Updated: Dec 1, 2022
UNIT-2 Approaches to Political Theory: Normative, Historical and Empirical
The discussion of political science remains incomplete unless the political theory is properly discussed.
Normative approach in political science is mainly concerned with political theory. The normative approach offers a unique structure to get the complete notion of 'what ought to be' against the idea of the empirical approach called as 'what is.'
It is a kind of political theory through which certain formulas are given for transformation of an imperfect social order to a perfect one.
Normative theory is a systematic thinking about government, state and other government institution.
This theory has been dominated from the ancient time to the eighteen century.
It is a practical philosophy that relates to the government.
Example- Suppose you are very ill and you go to the doctor with that illness and the doctor prescribe you some medicines. As per the doctor’s prescription you ate medicines for a few days and got better. Normative political theory is like a doctor’s prescription where some way is said about what an ideal state or society should be. And through implementation of that way, a sick state system will be healed. That’s why this political theory also called as prescriptive political theory.
Theorists who developed this political approach focused on historical factors like the age, place, and the situation in which it evolved are taken into consideration.
This approach is related to history and emphasizes the study of the history of every political reality to analyze any situation.
Political thinkers like Machiavelli, Sabine, and Dunning considered that politics and history are closely related, and the study of politics should always have a historical standpoint.
History provides details of the past as well as it also links it with present events.
History gives the chronological order of every political event and thereby helps in the future estimation of events.
History Provides Roots to Political Science: It is important to situate political phenomena within a historical context because it helps one understand when, why and where they were articulated for the first time.
Example - It is often said that history tends to repeat itself. Thus, it can be understood as a lesson. Humanity should collectively avoid issues that were a cause of turmoil in the past and can also take recourse to a set of actions that were applied in the past to deal with those issues. Like why it is important to read history?
Empirical Theory / Modern Theory
Empirical theory has emerged in the 20th century. That is why this theory is called modern.
The empirical theory relies primarily on data. This theory is based on observation and examination of the data.
The main purpose of empirical political theory is to make political reality dependent on information.
This theory wants to explain what is actually happening, to the one who exists.
What is supposed to be or should be is not so much a matter of this theory. This theory is developed by nurturing the philosophy of empiricism or positivism.
One of the main aims of this theory is to arrive at conclusions through scientific interpretation of information. That is why it is also called scientific theory.
Example - Peasants are protesting against government. Why they are protesting? What are the reasons behind these protests?
To find out the reasons of women’s protest, you have to do some field works like collecting data, observing ,generalizing ,etc.
Political Theory is a separate area within the discipline of political science. Political theory is an outline of what the political order is about.
It is symbolic representation about the word ‘political’. It is a formal, logical and systematic analysis of the processes and consequences of political activity.
There are different approaches which explains the political system which includes modern and traditional approaches.
In behavior approach, scientific method is emphasized because behaviors of several actors in political situation is capable of scientific study.
Normative approach is linked to philosophical method because norms and values can be determined philosophically.