Approaches Identified with Salient Features of Political Life
Students of politics sometimes adopt approaches that are identified with central or salient features of political life. This often amounts to identifying an approach with a definition, for definitions commonly focus on the salient and provide criteria for selecting questions and data. Thus, in this chapter, some of the approaches to be examined are also definitions.
The first section of the chapter is devoted to a series of definitions depicting politics as a struggle among actors pursuing conflicting desires on public issues. If definitions are to be employed as approaches, these are more to be recommended than some others in terms of the guidance they give in the selection of questions and data. Subsequent sections of the chapter will deal with the institutional approach (identified with definitions under which the study of politics is the study of the state or of government), the legal approach, the power approach, the interest-group approach, approaches focusing on decision making, and the approach that focuses on the decisions themselves, i.e., on the ends and means selected.
Probably the most helpful of the definitional approaches are those that call for a focus on human beings who think and act and who engage in cooperation and conflict on issues concerning