needs and desires as deserving as much consideration as his own will adjust his desires to what he knows of those of others. He will decide what he would like to see happen; he will find out what the other people concerned would like to see happen; he will then compromise between his "selfish" and "altruistic" desires and thus develop a new value position.

Take for example a man who dislikes war, who refuses to take part in any military preparation and becomes a conscientious objector. He realizes that the values of nearly all other persons are opposed to his, but he believes that there is no other means of avoiding conflict. He is then like Samson, who was willing to bring the temple crashing down on himself in order to destroy the Philistines. Take another man who dislikes war, who also believes that it will not solve any problems. He believes, however, that it is up to the authorities to make such decisions; that is, he prefers to accept a group solution to any problem. He therefore accepts the duties imposed upon him by law. Each of these men knows his own values and the values of others, but each regards differently the value of compromising with the group. The man who compromises in such matters is, of course, far more common than the man who balks.

Such open conflict among one's values is common in political life. When a union member, for example, is told by his union leaders to strike and by his governmental leaders to stay on the job, he must choose between conflicting loyalties. Of course, most men decide without being aware of any problem, but correct political thinking requires that they be conscious of these conflicts.


Getting one's values straight prepares one for the third step: to become acquainted with the institutions that affect one way or another the events important to one's desires. Let us suppose that a man is extremely interested in making as many political decisions as possible in conjunction with his neighbors. He wants a hand in deciding whether streets in his town should be curved or straight, whether the town should own or purchase electric power, whether the voting age should be eighteen or twenty-one, whether private schools should be supported by public funds or not, what tax rates should be levied, whether the constable should be elected or appointed by the mayor, and a host of other questions that have increasingly become the concern of more remote levels of government. Such a man must fight a number of institutions that have multiplied in modern times. Federal and state constitutions have long ago laid great barriers to the realization of most of his desires. The incumbents of federal, state, and even county offices are not inclined to sympathize with his desires, and the forces of entrenched interests (a loose term for institutional barriers) are opposed to him. A number of private and public pressure groups-another kind of institution-oppose his demands because they are afraid of what he might do with his powers once he possessed them. Even the United Nations looks forward eagerly to the day when it may enforce a bill of rights for the whole world and prevent this man from discretionary acts that would violate the civil rights of his neighbors. He must take into account all these institutions and attitudes in estimating his chances of putting his "home rule" plan into effect.

Our man may be told his ideal is impracticable but that he can participate instead in choosing and controlling the authorities who govern him from afar. It is argued that in return for the surrender of his immediate controls, he can exercise indirect control. But indirect control is not what he wants. He wants to help make decisions. So long as he continues to value this power despite the march of events, he must become a pessimist. The most he can hope for is to keep the freedom of action he still possesses.

Most men, of course, adapt themselves and accept necessity. Their values change under the impact of institutions and events; their children often do not even notice that there has been a conflict of values with events and that a change has occurred. Their values are the new ones, not those of their parents. History had hardly begun when in ancient Chaldea, a legend was inscribed:

We are fallen upon evil times,
And the world has waxed very old and wicked,
Politics are very corrupt,
The sons of the people are not
So righteous as their parents were.


One must not only take into account institutional obstacles, one must allow for accidents-the result of imperfect knowledge or uncontrollable events. Imperfect knowledge often hampers the analysis of the institutional obstacles. For instance, the Russians are not very eager to tell Americans about their atomic bombs. Since the Russians' policy depends somewhat on their supply of bombs, any judgment about it becomes risky-a judgment about probabilities.

The uncontrollable event is typified by the weather. No political strategy can prevent storms or bring thaw. The wreck of the Spanish Armada on the English coast in 1588 made Englishmen bless the stormy Channel weather for many a year. The first winter offensive of the Germans against Moscow in 1940 literally froze in its tracks in the worst winter in many years. Crop failures have dashed the calculated expectations of many politicians, brought on terrible pogroms against minority groups, and sent tribes on the warpath. Some of the political process, we may conclude, is placed irrevocably in the hands of fortune. The ability of individuals to guide it is limited.

Some social scientists believe, with reason, that over the centuries these accidents are erased by the movements of general social forces, and they may well be right. But the individual political thinker or actor can be sure that his lifetime will see many of them and that they will inevitably alter his calculations.

In providing for these accidents, men must take what we call a calculated risk. Thus Mussolini took a calculated risk when he decided that if he invaded Ethiopia the League of Nations would probably not bring completely effective sanctions to bear against him. Hitler thought that England and France would probably not aid Poland if he attacked her in 1939. Churchill thought the Germans probably would not invade England in late 1940 and therefore sent more troops and arms to the North African theater. Roosevelt thought Hitler would probably not declare war if the United States provided England with a number of destroyers. Often, of course, such decisions prove to be mistakes. The North Koreans did not estimate that the United States would use military intervention to prevent their conquest of South Korea in 1950.

There are only two ways to cope with the double threat in the calculated risk; reduce the area of ignorance by constant scientific inquiry and prepare a detour for the unforeseen. An example of the prepared detour is the Vice-President of the United States, whose principal function is to replace the President if the President dies. Both ignorance and accident have been provided for in an American foreign policy that builds bigger atomic bombs while working for a stronger world government.


Having done what he can to analyze the present and foresee the future, the political thinker must lay his special strategy for reaching his goal. For this he must be familiar with the techniques of politics. He must be a practical man, not a dreamer. He cannot win with words alone, though he must use propaganda. He cannot win with amiable companions who have no political skills. He must realize that ends are not achieved without proper means. He must also realize that many ends are so utopian and remote that they cannot be reached; one cannot have Heaven on earth. One of the great contributions that a close study of politics brings to its disciples is the realization of the absolute necessity for proper means-proper skills, organization, and hard work.


In fact, to come to our last rule for competent political thinking, the very heart of politics seems to lie in this problem of selecting practicable goals and in modifying them as necessary from day to day. For the political artist is only one among a host of others, all with their own goals, and the game becomes one of pushing a bit here, giving a bit there, trading an advance in one direction for a retreat in another direction, often standing stock still and perhaps wondering whether progress will ever be resumed.

One may wonder whether any sensitive person can survive these six steps, whether a cynical mind, a strong back, and an iron stomach are not really the requirements for success. We can only answer that the political man must not only have clear goals, but he must want to reach them. He must prefer fighting for them to forgetting about them. He must prefer struggle to a detached contemplation of events. He must prefer justice, even if getting it brings indigestion.

Fortunately, also, one man need not perform all the difficult tasks just described. The division of labor operates in politics as elsewhere. There are specialists in thinking, in organizing, in planning, in speaking, in writing, in legislating, and in many other things. They join together in the political process. Success often falls to the movement that forms the best combination of ideas and action. When we have given sufficient attention to the various operations of the political process, we will return, in the last two chapters, to a discussion of the goals of democracy and the various plans for their achievement.

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