Political Science Degree: Bridging the Gap Between Arts and Social Sciences

04 Dec 2023

Is Political Science Part of Arts or Social Sciences?

Categorization of study streams is as old an endeavor as it is controversial, hotly debated, and emotive. And classic definitions of arts or science are often found insufficiently sharp to parse the issue one way or the other. In this vein, the classification of Political Science as a discipline presents a choice to academics like few others.

However, let us see if Political Science is a science or an art. Scholars and practitioners have debated and argued on both sides for decades. Suffice it to say the answer depends on how we define arts or science, and what is understood by political science as a discipline.

Are Their Other Categories also in Political Science?

Furthermore, we need to think in terms of whether there are categories other than arts and science. Should we not think of vocation' and practice' as separate disciplines to plan disciplines such as Political Science and Management in a better way? These are complex questions requiring careful deliberations by Political Scientists to best visualize and position the discipline of Political Science and plan its pedagogy so that the students graduating from Political Science programs are trained well enough to analyze and solve socio-political problems innovatively. This endeavor is at the heart of the Political Science Department at Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies.

What is the Conventional Approach?

Conventionally, the Political Science Program has been thought of as a stream where outcomes are the same when experiments are repeated under the same parameters and with the same inputs. Physics and Chemistry are examples of such exact sciences. On the other hand, in Economics and Financial Studies, outcomes are not the same- they are often similar under similar situations, and that makes these disciplines what experts sometimes call inexact science.

How do we approach Political Science, which is not one watertight stream of knowledge, but rather a combination of various themes, principles, traditions, and heuristics? This diversity makes a neat categorization very hard. On the one hand, leadership analysis or electoral polling draws on very scientific psychological and quantitative analyses respectively, and on the other, it is nearly impossible to predict how a country will respond to a development in a neighboring state. BA Political Science Syllabus is varied and vast. Philosophy, Logic, Sociology, History, and Culture, all part of Political Studies, are highly sentiment-driven and situation-specific and are therefore hardly quantifiable or predictable enough. That is why we, at MRIIRS, try to focus on the holistic nature of Political Studies rather than on boxing it in a disciplinary dogma of category.

The Focus

BA Political Science, at the fundamental level focuses on the study of political systems, institutions, behavior, and policies. Topics such as governance, political ideologies, international relations, public administration, and the exercise of power within societies are generally examined. The diversity of themes and the multitude of relational dimensions demands that the discipline use scrupulous empirical research methods, data analysis, and theoretical frameworks to understand social and political phenomena, while not taking away the normative social intricacies. The idea is to analyze and predict with as much accuracy and authenticity as possible. And that is why most institutions prefer to treat and project political science or political study as a social science discipline.

The second major focus on the study of BA Political Science Program that we at MRIIRS are extremely careful about, is the applicability of pedagogic learning in the real-life socio-political environment of society, country, and indeed the world. We think that unless we are able to churn out professionals and practitioners who can confidently approach and solve real-life problems, the very purpose of the academy is defeated. And in order to be more practical and close to reality, the discipline has to incorporate heuristic, behavioral, ethical, and cultural factors. These positions the discipline close to an art or better still, a practice.

Political Science as Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Discipline

With both these considerations, we have endeavored to make the discipline of political science as interdisciplinary and inclusive as possible. At both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, we have accordingly incorporated courses from various departments and faculties. Additionally, a strong focus is laid on the training in methodology because procedural and methodological rigor is a sine-qua-non for analytically sound decision-making for any professional. At the same time, we try to retain interpretive subjectivity which explains the uniqueness of individuals and situations. It is not without reason that our political science curricula have courses from sociology, economics, and psychology that complement the traditional politics-oriented course.

The political science programs at MRIIRS are geared to provide students with a deeper understanding of political theories, institutional workings, policy analysis, and research methodologies and act as valuable foundations for those who wish to pursue further education in political science or related fields, such as pursuing a master's or doctoral degree, or pursue a career in government, public policy, international relations, advocacy, or academia. True to the essence of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, our Political Science Programs offer multidisciplinary education with carefully designed exit points for students interested in specific careers.

The Debate-Political Science is a Science or an Art, is Quintessential and Argumentative.

Despite being a never-ending endeavor, this debate has forced both practitioners and academics of political science to constantly assess the role of political science education in the modern and ever-changing socio-economic and political dynamics of any system, which are simultaneously impacted by factors such as the evolution of technology, and social preferences. It is this assessment of relevance and importance that has provided the discipline of political science much sought-after dynamism and flexibility.

As global integration speeds up and societies align across borders, impacted by the rise of AI and real-time communication, political science as a discipline is about to again take a paradigmatic leap for the future where categories and classification will not mean much. The question is Are we ready?

Authors: Mr. Anand Kumar Mishra, Associate Professor, & Dr. Bhavna Kataria, Assistant Professor, Department of Social and Political Studies, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, MRIIRS.

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