The problem of values is a key factor in the determination and growth of political theory. Some of them want to see Political Science as a pure ‘science’ keeping values at a distance. Others are in favour of giving a proper place to values. Thus, there are two groups or academic cultures on methodological perspectives from the viewpoint of values in the study of politics.
A comprehensive and general theory is yet to emerge. Till then, scholars have to bear with available traditional theories, and engage themselves in building up a new empirical theory. Political scientists badly suffer on account of non-existence of modern political theory for the 21st century: lack of coherence, direction, comparison, and empiricism in the discipline. Absence of a scientific theory hurts the status and self-respect of the academic community.
English-speaking people have stopped their efforts to build a theory and live in their dead past like ghosts. Because of several constraints, it could not grow in past and present communist countries. Scholars elsewhere are unable to identify it. At many other places, some do not feel any need to develop it, rather oppose it.
There are a large number of theoretical formulations masquerading as a general political theory, but none of them deals with the political system, both micro and macro, as a whole. Number of approaches is increasing and can be regarded as a sign of growing, health of the discipline. But some protagonists of these approaches, advocating them as ‘theory’, display rigid orthodoxy, conservatism, and parochialism.
They fail to adopt an integrative and constructivist attitude. In fact, there is a great dearth of political scientists having interdisciplinary outlook, multi-methodologism, and commitment to empirical research. All this requires intensive education, training, and facilities. A good number of scholars would have to work like Easton in the field.
Another difficulty in making the discipline autonomous and its study a ‘science’ is to determine the nature of politics, and find out its proper relationship with other areas of knowledge. Often its subject-matter is subordinated to ethics, religion, philosophy, sociology and economics. After committing such a mistake, it becomes almost impossible to develop viable political theory. The subject carries a long-standing boundary problem. Others trespass, meanwhile inmates of the discipline quarrel among themselves to own or disown their own field.
The problem of values is a key factor in the determination and growth of political theory. Some of them want to see Political Science as a pure ‘science’ keeping values at a distance. Others like Easton, Dahl, etc., are in favour of giving a proper place to values. Thus, there are two groups or academic cultures on methodological perspectives from the viewpoint of values in the study of politics. However, a synthetic view is also emerging. Karl W. Deutsch has supported this synthesis.
Some methodological problems have also put new challenges to the growth of advanced modern political theory. They pose the problem of generality versus validity, and holism versus reductionism. When a political theory is general, it usually has less amount of validity or closeness to empirical facts. If it is more factual, empirical or observational, it suffers from lack of generality.
Easton’s systems theory and Herbert Simon’s decision-making theory illustrate this difficulty. Similarly, generalisations/conclusions derived from the study of a large entity or collectivity like a national political party cannot be easily applied to a small political entity or group.
A micro-theory remains unable to tell anything about a macro-problem. In the same way, the society or a particular collectivity wants solution of emergent problems and crises from the community of political and other social scientists. But, it cannot be reliably advanced unless some long-term basic research is undertaken which requires investment of huge manpower, finance, and energy.
Still the scholars as citizens and social beings have to devote central attention to the critical problems like war and peace, development of backward societies, elimination of hunger, poverty, illiteracy, parochialism, and disease, abolition of tyranny and racism, reduction of arms race etc. A little inattention or neglect can plunge humanity into darkness. Survival and existence of human beings is at stake.
Every discipline and Political Science in particular, has to renovate its concept regarding man and his behaviour – individual and social. But it cannot be done unless all disciplines come closer and develop interdisciplinary perspective. One single scholar, even an Aristotle, having that enormous knowledge may not be available.
If we collect scholars belonging to different disciplines, the problem of coordination, accommodation and reconciliation remains unsolved. Within Political Science itself, political theorists have evolved their own peculiar jargon which obstructs communication even among themselves. Borrowings from other disciplines make the problem more difficult and beyond comprehension of average scholars.
The greatest difficulty is with regard to the changing, ephemeral, ambiguous, subtle, and coercive nature of politics. It cannot be comprehended easily by ordinary and even advanced minds. A political theory which once was regarded empirical and ‘scientific’ becomes unrealistic, historical and fanciful today. Political theories of today can meet the same fate tomorrow or a day after. In other words, every time, like armament industry, political theory would need constant renovation and rejuvenation. Political theory as such cannot be made only for the exclusive use of academics.
Apart from gaining knowledge or knowing political reality, it has to be used for applied purposes. Otherwise, it would become an inhuman academic activity or a fossilised piece museum. For this purpose, the theorist, besides his own observation, has to come closer to political actors and activists, the movers and shakers of that knowledge. Still, close cooperation between the two – doers and theorisers, experience-holders and generalisers, is not easy and trouble-free. For the politicians political matters are directly involved with their existence.
These are secretative and confidential by nature being related to power, influence and manoeuvring, and may not be divulged even to dispassionate academics. Even if it is told, many things remain untold, and only a naive would confide in them. Whatever be the stature and experience of a political scientist or a political theorist, he cannot substitute the actual experience of a grossly involved political actor.
Still, the vision of theorists can be greater, wider, and more fruitful. It is desirable that both of them live together and develop mutual understanding and confidence. But the theorist has to escape from the prejudices and vested interests of power-wielders and their opponents.
Sometimes, even dispassionate political theorists appear dangerous to the power-holders. If the political scientists actively stand opposed to the ideology of a ruling class, they would certainly be dragged before a firing squad or maimed by the mafia. In this area, both can play the sea-saw game of deceit, hypocrisy, and melodrama.
However, in the absence of resources, power and support, a devoted votary of political theory has to fight his war unarmed and single-handed like a Christ or Socrates. Obviously, the solution of the above problems lies only with such scholars, whatever be the cost. In fact, there is no way out. If humanity has to be saved in advanced countries, and sub-humanity of developing societies has to be upgraded to human level, those who have some concern for man, have to come forward, and enjoy this masochistic adventure.