Political Science

What is Political Science?

Twenty-four centuries ago, Aristotle made the perhaps somewhat inflated claim for political science that it is "the study which [pursues The Good] and has most authority and control over the rest." In the centuries since, many have attempted to provide other definitions or to elaborate upon Aristotle's. "Politics is the process by which binding policies are made and carried out for a society." "Politics is the translation of values into public policy." "Politics is the struggle for power." And a more cynical approach: "Politics is the pursuit of trivial men [sic] who, when they succeed at it, become important in the eyes of more trivial men."

As one can see, politics and, therefore, political science are slippery terms. Let us say that it is the study of policies, processes, behavior, and institutions which have an effect on society and on components of society. Accordingly, our Department is concerned not only with governmental actors but also with non-governmental organizations such as the private economic sector and with citizen behavior and attitudes. Political Science encompasses the study of American politics, the political systems of other countries, political and economic organizations of a non-state nature, international relations, and political philosophy, theory, and ethics.

The Department of Political Science believes that its primary purpose is to pursue knowledge and understanding of the political aspects of the human endeavor; to transmit this knowledge to others; to relate this knowledge to the real world in creative, critical, and constructive ways; and to encourage through pedagogical means a real interest in politics.