The Study of Political Behaviour

The Study of Political Behaviour

The Study of Political Behaviour

The Study of Political Behaviour

Excerpt

A Cabinet Minister, sitting at his desk, resolves to push a disagreement with his colleagues to the point of resignation; an elector, walking to the polling booth, makes up his mind how he will vote; a civil servant dictates a minute arguing for modifications in a proposed policy; an M.P. inserts a deliberately sensational passage in a speech on what his party would do if returned to power. Each of these four men is making a political decision. Each, consciously or unconsciously, is acting upon a complex set of assumptions about how other men conduct themselves politically. The success of their actions will depend largely upon the realism of their assumptions -- upon their understanding of the interrelation between human nature and the institutions of government. Men of affairs are, in fact, bound to engage in their own study of political behaviour. But it is a subject with an equal appeal for academics who are only concerned to seek explanations for the phenomena of human existence. Political behaviour, in short, both because of its practical consequences and its intrinsic fascination provides a particularly challenging field for research.

Sixty years ago, current political affairs were barely accepted as fit matter for academic study. At the most a few British lawyers and historians were writing on constitutional questions while in the United States one or two universities had established political science departments. But the twentieth century . . .

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