Meehan observes, ‘For the present, Political Science deals almost entirely with probabilistic generalisations and tendency-statements. Universal generalisations are rare, and perhaps non-existent. David Easton, Alfred Cobban, Mulford Sibley, and others have talked of the ‘decline’ or poverty of political theory. Easton wrote that the American political scientist is born free but is everywhere in chains, tied to a hyper-factual past. The lack of more reliable knowledge flows directly from an immoderate neglect of general theory.
In his first book, The Political System, 1953, David Easton has argued in support of the need for the construction of an empirically-oriented general theory in Political Science. Later on, in his edited work. Varieties of Political Theory, he collected many external and adventitious approaches and called them as ‘alternative strategies for theoretical approach’ towards the ultimate development of such a theory. Yet the goal was not in sight. He himself presented a conceptual framework for the analysis of political life.
Still the goal remained elusive. According to Mayo, as none of these theories deal with entire social system, the goal of general theory of society remains unattained. Hacker predicts that the time is not yet at hand when all-embracing system by a single writer will be found satisfactory in major respects.
However, awareness was there that ‘the maturity of any science is indicated by the condition of its general theory and by the ability to discover formulae which will subsume the whole field, simply, demonstrably, precisely and in a manner that relates to other fields of human knowledge.’ Robert A. Dahl found, ‘in the English-speaking world, political theory is dead; in the communist countries it is imprisoned; elsewhere, it is moribund.’
It does not mean that efforts for construction of theoretical framework have all the time been wanting or nothing has so far been done towards this direction. From Plato to Marx, there has been a long line of political philosophers who have tried to evolve theories about politics, and have prescribed remedies for prevailing maladies. However, they largely failed in developing an all-agreeable empirical political theory. As such, among other social and natural sciences, Political Science, as a discipline, has lost its old status, coherence, and other avenues of growth and utility.
Conditions in developing societies like India and others are still worse. Most of the scholars here are culture-bound, tradition-loving, and ingrained in philosophical or religious schools of thought. A large number of them are unable to come out of the custody of western political philosophy and are utterly stupefied by traditional or classical political theories. They are unable to discover causes of decay and downfall of Indian polity or explain dispassionately the worsening conditions in various sectors of public life.
Rarely, they study empirically the problems and crises of diversified Indian society. Barring a few scholars, almost all of them do not have any theoretical orientation to explain the behaviour pattern of Indian political system, or to offer alternatives to prevent ineffective palliatives. Almost all the departments and institutes of political studies are in an infant stage, sitting on the lap of their old god-fathers.
Scholars of Political Science in India, as also in the Third World, are teachers, nurtured either in the tradition of philosophy, history and culture, or are under the deep influence of foreign writers, ideas and institutions. Few have thought in terms of Indian politics, and are hopelessly wanting in knowledge of their national setting. Their teaching topics and techniques too are out of date, unrelated to contemporary realities, and totally a theoretical. Presently, Political Science is neither an art nor a science, and caters little to the needs of anyone, outside the teaching community itself.