Difficulties arise when limitations of behaviouralism are regarded as their weaknesses and shortcomings. Behaviouralists themselves have accepted that their approach and its attainments suffer from a number of limitations. Besides, other arguments and objections have to be analysed carefully.
Replies and explanations from the behaviouralists are summed up below:
Some of the arguments from the traditionalists are personal, namely, that they are immodest, liberal, conservative, capitalist, status quoist, arrogant, etc. Behaviouralism as such has no relation with them. If some professors use it as a trick or device to avoid politics or making a choice, it cannot be regarded as a fault of behaviouralism.
Another line of criticism is about their inability or failure to produce a science of politics even after a long time. This demand and dissatisfaction of the scholars and laymen against them is justified. The behaviouralists have yet to produce a ‘science of man’ or discover the ‘laws of human behaviour’.
But the anti-behaviouralists themselves explain and remind them that the subject matter of politics being more complex and excessively intentional, the cause of delay or failure becomes too clear to need further explanation. Even Einstein had cautioned that the study of politics is more difficult than the study of Physics.
3. Trivial and Micro:
The charge that they avoid larger and urgent problems of society and take up only micro or trivial problems to study as the latter are more useful in gathering data and other empirical information is true to a large extent. But, the selection of a problem depends on several factors like resources available at the disposal of a researcher, evolution of tools and techniques, availability and nature of data, etc. In the early stage, the behaviouralists had to fight for their survival and existence.
They did not get adequate support from society. Under those circumstances, perhaps they could not do much. Now when behaviouralism has almost been accepted and endowed with more tools and techniques provided by ever-advancing science and technology, it can be expected that more important and macro problems would be undertaken for conducting behavioural studies.
Another serious charge against the behaviouralists is that their studies are conducted under a given situation which may not be repeated or found anywhere. In practical politics, while taking decisions, political actors keep many things into consideration – history, culture, morality, power, caste, class, strategy, etc. A behavioural finding, howsoever scientifically derived, may not be at all useful.
The argument appears to be cogent and formidable. In fact, Political Science requires higher type of qualitative research suitable for studying dynamics of politics. Tools and techniques, including concepts and findings, borrowed from comparatively static disciplines cannot fulfil our expectations, even if we formally adopt and learn all tenets of behaviouralism and post-behaviouralism.
Similar is the argument of uniqueness of events, persons, and processes. Their multi-variety nature makes the search of uniformities and regularities totally futile. But, the argument is true to a limited extent, as politics is concerned with uniqueness only in a limited manner. Man as man is gregarious by nature, and most of his behaviour is uniform, similar, and patterned. Existence of government, law, groups, associations, family, tribe, etc. is a proof to this concrete observation.
Behaviour of aggregates and collectivities is, to a large extent observable, testable, and verifiable. Do not governments and their departments and other autonomous units maintain statistics on a regular basis? In practice, they have been working with them quite successfully. A few exceptions do not falsify their generalisations. These exceptions can be dealt with separately. Still, they generate some generalisations of specific or contextual nature.
5. Problem of Values:
Post-behaviouralism has cut the Gordian knot on values. Their earlier position was more or less misunderstood. They were not against values as such. They had to remain value-neutral to make their studies ‘scientific’. In case they could not do so, they had to expressly declare their values.
Values always remain there, but they should not vitiate their research process and findings. Post-behaviouralism has added another dimension to the whole problem in the sense that the scholars should boldly uphold human values, and actively come out in support them. Rather, they should organise and fight for them.
Now the problem before behaviouralism is that of what values and why?
What would be their impact? What values do behaviour as such reflect?
Which are the ways and means to realize them effectively?
Which system, group or milieu is more congenial to a particular set of values?
There can be several other questions.
But now the problem does not remain unresolved. Arnold Brecht has developed ‘scientific value relativism’ for the understanding and analysis of secondary values in a scientific manner. He has expressed his faith that the ultimate values can also be empirically explained and analysed, though their sources cannot be ascertained scientifically.
Knowledge gained through behavioural means, being based on senses, has been regarded as lower. Experience obtained through extra-sensory means – imagination, meditation, introspection, intuition, divine inspiration, etc., is considered as higher. Acceptance of behaviouralism results in ‘lower-governing the higher’, whereas classicalists wanted the reverse. Leo Strauss talks of ‘pre-scientific’ and ‘post-scientific’ knowledge of the individual as the dominating factor in behavioural research.
The whole set of argument is fallacious, and beyond context. A political scientist pursues exact, empirical, and reliable knowledge which has to be limited, partial, and concrete. Arguments from the unknown and unknowable periphery of wholes has little relevance to his own venture. If one is really serious about the argument, the case is otherwise, the higher can prove its existence only on the basis and existence of the lower.
If there is no lower, no higher can be upheld. Lower can exist without any higher. This ‘lower’ is the basis of ‘inter-subjectively transmissible knowledge’. How can one, except with reference to the lower, prove that the ‘higher’ is really higher and is not self-delusion. Is there any unanimity of opinion or experience about that higher? How is that the ‘higher’ is always a monopoly of the few only? Why should the lower ones surrender to those possessing the knowledge of ‘higher’? To sum up, everything ‘higher’ has to come down to the lower.
7. Undependability of Techniques:
Political reality remains beyond the comprehension of research tools and techniques, like interviews, questionnaires etc. Indeed, these instruments are inadequate. But this observation merely proves a greater need to construct sophisticated, suitable and standard tools to know the yet unknown reality. While using them, the researcher should stand dispassionate. The tools cannot be the criteria of empiricism.
The contents and nature of the subject matter must govern the quality and shape of tools. At a higher and later stage of their development, one would not have to say that the behaviouralists ‘measure the immeasurable’ or ‘quantify the unquantifiable’. At the beginning, political scientists can develop micro theories which may lead to a general theory of politics.
8. Capitalist Ventures:
Some scholars relate it to capitalism which stands for the status quo and exploitation. They want to free it and organise a social science liberation movement. Others do not want to tolerate the attempts of the behaviouralists to treat ‘politics’ as ‘non-political’ or lead it to ‘end of polities’.
But how can all of them do it. In fact, their attitude towards behaviouralism is itself ‘behavioural’, viz., deriving conclusions after observation of the behaviour of the behaviouralists. And their demand and claim is to become greater behaviouralists.
Their wishes and the credo of the post-behaviouralists appear to be identical: changing the status quo, anti-establishment, restoration of values etc. None of the behaviouralists, oppose the view of critical theorists that a holistic and synthetic approach should be adopted to study praxis and the system.
Language of behaviouralism is technical, specific, and difficult. The behaviouralists one after another continue to coin new words and concepts which obstruct the way of communication among the scholars of Political Science. But this is being done to evolve a standard terminology to make observations precise and exact. Some of the behaviouralists like W.F. Riggs make the language more difficult, but in due course of time, some usable, specific and acceptable language of Political Science would come up.
Political Science, more than any other discipline, requires standard terminology. Even classicists like Kant and Hegel do have their own jargon, but that is not the goal or liking of behaviouralism. Behaviouralists want to have ultimately a smooth and effective communication system. As it would be closer to realities, it would soon gain currency among the common people.