Political Science: A Philosophical Analysis

By Vernon Van Dyke | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Behavioral and Analogical Approaches

References are sometimes made to a "behavioral approach" to the study of politics, and a few political scientists recommend an approach that goes under the label "general systems theory." Since the rule in Part III of this book is to follow usage in identifying possible approaches, these two call for brief comment.


BEHAVIORAL APPROACHES

The terms the behavioral sciences, political behavior, and behavioral approach have become prominent in recent years. The term behavioral sciences applies to all those sciences that pay special attention to the behavior of animals, especially man. In this sense all of the social sciences, including history and psychology, are behavioral sciences. The term political behavior, in its lexical meaning, denotes all human political activity. In this sense, the study of political behavior is the study of politics, and not the study of a subdivision or aspect of politics. Though stipulative definitions of political behavior are sometimes advanced, as when a course or a book is given this title, none of them has gained general currency.

If lexical definitions were relied upon, the term behavioral approach might be dismissed as virtually meaningless. Or it might be taken to denote an approach focusing on all political activity, which makes it denote so much that no very specific meaning is conveyed. But the term has a stipulative meaning, however imprecise it may be; and, in contrast to the situation with regard to the term political behavior, this general meaning is widely accepted.

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