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The Philosophical Approach:
The philosophical approach concentrates on the values which a political system s
hould set for itself. It emphasises that a political system should be based upon
certain ideals and that it should strive to give shape to them.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, represented best this philosophical tradition of p
olitics. He said that it was the duty of the philosopher-king to establish the i
deal society based on justice. In the medieval period, this tradition was contin
ued by Augustine and Aquinas.
The philosophical approach is also known as the traditional approach. It involve
s an analytical study of ideas and doctrines which have long formed the core par
t of political thought. However, this approach has been criticized on the ground
that it cannot be scientific as it ignores objective reality.
2. The Empirical Approach:
The empirical approach stresses on 'experience' or ground reality in the study o
f politics. Though this approach took a systematic theoretical shape in the 17th
century as a result of the influence of John Locke and David Hume, this approac
h is almost as old as the philosophical approach.
The first practitioner of this approach was Aristotle who studied a large number
of constitutions in order to prepare a classification of constitutions. Machiav
elli's 'Prince' which is an objective account of statecraft and Montesquieu soci
ological theory of government and law belong to this empirical tradition.
Behaviouralism in politics has been a product of the empirical tradition. It foc
uses on the study of political behaviour.
The philosophical approach is normative; it is based on values and norms. On the
contrary, the empirical approach is based on ground reality. Further, the philo
sophical approach is prescriptive, because it makes judgments and makes recommen
dations. But the empirical approach is descriptive because it tries to objective
ly study politics without any bias and prejudice.
3. The Scientific Approach:
Karl Marx has been hailed as the first to have described politics in scientific
terms. Through his 'materialistic interpretation of history,' he developed some
'Laws' which helped him predict the future. Those who sought to make the study o
f politics scientific argued that hypotheses could be verified on the basis of o
bjective quantifiable data.
In 1950s and 1960s the study of politics assumed a new form called "behaviourali
sm" or "behavioural persuasion in politics". This doctrine, marking the theoreti
cal development of the scientific tradition of the study of politics, made a big
impact. But before long it faced criticism and challenge.
In 1970 a group of scholars argued that "behaviouralism narrowed down the scope
of Political Science and undermined its quality by ignoring the value or values
and norms in the study of politics. They stood for going back to political value
s and norms without discarding the scientific method of collecting and processin
g data. This new phase in the study of politics has been known as post-behaviour
alism. The writings of John Rawls and Robert Nozick reflect this trend.