Life, Language, Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur F. Bentley

By Richard W. Taylor | Go to book overview

VI
The Group in Political Science*

By CHARLES B. HAGAN

ONE OF THE FIRST conditions for progress in a particular "discipline" of scientific inquiry is the ability of its practitioners to communicate with each other. Their ability to do that, in turn, depends upon at least these two things: an agreement among them upon what they are studying and an agreement among them upon certain categories of description, in accordance with which they can sector and investigate their problem.

For example, despite the many disagreements among economists on such questions as whether the progressive income tax is a good thing or whether we are presently in a "recession," they are all agreed that the problem of economics is "the allocation of scarce goods," and they are all agreed that the basic system by which those goods are allocated is the interplay of two forces, "supply" and "demand."

In his recent inquiry into the state of political science, entitled The Political System, David Easton raised this question: Do the extremely variegated and multiform writings that make up the literature of political science have anything in common that justifies their being placed under the same taxonomic tent? He concluded that they do, and that what they share is a concern with the same basic problem. That problem he defined as "the authoritative allocation of values for a society." He did not give a complete definition of the term "authoritative," and, indeed, it is probably impossible--and unnecessary-- to do so.

Easton has come close to making articulate the common preoccupation of the polyglot "group" that marches under the banner of "political science." Some may, in research and writing, be working

____________________
*
This essay is a modification of a paper prepared for a Conference of Political Scientists at Northwestern University, June 15-19, 1954.

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