Ever since family units evolved into communities, city-states and later into nation-states, there had to be some form of political action in terms of laws, rules and regulations – these ran concurrently with…
d the various studies concerning man and his multifarious activities like philosophy, economics, natural sciences, history, psychology and of course politics. The Renaissance saw the enquiring minds of Europe and no doubt earlier, where advanced cultures existed (pre-renaissance), delving into studies in various disciplines that were analysed and documented, until the latter half of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth century saw the thrust towards making studies of most disciplines empirical, meaning that information had to be gained by experience, observation or experiment2.
Studies conducted had to follow certain set criteria and measurements to be valid. In the modern state, for proper planning, such was the demand. Many North American political scientists, notably Jon R Bond, believe that a ‘hard science of political behaviour’ is possible and someone would come along and do for political science what Newton has done for physics3. In an essay on this subject by James W. Skillen, he quotes Bond as saying that, ‘the beginning of scientific enquiry is the fact/value dichotomy’ and that ‘the core goal of scientific methods is hypothesis testing and theory building that would yield quantifiable results’4. Indeed, one cannot dispute the fact that without such empirical studies, in terms of politics, economics, sociology and natural sciences amongst others, that planning commissions of various authorities worldwide would have been successful in the implementation of their programmes. Much of the developed and developing world relies on these studies to implement development programmes with a view to pre-empting failure. Statistics, objective data, all factual and tangible rule the day.
However, the question of how accurate we are, when the human element is involved is a question for debate. Here is a discipline that is dependent on so many vagaries of man. Kenneth Minogue, in his book Politics, aptly encapsulates this when he ...
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