My aim in this book is to introduce the citizen who has had no previous training in political science to its proper elements, in their most useful order, and with appropriate emphasis. The book is designed to be a first glimpse of a field of vast importance and universal interest, a glimpse, it is hoped, that will stimulate a general interest in the ever fresh problems of political science.
The best books of political science are broad in scope, logical, and well grounded in the facts of political life. Like Plato and Aristotle, recent respected political scientists regard the field of politics as covering the most important problems of community living. The study of the form these important problems take is political science, and the study of political science, like the other sciences, rests on facts. Today we have increasingly accurate means of gathering and analyzing facts. Field surveys, sample polling, and intricate systems of punchcard tabulation and analysis are several of the techniques for studying human behavior that annually increase our reliable knowledge and make possible a better political science than had our predecessors. If we accept the good life as defined by great moral philosophers like Aquinas, Spinoza, or Jefferson, we have readier ways than they had of demonstrating how such a good life may be achieved. There are exciting possibilities in the future of political science, and it is hoped that this book will help to reveal them.
The work is divided into two volumes. The first describes some great political scientists and their ideas, tells how scientists study political subjects, what those subjects are, and how the ordinary person can think correctly about politics. It proceeds to introduce the reader to some of the basic elements of political behavior: leadership, political groupings, public opinion, representation, party organization, and the use of economic, psychological, and coercive pressures in politics - all of which occur very generally, on all levels of government, in all political institutions, and in the pursuit of all kinds of goals. Volume I concludes by discussing how men strive to realize their major goals by political action that is calculated to bring specific results. It inquires into the main branches of democratic thought and the moral and scientific obstacles to the realization of democracy. Finally, it investigates the nature of public policy and considers how policy affects private rights, and bow it may be made more rational and productive of liberty.
The second volume of the work discusses the common and specialized structures of government within which much of political behavior occurs. These structures are laws, constitutions, legislatures, executives, administrative agencies, and courts. It then takes up the study of the level of political organization-local, national, and international. Enough of the main facts about key political institutions are given to enable the student to comprehend how the basic elements of political behavior operate within, influence, and are influenced by such institutions. The work concludes with a look at recent developments in political science and the larger world that it concerns, and speculates upon the new forms of the profession and the world order.
As the reader progresses, he will appreciate some of the handicaps under which political scientists labor. Although political scientists are no less well trained, clear thinking, or logical than the natural scientists, their subject matter, as I have attempted to show, presents special difficulties from which the natural sciences are exempt. In addition to the indefinite nature of social facts themselves, many of which lack any identity whatsoever save our calling them by a name (for instance, "social class," a "leader"), one encounters in human affairs a profusion of elusive values (for instance, "freedom of opportunity," "effective leadership") that cause no end of theoretical and practical difficulty.
Furthermore, beyond this intrinsic difficulty, which political science shares with the other social sciences, lies another, peculiar to political science: the problem of reducing to logic, order, and principles the greatest movements, motives, and institutions of mankind. Aristotle was the first but certainly not the last of scientists to be struck by the vast scope of political science. Nevertheless, since man has created the state, some science must study it, and the great tradition in political science has never quailed before the seemingly unfathomable mysteries of man's most complex creations. Political scientists have always undertaken to say what can be said, to draw those principles and findings that can be drawn from the behavior of men with reference to the most important problems of their community.
The complexity of human behavior and especially of politics, however, prohibits any final statement of the elements of political science. Many points must be made in preliminary form, as invitations to further study. And if some of the readers of this book should at some future time develop these preliminary forms into more substantial principles, then a major objective of the book will have been realized.