What is Traditionalism?
Before embarking upon a detailed analysis about the distinction between traditionalism and behaviouralism it is pertinent to write few words about what is exactly meant by traditionalism in political science. Properly speaking, traditionalism means handing down same ideas, beliefs, faith etc. to the next generation and when this process continues generation after generation that forms the core of traditionalism. Hence traditionalism implies scrupulous adherence to the past. One generation accepts the ideas, beliefs and faith of the earlier generation.
In this way the beliefs, ideas, principles and values of one generation are transmitted to the next generation. Not only this, the beliefs and faith of one generation dominate those of the next generation. Students and even political scientists are reluctant to go and think beyond what has already been said. For several centuries political scientists were quite unwilling to change their views about political science. Even they did-not consider thinking in new line.
The result was that the orbit of traditional political scientists was very narrow. New thoughts and methods had no entry permission into the domain of politics. Traditionalism in political science can also be termed as one type of orthodox attitude. It is because traditionalism does not recognise change.
There is a long controversy between traditional approach and behavioural approach and both sides are adamant about their own stand. The result is that there is hardly any possibility of rapprochement between the two groups of political scientists.
The differences between traditionalism and behviouralism are:
1. The behaviouralists have argued that there are regularities in the behaviour of voters or political behaviour of individuals. These regularities form a basis for building up conclusions. Scientific methods are applied to analyse data and facts of political behaviours.
The traditionalists challenge this standpoint of behaviouralists. Sometimes regularity or uniformity may be found in the behaviour of persons, but that cannot be the reliable basis of any scientific study. The traditionalists further argue that there are more differences than uniformities in voters’ behaviour. Voters’ behaviour is generally influenced by manifold social, political and economic factors and it will practically be fruitless task to try to discover regularity in the behaviour of voters.
Again, it has been argued that political phenomena are not predictable; they are in some sense volatile. If this is the nature of political phenomena that can never be a solid basis of any serious study. Political phenomena are also subject to change. No generalisations can be framed with such phenomena. So the traditionalists have concluded that the very foundation of behaviouralism is very feeble.
2. The behaviouralists have argued that through empirical studies the generalisations formed on the basis of data and facts can be tested with reference to further facts and incidents. In other words, if anybody challenges any generalisation the relevant facts will be supplied in support ‘of the particular observation or generalisation and in this way a broad-based theory is built up.
The answer of the traditionalists to this argument is that it is very difficult to verify the political phenomena or political behaviour of voters. The phenomena or behaviour do not grow in a vacuum. In a vast and complicated social and political atmosphere behaviour or phenomenon takes place and in order to arrive at a plausible conclusion it is essential that the environment needs to be studied which is a herculean task.
Again, the political, social and economic conditions are frequently changing and this is sufficient to frustrate any attempt to start a comprehensive research work. Verification of conclusion is possible only in the cases of physical sciences.
3. We have noted that behaviouralists—in order to make their hypothesis and conclusions acceptable or worthy of acceptance have borrowed sophisticated techniques from physical science, anthropology and statistics. The tools include sample surveys, multivariate analyses etc. All these techniques have great importance in physical science because, in this subject, behaviour or incidents or facts are very much objective.
But political phenomena, behaviour and facts are not objective but of subjective nature. Moreover, what we call political facts are not always, in true sense, facts. Hence, the application of highly complicated and improved methods has hardly any relevance. The statistical and mathematical methods can be fruitfully used in physical and anthropological sciences but not in the case of political science.
4. An important assumption of behaviouralists is that data and facts are measured and quantified. The quantification of data and facts is essential for the formation of conclusion or to frame generalisation. Quantification and measurement of data, traditionalists argue, are a very common tool of physical scientists.
But it has very little place in political science. If the data, facts or behaviour are clear or straight forward then they can be measured and quantified. But we have already observed that political behaviour cannot claim to be of this nature. Hence the question of quantification does not arise. The traditionalists say that the behaviouralists have unwillingly applied this technique.
5. Ethical evaluation and empirical explanation are two opposite processes. Value judgment or ethical evaluation has no place in an empirical science and since political science in general or behaviouralism in particular is empirically based, value judgment is foreign to this subject. An empirical science is supposed to be value-free.
But the traditionalists have challenged this standpoint. They argue that political science or any of its branch is out and out a normative science or subject. It makes clear distinction between what ‘is’ and what ‘ought to be’. The traditionalists say that whether behaviouralism is science or not is immaterial, but political science cannot, forever, banish values, ethics, and norms from its vast domain. Not even can it ignore all these eternal concepts. We want to know to what extent a particular form of government is good or bad, why a law is not acceptable to those for whom it has been enacted.
All these constitute the very foundation of normative subject or political science. A politically conscious citizen or an educated person is generally inclined to make distinction between a good law and a bad law, a good government and a bad government. So values, ideals and norms constitute a very important part of the analysis of political science. But it is not understandable to us why the behaviouralists have decided is keep these outside their analyses.
A physical science can be value- free because there is no scope to distinguish between good and bad. But, on the other hand, political science encompasses, with an open heart, values, ideals, norms, ethics etc. If we refuse them, political science will lose much of its importance as a prime branch of social science. In a word, the traditionalists have vehemently opposed the attempt to ignore values.
6. We shall now turn to another difference between traditionalism and behaviouralism. The behaviouralists have claimed that in their approach to the study of political science they seriously maintain a deep correlation between research and theory. The sole/ main objective of any research is to construct a theory.
In other words, all the research work shall be theory-oriented and theory-directed. Keeping this in mind, behaviouralists always proceed systematically. To put it differently, research in any form is always systematised. If both research and theory move in opposite directions then the purpose of the researcher will not serve any purpose. Hence the behaviouralists emphasise the interdependence of research and theory.
The traditionalists do not share the above arguments put forward by the behaviouralists. The traditionalists have admitted that there must be a correlation between theory and research. But such a conception is inapplicable in political science. A political scientist is to deal with numerous complicated issues and facts and it is not always possible to establish consistency between theory and research.
Some behaviouralists such as Mackenzie have introduced a new term “over-arching” theory and others such as David Easton deal with general theory. Traditionalists say that there is doubt about the efficacy or importance of such theories. Some even say that they are theories (general or over-arching theories) in loose sense.
7. The behaviouralists have demanded that since they have applied the methods of pure science for the analysis of behaviouralism, the subject can be put in the category of pure science. In other words, political science is like a pure science.
But this claim of behaviouralists has been vehemently opposed by traditionalists. They have contended that mere application of the methods of pure science cannot raise the level of the subject to that of the pure science. A very vital aspect of science is the principles, conclusions and assumptions must be applied to the practical field and, if the results show that they are in conformity with the objectives, the subject can be a pure science. Viewed from this angle one can say that behaviouralism disheartens us.
The conclusions and assumptions of political science have not been applied to practice or the conclusions have not been verified. This makes us quite suspicious about the status of political science as a pure science.
8. There is no doubt that political science is a branch of social science and its relation with them cannot be denied.
But the interdependence between political science and other social sciences cannot be stretched too far. Political science as a separate discipline has its own identities. It is also an independent discipline. So it cannot be assumed that political science and other social sciences are in several aspects integrated. Political science deals with different aspects which do not fall within the domain of other social sciences. Naturally the talk of integration does not hold good.
1. We have done an in-depth analysis of the debate between behaviouralism and traditionalism. There is no doubt that there is a good deal of validity in the arguments of the traditionalists. But not all the arguments made by the traditionalists are acceptable.
The traditionalists have argued that it is useless to try to discover regularities in political behaviour and phenomena. But the behaviouralists have said that though there are not hundred percent uniformities in the behaviour of the individuals and political phenomena, a very high degree of regularities is to be found and that cannot be denied.
2. Behaviouralists have suggested that only observable behaviour is to be verified. The traditionalists’ argument is that behind the observable behaviour there are a number of factors which actively play and these have not been recognised by the behaviouralists. This argument of traditionalists has been forcefully refuted by the behaviouralists. They have asserted that behaviouralists have made serious attempts to enter into the depth of everything.
3. Behaviouralists have said that they are not blindly adopting the methods of pure science or statistics. There is no lack of judiciousness in the process of adoption of scientific methods and techniques. If any error crops up behaviouralists never hesitate to rectify the method and even they abandon it for the sake of clarity.
4. The traditionalists are not mentally and even academically prepared to share with the argument of quantification or measurement. But the behaviouralists are of opinion that they are quite aware of the possibility of error and for that reason they continuously evaluate the data, facts and other materials culled by them for furthering the research. Even after formulating hypotheses, these are tested by adopting other methods including collecting facts and data. In this way the process continues.
5. The behaviouralists do not completely abandon the value judgment and ethical explanation. What they generally emphasise is that they do not pay undue importance to ethical importance and value judgment. Every behaviouralist before the commencement of research declares his objective. Moreover, since behaviouralism is an empirical science there is hardly any place of morality. Many behaviouralists argue that they refrain from giving undue stress to values and principles.
6. The traditionalists do not accept behaviouralists’ idea of systematisation. They say that systematisation leads to general theory. But in political science such a theory is not possible because political science has no clear law. The behaviouralists do not agree with the traditionalists. Their observation is that in the entire environment all the disciplines are interdependent.
We conclude that the conflict between traditionalists and behaviouralists is not a real one. There is good deal of validity in the standpoints of both. But none is absolutely correct. Even in physical science there is nothing which can be called absolute truth. The quarrel between the two is semantic.