Theory offers ’Generalised descriptions or explanations of behaviour of man and political institutions’.Whenever the emphasis of one’s inquiry is placed on the understanding of what is or exists in politics in the nature of ‘if… then’ relations that can be verified regardless of the preferences and values of the observer, one can be inclined to speak of political theory-Andrew Hacker.
When seen in a simplistic manner, ‘theory’ is an essence of experience.” In this sense, everyone is a theory-builder or a theorist. Everyone himself or through others observes persons, groups, events, social phenomena, listens to their ideas and draws conclusions about them. When his findings are repeated again and again, his conclusions about them are tentatively confirmed. Thus, he is led by them to certain convictions, assumptions, propositions, rules of behaviour, or theoretical formulations.
After some time, he stops making observations as a stranger and apples his findings on similar events. On finding newer facts, he automatically modifies his findings or knowledge about social behaviour, and acts accordingly. Such personal and subjective theory-building or ‘abstraction’ is undertaken by a student about his teachers’ behaviour, by a candidate about his voters, or by a subordinate official about his boss and others. The whole society, more or less, operates on such accumulation of experience, anticipations, assumptions or derivations.
Man faces his present and future on the basis of such findings. The more valid and systematic the observations are the more reliable and usable his findings will be. He selects, sees and interprets the relevant facts through the medium of his own theoretical formulations. Without such formulations, the child or a stranger in a metropolitan city remains unable to understand the on-goings of society. He is unable to describe, explain and evaluate.
According to Caiden, theory is an ‘intellectual shorthand’ or ‘the symbolic representation of the real As a tool for the progress of mankind, it enables man to communicate, saving their labour to relearn what has previously been experienced and discovered. ‘From the chaos of observation and experience, man abstracts patterns of regularity, and probability, and gives these patterns symbolic expression and logical connection.’
It is a net to catch ‘fishes’ of facts. It is a ‘mix’ of our various conclusions about the ‘world’: a guide to guide us, an abstraction to make further abstractions, or an apparatus to explain and predict events. Obviously, this apparatus is analytical or a conceptual one which operates on the basis of our actual experience. Percy S. Cohen cautions us that the word ‘theory is like a blank cheque, its potential value depends on the user and his use of it. Here it has to be taken as a group of derivations or findings based on careful observation of empirical facts.
It is an achievement, and not an ascription or imposition deductively imposed from above. An empirical political theory is a set of generalisations derived from the observation of facts. According to Cohen, ‘a scientific theory is, ideally, a universal empirical statement which asserts a causal connection between two or more types of events.’ A theory is formed when facts are ‘assembled, ordered, and seen in a relationship’.
‘According to Sjoberg and Nett, theory ‘refers to a set of logically interrelated propositions or statements that are empirically meaningful, as well as to the assumptions the researcher makes about his method and his data’. Jack Gibbs improves upon this view and says, A theory is a set of logically interrelated statements in the form of empirical assertions about properties of infinite class of events or things.
Eugene J. Meehan regards it as, ‘a generalisation, or a set of generalisations, that explains general statements, or explains other theories’. According to him, theory is, ‘an instrument for ordering and arranging general statements that man creates for his own purpose.’ According to Andrew Hacker, theory offers ‘generalised descriptions or explanations of behaviour of man and political institutions.’ Whenever the emphasis of one’s inquiry is placed on the understanding of what is or exists in politics in the nature of ‘if… then’ relations that can be verified regardless of the preferences and values of the observer, one can be inclined to speak of political theory.”
A scientific political theory, thus, is a system of interrelated explanatory propositions which identifies and describes relationship among facts discovered through observation. In fact, it synthesises the results of observation, experiment and comparison, and expresses in a coordinated and coherent manner all that is known or implied by a group of phenomena or events. Arnold Brecht, finally, defines theory as ‘a proposition or set of propositions designed to explain something with reference to data or interrelations not directly observed or otherwise manifest.’
Most of the above mentioned definitions and explanations of advanced or empirical political theory have been subsumed under the category of modern political theory, and their chief characteristics can be enumerated below:
(i) It is based on the study of facts which can be directly or indirectly observed by human senses.
(ii) In the observation of facts, it uses accepted scientific methods and other reliable tools and techniques.
(iii) In the making of modern political theory, the researcher keeps his personal values separate from his studies, and tries to remain objective.
(iv) Often the researcher/scholar or political scientist adopts some conceptual framework or frame of reference or a perspective before actual commencement of research or observation of facts.
(v) The researcher interconnects his generalisations, findings or conclusions and prepares an explanatory device or apparatus, called a ‘theory’.
(vi) Terms, procedure, methods, conclusions etc., are used in a definite, clear, technical and communicable manner; and
(vii) Such knowledge obtained in the form of a theory is reliable, useful, and predictable, and can further be verified or tested by way of replication or testing the procedure.
(viii) It remains under a constant process of transformation.