Robert A. Dahl,” while discussing the nature of analysis, finds it both ‘art’ as well as ‘science. As an art, it is skill. Skill in political analysis can be acquired by practice, training and experience under the guidance of some skilled analyst. But skill in analysis is different from skill in practice of politics. As science, analysis can provide testable generalisations and theories derived from the data of experience obtained through meticulous observation, classification, and measurement.
It is scientific to the extent it actually yields tested propositions of considerable generality. In the context of analysis, analysing politics and practicing politics are two different things. James Madison was a brilliant analyst while Franklin Roosevelt was an astute political leader. But both skills can go hand in hand as in case of Woodrow Wilson. Jawaharlal Nehru can also be put in this category.
In the light of value-position of the analyst, there can be two types of analysis: one, value-free political analysis, and, two, value-laden analysis. Scholars belonging to the first view conduct a value-free or value-neutral political analysis. Robert A. Dahl has calls them as ’empiricists’.’ Empiricists do not go beyond sensory perception and stop at ‘is’ or ‘pure’ facts. Dahl calls the other view as ‘transempiricist’. In popular parlance, the can be called as traditionalists or classicalists. They have sharply opposed the view of ’empiricalists’ or empirticists.
They argue that:
(i) Only in trivial and unimportant matters, facts and values can be separated;
(ii) Behind the facade of neutrality and objectivity, the empiricists smuggle values in an unacknowledged and subtle manner;
(iii) Language of politics itself is value-laden;
(iv) They neglect human purposes and relevance;
(v) They use jargon which is very much difficult, complex, and incommunicable; and
(vi) Their observation or study is more often rationalisation of what they do and believe.
Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss are the main advocates of the transempiricist view. According to them, it is neither possible nor desirable to separate values from facts. They believe in fact-value congruence or conformity. Voegelin opposed the view of the empiricists that (i) to attain scientificity, mathematical models and methods should invariably be incorporated, and (ii) methods of natural sciences are useful in developing a general theory.
Leo Strauss has severely criticised the view of empiricists that they neglect human values and find very little difference between man, machines and animal. Facts should be analysed in the light of values. Importance of values lies in man himself, his soul, or supreme reality residing in him. Their realisation is the ultimate goal of man. A value-free analysis is impossible.
The word ‘political’ itself is value-laden. In every political act there lies certain purpose. It aims at either preservation or change of existing system. In both these cases, achievement of the better is involved. This is directly related with the idea of good life. Good life is closely connected with good society.
Strauss regards fact-value dichotomy as unscientific. Even the empiricists do entertain truth as their value. Scientific positivism brings about conformism. Relativism is such a facade which is used by behaviouralists to smuggle and justify certain values. Even the distinction between political and non-political is based on pre-scientific knowledge. Activities of all citizens and politicians are value-oriented.
Robert A. Dahl rightly finds both of them as antipolar views. Both of them are theoretically right. Transempiricists talk of generality and supremacy of values. They argue that the empiricists too entertain certain values and their analyses are not completely value-free. In practice their views are not so divergent. Both are in search of truth or reality. But the empiricists put greater stress on ‘inter-subjectively transmissible’ or ‘testable’ knowledge.
The values (actually assumptions) which they entertain are secondary and instrumental and do not vitiate their research. The transempiricists also do not wish to neglect facts. But they like to see them in the light of their universal values. Both move around facts and values. They stand parted only in case of ultimate values and their need and utility in analysis. The classical political thinkers too had been studying both facts and values. Value-relativism also puts great emphasis on the study of values.
Dahl has opined that analysis should not be value-neutral. A value-free political analysis is neither possible nor desirable. Empiricists or transempiricists both agree that (a) the scholar keeping himself value-neutral, should scientifically analyse the facts in the light of given values; and (b) while upholding liberal and broader values, and making an express mention of them, the scholar should study facts and other values.
Without scientific analysis of facts, one cannot make proper value judgements. One should not be worried if some values enter while doing analysis of facts. But those values should not vitiate the findings or understanding of reality. We should move ahead in the direction of more and more empirical analysis.
We study politics, to use the words of Aristotle, ‘for the sake of good life’ – to choose the best, realise it and to change or maintain the status quo. From this point of view, the place of factual knowledge instead of being a substitute of value-judgement, is rather a prerequisite, so that our decisions are proper, useful and fruitful. The charge of bias towards the values of liberal democracy should neither disturb us or our ways nor means be sought to escape from it.
Only in popular and liberal democracies, one can find congenial environment to develop an empirical political theory. There is no need to apologise even if these values influence our choice of problem, alternative policies, and evaluation of the system. However, precaution should be taken that these values do not influence our findings. Our ‘ought’ must not corrupt our base – ‘is’. This much is enough.
Dahl feels that the failure of social scientists in making objective evaluation of empirical aspects of politics itself is another argument for making more efforts to uphold an empirical political analysis. A scholar needs to study the impact of social, material, and psychological variables of politics. It would help him to gain technological means to realise agreed objectives, to apply normative principles in concrete situations, and to know the justification of various moral precepts.
An empirical political analysis would guard him against confusing ideologies and conflicting values. One does not lose the status of being a ‘Scientist’ simply by keeping relations with values. Dahl regards factual knowledge as a prerequisite to ethical judgements. Harold Lasswell also adopts this perspective in his support to policy sciences.
Arnold Brecht differs from them in the sense that they stand for the defence and implementation of fact-based ‘values’ while he puts emphasis to realise, not ‘values’, but preferences, derived through the Scientific Method.’Brecht is aware that he stands for preferences, but he does not deprive anyone of cherishing his ‘ultimate’ values.
Dahl highlights the following grounds or sources of values, of an analysis:
1. Political values ultimately rest on God’s will. His will may be known through a direct revelation to an individual or agent or indirectly by means of reason, or intuition, or experience;
2. They ultimately rest on natural laws. Natural laws may or may not be laid down by God. Knowledge of natural laws can be acquired through reasoning;
3. Political values can also be derived, as John Dewey had attempted, by methods of empirical sciences;
4. Political values can also be seen as preferences; and,
5. Though values are seen by some scholars as preferences, some of them find them as universal. In sum, all have given place to values in their analyses.
The two views agree on the following propositions:
1. The values, interests, and curiosity of a scholar influence his choice of topics;
2. It is impossible to establish criteria of importance and relevance entirely from empirical knowledge;
3. An objective analysis of politics presupposes that one values truth, as distinguished from falsehood;
4. All empirical sciences rest on assumptions that cannot themselves be established by the methods of the empirical sciences;
5. Biases of a researcher may induce him to misread his observations and evidence;
6. Objectivity, neutrality, and the capacity and opportunity for scientific detachment are impossible without certain social and political prerequisites, such as, rulers’ willingness to tolerate freedom of inquiry and the like.
With this perspective, the empiricists refute the charges of the transempiricists, and clarify that:
(i) While striving for neutrality and objectivity, they do not indulge in trivial matters irrelevant to human purposes;
(ii) They have criteria of relevance;
(iii) They do not regard all values equal;
(iv) Their studies are not mere rationalisations for values and practices of liberal democracy; and,
(v) They do study problems like stability, change and revolution.