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Politics and Political Science

What Is Political Science?

Overview

Key Terms

Political science is the systematic study of politics, or the process by which governmental decisions are made. As a famous definition puts it, politics is determining who gets what, where, when, and how. The political scientist is an objective observer who asks questions about and studies the effects and structures of different systems of governments.

A Brief History of Political Science

Political science originated with the ancient Greeks in the first century BCE. During this time, the philosopher Plato wrote numerous dialogues about politics, asking about the nature of justice, what constitutes good government, and what is truly best for humanity. His student Aristotle worked in a more scientific way, observing and describing types of governments systematically. At the start of the seventeenth century, people began to apply the methods of the scientific revolution to politics. Thomas Hobbes, for example, employed the methods of geometry to break government down into its most basic parts in order to understand it. In the nineteenth century, thinkers such as Karl Marx and Max Weber used sociological methods to analyze politics.

Political Science Today

In the last few decades, political science has become more solidly established. Political professionals work on campaigns (as well as news shows) at all levels to help sway voters, and many elected officials analyze data to help make policy choices. Today, many political scientists use statistics and other quantitative methods to study a variety of issues, such as voting, Congress, and the presidency.

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