Dr Efanodor Harriet O.   (Published 2017)

Dr Harriet O.
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Lecture Note

Topic outline

  • The concept of politics.

  • What is science?

  • What is political science?

  • Why do we study political science?

Expected learning outcome. At the end of the topic, students are expected to be able to:

  • Define what is politics;

  • Define and explain the cannons of science;

  • Give a working definition of political science; and

  • Explain the importance of studying political science.

Nature of Political Science

Political science is a discipline in the social sciences which studies governments, institutions, politics, ideas and political behaviour.


  • Political science is a fluid concept.

  • There is no universally accepted definition.

  • Political science encapsulates two concepts (politics and science) that require careful clarification before attempting a definition.

What is politics?

  • The word politics is derived from the Greek word “POLIS”.

  • Meaning “CITY-STATE”

  • To the Greeks, the polis was the most meaningful community above the family level. It was argued that any community larger than the family contains element of politics (Idahosa and Idisi 2005:3 in Ikelegbe ed.).

Ekpekurede and Umokoro (2010) there are many definitions of politics. The following are some of these definitions:

  • Aristotle viewed politics as a master science. Aristotle considered the state as the highest and most inclusive association fashioned by man where he can fully develop. Thus, politics deal with the state of the state. The criticism of Aristotle definition is that, the definition neglected an aspect of politics which is concerned with the interaction of state.

  • Max Weber defined politics as striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power either among states or groups or classes within a state. This is an improvement over Aristotle’s definition as it takes into consideration relations among states.

  • Otto Von Bismarck defined politics as the art of the possible. This definition view politics as having to do with maneuvering one’s way into power and manipulating people.

  • Vernon Van Dyke defined politics as the study of actors pursuing conflicting desires on public issues. This definition limited political activities to pursuing conflicting desires only.

  • Nnoli states that politics concerns itself with the allocation of scare valuable resources in the society. Allocation of resources is only a part of what politics is. The definition did not engage the aspect of politics that deals with acquisition of power

  • Durdley B.J. posits that politics cannot be defined but can only be described. He described politics as;

  • Consciousness formation

  • Social mobilization

  • Contesting and decontesting

  • Institutionalized struggle

  • Transcendence

  • Dahl Robert posits that politics deals with the study of conflict which arises whenever people come together. He further defined political science as the study of politics through methods and procedures, which are designed to yield reliable knowledge about the world. This definition shows the distinction between the meaning of politics and political science.

  • Ola, R.F postulate that politics deals with power, its management within an existing setup. He further defined political science as the acquisition and allocation/distribution of scare resources of the state.

  • David Easton defined politics as the authoritative allocation of values for a society. This definition did not address the process of power acquisition.

  • Harold Lasswell defined politics as the study of who gets what, when and how? This definition ignored aspect of power utilization as it concerns itself with power acquisition.

  • Working definition of politics

Based on Easton and Lasswell definition;

  • Politics can be defined as the process involved in acquisition of state power and utilization of state power.

What is Science?

Science is defined as the systematic observation of nature, events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and formulate laws and principles based on the facts.


  • Observation

  • Replication

  • Experimentation

  • Objectivity

  • Systematization

  • Quantification

  • Precision Ekpekurede and Umokoro (2010)

  • Political science is essentially a study of human behaviour through observation, data gathering and analysis. Using the cannons of science political scientist seek patterns in the reasons and outcomes for political events so that generalisation and theories can be made.

Working definition of Political Science

  • Political science can be defined as a systematic body of knowledge that deals with acquisition of state power and utilization of power.

Ikelegbe A. 2005 (ed) Introduction to Politics. Lagos: Imprints Services

Ekpekurede, W. and Umukoro (2010) Political Science-An Introduction. Nigeria: AMBIK Press








Item Type: Lecture note(non-copyrighted)
Format: Word document,   25.68 KB
Copyright: Creative Commons LicenseCreative Commons license
Keywords: concept, politics, Political Science
Department: Political Science and Public Administration
Field of Study: Political Science
Uploaded By: Izevbekhai Michael Nurudeen
Date Added: 26 Oct 2017 6:43pm
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2017
Lecture URL: https://www.edouniversity.edu.ng/oer/lecturenotes/what_is_political_science_note

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