If we go thoroughly the various aspects of behaviouralism or behavioural approach one thing will be clear to us and it is it has certain interesting features.
Some of them are:
1. Robert Dahl says, “Historically speaking, the behavioural approach was a protest movement within political science”. Why it is a protest movement or protest against which? We have already noted that the dissatisfaction against the traditional or conventional political science was the root cause of the emergence of behaviouralism.
It was strongly and also legitimately felt that conventional way of analysing political science was quite inadequate to meet the requirement of the new age. What was the requirement of the new age? The new age, that is twenties and thirties of the last century, required that a fruitful analysis of political science shall be based on advanced scientific methods. Otherwise it would not be possible for the discipline to draw attention of policy-makers and serious students. Miraculous innovations were taking place and social scientists, specifically sociologists, were applying them. Economists were also doing the same.
This advancement in the application of technique draw the attention of many people and the importance of these subjects increased. Political scientists also fell in the line. They expressed their dissatisfaction against the traditional approach and they resorted to empiricism.
2. The purpose of behaviouralism ‘is’ to arrive at what is and not to discuss what ‘ought to be’. The difference between the two is obvious. In order to find out what is it is necessary to be pragmatic and empirical and not to be normative. From the thorough analysis of behaviuralism we come to know that behaviouralists have done hard labour in order to collect, analyse and explain data and facts about political behavior of individuals.
They apply advanced scientific methods and sophisticated techniques to find out the reality. We can, therefore, say that behaviouralism embraces scientific approach and methodological analysis. The purpose of behaviouralism is predominantly scientific.
3. Students of political science sometimes become the victim of confusion and this relates to behaviourism and behaviuralism. But in strictest term there is a clear distinction between the two. Behaviourism implies, “a school of psychology that takes the objective observation of behavior as measured by responses to stimuli”.
The response to stimuli constitutes the foundation of study of behaviourism. It is also the subject of psychology. But, on the other hand, behaviouralism is a sub-field of political science and it studies the political behaviour of individuals. The political behaviour must be observable whereas stimuli or response to it may not be observable.
4. Behaviouralism in politics does not reject historical knowledge. In behaviouralism, historical knowledge has an important part to play. It supplements the contemporary observation of political behaviour. It has been argued that any new approach to the study of political science must be based on the tradition and knowledge of the past. A denial of the past will harm the study and progress of the new approach.
A critic says, “Any new departure in an established discipline must built upon the accomplishments of the past. Although much of the existing literature of politics may be impressionistic, it is extensive and rich in insights. Without a command of the significant portions of that literature, behavioural research is likely to be naive and unproductive. Though behaviouralists are quite dissatisfied with the traditional approach they should not deny the importance of the past literature of political science based on traditional methods of analysis.
The traditional method was analytical and, at the same time, full of data and facts. The behaviouralists can easily utilise them for their analysis. Truman was a great exponent of behavioural approach and he did not hesitate to recognise the importance of conventional method. Robert Dahl also supports Truman’s views. Behaviouralism does not insist upon separation from the past.
5. We have already noted that behavioural approach to the study of politics embraces various improved methods of other sciences and it is interesting to note that this has brought political science in close relation to economics, sociology, psychology and anthropology. This close relationship has been interpreted by many as behavioural revolution.
In traditional approach there was no place of scientific methods in political science. This revolution can also be called a type of unity between political science on the one hand and other sciences such as sociology, economics, psychology etc.
But, at the same time, there have developed fissures between political science based mainly on behavioural approach and political science with traditional approach. Though it has been suggested that behaviouralism must recognise the importance of historical knowledge the glaring differences between the two cannot be denied.
6. Behaviouralism makes political science a comprehensive subject. The behaviouralists do not stop by collecting data and facts. They scrupulously and meticulously analyse them, construct general conclusions and also make suggestions.
The data and facts they collect are not particular. That is they relate to all acts and facets of governmental activities and policies. When the policies are implemented, behaviouralists collect data in relation to the political behaviour of persons or voters.
We find the following observation of a well-known critic: “Behaviouralism calls for a closer attention to methodological niceties, to problems of observations and verification, to the task of giving operational meaning to political concepts, to quantification and testing, to eliminating productive intervening variables.”
It has been claimed by the behaviouralists that this approach provides a clear and scientific guideline to the study of politics. Not only this, behaviouralism does not like to fragment the subject. It treats it in a comprehensive way. Apparently political science is associated with only political facts and behaviour and it has no relation with other subjects and various manifestations of government. But, broadly speaking, political science cannot be separated from other social sciences and even various branches of government.
7. Behaviouralism is not based on speculation. What it says everything is based on facts and data. One may not agree without the conclusions. But the behaviouralists are helpless because their conclusions are based on data. So behaviouralism is different from speculative subjects. It has no association with moralism and normative approach. Behaviouralist claims that he does not say anything on the basis of his liking or disliking.
8. Behaviouralism, positivism and empiricism are closely connected. In fact, it is very difficult to analyse behaviouralism without empiricism and positivism. Empiricism means verification of statements and conclusions by empirical data and facts. If any statement fails to stand the test of data or verification that is subject to rejection.
Again, it has also a intimate relationship with positivism. This term was coined by Comte (1798-1857). By positivism he meant the rejection of value judgments in social science. In other words, both empiricism and positivism tell us that what would be the conclusion or statement that will depend on what facts and data exactly say. In our analysis of behaviouralism we have seen that it has made utmost efforts to overlook value judgment in its analysis o political behaviour.
Behaviouralism has nothing to do with philosophical analysis of political theory. Another aspect of empiricism is experience. Experience, again, is not without data or facts. Men learn something from past activities and that is experience. This experience guides man in his future course of action.
So we can say that the two important pillars of behaviouralism are positivism and empiricism. Though, some political scientists have expressed their reservations about behaviouralists’ sole dependence on empirical data and positivism. The concept (behaviouralism) is still treated as an empirical political theory.