In chapter one the main features of British idealist philosophy were adumbrated and related to the philosophies of history of Collingwood and Oakeshott, but before I go on to examine the ways in which their ideas have been appropriated and used to criticize and supersede past historians of political thought, we have to be aware of the salient characteristics of what was hitherto considered to be good practice in writing such histories. Without some knowledge of what is being criticized, the criticism will seem empty and abstract.
Political theory is a set of specified relationships encompassing political matters that focus and organize inquiry to describe, explain, and predict political events and behaviours. Political theory is considered as the basis and branch of political science which attempts to arrive at generalizations, inferences, or conclusions to be drawn from the data gathered by other specialists, not only in political science, but throughout the whole range of human knowledge and experience. From ancient Greece to the present, the history of political theory has dealt with fundamental and perennial ideas of Political Science. Political theory reflects upon political phenomenon, processes and institutions and on actual political behaviour by subjecting it to philosophical or ethical criterion. The most dominant political theories realise all three goals such as describe, explain, and predict. The theories are the results of thoughts and research of many scholars and exponents of political science. Thinkers on the subject formulate definitions of various political concepts and establish theories (D. K. Sarmah, 2007).
David Held described that "Political theory is a network of concepts and generalizations about political life involving ideas, assumptions and statements about the nature, purpose and key features of government, state and society, and about the political capabilities of human beings." WC Coker explained political theory as "When political government and its forms and activities are studied not simply as facts to be described and compared and judged in reference to their immediate and temporary effects, but as facts to be understood and appraised in relation to the constant needs, desires and opinions of men, then we have political theory." According to Andrew Hacker, Political Theory is a combination of a disinterested search for the principles of good state and good society on the one hand, and a disinterested search for knowledge of political and social reality on the other." George Catlin stated that Political theory includes political science and political philosophy. While science refers to the phenomenon of control in many forms over all the processes of whole social field. It is concerned with the end or final value, when man asks, what the national good is" or What is good society." John Plamentaz delineates political theory in functional terms and said that The function of political theory has come to be restricted to the analysis and clarification of the vocabulary of politics and the critical examination, verification and justification of the concepts employed in political argument." Another theorists, Norman Barry defined that Political theory is an electric subject which draws upon a variety of disciplines. There is no body of knowledge or method of analysis which can be classified as belonging exclusively to political theory."
Characteristics of Traditional approaches:Traditional approaches are largely normative and stresses on the values of politics.Emphasis is on the study of different political structures.Traditional approaches made very little attempt to relate theory and research.These approaches believe that since facts and values are closely interlinked, studies in Political Science can never be scientific.
Historical Approach: Theorists who developed this political approach focused on the historical factors like the age, place and the situation in which it is evolved are taken into consideration. This approach is related to history and it emphasizes on the study of history of every political reality to analyse any situation. Political thinkers such as Machiavelli, Sabine and Dunning considered that politics and history are closely related and the study of politics always should have a historical standpoint. Sabine stated that Political Science should include all those subjects which have been discussed in the writings of different political thinkers from the time of Plato. This approach strongly maintains the belief that the thinking or the dogma of every political thinker is formed by the surrounding environment. Furthermore, history provide details of the past as well as it also links it with the present events. History gives the chronological order of every political event and thereby helps in future estimation of events also. Therefore, without studying the past political events, institutions and political environment it would be erroneous to analyse the present political events. But critics of historical approach designated that it is not possible to understand the idea of the past ages in terms of contemporary ideas and concepts.
Among the modern empirical approach, the behavioural approach, to study political science grabbed notable place. Most eminent exponents of this approach are David Etson, Robert, A. Dahl, E. M. Kirkpatrick, and Heinz Eulau. Behavioural approach is political theory which is the result of increasing attention given to behaviour of ordinary man. Theorist, Kirkpatrick stated that traditional approaches accepted institution as the basic unit of research but behavioural approach consider the behaviour of individual in political situation as the basis (K. Sarmah, 2007).
Integration: According to the behaviouralists, Political Science should not be separated from various other social sciences like history, sociology and economics etc. This approach believes that political events are shaped by various other factors in the society and therefore, it would be wrong to separate Political Science from other disciplines.
Structural functional approach: According to this approach, society is considered as a single inter related system where each part of the system has a certain and dissimilar role. The structural-functional approach may be considered as an outgrowth of the system analysis. These approaches accentuate the structures and functions. Gabriel Almond is a follower of this approach. He explained political systems as a special system of interaction that exists in all societies performing certain functions. His theory revealed that the main characteristics of a political system are comprehensiveness, inter-dependence and existence of boundaries. Like Easton, Almond also considered that all political systems perform input and output functions. The Input functions of political systems are political socialization and recruitment, interest-articulation, interest-aggression and political communication. Almond made three-fold classifications of governmental output functions relating to policy making and implementation. These output functions are rule making, rule application and rule adjudication. Thus, Almond affirmed that a stable and efficient political system converts inputs into outputs.
Communication theory approach: This approach explores the process by which one segment of a system affects another by sending messages or information. Robert Weiner had evolved this approach. Afterwards Karl Deutsch developed it and applied it in Political Science. Deutsch stated that the political system is a network of communication channels and it is self-regulative. Additionally, he emphasized that the government is responsible for administering different communication channels. This approach treats the government as the decision making system. Deutsch described that there are four factors of analysis in communication theory which include lead, lag, gain and load.
In Simple form, empirical political theory explains 'what is' through observation. In this approach, scholars seek to generate a hypothesis, which is a proposed explanation for some phenomena that can be tested empirically. After formulating a hypothesis, a study will be designed to test the hypothesis.
Normative political theory is related to concepts such as justice, equality, and rights. Historical political theory involves political philosophers from the past (e.g. Thucyides and Plato) to the present (e.g. Wendy Brown and Seyla Benahabib), and may focus on how particular philosophers engaged political problems that continue to be relevant today. While the focus has traditionally been on Western traditions, that is beginning to change in this field. 2b1af7f3a8